City slickin’: what’s on in London this summer
London's shaking off the lockdown cobwebs with a host of fab events planned at museums, theatres and the like. Bag yourself the best tickets now with our what's on guide.
The capital’s gearing up to take the next step back to bustling reality from May 17, and we are so there. Exhibitions, food festivals, live theatre… bring on culture, non-weather dependent food and drinks, and jostling at a buzzing art gallery for the free fizz.
Only, we’re not the only ones — already, there’s talk of events being booked up, and no-one likes a ‘sold out’ sign. With limited tickets to basically everything, you’ve got to treat every booking like a Glasto ticket. Military style planning, diaries blocked out, and early booking is essential.
Here at Muddy, we thought we’d give you a helping hand by handing you a curated guide to the best of culture, events, theatre, exhibitions and markets in the city. We’ve even organised them by which train station you’ll come into and given you links to book. So, what are you waiting for? Your social life awaits…
Those arriving at Waterloo will be well-positioned for a whole host of cultural goodies this summer. If you’re angling for a bit of live theatre (the luxury!), the National Theatre is putting on a production of Under Milk Wood from 16 June – 24 July. Featuring big name Michael Sheen (you know, played Tony Blair about a million times?), it’s running with distanced seating and is well-worth trying to bag a ticket for.
If it’s music rather than drama you’re after, then just 300m away from Waterloo station The Vaults Theatre will be hosting a Hidden Jazz Club on various dates from 21 May: electrifying live jazz music in a disused railway arch, that’s since turned into a vintage theatre. Not a bad vibe, eh?
Then, of course, there’s all the museums. From 19 May, the Imperial War Museum is displaying a range of free exhibitions on refugees and life in camps, thanks to the extension of its Refugees season.
If you stroll on down to the Tate Modern, you can check out two Infinity Mirror Rooms by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s, which are (no, not like the hall of mirrors at the fairground) internationally acclaimed visions of endless reflection. Infinite mirrors don’t float your boat? There’s also an exhibition on The Making of Rodin, which charts the way Auguste Rodin broke classical rules in the 20th century to craft complex, dynamic sculptures of the human body. Tickets are £18 or free for members, and the exhibition will be held until 31 October.
Heading in the other direction but still walkable from Waterloo is the Tate Britain, which also has enticing exhibitions this summer. Here you can see a celebration of J.M.W. Turner, charting his fascination with the impact of industrialisation. It’s £22 or free with ticket for members, and on until 12 September.
Where to eat nearby: Peckish after all that culture and walking? The Skylon restaurant at Royal Festival Hall does beaut food on a beaut terrace, and offers an especially (in)famous two-course bottomless Prosecco brunch on weekends.
Not too far from Marylebone station is the Wellcome Collection on the Euston Road, which through July is hosting a series of (free!) exhibitions, events and activities exploring the theme of happiness. After you’ve had your fill of food for thought, wander the 15 minutes back towards Regent’s Park where, on 7-11 and 14-18 July, the Taste London food festival (above) will be harking all kinds of drool-worthy wares. Over 30 of London’s trendiest and most tantalising restaurants will be there selling their stuff, as well as artisan food brands to discover and culinary experiences to get stuck in with. With each stall selling taster plates, you can try food from loads of restaurants in one day, then pick your favourite to book for a post-lockdown treat. Tickets drop April 30 (that’s Friday!), so wallets at the ready to book one.
Where to eat nearby: If you don’t bag a Taste London ticket, or are after something a little more classic, head to the iconic Viennese café and restaurant Fischer’s on Marylebone High Street. Famous schnitzel the size of dinner plates, spatchcocked paprika chicken, and sugar-dusted chopped pancakes for afters — a fine feast in the surroundings of an early 20th century brasserie.
Heading south, take the excuse to peruse the shops on Marylebone High Street (a nosy about in TOAST is non-negotiable) as you continue down past Oxford Street, to the Royal Academy of Arts. From 23 May – 26 Sept, you can see an exhibition on David Hockney, The Arrival of Spring (from £19). This will display the over 100 optimistic works Hockney did on the unfolding of spring during the height of the pandemic last year, all done on his iPad.
The Royal Academy also has an exhibition on Tracey Emin and Edvard Munch from 18 May – 1 Aug, The Loneliness of the Soul (£17). This will display works by the two artists side-by-side, showing the way Emin has been influenced by Munch, who is best known for painting ‘The Scream’. Later on in the summer, you can also go to see the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2021 from Sept 22.
If you’re staying overnight or have a willing late-night chauffeur, the 100 Club on Oxford Street is holding its Comedy Festival from 31 May to 5 June, featuring comedians like Phil Wang and Ahir Shah across the six dates. Tickets are £35 for a table of two, and shows are from 7-11pm.
FROM KINGS CROSS
If you’re pulling into the city at Kings Cross you’re suitably well-positioned to get to some otherwise fiddly goodies. Alexandra Palace is a few stops away and will be hosting its Kaleidoscope Festival on 24 July, which just happens to be London’s highest festival. (Er, no, not like that: literally, it’s high up on a hill, meaning panoramic views across the city.) Expect live music, DJ sets, comedy, family entertainment, and delicious street foods. Tickets are £59.80 for adults and £25.70 for kids.
Also a couple of stops away from Kings Cross is the very-cool-and-current Hackney, and from 27 – 30 August it’ll be home to All Points East music festival in Victoria Park. Headliners will include London Grammar and Bombay Bicycle Club, with tickets starting at about £70.
If you don’t want to spring for a festival ticket but still want something of the sort, next-door to Hackney Wick station you’ll find an edgy collection of shipping containers called THE LOT, which dubs itself “a refuge for party-goers”. Thumping music, buzzy atmosphere, snacky street food and lots of drink… it could almost be a proper night out.
FROM LIVERPOOL STREET
For the contingent coming in from Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, you’ll probably find yourself at London Liverpool Street and want to know what you can do in walking distance. (Which, naturally, depends on how much you like to walk.) In the immediate area you have the Whitechapel Gallery and its exhibition Phantoms of Surrealism, looking at the role of women within the Surrealist movement in 1930s Britain. Both are open from 19 May, and free to enter.
Where to eat nearby: The almost-impossible-to-get-into (well, it always was when we lived in town) Sky Garden in Fenchurch Street will be open again from May 17, and is an activity in of itself thanks to the view. Or, enjoy the rival views at Skylight, London’s largest outdoor venue, with street food and cocktail venues and even a selection of games like croquet and table tennis to play up on the rooftop from May 17. Shoreditch’s covered foodie haven BOXPARK is open for business as is the Brick Lane second-hand market (where I once bought the most amazing pair of Seventies leather boots) and Columbia Road Flower Market on Sundays. (The latter, if you’re wondering, is still refreshingly full of people yelling out their wares just like it’s that famous scene in Oliver!.)
JUST A TUBE-RIDE AWAY
Kensington, though not wildly near any of the London terminals (Victoria or Marylebone are probably the nearest), is home to some of the country’s best cultural offerings. First up: The V&A is reopening on 19 May to reveal its freshly-revamped Raphael Court and summer exhibitions. Briefly appearing in December, Bags: Inside Out will be back charting the history of the ultimate fashion accessory, and from 22 May Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser will explore the cultural impact of Alice in Wonderland. Tickets are £12 for Bags and £20 for Alice.
While you’re in the area, it’d be remiss not to point out the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum, the latter of which is continuing its exhibition Fantastic Beasts, on where the real world and Wizarding World intertwine — interesting for little ones and big ones alike. The exhibitions are also available on late night openings on 20 May, 27 May and 3 June. £22 for adults or £13.25 for a child. Entry to the Museum is included in the exhibition ticket, and with timed entry, the queues shouldn’t be as long as normal.
From 4 June, Kensington Gardens will be lit up with Van Gogh Alive, a multi-sensory experience that’s been touring the world and has seen 65 cities so far. Expect a feast for all the senses: 3D painting recreations, a sunflower room, sounds, smells, and light shows. Tickets are £24.
Then from 19 June, The Design Museum off Kensington High Street will be hosting an exhibition on Charlotte Perriand, called The Modern Life. Charlotte Perriand, a 20th century French designer, influenced a lot of the way we live today. This exhibition will let people step inside recreations of some of her most famous interiors. Tickets are £18.
Where to eat nearby: Don’t expect anything, you know… low rent (it’s Kensington, darling). We recommend heading to The Ivy Kensington Brasserie.
Also accessible by TFL is Kew Gardens (actually a pretty easy journey from Waterloo, as you can take the train to Richmond and walk, but fiddlier from the others). From 1 May – 19 Sept, the gardens will be holding a series of immersive experiences called The Secret World of Plants, featuring a Naturally Brilliant Colour art exhibition that shows the brightest colours found in nature (both included with price of entry). There will also be a new and extensive wellbeing program, which includes letting visitors cycle through the gardens (for the first time ever!) at a cost of £20.