Activities & Events

To make the most of the city’s tremendous cultural offerings (performing arts, museums, exhibitions, clubs, eateries and numerous others), visitors will do well to pick up a copy of a cultural magazine like Time Out London (available at most corner shops and newsagents) which gives detailed information and critiques on what’s around town including show times and current attractions. Their website also has major shows listed and there is also an iPhone/iPod app available – though these tend to not be as detailed as the print version.

  • Take a walk through London’s Royal Parks. A good walk would start at Paddington station, and head through Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park (passing Buckingham Palace) and St James Park before crossing Trafalgar Square and the River Thames to the South Bank and Waterloo Station. At a strolling pace this walk would take half a day, with plenty of places to stop, sit, drink, eat en-route. A good pictorial description of this walk can be found online at Trips By Trains Royal Parks Walk.
  • Live Music London is one of the best cities in the world for concerts, spanning from new musical trends to well known bands. Popular classical concerts at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square.
    • Between huge concert facilities and small pubs, there are hundreds of venues that organise and promote live music every week. Many concerts, especially in smaller or less known places are free, so there is plenty of choice even for tourists on a budget. London has long been a launchpad for alternative movements, from the mods of the 60s, punks of the 70s, new romantics of the 80s, the britpop scene of the 90s and in recent years the indie rock movement spearheaded by The Libertines and their ilk. It has one of the world’s most lively live music scenes: any band heading a British, European or World tour will play London, not to mention the local talent.
    • London’s Music Scene is incredibly diverse, covering all genres of music from electro-jazz to death-metal, and all sizes of bands, from the U2s and Rolling Stones of the world to one man bands who disband after their first gig. A number of apps exist to help Londoners choose between the huge number of gigs on offer. One of the most popular is DICE, an event discovery app that doesn’t charge any booking fees.
    • This diversity is reflected in prices. As a rough guide: £40+ for ‘top 40’ bands in arena sized venues, £20+ for established bands in mid sized venues, £6+ for up and coming bands and club nights in smaller venues, £5- for start up bands in bars and pubs. London has hundreds of venues spread out over the city and the best way to know what’s going on where is to browse on-line ticket agencies and music magazine’s gig directories. One of the easiest to use and most comprehensive listings websites is “LONDONEARS”.
  • Theatre The West End, especially the areas concentrated around Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Shaftesbury Avenue and Haymarket, is one of the world’s premier destinations for theatre, including musical theatre.
    • Covent Garden has the only Actor sponsored school in the city called the Actors Centre which also gave way to the London Acting Network, a London acting community support group. In the centre of Leicester Square there is an official half-price TKTS booth.
    • For up-to-date listings check the official London theatreland site.
    • The South Bank is another area well-known for world class theatre, and is home to both the National Theatre and the Globe Theatre, the latter of which is London’s only thatched building and an attraction in itself. Each Globe performance has over 700 tickets priced at £5. London’s theatre scene outside of these two main districts is known as “the Fringe”. There are tour companies worldwide that take travellers to see London theatre. These companies sell themselves on being able to deliver unique and behind-the-scenes access to some of the world’s greatest theatres.
  • Watch a movie As well as the world-famous blockbuster cinemas in the West End, London has a large number of superb art house cinemas. In the summer months, there are often outdoor screenings at various venues, such as Somerset House and in some of the large parks.
  • Watch football Take in a home match of one of the city’s 15+ professional football clubs for a true experience of a lifetime as you see the passion of the “World’s Game” in its mother country.
    • London has five clubs in the top Premier League: Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Place, Tottenham Hotspur, and West Ham United. A level down, in the Football League Championship, finds Brentford, Charlton Athletic, Fulham, and Queens Park Rangers (QPR). Several clubs are in the lower levels of the professional league systems — Millwall in Football League One; and AFC Wimbledon, Barnet, Dagenham & Redbridge, and Leyton Orient in Football League Two. Many of the bigger clubs will require booking in advance, sometimes many months ahead, but smaller clubs allow you to simply turn up on match day and pay at the gate. You will be able to find a ticket to a quality football match on any Saturday during the season.
  • Open House London Weekend lets you explore many of the city’s most interesting buildings during the London Open House Weekend – usually held on the third weekend of September. During this single weekend, several hundred buildings which are not normally open to the public are opened up. See website for details of buildings opening in any given year – some buildings have to be pre-booked in advance – book early for the popular ones!
  • Winter Skating. London has a number of outdoor ice rinks that open in the winter months. Considered by some to be somewhat overpriced and overcrowded, they nonetheless have multiplied in recent years, easing congestion and increasing competition. Most charge from £10-12 (adults) for an hour on the ice, including skate hire. See the district articles for the City of London, East End and Leicester Square.
  • Summer Skating. In summer (and also in winter, for the more dedicated) there is also a thriving roller skating (on inline and traditional “quad” skates) scene in London, catering to many disciplines including street hockey, freestyle slalom, dance, general recreational skating (including three weekly marshalled group street skates) and speed skating. This mostly centres around Hyde Park (on the Serpentine Road) and Kensington Gardens (by the Albert Memorial). See the district articles for Mayfair-Marylebone and South West London.
  • Do-it-yourself bus tour If you don’t feel like splashing out on one of the commercial bus tours, you can make your own bus tour by buying an Oyster card and spending some time riding around London on the top deck of standard London buses. Of course you don’t get the open air or the commentary, but the views are very similar. You will likely get lost but that is half the fun; if it worries you go for a commercial tour.