Welcome to the vibrant heart of the United Kingdom, where history, culture, and modernity collide in a symphony of unforgettable experiences. London, a city that never sleeps, constantly tantalizes your senses with its rich tapestry of iconic landmarks, diverse culinary delights, and a plethora of events that cater to every taste and interest. Whether you’re a seasoned Londoner or a curious traveler, our definitive guide to What’s on in London features popular events that will unlock the doors to the city’s pulsating soul, leaving you mesmerized and yearning for more. From world-renowned music festivals and mesmerizing theatrical performances, to enchanting art exhibitions and adrenaline-pumping sporting events, London truly has it all. So, grab your calendar and let’s embark on a journey to uncover the best of London’s events that promise to leave an indelible mark on your memory. The city’s magic awaits you!
Annual cultural events and festivals
Every year, London comes alive with a multitude of cultural events and festivals that celebrate the city’s rich history, diverse communities, and artistic expression. One such event is the Notting Hill Carnival, a vibrant and colorful celebration of Caribbean culture that takes place in West London over the August Bank Holiday weekend. With its infectious rhythms, dazzling costumes, and mouth-watering food, the carnival attracts millions of visitors and is a must-see event for anyone visiting London during the summer months.
Another annual cultural highlight is the Chinese New Year celebrations, which take place in London’s Chinatown and Trafalgar Square. This lively event features traditional lion dances, live music, and theatrical performances, as well as a spectacular fireworks display to mark the beginning of the lunar new year. For those with a passion for film, the BFI London Film Festival is an unmissable event, showcasing the best in contemporary cinema from around the world, including premieres, screenings, and talks with industry experts.
If you’re a fan of literature, the London Literature Festival at the Southbank Centre offers a diverse program of events, including readings, talks, and workshops with renowned authors and poets. For art enthusiasts, the Frieze Art Fair in Regent’s Park brings together works from hundreds of the world’s leading galleries, while the London Design Festival celebrates creativity in the capital with a series of events, installations, and exhibitions across the city. No matter your interests, London’s annual cultural events provide a unique insight into the city’s artistic heartbeat.
London’s top music events and concerts
The UK’s capital is renowned for its thriving music scene, catering to an array of tastes and genres. From intimate gigs in historic venues to massive concerts in world-famous arenas, London offers a wealth of musical experiences to suit all preferences. One of the most iconic music events in the city is the BBC Proms, an annual series of classical music concerts held at the Royal Albert Hall. Over eight weeks, music lovers can enjoy a diverse program of performances, culminating in the spectacular Last Night of the Proms, a British institution that combines classical masterpieces with patriotic singalongs.
For fans of popular music, London’s summer music festival scene is not to be missed. Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park brings together some of the biggest names in hip-hop, grime, and R&B, while the Lovebox Festival in Gunnersbury Park offers a more eclectic mix of genres, from electronic dance music to indie rock. For those who prefer their music with a side of history, the Hampton Court Palace Festival offers the unique opportunity to enjoy live performances in the stunning courtyard of the royal palace, with past performers including Tom Jones, Jools Holland, and Van Morrison.
Throughout the year, London’s music venues come alive with concerts from both established artists and emerging talent. From the legendary Roundhouse in Camden, which has hosted the likes of Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, and Amy Winehouse, to the intimate Jazz Cafe, where you can enjoy live jazz, soul, and blues, there’s no shortage of musical experiences to discover in London. Don’t forget to check out the iconic Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho, which has been at the forefront of London’s jazz scene since 1959 and has hosted legends such as Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, and Nina Simone.
Food and drink festivals in London
With its diverse culinary offerings, London has become a food lover’s paradise. Throughout the year, the city hosts an array of food and drink festivals, offering visitors the chance to indulge in a wide variety of cuisines from around the world. One of the most popular events on the foodie calendar is Taste of London, held twice a year in Regent’s Park and Tobacco Dock. This gastronomic extravaganza showcases the city’s top restaurants, bars, and street food vendors, with live cooking demonstrations, workshops, and tastings to whet your appetite.
For those with a sweet tooth, the London Chocolate Festival is a must-visit event. Held annually in various locations across the city, this indulgent festival celebrates all things chocolate, with a tempting selection of artisan chocolatiers, workshops, and tastings to satisfy your cravings. If you’re a fan of craft beer, the London Craft Beer Festival brings together the best in independent brewing, with over 100 breweries from around the world showcasing their finest creations. With live music, street food, and plenty of opportunities to sample the beers on offer, this festival is a must for any beer enthusiast.
If wine is more your thing, the London Wine Week offers a week-long celebration of all things vinous, with tastings, masterclasses, and special events taking place across the city. For a truly unique food and drink experience, the London Cocktail Week is an annual event that sees the city’s best bars and mixologists come together to showcase their creative concoctions. With a dedicated Cocktail Village and plenty of opportunities to taste exclusive creations, this is a must-attend event for cocktail lovers.
Art exhibitions and galleries in the capital
London’s art scene is globally renowned, with a plethora of galleries and museums showcasing everything from ancient artifacts to cutting-edge contemporary works. The city’s major institutions, such as the Tate Modern, the National Gallery, and the Royal Academy of Arts, regularly host blockbuster exhibitions from world-famous artists, attracting millions of visitors each year. Recent highlights have included exhibitions dedicated to the likes of Leonardo da Vinci, David Hockney, and Yayoi Kusama, offering visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of art’s greatest visionaries.
In addition to these major exhibitions, London’s many smaller galleries and art spaces offer a diverse array of experiences for art-lovers. The Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea is a leading contemporary art gallery, showcasing the work of emerging artists and providing a platform for new talent. Meanwhile, the Serpentine Galleries in Kensington Gardens offer a unique fusion of art, architecture, and nature, with a program of contemporary exhibitions housed within their picturesque park setting. For those with a taste for the avant-garde, the White Cube galleries in Bermondsey and Mason’s Yard host cutting-edge exhibitions from some of the world’s most innovative artists.
London’s street art scene is also thriving, with areas such as Shoreditch, Hackney, and Brixton becoming hotspots for vibrant murals and graffiti. Guided street art tours are available for those looking to explore this dynamic side of the city’s art scene, offering a unique insight into London’s creative pulse. With such a diverse range of artistic experiences on offer, there’s no doubt that London is a city that truly celebrates the power of creative expression.
London’s celebrated theatre and performing arts scene
Theatre is an integral part of London’s cultural identity, with the city boasting an unparalleled array of productions and performances to suit all tastes. From the glitz and glamour of the West End’s blockbuster musicals to the innovative productions at smaller, off-West End venues, London’s theatre scene offers something for everyone.
The West End is home to many of the world’s most famous theatres, including the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, the London Palladium, and the Royal Opera House, which hosts the internationally renowned Royal Ballet. Here, you can catch long-running musical hits like Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Lion King, as well as critically acclaimed plays featuring some of the industry’s biggest names. In addition to these iconic productions, London’s thriving fringe theatre scene offers a wealth of alternative and experimental performances, with venues such as the Arcola Theatre, Battersea Arts Centre, and the Young Vic championing new talent and innovative approaches to storytelling.
For fans of dance, the Sadler’s Wells Theatre offers a diverse program of world-class ballet, contemporary dance, and hip-hop performances, while the Barbican Centre is a hub for cutting-edge theatre, dance, and music productions from around the world. Comedy enthusiasts can enjoy a night of laughter at one of London’s many comedy clubs, such as The Comedy Store, or take in one of the city’s annual comedy festivals, including the Leicester Square Theatre’s New Comedian of the Year competition. With such an abundance of theatrical delights on offer, there’s no doubt that London’s performing arts scene is truly world-class.
Family-friendly events and attractions
London offers a wealth of family-friendly events and attractions, ensuring that visitors of all ages can make the most of their time in the city. One of the most popular annual events for families is the Lord Mayor’s Show, a centuries-old tradition that sees the newly elected Lord Mayor of London take part in a spectacular procession through the city’s streets. With its colorful floats, marching bands, and lively atmosphere, this event is a must-see for families visiting London in November.
Another delightful family event is the annual Christmas lights switch-on, which takes place in various locations around London, including Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Covent Garden. With live music, festive food stalls, and plenty of seasonal cheer, this magical event is guaranteed to get the whole family into the Christmas spirit. For those visiting London during the summer months, the city’s many parks and green spaces offer a variety of family-friendly events and activities, from open-air theatre performances and outdoor cinema screenings to playful water features and adventure playgrounds.
London’s world-famous museums and galleries also offer a wealth of family-friendly experiences, with many institutions hosting dedicated events and workshops for children. The Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum all offer interactive, hands-on exhibits that are perfect for keeping little onesentertained, while the British Museum’s family-friendly trails and activity packs provide a fun and educational way to explore the museum’s vast collections. For animal lovers, the London Zoo in Regent’s Park is a must-visit attraction, offering the chance to see everything from lions and tigers to penguins and meerkats.
Sporting events in London
London is a city that loves sports, with a rich history of hosting major international events such as the Olympic Games, Wimbledon, and the Rugby World Cup. Throughout the year, there are a multitude of sporting events taking place in the city, from high-profile matches and tournaments to more niche and unusual competitions.
Football is a passion for many Londoners, with the city boasting some of the top Premier League football matches, including Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, and West Ham United. Attending a match at one of these iconic stadiums is a must for any football fan, with the atmosphere and passion of the crowds providing an unforgettable experience. In addition to football, London is also home to world-class rugby, cricket, and athletics venues, hosting major events such as the Six Nations Rugby Championship, the Ashes cricket series, and the Diamond League athletics competition.
For those seeking more unusual sporting experiences, London offers a variety of options. The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, held annually on the River Thames, is a quintessentially British event that sees the two prestigious universities battle it out in a grueling rowing competition. Meanwhile, the London Marathon is one of the world’s most popular long-distance races, attracting thousands of runners from around the globe to pound the city’s streets in pursuit of personal bests and charitable causes.
Other unique sporting events in London include the World Snail Racing Championships, held annually in the village of Congham, Norfolk, and the London Naked Bike Ride, a protest against car culture that sees thousands of cyclists take to the streets in their birthday suits. Whatever your sporting interests, there’s no doubt that London offers a wealth of opportunities to get active and immerse yourself in the city’s dynamic sporting scene.
London’s unique and niche events
London is a city that celebrates diversity in all its forms, and this is reflected in the wide range of unique and niche events that take place throughout the year. From quirky festivals and offbeat markets to underground gigs and immersive theater experiences, London offers a wealth of opportunities to explore new and unconventional forms of entertainment.
One such event is the London Tattoo Convention, held annually at Tobacco Dock in East London. This three-day celebration of tattoo culture attracts thousands of ink enthusiasts from around the world, with live tattooing, art exhibitions, and performances from some of the industry’s leading artists. For those looking for a taste of the unexpected, the Secret Cinema offers immersive film experiences that transport audiences into the worlds of classic movies such as Moulin Rouge and Blade Runner.
Another unique event is the London Craft Week, a celebration of traditional and contemporary craftsmanship that takes place across the city’s museums, galleries, and studios. From glass-blowing and woodworking to ceramics and embroidery, this festival offers a fascinating insight into the world of artisanal skills and techniques. For those seeking a more interactive experience, the Crystal Maze Live Experience in Angel recreates the classic 90s TV show, challenging teams to solve puzzles and complete challenges in a labyrinthine maze.
Other niche events in London include the annual London Fashion Week, which showcases the latest trends from the world of haute couture, and the London International Mime Festival, which celebrates the art of physical theater and non-verbal performance. With such a diverse range of unique events on offer, London truly is a city that caters to all tastes and interests.
Tips for attending events in London
Attending events in London can be a thrilling and unforgettable experience, but it’s important to plan ahead to ensure that you make the most of your time in the city. Here are some tips to help you navigate finding Europe trip deals and experiencing London’s event scene:
Book tickets in advance whenever possible, particularly for popular events such as festivals, concerts, and exhibitions. This will help you avoid disappointment and ensure that you can secure the best seats or time slots.
Check the venue’s location and transport options before you go. London’s public transport network can be busy and complex, so it’s a good idea to plan your route in advance and allow plenty of time to get to your destination.
Dress appropriately for the event and the weather. London’s weather can be unpredictable, so it’s always a good idea to bring layers and waterproof clothing, particularly if you’ll be spending time outdoors.
Bring cash, as some events and venues may not accept card payments. It’s also a good idea to bring a reusable water bottle and snacks, particularly if you’ll be attending a long event or festival.