It’s official, London is back! Our roadmap out of here is firmly underway, and the capital has cautiously started to reveal its plans for reopening with a bang. With international tourists set to be almost non-existent this year, there’s never been a better time to take a long weekend in London.
1. Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser at the V&A
Best for: Taking a mind-bending, immersive trip through Alice in Wonderland
Fall into the rabbit hole with the V&A’s brand new exhibition, Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser, which charts 157 years of Alice in Wonderland. This immersive exhibition includes a VR element, taking you on a mind-bending journey through a reimagined Wonderland. Also on display are scores of Alice adaptations from fashion to film.
Address and map: The V&A Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL
Nearest station: South Kensington
2. Taste of London
Best for: Eating all the food London has to offer
It would be easy to call Taste of London a food festival and let you fill in the blanks. But there’s so much more to this event, which takes over Regent’s Park for 10 days. Culinary schools with top-name chefs, barbecue masterclasses around a fire pit, wine-tasting, pop-up restaurants and brewery tours are all set to a backing track of live music and performances, taking you seamlessly from day to night.
Address and map: Regent’s Park, London, NW1 4NR
Nearest station: Regent’s Park
3. Naturally Brilliant Colour at Kew
Best for: Marvelling at the vibrancy of the natural world
Remember that blue and black dress that went viral a couple of years ago? Or was it white and gold? Naturally Brilliant Colour shows us how we see colour, and how colour is used and adapted by the natural world to help species thrive. You’ll even be able to see some vivid colours from nature that humans have just discovered how to replicate.
Nearest station: Kew Gardens
4. Yam Carnival
Best for: Celebrating Black music and culture from around the world
Yam Carnival was originally due to launch in 2020, but due to the C-word it has been pushed back a year. Well 2020’s loss is 2021’s gain: this carnival, celebrating music, cultural traditions and food from the Black diaspora here in London, is set to bring together some of the biggest names in Dancehall, Reggae, Afrobeat and more.
Location and map: Clapham Common, Windmill Drive, London, SW4 9DE
Nearest station: Clapham South
5. Dodge at Somerset House
Best for: An unusual day (or night) out in the shadow of Somerset House
DJ’s. Dinner. Drinks. Dodgems. The team at Somerset House aim have packed joy and creativity into their summer event: Dodge. Every ride on the dodgems helps to generate its own musical and visual composition, masterminded by artist Anna Meredith, and the resulting piece is played each hour.
Location and map: Somerset House, The Strand, London WC2R 1LA
Nearest station: Charing Cross
6. The Woman Who Fell In Love With An Island at the Walthamstow Wetlands
Best for: A magical day out at Europe’s largest wetland reserve
The Woman Who Fell In Love With An Island brings together the magical world of Tove Jansson and the wonderful urban space of the Walthamstow Wetlands. The main exhibit is housed within the historic Victorian Engine Room, but there is also a downloadable audio guide that follows an outdoor trail through the Wetlands themselves.
Location and map: Walthamstow Wetlands Engine Room, 2 Forest Road, London, N17 9NH
Nearest station: Tottenham Hale
7. London Transport Museum After Dark
Best for: Diving into a lesser-known London, through stories and poetry
On Thursday evenings throughout summer, the London Transport Museum is opening its doors after hours. Each event is set to explore a different area of London’s eclectic history, from its network of hidden rivers to the 70th anniversary of the festival of Britain. Get involved with quizzes, poetry or creative writing sessions.
Location and map: London Transport Museum, Covent Garden Piazza, London, WC2E 7BB
Nearest station: Covent Garden
8. Summer at Shakespeare’s Globe
Best for: A new take on timeless theatre classics
The reopening of the great wooden ‘O’ heralds the beginning of a summer of fun on London’s Southbank. Joyful productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet breathe new life into Shakespeare’s masterpieces. And if you can’t make it, Shakespeare’s Globe is live-streaming each play to homes around the UK from as little as £5.
Location and map: Shakespeare’s Globe, 21 New Globe Walk, London, SE1 9DT
Nearest station: London Bridge
9. Buckingham Palace summer openings
Best for: Pretending to be royalty for the day
For those who have been caught up in the Meghan and Harry vs the Windsors saga, Buckingham Palace’s summer openings offer the perfect opportunity to go backstage. The house and gardens are opening up, as always, to the public this summer for visitors eager to scope out the State Rooms or picnic in the Royal Garden.
Location and map: Buckingham Palace, London, SW1A 1AA
Nearest station: Victoria Station
10. Beer garden at Alexandra Palace
Best for: Admiring the views from London’s largest beer garden
For panoramic views of the London skyline, look no further than the Beer garden at Alexandra Palace. This summer, it’s being converted into a sun-soaked beer garden, with street food vendors, al fresco comedy, and Euro 2021 games on the big screen, all combining for the perfect weekend with friends.
Location and map: Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way, London, N22 7AY
Nearest station: Alexandra Palace
11. Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience
Best for: Seeing Van Gogh come to life like never before
Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is coming to London this summer, in a multi-sensory exhibition set to dazzle art fans across the capital. Visitors won’t just be admiring a static piece of art hanging from a wall, but will be literally stepping inside Van Gogh’s masterpieces, which surround the viewer from all sides. A classical score adds to the experience.
Location and map: Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, London W2 2UH
Nearest station: Lancaster Gate
12. Regent’s Park Theatre Summer 2021 Program
Best for: Getting your theatre fix in a Covid-friendly outdoor space
The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre opens, Covid restrictions-permitting, on the 17th June. A selection of plays and musicals will be aired throughout summer, including the family-friendly fantastical piece entitled ‘Dragons and Mythical Beasts’. Picnics in the park prior to the show are practically a rite of passage. Don’t forget the prosecco!
Location and map: Regent’s Park, Inner Circle, London, NW1 4NU
Nearest station: Regent’s Park
13. Miami Beach at the Backyard Cinema, Wandsworth
Best for: Movies on the beach when you can’t go to a real beach
Missing a summer holiday this year? Don’t worry, Backyard Cinema has got it covered. They’re bringing Miami Beach to us, in the form of a giant sandpit, comfy seating and colourful cocktails. Films range from Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption to Pitch Perfect and Moana. Make sure to pack your flip flops.
Location and map: Capital Studios, Ram Quarter, 13 Wandsworth Plain, London, SW18 1ET
Nearest station: Wandsworth Town
14. All Points East
Best for: Music lovers who’ve missed their yearly festival outing
It seems unbelievable to suggest, but music festivals could be back this year, and there is absolutely no better way to celebrate than a singalong in a field as the sun sets. East London’s All Points East festival is back for its third year, bringing headliners London Grammar, Foals and Jamie XX to the main stage.
Location and map: Victoria Park, Grove Road, London E3 5TB
Nearest station: Mile End
15. The Greenwich and Docklands International Festival
Best for: Free art installations, music and pop-up theatre performances
After a year of missing out on real human connection, the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival couldn’t be more welcome. The festival brings communities together in public spaces, celebrating dance, art and performance in innovative ways. What’s more, it’s free, ensuring that everyone can benefit.
Location and map: Across Greenwich, Tower Hamlets and Docklands
Nearest station: Greenwich, North Greenwich and Woolwich
16. Underbelly Festival
Best for: Taking your best pals on a memorable night out
Roll up, roll up, it’s the coolest, campest, chicest party in town. Whatever your pleasure, the Underbelly Festival aims to please with its season of cabaret, comedy and circus acts. There are also daytime events for children, bringing fun to the whole family just a stone’s throw away from London’s lively Oxford Street.
Location and map: Cavendish Square, London, W1G 0PN
Nearest station: Oxford Circus
Best for: Satisfying your love of the hoppy stuff
If you’ve missed a cold pint in a proper glass, this is the event for you. BrewLDN is renowned for bringing together the UK’s best breweries, from the big guys to the innovative independents. You’ll be able to get tasting notes straight from the experts, all paired with top notch street food and live music until close.
Location and map: The Printworks, Surrey Quays Road, London, SE16 7PJ
Nearest station: Canada Water
18. Introducing Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature
Best for: Introducing the natural world to your Harry Potter-loving children
Harry Potter fans look out, this one’s for you. The Natural History Museum is delving into Newt Scamander’s magical world and showcasing the natural inspiration behind his mythical beasts. Introducing Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature seamlessly weaves nature and legend together.
Location and map: The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 7BD
Nearest station: South Kensington
19. Scenes in the Square: Leicester Square
Best for: A fun treasure hunt for families of movie-lovers
OK, so this one originally launched in February 2020, just before the pandemic struck. But with the last year basically a write-off, we think it still has a place in this list. The free, interactive trail of statues is entitled Scenes in the Square due to its central location in Leicester Square. Can you find them all?
Location map map: Leicester Square, London, WC2H 7DE
Nearest station: Leicester Square
20. The BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall
Best for: Mastering the long-standing tradition of ‘Promming’
The Royal Albert Hall celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, and the annual BBC Proms is set to be bigger and better than ever. ‘Promming’, the tradition of foregoing a seated ticket and queuing for a standing position at the cost of only £6, ensures that inspirational and emotive classical music can be enjoyed by everyone.
Location and map: Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AP
Nearest station: South Kensington
21. David Hockney: The Arrival of Spring
Best for: Satisfying your curiosity about technology’s place in art
There’s no doubt that David Hockney is one of the modern masters of the art world, but even the biggest fan might have some doubts about his latest creations. The 116 new works in David Hockney’s ‘The Arrival of Spring’ series were ‘Painted’ on an iPad and printed professionally. Their unveiling has divided the art world.
Location and map: The Royal Academy, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD
Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus