Things To Do In London This Autumn

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 10 months ago

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Last Updated 01 September 2023

Things To Do In London This Autumn
Autumn in London: A pelican spreading its wings alongside the lake in St James's Park, against a backdrop of red and orange autumn leaves.
Get planning to make the most out of autumn in London. Image: Shutterstock

Between the joys of summer's outdoor cinemas and bars, and the excitement of Christmas, there's a little thing called autumn. We've pulled together some of the best events happening in London in September, October and November 2023 to keep you going as the nights grow darker and the days get chillier.

Cultural events in London this autumn

Autumn in London: two performers, one in a wheelchair, performing in the air above crowds in a street.
GDIF continues into September. Photo: Oliver Crawford

GDIF: Glowing swans, tightrope walking, and a full-size house submerged in the docks are all part of this year's Greenwich + Docklands International Festival, a huge outdoor performing arts blowout with 35+ events, most of which are free. 25 August-10 September

BACK TO HOGWARTS DAY: Every year on 1 September, Harry Potter fans gather at King's Cross station to hear the once-a-year announcement of the Hogwarts Express departing from Platform 9¾. Witches and wizards in full costume gather just before 11am for the countdown to the announcement. FREE, 1 September

TOTALLY THAMES: Totally Thames 2023 is a whole month of events celebrating our waterways. Talks, walks, live performances, boat trips and workshops feature — and these are a mere drop in the ocean river, in a programme that's flooded with things to get up to. Some events FREE, 1 September-1 October 2023

CREEKSIDE FESTIVAL: Grassroots music station and event space AAJA launches brand new, multi-venue music festival Creekside Festival. It takes place across 10 independent music venues around Deptford, including Buster Mantis, Villages and Isla Ray. Creekside champions neighbourhood crews and DIY radio, with a line-up including Threads Radio, Cheeky Soundsystem and Rat Face Records. 2 September

Autumn in London: a replica of the Hogwarts Express steam train parked up alongside a train platform.
Autumn begins with a treat for Harry Potter fans. Photo: Photo: Ana Essentiels via Unsplash

CAMBERWELL FAIR: It started in 1279 and ran until 1855, so it's fair to say there's a decent bit of history to Camberwell Fair. The event was restarted in 2015, and runs again this year, with live music and DJs, a market, mask-making workshops and other entertainment on Camberwell Green. FREE, 2 September

QUEEN'S PARK BOOK FESTIVAL: The annual Queen's Park Book Festival is back, with more than 20 events across literature and comedy. Pick up cooking tips from Michael Roux, hear respected author Sebastian Faulks discussing his latest book, and local novelist Zadie Smith discussing her new work, her first historical novel. 23 September

CAMDEN INSPIRE: Celebrate the borough of Camden, both past and present, at Camden Inspire. This year's festival has a theme of 'storytelling', with local artists, musicians, comedians, thought leaders and more hosting performances, talks and workshops across Buck Street and Stucley Place. 2-3 September

DOCUMENTARY FESTIVAL: Open City Documentary Festival is a celebration of non-fiction cinema in London, organised in conjunction with UCL and taking place at various locations around the capital. As well as films screenings, this year's programme includes mentoring and networking sessions and talks by artists. 6-12 September

OPEN HOUSE LONDON: It's the most wonderful time of year, when all manner of London buildings and structures — usually off-limits to the public — fling their open their doors. Our previous Open House London highlights include going inside the St Pancras clock tower, and up on the roof of 55 Broadway. 6-17 September

Autumn in London: view of the London skyline including the London Eye, seen from the roof of 55 Broadway during Open House.
Open House Festival is a chance to visit the parts of London which are normally off-limits. Photo: Londonist

LONDON PODCAST FESTIVAL: Headphones at the ready for London Podcast Festival at Kings Place, which sees both mainstream and niche podcasts filmed in front of a live audience, with some recordings streamed online too. Drunk Women Solving Crime, No Such Thing As A Fish, and the Empire Film Podcast are some of the big name shows, along with offerings on comedy, food and politics. 7-17 September

MARKFIELD ROAD FESTIVAL: Taking place in South Tottenham, Markfield Road Festival is a free arts and music festival for all ages. Visit open arts studios, watch short films screenings and live music performances, take part in workshops including life drawing, watch a carnival procession featuring local school children, and let your kids enjoy bouncy castles and face painting. FREE ENTRY, 8-10 September

GREENWICH COMEDY FESTIVAL: Phil Wang, Chloe Petts, Sophie Duker, Jen Brister and Stephen K Amos are among the headliners at Greenwich Comedy Festival, taking place in a seated arena in the grounds of the National Maritime Museum. Arrive early to make the most of pop-up bars and street food stalls running alongside the festival. 13-17 September

LONDON DESIGN FESTIVAL: The 21st edition of London Design Festival continues showcasing London as the design capital of the world. At time of writing, the programme has yet to be announced, but we're expecting the usual blend of displays and exhibitions, talks and more. 16-24 September

Sheep being driven over a bridge with the Shard in thew background
See sheep being herded across the River Thames.

SHEEP DRIVE: One of London's wackiest annual events is the London Bridge Sheep Drive and Livery Fair. Each year, a chosen celebrity has the honour of herding sheep over Southwark Bridge — keep an eye on the website for this year's announcement. FREE, 24 September

CHELSEA HISTORY FESTIVAL: The National Army Museum, the Royal Hospital Chelsea and Chelsea Physic Garden team up again for this year's Chelsea History Festival, which covers local, national and global history. This year includes special events marking the 300th anniversary of the death of Sir Christopher Wren, as well as punk and movie-themed tours of Chelsea, and the chance to hear from Sir Michael Palin about his latest book. 26 September-1 October

QUEER NATURE: Kew Gardens launches a brand new festival, Queer Nature, celebrating the diversity and beauty of plants and fungi. View new art installations, hear from Kew scientists, horticulturists, and writers on their individual perspectives on queerness and nature, and book ahead for themed After Hours events. 30 September-29 October

MONTH OF THE DEAD: Ghoulishly good festival of death Month of the Dead is back, with talks on the macabre, candlelit cemetery concerts, and screenings of classic horror movies with live piano accompaniment, as well as other events taking a cerebral look at death and the afterlife. 30 September-1 November

Autumn in London: George the Poet, looking straight at the camera.
George the Poet curates the opening night of London Literature Festival. Photo: Feruza Afewerki

BLACK HISTORY MONTH: October is Black History Month, honouring the often unheralded accomplishments of Black Britons in all fields throughout history. It's national, with events running all year, but things happening in London this month can be found on the Black History Month site. This year's theme is 'Saluting our Sisters' , celebrating the role that Black women have played in inspiring history. 1-31 October

ART FAIRS: Two of London's biggest art fairs take place in October, bringing members of the art industry from all over the globe back to the capital. Frieze London (11-15 October 2023) sets up shop in Regent's Park, with galleries showcasing work by contemporary artists in a variety of mediums. Over in east London, The Other Art Fair (12-15 October 2023) takes over the Old Truman Brewery, with a focus on artworks available for all budgets, from over 100 artists.

BLOOMSBURY FESTIVAL: Beginning with a street food and flower market on Store Street, Bloomsbury Festival celebrates the area's arts, culture and science, through more than 100 events across nine days, including theatre, music, exhibitions, talks and walks. 13-22 October

LONDON LITERATURE FESTIVAL: George the Poet, Yu Miri, Teju Cole, Sir Patrick Stewart, Jada Pinkett Smith, Kerry Washington and Jacqueline Wilson are among the faces on the programme at this year's London Literature Festival at Southbank Centre, which celebrates the written and spoken word in all its forms. 18-29 October 2023

Autumn in London: Leigh-Anne Pinnock, looking straight at the camera with her hands together in front of her face.
Leigh-Anne Pinnock opens the Black British Book Festival. Photo: Alex Oghale

BLACK BRITISH BOOK FESTIVAL: Running alongside the above is the Black British Book Festival, taking place outside Birmingham for the first time, celebrating Black British authors across all genres. Events include the launch of Leigh-Anne Pinnock's memoir, as well as workshops and masterclasses to help people break into the publishing industry. 27-28 October 2023

MCM COMIC CON: Halloween isn't the only reason to dig out your fancy dress costume at the end of October. MCM Comic Con returns to ExCeL for three days of celebrity guests, panel discussions, cosplay, tabletop and video games and more.  27-29 October

DIWALI: Although Diwali falls on 12 November this year, London's official celebrations in Trafalgar Square take place on 29 October, with live music, dancing and more. Keep an eye on our event listings for details of other Diwali celebrations around town. FREE, 29 October/12 November 2023

Autumn in London: Four people in Ninja Turtle outfits, posing next to a young boy in a Spiderman costume at MCM Comic Con
MCM Comic Con is back in town.

HALLOWEEN: Things get spooky in London towards the end of October as Halloween looms. Check back nearer the time for our guide to the best Halloween events for both kids and adults, as well as scary film screenings around town. In the meantime, why not start planning a trip to one of these charming pumpkin patches near London. 31 October

EFG LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL: Get down with the trumpets at the EFG London Jazz Festival, which offers 10 days of live performances at venues including Barbican, Southbank Centre and the Royal Albert Hall. Emeli Sandé and Sergio Mendes are among the names on this year's programme. 10-19 November 2023

REMEMBRANCE: There are always special events in London around 11 November, to mark Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day. This year's details will be announced in due course.

LORD MAYOR'S SHOW: If you're a sucker for pomp and pageantry, don't miss the Lord Mayor's Show. The event marks the outgoing Lord Mayor being replaced by the new one, and takes the form of a grand procession. Full details will be confirmed closer to the time, once the new Lord Mayor is announced. FREE, 11 November 2023

New exhibitions in London this autumn

A photograph of four women's lower halves, showing mini skirts and knee-length boots.
REBEL: 30 Years of London Fashion opens at the Design Museum

ASTRONOMY PHOTOGRAPHY: Shortly after last year's show closes, the new Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition opens at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, showcasing the greatest space photography taken all over the world, with one picture declared the overall winner. From 16 September

REBEL FASHION: Björk's iconic swan dress, worn at the 2001 Oscars, is one of the centrepieces of REBEL: 30 Years of London Fashion, a new exhibition at the Design Museum, which opens to coincide with London Fashion Week. Items worn by Harry Styles, Sam Smith, Rihanna and Kate Moss also feature in the show, which highlights London's unique fashion culture on the world stage. From 16 September

CHANEL EXHIBITION: The middle of September is a double whammy for fashion fans, as the V&A opens its much-awaited exhibition, Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto. Get an insight into the life and work of the French couturière known as 'Coco', who founded the House of Chanel and continues to influence the way women dress today. From 16 September

THE MISSING THREAD: Yet another fashion exhibition opening in autumn is The Missing Thread at Somerset House, which covers the untold stories of Black British fashion. It charts the shifting landscape of Black British culture from the 1970s to the present day, and the unique contribution it has made to design history, with music, photography, art and design covered in addition to catwalk fashion. 21 September-7 January

RUBENS & WOMEN: Dulwich Picture Gallery shows a different side to Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens in new exhibition Rubens & Women. View paintings and drawings from throughout his career demonstrating how his relationships with women — from family members to female patrons — inspired his creativity and career. 27 September-28 January

BOY'S DRESS: Leading fashion historian Amy de la Haye and renowned expert collector Alasdair Peebles teamed up to curate the Fashion & Textile Museum's new exhibition, Oh Boy! Boy's Dress 1760-1930. The first three months of the exhibition focuses on how, aged six, boys would abandon dresses in favour of breeches, with a selection of historic garments on show. 29 September-3 March

SPIES: LIES AND DECEPTION: The Imperial War Museum unveils a major exhibition about the role, purpose and human cost of espionage, deceit and misdirection, from the first world war to the present day. 150 objects, including gadgets, official documents, art and newly digitised film and photography go on display, telling the stories of people whose actions changed the path of human conflicts. FREE, 29 September-14 April

HIROSHI SUGIMOTO: Hayward Gallery at Southbank Centre holds the largest retrospective to date of work by Japanese photographer and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto. Time Machine showcases thought-provoking works dating back 50 years, including key works from all of the artist’s major photographic series, as well as lesser-known pieces. 11 October 2023-7 January 2024

DISNEY100: The centenary of the Walt Disney Company is celebrated with a huge exhibition, Disney100, at ExCel. It spans 10 galleries, covering films, theme parks and more. The carousel horse which Dick Van Dyke rode in Mary Poppins (1964) and the crystal glass slipper from Cinderella (2015) are among the exhibits. From 13 October

Autumn in London: photograph of the shoulders and neck of a brown tweed coat.
Brown Alexon tweed coat worn by June Brown, MBE, OBE as Dot Cotton. © Museum of London

FASHION CITY: Coats worn by Princess Diana and Dot Cotton, alongside items from high street retailers including M&S, Wallis and Moss Bros are part of Museum of London Docklands' Fashion City exhibition, which looks at how the Jewish tailors and designers of East End London shaped fashion worldwide. 13 October 2023-14 April 2024

SKATEBOARD: The humble skateboard is the subject of a major new exhibition at the Design Museum, exploring how the board has evolved in design and performance since the 1950s, as well as how it has brought communities together. 20 October 2023-2 June 2024

THE CULT OF BEAUTY: Find out how notions of beauty have varied across time and through different cultures, at free Wellcome Collection exhibition, The Cult of Beauty. Historical objects, artworks, films and new commissions are among the 200 objects on show. 26 October 2023-28 April 2024

WOMEN IN REVOLT: A major survey of work by over 100 women artists working in the UK from 1970 to 1990 opens at Tate Britain. Women in Revolt! explores and reflects on issues and events such as: the British Women's Liberation movement, maternal and domestic experiences, Greenham Common and the peace movement, and the visibility of Black and South Asian Women Artists, through painting, drawing, sculpture, film and performance. 8 November 2023-7 April 2024

ONGOING EXHIBITIONS: Our pick of London's biggest exhibitions which are already open and continue into the autumn:

  • TITANOSAUR: One of the biggest exhibitions (in every sense) to have opened in London this year is Natural History Museum's Titanosaur, which offers visitors a look at the largest dinosaur ever known to have stalked the Earth. Kids will love it — and it's fairly awe-inspiring for adults too. Until 14 January 2024
  • CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN PHOTOGRAPHY: Tate Modern has brought together a group of artists from different generations, to look at how photography, film, audio, and more have been used to reimagine Africa's diverse cultures and historical narratives in A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography. Until 14 January 2024
  • DIVA: The V&A's current blockbuster exhibition, DIVA, is a deep-dive into the power and creativity of iconic performers from the 19th century onwards, looking at the origins of the term 'diva' and how it has been subverted and embraced. It features costumes worn by Maria Callas, Cher, Elton John, Janelle Monae and Marilyn Monroe. Until April 2024
  • YAYOI KUSAMA: What with all the lockdown disruption, it feels like Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms has been open at Tate Modern forever — and it's till running until at least April 2024. It's an extremely Instagram-friendly experience, featuring an infinite chandelier in a hall of mirrors, as well as the artist's famous Infinity Mirror Room itself. Until April 2024

Theatre in London this autumn

Autumn in London: Andrew Scott on a promotional poster or Vanya.
Catch Andrew Scott in a new production of Vanya.

THE FATHER AND THE ASSASSIN: The National Theatre opens a production of The Father and the Assassin by Anupama Chandrasekhar. The play explores oppression and extremism by following 30 years of the life of Nathuram Godse, the journalist and nationalist who went on to murder Mahatma Ghandi. 8 September-14 October

DEATH OF ENGLAND: Jo Martin (Doctor Who) and Hayley Squires (I, Daniel Blake) appear on stage together in Death of England: Closing Time at National Theatre, a play about a family grieving the loss of their family shop and their dreams, while left to pick up the pieces of their relatives' mistakes. 13 September-11 November

VANYA: Actor Andrew Scott appears in a new production of Vanya at Duke of York's Theatre, taking on every role in the adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s famed play, Uncle Vanya. 15 September-21 October

OLD FRIENDS: Stephen Sondheim's Old Friends opens for a 16-week run at the Gielgud Theatre. It brings American actress Bernadette Peters to the West End stage for the first time in her career, along with Lea Salonga, Bonnie Langford and and Jeremy Secomb, among others, all honouring the late musical theatre composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. 16 September-January 2024

THE TWIGGY MUSICAL: Fashion model Twiggy is the subject of the latest new musical in the West End. The Twiggy Musical charts her rise to fame from childhood in Neasden to young woman facing snobbery and sexism, to national treasure. It's written and directed by Ben Elton. 18 September-18 November

TIME TRAVELLER'S WIFE: One of most anticipated West End openings this year is The Time Traveller's Wife, a new musical based on the book and film of the same name. It's about a man with a genetic disorder that allows him to travel through time, who meets the love of his life while doing so. David Hunter plays Henry and Joanna Woodward plays Clare. From 7 October 2023

ELF: It's fast becoming a Christmas staple in London, and Elf the Musical returns to the Dominion Theatre this year for an all-singing, all-dancing take on the story of Buddy, a human who was raised by elves and believes himself to be one of them. 15 November 2023-January 2024

STRANGER THINGS: A new Stranger Things show is coming to London, set several decades later than the Netflix show, but in the same town of Hawkins, Indiana. We won't give too much away, but it's got to be worth a look if you're eagerly awaiting series five. 17 November 2023-August 2024

Family-friendly events in London this autumn

Autumn in London: six people silhouetted against a firework display.
Photo: Arthur Chavineau via Unsplash

FIREWORKS: Keep an eye on our Bonfire Night guide, which we'll update with details of this year's fireworks events as and when they're announced. Around 5 November

CHRISTMAS AT KEW: Too early for the 'C' word? Probably, but in our opinion, one of the season's highlights is Christmas at Kew. The botanical gardens come alive after dark with twinkling fairy lights, photogenic light trails, laser shows and a fire garden — all executed to perfection if previous years are anything to go by. 15 November 2023-7 January 2024

WINTER WONDERLAND: Winter Wonderland pitches up again in Hyde Park. You can still expect rides, an ice rink, circus shows, a Christmas market and food and drink stalls, but like last year, you'll need to prebook to enter the site. Entry fees depend on the time and day of your visit, though can be recouped if you spend £25 on rides etc. Hey, if it thins out the crowds, that's no bad thing. 17 November 2023-1 January 2024

ICE SKATING: London's Christmas ice rinks start opening from October/November. We'll update our complete guide to where you can take to the ice this autumn and winter as details are announced.

Food and drink events in London this autumn

Autumn in London: Chef Tommy Banks standing in front of the pitch at Lord's in his chef whites
Chef Tommy Banks takes over Lord's for a new food festival.

MEATOPIA: Carnivores will be drooling as Meatopia takes over Tobacco Dock for four days of live cooking and exclusive dishes celebrating cooking over fire, plus a TAPtopia beer hall and live music to get the party swinging. 31 August-3 September

PUB IN THE PARK: Making its final London stop this summer, Pub in the Park comes to Chiswick for three days of food, drink and live music. McFly, Ronan Keating, Hoosiers and Squeeze are on the music line-up, with Tom Kerridge, Si King from the Hairy Bikers, and Andi Oliver among the chefs doing live demos. 1-3 September

THE HOME OF FOOD: Lord's Cricket Ground launches a brand new food festival, The Home of Food by chef Tommy Banks, with food trucks and well-known chefs serving up dishes all weekend. Richard Corrigan, Selin Kiazim, Gareth Ward, Lisa Goodwin Allen and Aktar Islam are among the chefs and restaurateurs taking part, and entertainment includes cricket taster session and cooking lessons for children, and behind the scenes tours of the cricket ground by expert guides. 9-10 September

HALAL FOOD FESTIVAL: The World Halal Food Festival brings dozens of food stalls to the London Stadium in Stratford, offering you a chance to sample Halal food from around the world, from burgers and hot dogs to cakes and pastries. Watch celebrity chefs whipping up their own Halal dishes and, if you like what you see, stock up on ingredients at the shopping stalls before you leave. 23-24 September 2023

London Oktoberfest  2023: Two women in trad Bavarian clothing pose with a David Hasselhoff cut out
Raise a stein to Oktoberfest. Image: Camden Okotoberfest

OKTOBERFEST: It may originate in Germany, but London goes big for Oktoberfest these days, with more bratwurst, oompah music and lederhosen than you can shake a stein at. Check out our dedicated Oktoberfest guide. September-November

LONDON COCKTAIL WEEK: London Cocktail Week claims to be the biggest cocktail festival in the world, and who are we to argue? Buy yourself a festival wristband for £15 to get access to £8 signature cocktails at hundreds of bars across the capital. There are also cocktail tours, special menus and other events going on. 12-22 October 2023

THANKSGIVING: As always, Thanksgiving falls on the last Thursday in November. Plenty of London restaurants usually serve up traditional feasts for American expats, and anyone else who fancies getting in on the action — we'll publish a guide to Thanksgiving in London closer to the time. 23 November 2023

Free things to do in London this autumn

Autumn in London: a colourful painted giraffe sculpture on a platform at East Croydon station.
Go hunting for giraffes in south London. Image: © Croydon Stands Tall taken by Glenn Foster

CLASSIC BOAT FESTIVAL: All manner of vintage vessels moor up at St Katharine Docks (next to the Tower of London) for the Classic Boat Festival. Even if you don't know your port from your starboard, it's a fascinating spectacle, with around 40 preserved vessels on display, including Dunkirk Little Ships. FREE, 9 September

FRIEZE SCULPTURE: If Frieze Art Fair (mentioned above) is out of your price range, there's art to be ogled for free. For several weeks, sculptures are dotted around Regent's Park for Frieze Sculpture, a trail that's open to everyone. Ayşe Erkmen, Ghada Amer and Hank Willis Thomas are among the 22 artists whose work features this year — plus, the park looks fantastic as the leaves begin to turn. FREE, 20 September-29 October 2023

CROYDON GIRAFFE TRAIL: 30 giraffe sculptures, designed and painted by various artists, are dotted around Croydon, and make for a great art trail for the whole family to follow. There are also 30 smaller giraffes, designed by local schools and community groups, installed in local shops and the like. FREE, until 27 October

GORILLA TRAIL: Once you've tracked down Croydon's herd of giraffes, head to Covent Garden to seek out the 15 life-sized gorilla sculptures which have taken up residence in the area, designed by the likes of Ronnie Wood, Rankin and Chila Kumari Singh Burman. FREE, until October

AUTUMN WALKS: London's parks and open spaces look fantastic as the leaves change. We've picked some of our favourite places to walk in autumn, to catch the trees in their orange, red and gold finery.

Sports events in London this autumn

Autumn in London: ice hockey players in action on the ice.
Autumn is ice hockey season in London. Image: Cardiff Potter via creative commons

ICE HOCKEY: September sees the start of the ice hockey season again, with four teams to watch here in London. Here's everything you need to know before you go to your first match

BEACH VOLLEYBALL: 200 tonnes of sand is dumped in Canary Wharf in September to create two full sized volleyball courts for Action For Kids Beach Volleyball, a charity fundraising pop-up. Courts can be booked out, so you can practise your skills, or hold a mini tournament with friends and family — or even sign your team up for the corporate competition. 4-28 September

ZIPWIRE: If you find yourself in the City over the weekend of 9-10 September, don't be surprised if you hear a few screams from above. The London Landmarks Skyscraper Challenge has participants running up 42 floors of the Cheesegrater before making their way back down to earth either by abseiling, or zipwiring over to the neighbouring Gherkin. At time of writing, zipwiring places have sold out, but the stair run and abseil is still available. 9-10 September

NFL IN LONDON: Across three Sundays in October, four American Football teams play at two different stadiums here in London. Tottenham Hotspur and Wembley both host NFL in London games this season, though tickets sold out quite quickly so are hard (but not impossible) to come by now. 1-15 October 2023

ROYAL PARKS HALF: The Royal Parks Half Marathon takes runners on a route through four of the eight Royal Parks (Hyde Park, Green Park, St James's Park, Kensington Gardens), and other closed roads around central London. Get yourself a place via a charity, or turn up on the day to support the runners. 8 October 2023