What’s on in London this Summer

By Eloise Barker

Title photography by Victor Huang

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Updated April 2019

Wonderful London blossoms in the warm summer months, so take advantage of the city’s stunning outdoor spaces. Whether you’re looking for lazy park days, leafy outdoor theatres, balmy courtyard cinemas, or a spot of sport, London’s summer season should hit the spot.

Summer shows at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

This charming theatre in the centre of a park, is surrounded with fairy lights and the stage is lined with a backdrop of trees. The summer starts with Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Our Town – a drama following interweaving lives in an engaging metatheatrical three-acts. The season continues with Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, performed by Regent’s Park Theatre and English National Opera in a mesmerising recreation, followed by William Shakespeare’s, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in a playful production of woodland magic. Last but not least, is Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s fantastic musical, Evita.

When? 16 May – 21 September

Where? Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Nearest tubes: Baker Street

Where to stay: Melia White House in the north of London is a smart hotel near to Regent’s Park. You’ll have a short journey back after the evening play.

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Royal Ascot

The horses, the hats, the silks, the champagne. Royal Ascot is a great chance to ogle high society (recognisable by their royal enclosure tickets) and even spot the Queen toasting the fast-paced fun of horse racing on the flats. Place a few bets, have a few drinks and see if you can spot the most ridiculous hat. Pick an enclosure, or watch it all with a picnic from the heath opposite the stands. A truly British day out.

When? 18 June – 22 June

Where? Ascot Racecourse

Nearest tubes: Waterloo – for onward travel via National Rail

Where to stay: Park Plaza Westminster Bridge is right by Waterloo Station, making it easy to visit the races by train. It’s a chic, contemporary hotel with an indoor pool and spa.

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“The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, Jersey Boys, Kinky Boots, Matilda, Les Miserables and Wicked performed all-singing all dancing renditions of their best bits – al fresco.”

  • Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel at The Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. © FeastCreative.

    Drama in the park

    If you’re visiting London this summer, be sure to book from a selection of spectacular outdoor shows.

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  • Dartmouth (Olivier Peslier) wins The Hardwicke Stakes Royal Ascot 18 Jun 2016 – Photo credit: Steven Cargill / Racingfotos.com.

    Did you know?

    Jumpsuits have only recently been added onto the dress code for women at the very strict Royal Enclosure at Ascot. Men are still stuck wearing suits.

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  • West End Live. Photo credit: Pamela Raith.

    Crowd aloud

    Sing along to your favourite songs as West End casts perform their best bits.

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Serpentine Pavilion

On a hot, lazy day in London there’s no better place than Central London’s largest green space: Hyde Park. So sprawling are the lawns that there’s space for a boating lake and not one, but two art galleries. Strolling around and enjoying the free exhibitions at The Serpentine is of Hyde Park’s great perks. Every year the gallery commissions a cutting-edge temporary ‘pavilion’ to stand in the park. 2019’s design is created by Japanese architect Junya Ishigami experimental form, connecting nature and structure on another level. Venture out and about to discover it for yourself.

When? 20 June – 6 October

Where? Hyde Park

Nearest tubes: Knightsbridge

Where to stay: Stay at the Rembrandt. Its Knightsbridge location affords a certain elegance. The hotel has a historic façade and offers afternoon tea.

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West End Live

If you can’t pick just one West End show, watch 31 live on stage over a glorious June weekend in Trafalgar Square – in live performances, for free. In past years, huge casts from The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, Jersey Boys, Kinky Boots, Matilda, Les Miserables and Wicked performed all-singing, all-dancing renditions of their best bits – al fresco. Then there’s food, face painting and a whole lot of audience participation from a 500,000 strong crowd. Jazz hands, everybody.

When? 22 June – 23 June

Where? Trafalgar Square

Nearest tubes: Charing Cross

Where to stay: Amba Hotel Charing Cross is in the heart of London’s West End. Enjoy a Nespresso coffee in your room before you step out into the centre of the capital.

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The Championships, Wimbledon

So much more than a tennis competition, Wimbledon is an institution. Queue up for day seats and soak up the jolly atmosphere even before you get to the courts. Strawberries on Henman Hill, watching the big screen, champagne in the posh bar, or sitting very still during an important point court side are all quintessential experiences. Put on your best straw hat and your sunglasses and enjoy Wimbledon village’s own celebrations, from tennis ball inspired floral displays to rooftop bars screening the big games.

When? 1 July – 14 July

Where? Wimbledon

Nearest tubes: Wimbledon

Where to stay: K+K Hotel George is in a Victorian townhouse in leafy west London. It’s easy to pop down to Wimbledon on the district line from Earl’s Court Station, which is near the hotel.

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  • Two Spectators at The Championships 2014. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon. Day 5 -27/06/2014. Photo credit: AELTC / Chris Raphael.

    Anyone for tennis?

    This 140-year-old tournament attracts the world’s best players.

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  • Aldwych Rooms at One Aldwych.

    Staying in

    If you don’t go to the Film4 Summer Screen, then why not enjoy ‘Film and Fizz’ at the 30-seat cinema, when you stay at One Aldwych?

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  • Carolien Niebling, The Sausage of the Future. © Noortje Knulst. FOOD: Bigger than the Plate exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

    Food – like you’ve never seen before

    The Victoria and Albert Museum is always a wonder to visit – be sure to catch a this new foodie exhibition that’ll get you thinking.

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FOOD: Bigger than the Plate, V&A

For a different slice of culture, discover the FOOD: Bigger than the Plate exhibition, new for summer at the V&A 2019. Take a multi-sensory journey through a world of ever-changing food experiences. From urban mushroom farming, to cheese made from human bacteria – discover over 70 projects surrounding the topics of eating, farming, trading and compost. Whether you’re inspired by cooking, the politics of sustainability or the debate of veganism, explore an array of thought-provoking displays.

When? 18 May – 20 October

Where? Victoria and Albert Museum

Nearest tubes: South Kensington

Where to stay: The Rembrandt is a small four-star hotel right on Exhibition Road, so it’s easy to head to the V&A when Kahlo calls.

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  • Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House. Photo credit: James Bryant.

    Outdoor cinema

    Grab a thermos, a friend and picnic in the courtyard of Somerset House in front of a classic film.

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  • The Royal Albert Hall. Photo credit: fazon1 / Getty Images.

    Be a Prommer

    Queue in the day to see the Proms for just £6 per performance. Stand in the Arena (where the acoustics are best, anyway).

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  • Crowds enjoying a concert at Kew The Music. ©Kew The Music/Kilimanjaro Live.

    Kew The Music

    It will be star power among the flowers as some of the UK’s most beloved bands perform in Kew Gardens.

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Kew The Music

Summer is made for English gardens. Walk among the impressive glasshouses and enjoy the exotic plants and trees at Kew Gardens in southwest London. Make sure you stay for the week-long music festival, Kew the Music. Aside from clever puns, you can expect the best of British pop through the ages. This year, epic hot names Jess Glynne and Craig David are performing, along with Garbage, Rick Astley, Beverley Knight, Billy Ocean and Jools Holland.

When? 9 July - 14 July

Where? Kew

Nearest tubes: Kew Gardens

Where to stay: The Radisson Blu Edwardian Vanderbilt’s wonderful period features have had some stylish modern updates. Use the nearby tube at Gloucester Road to reach Kew Gardens.

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BBC Proms

The eight weeks of Proms have been occurring in London since 1895 and get bigger every year. These are informal, democratic performances with something for everyone. Maybe you want to sink your ears into a difficult piece of Wagner or just hum along to the infectious film score soundtracks or jig along to famous musical numbers, like last year’s West Side Story. The last night, Proms in the Park, packs out Hyde Park with a big, riotous and surprisingly patriotic event – and a lot of bombastic music from Elgar.

When? 19 July – 14 September

Where? Royal Albert Hall

Nearest tubes: South Kensington

Where to stay: The Ampersand is within walking distance of the Royal Albert Hall, useful if you’re queueing on the day for a Prom ticket. The quirky modern décor means this five star is anything but stuffy.

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Buckingham Palace Summer Opening

When Queen flees to Windsor Castle in the summer, Buckingham Palace flings open its double doors and lets in curious tourists. During ten short weeks you can tour the 19 grandiose state rooms and poke around where Elizabeth II potters around. Don’t miss the fancy French furniture in the drawing rooms, the ballroom’s magnificent decorative sphinxes or the red-clad throne room. Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge set their wedding photos in the latter, and you can look out for more royal portraits – this time of Queen Victoria’s family – at the top of the Grand Staircase. Photography isn’t allowed, unfortunately, so allow plenty of time to take everything in whilst you’re there.

When? 20 July – 29 September

Where? Buckingham Palace

Nearest tubes: Victoria

Where to stay: The Grosvenor is just 500m away from Buckingham Palace, with a grand foyer and a lovely afternoon tea.

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Film 4 Summer Screen

Film 4’s Summer Screen offers far more than just a projector and popcorn. First off, it takes place in one of London’s best locations. Set in the lovely Neoclassical courtyard at Somerset House, it’s one of the grandest outdoor cinemas. Not only that, but the venue has hosted some cinematic milestones, too: from UK premieres to red carpet moments. Last year saw David Bowie immortalised in Labyrinth and Leonardo DiCaprio’s thrilling antics in Christopher Nolan’s Inception. 2019 will be extra special, as this summer celebrates Film4 Summer Screen’s 200th screening.

When? 8 August – 21 August

Where? Somerset House

Nearest tubes: Temple

Where to stay: One Aldwych has a thirty seat cinema for film buffs, a chlorine-free pool and a brilliant bar in the lobby.

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