The Best Things To Do In London This Autumn

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 8 months ago

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The Best Things To Do In London This Autumn

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 2022 to keep you going as the nights get darker and the days get colder.

Cultural events in London this autumn

4 performers stand on a brightly lit stage with shimmering red angel hair streamers behind them. On the far left the man wears a grey suit with moustaches on and holds a blue bucket . Next to him a performer in a silver sequined waistcoat and tuille white skirt with silver leggings underneath holds a microphone and a green bucket. The third performer in line wears a white and black vertical striped suit, has blue hair and holds a microphone and purple bucket. On the far right the performer wears a sky blue suit with clouds on and holds a blue bucket.
The Not F**kin' Sorry Cabaret, part of Unlimited Festival. Photo: Harry Elletson

TOTALLY THAMES: Totally Thames 2022 is a whole month of events celebrating our waterways. Talks, walks, live performances, film screenings and workshops feature on the programme — and that's just a tiny snippet. Some events FREE, 1-30 September 2022

UNLIMITED FESTIVAL: Southbank Centre shines a light on disabled artists and companies with Unlimited Festival. The five-day programme covers dance, performance, comedy, music and visual arts, including BSL performances, and a street art project designed for users of mobility wheels to take part in. Some events FREE, 7-11 September

DOCUMENTARY FESTIVAL: Open City Documentary Festival is a celebration of non-fiction cinema in London, organised in conjunction with UCL and taking place around the capital. Confirmed for the programme so far are a film about Minamata, a small Japanese town where mercury was dumped into the sea, as well as talks, masterclasses, book launches and more. 7-13 September 2022

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 of the recordings streamed online too. The Guilty Feminist and the Empire Film Podcast are some of the big name shows, along with offerings on comedy, food, politics and more. 8-18 September 2022

OPEN HOUSE: This annual opportunity to get into, on top of, underneath and behind buildings which are usually closed to the public is like Christmas to London lovers. The Open House Festival 2022 lowdown: 13 days, more than 500 buildings, many which are normally off-limits. Somer events FREE, 8-21 September 2022

Open House Festival is a chance to visit the parts of London which are normally off-limits. Photo: Londonist

UKRAINIAN BALLET: For four days, the United Ukrainian Ballet performs Giselle at the London Coliseum, raising money for the DEC Ukraine Appeal and the United Ukrainian Ballet Foundation. 13-17 September 2022

FOURTH PLINTH: The Fourth Plinth artwork is replaced in September. Samson Kambalu's Antelope will be erected in pride of place, a sculpture depicting preacher and pan-Africanist John Chilembwe alongside his white friend John Chorley, based on a photo from 1914. FREE, 14 September 2022

GREENWICH COMEDY FESTIVAL: Frankie Boyle, Rosie Jones, Reginald D Hunter and Sophie Duker 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 the pop-up bars and street food stalls running alongside. 14-18 September 2022

QUEEN'S PARK BOOK FESTIVAL: The annual Queen's Park Book Festival is back, 50 guests taking part in 20 different events. Hear from Robert Harris about his new novel, Act Of Oblivion; celebrate the centenary of James Joyce's Ulysses; and listen to a discussion about the controversy surrounding the Qatar World Cup. 17-18 September 2022

CHELSEA HISTORY FESTIVAL: If you thought Chelsea was all fancy shops and pastel-hued houses, Chelsea History Festival will make you think again. Spies, War Horse and the blitz are some of the topics covered, at venues including the Royal Hospital Chelsea. 17-25 September 2022

Antelope by Samson Kambalu appears on the Fourth Plinth this September. Image © James O Jenkins

LONDON DESIGN FESTIVAL: The 20th anniversary edition of London Design Festival showcases 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. 17-25 September 2022

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 London Bridge — this time it's Kate Humble. There's no public access to the bridge, but everyone's welcome at the livery fair next to the Monument afterwards. FREE, 25 September 2022

CAPITAL CRIME: Love a good crime thriller book? You need to know about Capital Crime, a literature festival pitching up in Battersea Park, which gives you the chance to meet writers and filmmakers from the genre through talks, panel discussions and meet and greet sessions. 29 September-1 October 2022

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. Highlights include a tour looking at the City's links to the slave trade, a Black history bus tour, and Africa Fashion Week.1-31 October 2022

MONTH OF THE DEAD: Halloween may not be until the end of October, but London Month of the Dead goes on all month. The annual festival aims to inform and entertain and provoke on the subject of death, through events including talks, cemetery tours and workshops. 1-31 October 2022

Chelsea History Festival returns

BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL: The 66th incarnation of the BFI London Film Festival takes place at various venues on South Bank and the West End, with some events also screened on BFI Player after the festival, for those who can't make it in person. The full programme has yet to be announced, but will include red carpet nights, gala screenings and a special exhibition. 5-16 October 2022

K-MUSIC: Tying in with the V&A's new exhibition, Hallyu! The Korean Wave (see below), the K-Music Festival comes to venues across town, organised by the Korean Cultural Centre. Sadly, K-Pop supergroup BTS aren't on the programme, but it is a chance to experience pansori (Korea's traditional opera), the yanggeum (Korean metal-stringed zither), and drummer Sun-Mi Hong. 5 October-24 November 2022

DIWALI: Although Diwali falls on 24 October this year, London's official celebrations in Trafalgar Square take place on 9 October, with live music, dancing and more. Keep an eye on our event listings for details of other Diwali celebrations around town. FREE, 9 October/24 October 2022

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 (12-16 October 2022) 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 (13-16 October 2022) takes over the Old Truman Brewery, with a focus on artworks available for all budgets, from over 100 artists.

BLOOMSBURY FESTIVAL: Breathe is the theme of this year's Bloomsbury Festival, celebrating creativity in the local area. It kicks off with a garden party on Store Street, open to everyone, and includes guided walks, a silent calligraphy session, live music and singing workshops, across the nine days. Some events FREE, 14-23 October 2022

Kate Humble leads this year's Sheep Drive

LONDON LITERATURE FESTIVAL: A highlight of the literary calendar, the annual London Literature Festival at Southbank Centre never fails to bring in big names. Minnie Driver, Graham Norton, Rob Delaney, Nick Cave and Greta Thunberg all feature this year, along with creative workshops and games, kids' events, and a chance to hear from the newly-announced Booker Prize Winner. 20-30 October 2022

MCM COMIC CON: Dust off your cape and check your superhero outfit still fits — MCM Comic Con is back at ExCeL London. Immerse yourself in three days of all things pop culture, including a chance to meet TV and film stars, hear from industry insiders at panel discussions, take part in games, and show off your cosplay costume. 28-30 October 2022

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 2022

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.

EFG LONDON JAZZ FESTIVAL: Get down with the trumpets as the EFG London Jazz Festival returns. It takes place at venues including Barbican, Royal Festival Hall and Cadogan Hall, and the programme features South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, composer and saxophonist Binker Golding, and Malian singer-songwriter and guitarist Fatoumata Diawara. 11-20 November 2022

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 Lord Mayor, and takes the form of a river pageant, followed by a procession. Full details will be confirmed dependent on restrictions in place at the time. FREE, 12 November 2022

Exhibitions in London this autumn

Woman and young girl sitting in front of an Elmer artwork on a museum wall, with other Elmer artworks on display in the next room
Introduce the kids to Elmer. Image: Seven Stories

YINKA ILORI: Artist Yinka Ilori — best known for colourful works such as these psychedelic pedestrian crossings — is the subject of a new Design Museum exhibition. The playful show invites visitors to dive into Ilori's colourful world through joyful installations, patterns and graphics. Expect to see this one all over Instagram... FREE, from 16 September

ASTRONOMY PHOTOGRAPHY: The 14th Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition opens at Royal Observatory Greenwich this month. Ogle awe-inspiring scenes from this year's shortlist, capturing the Milky Way rising, galaxies colliding, stellar nurseries, and the luminous Aurora Borealis. From 17 September

VAN CLEEF & ARPELS: Luxury jewellery brand Van Cleef & Arpels is the subject of a new Design Museum exhibition. 100 pieces from the collection are on display, alongside archive documents which offer an insight into the company's skilled use of precious materials. FREE, 23 September-20 October

KOREAN WAVE: The V&A opens a new exhibition about the popular culture of South Korea. Hallyu! The Korean Wave covers cinema, drama, music, fandom, beauty and fashion, ranging from the 1988 Seoul Olympics to Psy performing hit song Gangnam Style. From 24 September

LUCIAN FREUD: The National Gallery hosts the first major exhibition of Lucian Freud's work in a decade, showing paintings spanning 70 years. Lucian Freud: New Perspectives includes his early and intimate works, his well-known, large-scale canvasses and his monumental naked portraits. 1 October 2022-22 January 2023

SCIENCE FICTION: Science Museum goes immersive for Science Fiction: Voyage To The Edge Of Imagination, which places visitors at the heart of a science fiction adventure, guided by an artificial intelligence of alien origin. See authentic objects from films, TV, books, paintings, artworks and photos, all related to the sci-fi genre. 6 October 2022-4 May 2023

HIEROGLYPHS:Marking 200 years since the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs — and, coincidentally, a century since the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb — the British Museum hosts Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt. Find out how our understanding of human history was expanded by 3,000 years once we could decode hieroglyphs, and the work that went into getting to that point. 13 October 2022-19 February 2023

Hew Locke: Bounty Killer is part of In The Black Fantastic at Southbank Centre

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY: One of our favourite exhibitions every year, Wildlife Photographer of the Year returns to the Natural History Museum for its 58th incarnation. See photos taken of animals and the natural world by photographers all over the globe, including the overall winners (announced on 11 October). 15 October 2022-June 2023

OBJECTS OF DESIRE: Hot on the heels of Tate's Surrealism Beyond Borders exhibition, the Design Museum offers its own take on the genre with Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924-Today. It explores how one of the 20th century's most influential movements came to impact design, with works by Salvador Dalí, Dora Maar and Man Ray featuring. 14 October 2022-19 February 2023

ELMER: One for families with younger children, Horniman Museum unveils an exhibition celebrating the works of children's author David McKee, with Elmer the Elephant taking centre stage. There's plenty for older generations too, with Mr Benn and King Rollo featuring. 21 October 2022-16 April 2023

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

Family-friendly events in London this autumn

Fireworks Night is coming. Photo: Arthur Chavineau via Unsplash

FIREWORK FESTIVAL: Ally Pally is leading the way in bonfire night events with its Fireworks Festival. Head to the north London behemoth for fairground rides, live music, food and drink, an ice rink... oh, and a few whizzbangs thrown in too. 4-5 November 2022. Keep an eye on our Bonfire Night guide, which we'll update with details of this year's events as and when they're announced.

CHRISTMAS AT KEW: Too early for the 'C' word? Probably, but after last year's half-hearted festivities, we all deserve to go big this year — and in our opinion, you can't do better than Christmas at Kew. The botanical gardens come alive after dark with twinkling fairy lights, photogenic light trails, laser shows, a fire garden and much more, all executed to perfection if previous years are anything to go by. 16 November 2022-8 January 2023

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 £20 on rides etc. Hey, if it thins out the crowds, that's no bad thing. 18 November 2022-2 January 2023

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

Matt Tebbutt is part of the Pub in the Park line-up

MEATOPIA: Carnivores will drools at the prospect of Meatopia, which takes over Tobacco Dock for three days of live cooking and exclusive dishes celebrating cooking over fire — plus a beer hall and live music to get the party going. 2-4 September 2022

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. Craig David, Beverley Knight and Sophie Ellis-Bextor are on the music line-up, with Tom Kerridge among the chefs doing live demos. 2-4 September 2022

LONDON HALAL FOOD FESTIVAL: The London Halal Food Festival brings more than 100 food stalls to the London Stadium in Stratford, offering you a chance to sample Halal food from around the world. Watch celebrity chefs whipping up their own Halal dishes and, if you like what you see, stock up on ingredients at the Big Top Bazaar before you leave. 24-25 September 2022

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 RESTAURANT FESTIVAL: London Restaurant Festival runs for the entirety of October, with eateries across the capital running special menus. There are usually special events, too, including restaurant-hopping tours, tastings and masterclasses. Keep an eye on the website for this year's details. 1-31 October 2022

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 unlimited access to £7 signature cocktails in more than 300 bars across the capital. There are also cocktail tours, special menus and other events going on. 13-23 October 2022

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. 24 November 2022

Free events in London this autumn

Several Dunkirk Little Ships moored up together at St Katharine Docks, many decked out with bunting and flags
Classic Boat Festival sails into town. Image: St Katharine Docks

CLASSIC BOAT FESTIVAL: All manner of vintage vessels moor up at St Katharine Dock (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, 9-11 September

GDIF: Free outdoor performing arts festival Greenwich and Docklands International Festival offers two weeks of theatre, art, dance and circus in outdoor locations across August and September. Highlights include a rainbow island of foam taking over Greenwich Peninsula, and Unfurl, a light, colour and sound installation celebrating design in nature. FREE, until 11 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. John Giorno, Ro Robertson and Ugo Rondinone are among the 19 artists whose work features this year — plus, the park looks fantastic as the leaves begin to turn. FREE, 14 September-13 November 2022

AUTUMN WALKS: London's parks and open spaces look fantastic as the leaves change (although with the heat we've had, some are already brown). 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

The London Marathon is in October. Photo: Miguel A Amutio via Unsplash

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.

LONDON MARATHON: The world-famous London Marathon still isn't back on schedule after the pandemic disruption, so once again takes place in autumn instead of spring. The route remains the same, beginning in Blackheath and passing landmarks including the Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace. Even if you're not running or spectating, be aware of road closures across London on the day. 2 October 2022

NFL IN LONDON: In addition to two games (Minnesota Vikings vs New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers vs New York Giants) at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, a third NFL in London game takes place in Wembley Stadium this year (Jacksonville Jaguars vs Denver Broncos). At time of writing, Tottenham tickets have sold out but some Wembley Stadium tickets are still available. 2-30 October 2022

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. 9 October 2022

Last Updated 28 October 2022

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