The Victorian Era is defined by the reign of Queen Victoria, from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. It is a time period that left an indelible mark on London's cityscape - perhaps mostly due to its sharp contrasts. While there was great advancements in innovation, industry, and education, there was also a surge in poverty and squalor for the lower classes (Think Charles Dickens' Great Expectations and Oliver Twist).
Yet 19th Century London mainly evokes a bygone era of elegance and charm. And for purposes of enjoyment - let's focus primarily on the opulent side of London and take a fascinating journey through time. Here is a suggested full day's itinerary to step back in time and immerse yourself in Victorian London.
STOP ONE - BREAKFAST. Victorian London offered a plethora of places to eat out - ranging from rough and ready pubs to elegant high-end restaurants. There were eateries for all social classes and budgets - well, unless you were a woman.
In the Victorian era women's rights were incredibly limited. But let's pretend otherwise - and begin our day at a Victorian-style Café. Experience the aroma of freshly brewed tea and the clinking of fine china to set the stage for the day ahead. Kedgeree, kippers, and a traditional English breakfast grace the menu, offering a taste of Victorian culinary delights.
Expensive Option near the start of our day (Hyde Park) is the MONTAGUE KITCHEN.
Budget Friendly Option is SHEILA'S CAFE.
Hyde Park - The Great Exhibition
STOP TWO: HYDE PARK & THE GREAT EXHIBITION. One of the most defining events of 19th century London was The Great Exhibition of 1851. An enormous glass palace was erected in Hyde Park to house and attract visitors from across the world in order to highlight Britain at the height of its imperial dominance.
You can now step back in time as you stroll through Hyde Park as if you were attending the opening day of the exhibition. Download the BARDEUM app in the App Store or Google Play and our immersive audiovisual tour THE GREAT EXHIBITION. It is written by Elizabeth Macneal (The Doll Factory, The Circus of Wonders) and narrated by Tuppence Middleton (Downton Abbey, The Imitation Game).
The years, decades, centuries have fallen away, and here you are on the 1st of May 1851. Tens of Thousands of people have descended upon London’s Hyde Park. At nine o’clock the turnstiles will open, and you will find yourself at the opening day of The Great Exhibition, a vast, temporary glass museum.
The Crystal Palace, as it has been nicknamed, was built to house more than a hundred thousand exhibits of culture and industry from around the globe. You will behold all of Great Britain’s achievements and that of the countries surrounding it – machines and presses, taxidermy and clothwork, ceramics and ironmongery.
It is the first World’s Fair - the project of Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert. His reputation rides on its success or failure. The Queen is alive with excitement and will, of course, be in attendance. Step back in time on our immersive audiovisual walking tour and witness this dazzling spectacle that was to become a symbol of the Victorian era.
"A perfect afternoon stroll into another age, told with capriciousness and verve. Put on your top hats and bring your parasols, Victorian London is just a tap on your phone away!"
-Inga Vesper, journalist
The experience begins at The Italian Gardens Cafe on the north side of Hyde Park near the Lancaster Gate. The walking tour ends a short distance from our next stop on the itinerary - the Victoria & Albert Museum where you can see many objects that were displayed at The Great Exhibition.
Victoria & Albert Museum
STOP THREE - VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM. Our next stop is the V & A Museum, a treasure trove of art and design from the Victorian era. The Museum was borne from The Great Exhibition with a collection covering applied art and science. Today, its collection covers 5,000 years of art, from the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa. Wandering through the galleries, you'll encounter exquisite furniture, lavish fashion, and intricate decorative arts that showcase the opulence and creativity of the Victorian Era.
STOP FOUR - LUNCH AT A TRADITIONAL PUB. Just a 7 minute walk from the V & Museum, you'll find the ZETLAND ARMS - a traditional pub on the corner of Old Brompton Road and Bute Street. Built in the earliest part of the Victorian Era (1840s) it is one of the few surviving original buildings from the time period in this area of London. Savor classic British dishes amid the rich ambiance of the past.
The Natural History Museum
STOP FIVE - THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM. A short walk from the Zetland Arms is the Natural History Museum. The grand architecture mirrors the scientific curiosity of the era and houses exhibits that echo the Victorian fascination with the natural world. Dinosaurs, gemstones, and evolutionary wonders await curious minds.
Horse Drawn Carriage Ride
STOP SIX - A HORSE DRAWN CARRIAGE RIDE. Experience what we all love about the Victorian Era - a traditional carriage ride behind a pair of majestic horses. OPERATION CENTAUR offers private rides in Richmond Park and Bushy Park dependent on the time of year.
Champagne & Oysters
STOP SEVEN - CHAMPAGNE & OYSTERS. In the Victorian Era, oysters were sold on almost every street corner in London. Oyster bars began appearing as early as the late 1700s. For the lower class, they were a cheap alternative to expensive beef. In The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens noted ‘It’s a wery remarkable circumstance, Sir,’ said Sam, ‘that poverty and oysters always seem to go together.’
Today, oysters are a luxury item and are deliciously paired with the favorite drink of the rich and powerful - champagne. Here are a few options for you to partake:
Gaslight or Guided Tours
STOP EIGHT - GASLIGHT OR GUIDED TOUR. Unveil the darker history of London through a Gaslight Walk or a guided tour. Learn the stories, mysteries, and crimes of the darker side of Victorian London. A favorite for tourists is the Jack the Ripper Tour. Learn of the gruesome murders by the unidentified serial killer active in and around the impoverished Whitechapel district of London, England, during the Victorian Era. London Walks also offers several Ghost & Gaslight Tours.
LAST STOP - VICTORIAN DINING. As the wealthy Victorians added indoor gas lighting to their homes in the mid-19th Century, it became possible to eat dinner at a later hour. It moved from six or seven p.m. to as late as 9:00 p.m. Let's finish the day dining on dishes that echo the culinary trends of the time, enjoying a blend of tradition and modernity. Here are a few possibilities:
ENJOY YOUR HISTORICAL DAY IN LONDON!
BARDEUM offers self-guided audio/visual tours via mobile app. These immersive experiences are written by award-winning & bestselling authors, journalists, and historians.