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The Best of Bromley

Although most well known for being the Garden of England and heralded for having miles of glorious coastline and acres of sprawling countryside, Kent is also proud of its eclectic towns and its neighbouring relationship with the biggest city in Europe, England’s capital: London. Linking Kent and the Big Smoke, upon which a blurry border is drawn and often shifted around, is Bromley. Originally considered a part of Kent, Bromley is now officially considered a London borough, but its identity has remained loyal to its Kentish roots while embracing the best of its geographic location as the border of Kent with the capital.

As with many of Kent’s towns, the beginning of Bromley’s thriving population and its establishment as a destination on England’s map began with ancient pilgrims. Long before Bromley was established as an important coaching stop on the route between London and Hastings, pilgrims came to the town to visit St. Blaise’s Well, a spring in the grounds of Bromley’s Bishop’s Palace. During the 1200s until the reformation, the site was visited not only for religious penance but also on account of the reputed medicinal properties of the water. After the tumultuous reformation in Britain, the well was forgotten about until it was rediscovered by a chaplain in the 1700s. The well was eventually reconstructed and now stands in a pretty rockery on the edge of a small lake, which can still be seen today on the site which is now the Bromley Civic Centre.

With the ever expanding growth of London, Bromley is far more than just a commuter town. The town has become a thriving metropolis full of exciting things to do, destination dining, cultural venues and fabulous places to stay at. When it comes to planning a staycation, one of the most important choices you have to make is where to lay your head down at night. The Bromley Court Hotel, the largest and most established hotel in Bromley, is certain to provide guests with a comfortable and relaxing stay with all its years of experience. Set in two acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, complete with a restaurant with panoramic views, the hotel is ideally located for exploring the best of buzzing Bromley and the tranquil Kent countryside. History and modern luxury seamlessly merge at Bromley Court and this is apparent through their range of room styles. The superior suites and the superior garden rooms are second to none, furnished with opulent style, light bright and airy, the rooms come complete with all the luxurious comforts you could need. A five-foot bed awaits weary travellers, as does a fluffy bathrobe and slippers as well as room service on call.

For those times that you would rather leave the room and explore when it comes to eating, Bromley is full of eclectic cafés perfect for starting your day with a hearty breakfast. 1917 Chill Café (@1917.chill.cafe) does exactly as the name suggests, it is the ideal spot to chill with a strong cup of coffee, the perfect oasis from which to watch the hustle and bustle of the town around you. As well as good coffee, 1917 Chill Café serves a selection of fresh sandwiches made daily, a great option if you’re wishing to take a packed lunch on your exploration of Bromley, as well as delectable homemade cakes and pastries, the perfect pick-me-up for a mid-afternoon treat. For those who love a good breakfast to gear them up for the day ahead, there are plenty of options to suit all tastes. From granola with mixed berries, toasted oat clusters and honey, to hearty English breakfasts and poached egg dishes done all ways, plus a variety of pancake stacks with both fruit and savoury choices. 

An ideal place to take on the January sales is The Glades Shopping Centre. Boasting a total of 135 stores trading from a combined floorspace of 464,000 sqft, this shoppers’ haven is the perfect place for some retail therapy. Whether it’s fashion, food or gifts you’re searching for, The Glades is sure to provide it. From a variety of high-calibre fashion favourites such as Hobbs, The White Company, Oliver Bonas and Kurt Geiger, to a range of cosmetic go-tos such as Jo Malone, L’Occitane, Mac and Molton Brown, The Glades is a supreme shopping experience, certain to leave you feeling satisfied. After a morning spent at The Glades working up your appetite, venture back into town and lunch at family-run Italian favourite Studio Gusto who offer fantastic set lunch menus including plenty of Italian classics such as calamari fritti, linguine puttanesca and creamy gelato for dessert. Another Mediterranean Bromley gem comes in the form of Turkish restaurant Dedem (@dedemrestaurant), masters of grilled dishes full of flavour and spice. Set in a bright and spacious venue, this fantastically styled menu is bang on trend, complete with a huge skylight draped in leafy botanicals and a glittering generously stocked bar perfect for sipping a cocktail at.

For those craving a more cultural trip and thirsting for some history, a collection of enthralling heritage locations surround Bromley to quench your thirst for knowledge. One of Kent’s most celebrated residents was of course British naturalist Charles Darwin, whose family home, Down House, is just a stone’s throw away from Bromley. As well as the house now owned by English Heritage, visitors to the village of Downe can admire traditional Kentish flint cottages against the backdrop of the open uplands of the downs themselves, as well as views of the more wooded areas of Kent such as the Weald which lies further south. In Victorian times, it was at Down House that Charles Darwin lived for 40 years until his death in 1882. The house is reflective of both Darwin’s character and its unique place in the history of science and evolution, and is now a site of outstanding international significance. Visitors can step into the very rooms where Charles Darwin worked and lived, including the study in which he wrote On the Origin of the Species, and discover a fascinating exhibition about his work. Follow in the great scientist’s footsteps as you explore the award-winning gardens where he spent many hours making observations and conducting experiments that helped develop his groundbreaking theories. 

Another nearby attraction, which is of both huge cultural and geographical significance and a much heralded attribute to Kent, are Chislehurst Caves. This ancient labyrinth of man-made tunnels forms a maze covering over six hectares, and is up to 30-metres below the homes and woodlands above. The caves were carved out hundreds of years ago with the chalk that was dug out used in lime burning and brickmaking for the building of London, as well as for flints to fire the tinderboxes and flintlock guns of long ago. First open to the public in 1900 as a showplace, the guides told the Victorians history of Romans, Druids Saxons, smuggling and murder. The last 100 years have added munitions storage for the Woolwich Arsenal in the 1914-18 war, mushroom growing in the 1920s and 1930s, and became what was essentially an underground town and the largest deep air-raid shelter outside London, protecting over 15,000 people every night during The Blitz. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s the caves were used as a venue for dances and concerts, presenting the foundations of jazz, skiffle and folk music to the most famous names in pop and rock, such as musical legends Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix. Now the caves are open as a tourist attraction, complete with a gift shop and café for a truly enthralling day out appealing to all ages.

Bromley’s links to musical legends doesn’t stop there either. Visitors to the town can now dine and later this year, stay at the glorious Grade II listed buildings which was once the Old Town Hall that hosted David Bowie’s marriage to his first wife Angie. Now it houses the restaurant, Dorothy and Marshall whose ethos is all about ‘the simple things done exceptionally well’ with each plate skilfully prepared and made using local ingredients to and changing with the seasons. Expect to find things like London honey, artisan cheeses and fresh produce straight from the fields of Kent. The restaurant is named after the beloved children of Thomas Dewey, the Charter Mayor of Bromley who laid the Old Town Hall’s foundation stone in 1906. After a major renovation, this stunning local landmark reopened its doors to the Bromley community in 2022 and with soaring ceilings and an elegant and sophisticated art-deco style, it is perfect for special occasions and dressing up for dinner. Dinner dish highlights include braised beef short rib with Guiness and black treacle, and vanilla flamed baked Alaska with sloe gin blackberry sauce.

It comes as no surprise that a thriving and buzzy town like Bromley is bursting with after-dinner activities. The Churchill Theatre is one of Bromley’s most celebrated arts hubs, hosting a plethora of different performances and shows throughout the year. From ballets to comedy acts, plays to musicals, January’s highlights include Swan Lake, Steel Magnolias, An Evening of Burlesque and award-winning tribute acts such as Glenn Miller and his Orchestra and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. After taking in a show upon an evening, we recommend finishing your day with sensational cocktails and even more entertainment at Prive Lounge. Following a full redesign and redevelopment, Prive Lounge boasts stunning custom-created modern décor and fantastic facilities designed with fun times in mind. Every element of Prive Lounge has been tailormade, from the dazzling light projections on the walls to an impressive vertical garden. With an offbeat charm and a laid-back lounge atmosphere, Prive is the perfect venue for celebrations, big nights out and all round fun. As well as creative cocktails such as the ‘Palma Paradise’ concocted from vodka and curacao accompanied with pineapple juice and grenadine, guests can also try out the fantastic new outdoor heated shisha bar, which includes all-weather cover. Live entertainment is provided throughout the week, giving guests the opportunity to discover new and exciting music, comedy and dance.

For football lovers missing all the hype of the World Cup 2022, Bromley is also home to its own professional football club, Bromley FC. Match days at the club are a brilliant weekend activity for families, friends and football fanatics alike. More than just 90 minutes of sport at Hayes Lane, the 500-capacity bar and kitchen welcomes everyone, complete with roastery coffee and hearty breakfasts to indulge in before the action kicks off at 3pm at home games on Saturdays.

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