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What's in London this May 2016 near Fraser Suites Queens Gate in Kensington

This month we've got ideas to make you gasp in awe, admire the beauty and feel the love in the greatest city in the world.

LAND OF THE LIONS

London Zoo has opened its new Land of the Lions. It's not just a 'look at the lions' idea but instead takes visitors on a journey to the Indian Gir Forest to see how closely people and lions live there. You walk through a recreation of the high street at Sasan Gir village and go to the train station too. From the station platform you can watch the lions in their forest home which is the largest animal enclosure in the zoo. And while this is a fantastic visitor experience it's also about conservation as there are only 400 Asiatic lions left in the wild.

PRE-RAPHAELITES

Kensington's Leighton House is always a delight to visit. It's where the Victorian artist Frederic Leighton lived and worked, and the Arab Hall is truly stunning – built to showcase Leighton's 1,000-strong collection of tiles from the Middle East.

Pre-Raphaelites on Paper: Victorian Drawings from the Lanigan Collection is a wonderful addition. On display until 29 May 2016, the drawings are by Leighton and his contemporaries and are displayed throughout the house. This private collection is being presented to the National Gallery of Canada so this really is a rare opportunity to see them in London. The artists featured would have known Leighton and would, most likely, have dined here with him so it is really wonderful to see the artworks here.

The selection of artworks ranges from preparatory sketches to highly finished drawings intended as works of art in themselves. Highlights are the works of the foremost Pre-Raphaelite artists: John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, as well as exceptional drawings by artists such as Edward Burne-Jones, Simeon Solomon, George Frederic Watts, and Frederic Leighton himself.

For more Pre-Raphaelite artwork, Tate Britain has Painting With Light opening on 11 May (and on until 25 September 2016). This is the first major exhibition to celebrate the spirited conversation between early photography and British art bringing together photographs, paintings and sculptures including Pre-Raphaelite, Aesthetic and British Impressionist works.

Stunning works by John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, JAM Whistler, John Singer Sargent, John William Waterhouse and others are shown alongside photographs which they inspired and which were inspired by them.

ROMEO & JULIET

In this anniversary year for Shakespeare, it's good to see so many of his plays back on stage. Romeo and Juliet, directed by Kenneth Branagh, is at The Garrick Theatre until 31 August 2016. One of Shakespeare's most famous and often performed plays, Romeo and Juliet is the story of young love and the devastating tragedy that unfolds when tenderness and naivety is met with violence and pride.

Reuniting the stars of his celebrated film Cinderella, Kenneth Branagh directs Richard Madden as Romeo, Lily James as Juliet and Derek Jacobi as Mercutio in Shakespeare's heartbreaking tale of forbidden love. James is also well-known for her role as Lady Rose in Downton Abbey.

BANQUETING HOUSE

Banqueting House is the last surviving building from Whitehall Palace which was once the largest palace in Europe. (Sadly, the rest of the palace was burnt to the ground in 1698.) It was closed at the start of the year for the ongoing conservation work but it's back open to visitors and well worth a visit.

The Banqueting Hall is the most important room with its opulent ceiling painted by Rubens – the only Rubens painting still in its original location. The building was designed by Inigo Jones who had travelled to Italy to admire the architecture of the ancient world. He came back to create a piece of Ancient Rome in central London.

EXHIBITIONISM

Exhibitionism: The Rolling Stones opened last month in Chelsea and is on until 4 September 2016. It is the first international exhibition about this British rock band.

Across the entire two floors of the Saatchi Gallery there are over 500 original Stones' artefacts in 9 thematic galleries. There's a recreated roomset of their messy Chelsea flat accompanied by a recording from the band on what it was like to live there.

MUSEUM OF BRANDS

For nostalgia going back even further, the Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising is a fun place to visit. It's moved to a larger Notting Hill location and reopened a few weeks ago.

You can see over 14,000 items ranging from Victorian food and make-up to toys and games from our childhood to today. It's a history of consumer culture over the past 200 years and a reminder that our disposable world still has some really good design. There a cafe and garden space here too.

FUNNY GIRL

This modern classic stars award-winning Sheridan Smith OBE at The Savoy Theatre. A limited run until 10 September 2016, Funny Girl is based on the bitter-sweet story of Fanny Brice and her rise to Broadway fame amidst a stormy relationship with gambler Nicky Arnstein. Prepare to sing your heart out as the iconic score returns with songs including Don't Rain on My Parade, People, and You Are Woman, I Am Man.

By choosing to stay at Fraser Suites Queens Gate you will be in the heart of Kensington, and a short walk away from some of these great events happening in April. Check out our Special Offers and we hope to welcome you soon!

 

Laura Porter writes AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen.

Image credits: Land of the Lions: © ZSL  |  Leighton House: © Kevin Moran Photography  |  Painting With Light: Atkinson Grimshaw: Bowder Stone, Borrowdale circa 1863-8 © Tate  |  Romeo & Juliet: © Johan Persson  |  Banqueting House: © HRP  |  Museum of Brands: © Museum of Brands  |  Exhibitionism: Rolling Stones Archive