4 New Things to Do in London for 2014

From the Olympic Park's Orbit, to the new theatre at Shakespeare's Globe, these are 2014's must-visit destinations

With huge new events, venues and restaurants opening up in London seemingly every month, we talk to some of the city's experts to find out about their new projects. From the Imperial War Museum's huge revamp, to a brand new theatre at Shakespeare's Globe, here are four great things to look out for in 2014. 

Imperial War Museum

What: Major revamp of the museum's atrium and gallery spaces – look out for warplanes!

When? Reopening July 2014

Diane Lees, director-general of the Imperial, on what to expect when it reopens:

The Imperial War Museum is a very human museum, and the keeper of personal stories. It’s not always about the great and the good, but ordinary people who had extraordinary experiences. As the site reopens fully this July, the redevelopment plans focus on the centenary of the First World War—we’re expecting lots of visitors!

‘‘Truth and Memory,’’ which opens in the new First World War gallery this summer, is our first major art retrospective, with over 100 works from painters including Wyndham Lewis, John Singer Sargent and Stanley Spencer. ‘‘Truth’’ looks at how artists responded when they were serving, ‘‘Memory’’ at how they reflected on their experiences. The way we have used contemporary voices in the galleries will surprise people: it’s not the historian’s view, formed many years later, but the soldier’s view. It provides a better understanding about the real reasons why people thought they were fighting.

There’s still a lot to see in the museum before it closes for refurbishment (6 Jan), including the ‘‘Holocaust’’ and ‘‘Family In Wartime’’ exhibitions. We have also brought back some of our big objects, like Montgomery’s staff car, and my personal favourite is the Observation Tree, which is a very rare survivor of the war. 

When I was 16 years old I realised what an important job museums do—my mother was the curator of Stockport Museum—and that I wanted to be a part of it. As the first female director of the Imperial War Museum, I offer a different perspective to war.

ArcelorMittal Orbit

ArcelorMittal Orbit, next to the Olympic Stadium
ArcelorMittal Orbit stnads next to the Olympic Stadium and is reopening for tours. (©ArcelorMittal)

What: Much loved – and filmed – during the 2012 London Olympics, the Orbit fully reopens to the public.

When: Reopening April 2013

Cecil Balmond, designer and architect of the Orbit, explains this fixture of the Olympic Park:

When Anish Kapoor and I first thought of ideas for the Orbit for the Olympic Park, I wanted something radical and contemporary. All other towers go straight up and down, so I thought of planets that orbit around a solar system. That became one strand of movement, going up and coming down five times.

We worked intensively on the Orbit for a year and a half. We were very conscious to make it a piece of everything: it’s art, and architecture; the first public art work which is classified as a building with all the planning regulations. You get a vantage point over the whole Olympic Park, including the new South Plaza development, and a new vista over London, including The Shard, Canary Wharf, the City and the Gherkin—it’s an experience, not just a tower.

Architect Cecil Balmond
"It’s an experience, not just a tower," says the Arcelormittal Orbit's designer and architect Cecil Balmond.

When the Orbit was published in the papers in 2D, a lot of design gurus said ‘we don’t understand what this is.’ If you go and see it in 3D, however, it’s actually moving towards the stadium a lot closer than you think; it leans over, and then pulls back, its arms flinging themselves all over.

This is an interesting time for buildings in London. One building I really like is the new Sackler Gallery at the Serpentine by Zaha Hadid, as it has an elegance, but is modern enough to be contemporary. She designed the Olympic Park’s Aquatic Centre, too, which, along with the Orbit, reopens in April.

I’m looking forward to seeing London as an even denser city. It has grown and opened itself up to the world. I love New York and Tokyo, and have lived in Nigeria, the Middle East and Spain, but I choose to live in London. Other cities are more predictable, but London surprises me all the time.

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

A CGI of the brand new Sam Wanamaker Theatre, part of Shakespeare's Globe

What: Brand new theatre next to Shakespeare's Globe – labour of love for director Wanamaker.

When: Opened January 2014

Patrick Spottiswoode, director of education for the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, on why this theatre is so special:

For the first time in 300 years, audiences have the chance to watch a play completely lit by candlelight, thanks to the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. The building is constructed from the oldest surviving plans for a theatre in this country, and offers an intimate, atmospheric and extra-special experience.

People coming to the South Bank today would find it hard to believe that, once upon a time, it was one of the depressed parts of South London. In the 1980s, if you found someone here, they were lost. Today, millions of people come for the Globe, Tate and restaurants. I have been with the Globe for 30 years, and I have to pinch myself at the transformation.

Patrick Spottiswoode
Spottiswoode says part of the charm of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is watching a play in a space lit only by candlelight.

Before we created the Globe, there were plenty of cynics. The chair of Southwark council said ‘Shakespeare is a load of tosh.’ Many were Doubting Thomases who cared a lot about Shakespeare, and thought the Globe was going to be like Disneyland.

It was always part of Sam’s vision to have two theatres, but we ran out of money when constructing it. Sam really was a remarkable man. My abiding memory of him was when he crouched down on the piazza, even though he was in absolute agony, and just said: ‘That wall, it’s too high, children won’t be able to look in.’ As he was a first-generation Jewish immigrant from the Ukraine, Shakespeare was not traditionally for him. The point of the Globe was to enable everybody to enjoy Shakespeare, just like he did.

Just like the Globe, for half of the year the Playhouse is a working theatre, and for the other half it’s dedicated to education. During the first season we’re putting on work by Shakespeare’s contemporaries, starting with The Duchess Of Malfi (from 9 Jan).

Berners Tavern

Jason Atherton's latest London restaurant, Berners Tavern

What: A symphony of art and exquisite cuisine lives up to the hype.

When: Opened November 2013

Jason Atherton, restaurateur, on his latest London eatery, his fourth:

"I had a tough upbringing living with my mum and sister in a caravan in Skegness, and working in my mum’s guesthouse. It made me more ambitious and single-minded. I knew early on that I wanted to be a chef, and sacrificed a lot to get there: no holidays, girlfriends or family weddings. I ran away to London when I was 16 as it was the only place with great chefs—Raymond Blanc, Marco Pierre White, Pierre Koffman—and I knew that was where I had to go to learn from the experts.

I worked for ten years with Gordon Ramsay, one of the country’s greatest chefs. I learned so much from him: how to run restaurants; how to build teams; even down to how to write the menus properly. It was a crucial part of my life, and really enjoyable.

I have four London restaurants, including Berners Tavern, and all of them create contemporary European cuisine. Pollen Street Social is the flagship, it’s where it all began and has won all of the awards. For me, aesthetics are very important. When you walk in for the first time, I want you to literally go, ‘wow.’ My new restaurant, City Social, opens in May. It will be in the style of The Great Gatsby meets Scott's, one of my favourite London restaurants. I love that New York glamour and Art Deco feel.

Chef Jason Atherton
Celebrity chef Jason Atherton's newest restaurant, Berners Tavern, joins his mix of famed restaurants in London, Singapore and Hong Kong.

City Social is my first London restaurant at the top of a tall building and has great night-time views, like my restaurants in Singapore and Hong Kong. To have a restaurant with great food, service, décor and a fabulous view, is a dream come true. 

I think London is now the number-one city in Europe for dining out. We challenge New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong as one of the dining capitals of the world. Now people fly out here for inspiration. 

I’ve been in the kitchens for 27 years. I’d like to be remembered as a great chef but also a legendary restaurateur.