80+ Marvellous Things To Do In London In May 2024

Last Updated 26 April 2024

80+ Marvellous Things To Do In London In May 2024

Things to do this month is sponsored by Kingston First.

A beer garden in the sunshine in front of the London Eye
Between The Bridges reopens this month. Photo: Luke Dyson

BANK HOLIDAYS: Monday 6 May is a bank holiday, as is Monday 27 May, so you'll be needing our guide to spending a bank holiday weekend in London.

OPEN AIR CULTURE: As the weather (hopefully) improves, London's outdoor culture scene heats up, with film screenings, theatre shows, music festivals and performances taking place in the open air. Time to reach for the suncream/umbrella.

OUTDOOR CINEMA: Speaking of which, take a look at our guide to London's outdoor cinemas for summers 2024, and get booking to watch classic films and new releases on rooftops, in parks, and against some seriously impressive backdrops. There's also a rather special drive-in cinema this month feat. classic cars.

POETS' REVIVAL: Contemporary British Poetry has a moment in the spotlight at The Poets' Revival at the Royal Albert Hall. Today's most culturally-relevant and accomplished writers and performers take to the stage, including George The Poet, Kae Tempest, and Sophie Thakur. 1 May

DUGSI DAYZ: Following an award-winning run at the Edinburgh Fringe and sold-out national tour, Dugsi Dayz opens at the Royal Court Theatre, telling the story of four girls thrown together by a Saturday detention, who find themselves sharing Somali folktales. 1-18 May

A young boy jumping into a river, with boats on either side
World Press Photo is back after a seven-year break. Photo: Mohamed Mahdy

CAPTAIN AMAZING: Catch the 10 year anniversary production of Alistair McDowall’s one-man play, Captain Amazing, at Southwark Playhouse. It's the story of one man's transformation when he becomes a father, compelling him into action. 1-25 May

JAMES BALDWIN: Barbican Cinema hosts a series of screenings dedicated to writer and activist James Baldwin, named after his seminal book, The Devil Finds Work. The programme of films and conversations, curated by Dr Clive Chijioke Nwonka, discusses Black representation in contemporary cinema. 2-22 May

MICHELANGELO: One of our art critic's picks for the best exhibitions to see in London in May, the British Museum's Michelangelo show focuses on the later decades of his life, when he left Florence for Rome. Architectural projects, drawings, poems and intimate letters from this period all feature. 2 May-28 July

BETWEEN THE BRIDGES: The summer programme of events at open-air riverside venue Between The Bridges starts early in May. Live DJs, themed club nights, drag shows and bottomless brunches all feature, and there are several bars and street food vendors on site. From 2 May

SICILYFEST: Soak up south Italian food culture at SicilyFEST, which takes over Islington's Business Design Centre for four flavoursome days. From Etna-shaped arancini, to ricotta-oozing cannoli, to traditional fried iris, expect a cornucopia of authentic dishes that hit the crisp-gooey sweet spot. Plus, there's live music and chef-led cookery demos. Tickets from £5 — book ahead. 2-5 May (sponsor)

LAMBETH PALACE GARDENS: The summer Garden Open Days at Lambeth Palace begin in May. Once a month, the usually-private gardens by the Thames open up, raising money for charity, with refreshments available to buy. Read about our visit a few years ago for an idea of what to expect. 3 May (open evening on 20 May)

WORLD PRESS PHOTO: Another of May's best exhibitions is World Press Photo, making its return to London after a seven-year absence. See the winning and shortlisted images from over 60,000 submitted, each one telling a story. 3-27 May

TWELFTH NIGHT: Regent's Park Open Air Theatre kickstarts May with a dose of Shakespeare, in the form of his comedy of mistaken identities, Twelfth Night. As the name suggests, the venue is in the open-air, so dress warmly. 3 May-8 June

A couple wearing matching blue t-shirts, walking with a golden retriever dog
Take on the Muddy Dog Challenge © Battersea Dogs & Cats Home

GOVERNMENT INSPECTOR: Marylebone Theatre hosts a new production of The Government Inspector, a comedy about hypocrites, hysterics and hustlers, featuring a man who is mistaken for a high-ranking government inspector. 3 May-15 June

BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY: Another treat for theatre fans, in the form of Manhattan-set Between Riverside and Crazy opening at Hampstead Theatre. It's about a widower who allows a gang of petty criminals to move into his apartment following the death of his wife. 3 May-15 June

MUDDY DOG CHALLENGE: Grab Fido or Rover and head for Crystal Palace Park, where the Muddy Dog Challenge takes place in aid of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. Tackle a 3km, dog-friendly obstacle course with your four-legged pal — or just turn up and cheer the participants on at the spectator viewpoint. 4 May

SHAKE THE HIGH ROAD: Independent music festival Shake The High Road takes over various venues in Leytonstone — including pubs, bars and a church — for a day of 20+ live music acts and DJs, plus a family-friendly disco. All venues are within easy walking distance of each other and one ticket gets you access to all events. 4 May

HIP HOP DANCE THEATRE: Breakin' Convention, apparently the world's biggest festival of hip hop dance theatre, takes over Sadler's Wells for two evenings of shows featuring performers from the UK, France, Netherlands and South Korea. 4-5 May

RUISLIP LIDO RAILWAY: Choo choo! The Ruislip Lido Railway (which we're partial to riding ourselves) holds a Gala Weekend, where the public can get a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to keep the railway running. Visit the workshop and yard, sit in some of the locomotives on display, and — if you like what you see — find out about becoming a volunteer. 4-6 May

CANALWAY CAVALCADE: If you go down to the canal over the May Day bank holiday, you're in for a big surprise. Dozens of canal boats moor up in Little Venice for the Canalway Cavalcade, a vibrant festival with live music, children's activities and boat-based fun. FREE, 4-6 May

CENTRAL AMERICAN CINEMA: Contemporary films from Central America are the order of the month at the Garden Cinema in Holborn. Watch feature films from Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador, along with short films, and Q&A sessions with film makers. 4 May-11 June

FAWLTY TOWERS: TV sitcom Fawlty Towers has been made into a stage play, debuting at the Apollo Theatre with a cast of 18 including Adam Jackson-Smith as the hotelier Basil, and Anna-Jane Casey as his long-suffering wife Sybil. 4 May-28 September

LIGHT INTO LIFE: 20 artworks by Marc Quinn form new exhibition Light Into Life at Kew Gardens. The artist worked in close collaboration with Kew scientists and horticulturists to identify significant plants from across the collections to inspire the works, which include installations and sculptural portraits. 4 May-29 September

Two musicians posing with their acoustic guitars
Stochelo Rosenberg and the Paulus Schafer Quartet are among the performers at the London Gypsy Jazz Festival.

GRAND FLANEUR WALK: 'A celebration of the pure, the immutable and the pointless, taken by the bold, the adventurous and the inebriated' is how organisers describe the Grand Flaneur Walk, a stroll without purpose, with participants wearing their finest dandy, flaneur or fop outfits — think top hats, handlebar moustaches, pocket squares, pocket watches, the works! FREE, 5 May

GUN SALUTE: Bank holiday Monday marks a year since the coronation of King Charles III, an anniversary being marked by a 41-round gun salute in Hyde Park — something to be aware of if you're in the area at midday. FREE, 6 May

DEPTFORD JACK: It wouldn't be a bank holiday in London without a bizarre tradition taking place somewhere. Enter the Deptford Jack in the Green, a traditional procession around the Deptford area which was revived by the Blackheath Morris Men in the 1980s. The central character is the Jack in the Green, a man covered in a frame of greenery. Usually starts and finishes at the Dog & Bell — we're awaiting confirmation that the event is happening in 2024. FREE, possibly 6 May

GYPSY JAZZ FESTIVAL: The Jazz style affectionately known as 'Gypsy Jazz' is celebrated at the London Gypsy Jazz Festival. It's the event's third edition, and has concerts and shows taking place over seven nights, 6-12 May

COMMON: Join a theatrical walk around the green spaces of south-east London. Common by Teatro Vivo celebrates the green areas in Sydenham and Forest Hill that only exist because of those who battled to keep them that way for over 400 years — and continue to battle today. 7-12 May

DECORATIVE FAIR: Interested in interior design? Make for the Decorative Fair at Evolution London in Battersea Park and browse antiques, fine and decorative art and 20th century design, dating from the 1700s to the 1970s. 7-12 May

AFFORDABLE ART FAIR: The Affordable Art Fair pitches up in Hampstead, selling thousands of contemporary artworks with prices starting at £50, and 100 galleries from all over the world taking part. 8-12 May

BEATING THE BOUNDS: We love London's many unusual traditions and customs, including Beating the Bounds, an ancient ritual still observed at the church of All Hallows by the Tower. Watch as members of the Clergy and Livery Companies visit each parish boundary to pray for protection and blessings — including boarding a boat to reach a boundary marker in the middle of the Thames. FREE to watch, 9 May

Common by Teatro Vivo celebrates south-east London's green spaces. Photo: Matthew Kaltenborn

WIMBLEDON ART FAIR: More than 150 artists exhibit at Wimbledon Art Fair, giving you a chance to purchase artworks directly from their creators. There's also a rare opportunity to go inside artists' studios. FREE ENTRY, 9-12 May

NATIONAL GALLERY 200: This month marks 200 years since the National Gallery opened, an occasion being celebrated with a weekend of special events. There's a late night opening on the Friday night, including a special performance by Jools Holland (tickets via ballot only), and a light show across the exterior front of the gallery on both nights. 10-11 May

HIGHWAYS FESTIVAL: Country and Americana artists are at the forefront of Highways Festival, taking place at the Royal Albert Hall. In addition to the performances on stage, there are other events around the venue, including an exhibition of Nashville photographs by Alan Messer. 10-18 May

DULWICH FESTIVAL: A celebration of art and culture in the local area, Dulwich Festival has yet to announce its full programme, but will include an artists' open house weekend,  a family-friendly ceilidh, and the Dulwich Park Fair. 10-19 May

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Go on a bear hunt with this free Kingston sculpture trail

Image: Bobby V Media

Here’s a fun, family-friendly way to explore one of the most charming parts of south London — go on an arty adventure in Kingston-upon-Thames, inspired by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury's classic picture book-turned-animated film, We're Going on a Bear Hunt.

Hiding around the town centre are 10 boldly decorated bear sculptures, each hand-painted by a different artist to tell its own, unique story. From Clarence the Climate Bear to the futuristic, tech-inspired Mother Paw'd, there are all sorts of ursine artworks to uncover. You'll find them with the help of a map, which you can pick up from Fusebox, the Rose Theatre, and the local Waterstones. Or access via this webpage. It's a gentle urban amble — no splash-sploshing through cold rivers or squelch-squerching through oozy mud here! — and you'll learn some fun bear-themed facts along the way.

The Kingston Bear Hunt Trail is hosted by Kingston First, and it's far from the neighbourhood's first foray into public art. In fact, the trail will take you past another iconic work: the 12 tumbling telephone boxes that comprise David Mach's Out of Order art installation. This one's been delighting visitors since 1989, but the bear trail won't be sticking around for long — it's only here till 7 June, so start ticking those bears off the map while you can!

HOT SAUCE FESTIVAL: How hot is too hot for you? Find out at the Hot Sauce Festival in Peckham, where hundreds of small-batch sauces from 40+ traders are available to try and buy, along with live music, games, street food — and a bar for those all-important, palate-cleansing drinks. 11 May

LONDON CARD SHOW: Collectors of Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, sports, Formula 1, UFC, Disney, and Marvel cards are invited to the London Card Show at Sandown Park Racecourse on the London/Surrey border. With over 550 tables, there are plenty of chances to buy and trade with fellow enthusiasts. 11-12 May

PUPPET FESTIVAL: One of those unique London events we love, the Covent Garden May Fayre & Puppet Festival is back. It celebrates the first recorded production of a Mr Punch show, as seen/recorded by Samuel Pepys in Covent Garden in 1662, and draws puppeteers from all over the country for a procession, church service, shows, stalls and workshops. FREE, 12 May

MARSDEN MARCH: Sign up to walk either five or 15 miles, raising money for the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. The Banham Marsden March follows a route between the two Royal Marsden hospitals, in Chelsea and Sutton, and the shorter route is open to families with children. 12 May

MAUSOLEUM TOUR: Take a rare tour of the Kilmorey Mausoleum in Twickenham and the surrounding garden — listening to stories about its secret tunnel from local guides. There's also a plant sale, and tips from wildlife experts. 12 May

LONDON CRAFT WEEK: Pendant lights? Tick. Rugs? Of course. Hats? Naturally. Find out about some of the more unusual things being made here in the capital at London Craft Week. Workshops, demonstrations, talks and workshop tours feature in the programme, showcasing the handiwork of London's makers. 13-19 May

A man wipes his eyes, as people holding drinks stand nearby
Get fired up at the Hot Sauce Festival. Image: Alistair Veryard

VICTORIAN LONDON: Watercolours, prints and documents dug out from the London Metropolitan Archives are on show in Lost Victorian City: A London Disappeared, a free exhibition which shows us what London looked like in Victorian times. The 17th century Oxford Arms coaching inn, and the Crystal Palace settling into its Sydenham home are depicted in photos. FREE, 13 May-February 2025

DICKENS' PETS: The Charles Dickens Museum in Bloomsbury explores the author's animal-loving side with new exhibition, Faithful Companions. The house was a regular menagerie back when the author lived there, home to dogs, ravens, goldfinches, cats and other creatures, whose stories are told through letters, photo albums and illustrations. 15 May-12 January

PHOTO LONDON: International fair Photo London is back at Somerset House for a celebration of all things snap happy. As well as a chance to collect and purchase photos from around the world, there are talks, tours and workshops on all aspects of photography. 16-19 May

RARE BOOKS: Books, original manuscripts, letters and rare items are all for sale at the annual Firsts: London's Rare Book Fair. Taking place at Chelsea's Saatchi Gallery, this year it has a theme of 'The Art of the Book',with special focus on beautiful books, including pop-up books and Japanese woodblock printing. 16-19 May

KENSINGTON DOLLSHOUSE FESTIVAL: Experience life in miniature at the Kensington Dollshouse Festival. 120 top miniaturists from 14 countries exhibit and sell their works for anyone looking to kit out their own dolls house, plus there are displays, kids' activities and more. This year also marks the centenary of Queen Mary's Dolls House. 17-18 May

ENORMOUS CROCODILE: Introduce younger members of the family to the joys of outdoor theatre. Roald Dahl's The Enormous Crocodile has been adapted for the stage in a show suitable for age 4+ at the Regent's Park Open-Air Theatre. 17 May-8 June

CHEAM CHARTER FAIR: Rumour has it that the Cheam Charter Fair dates back to 1259 — though even the modern-day organisers can't verify that. Either way, head to the London-Surrey border for a traditional fair of stalls, kicked off with a procession at 9am. FREE ENTRY, 18 May

Children sitting on grass watching a traditional Punch & Judy show
The Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival is for adults and kids © Ned Dyke-Coomes

MOONWALK: Sign up to take part in the London Moonwalk on Clapham Common, raising money for breast cancer charities. Walk 15.1 or 26.2 miles at night, with decorated bras and themed outfits very much encouraged. 18 May

TUDOR PULL: Head for the banks of the Thames to watch the Royal Waterman's Tudor Pull, a rowing event taking place between Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London. It's a ceremonial event, with the flotilla presented to the Tower's Governor in a short ceremony on arrival. FREE, 19 May

BRIDGES OF LONDON WALK: Sign up to walk seven miles across 10 London bridges in aid of charity Lymphoma Action. Join the route in person and walk from Vauxhall Bridge to Tower Bridge, or sign up to walk a similar distance remotely, in your own local area. 19 May

BASKETBALL PLAY OFFS: See some of the country's best elite basketball teams go head to head in two games, as the British Basketball Play Off Finals bounce into the O2. 19 May

URBAN VILLAGE FETE: Live music and dancing, street food stalls, crafting workshops, and talks on topics including sports and sustainability are all part of the Urban Village Fete. It's a family-friendly event taking over Greenwich Peninsula. FREE entry (charge for some workshops), 19 May

CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW: A highlight for any green-fingered Londoner, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show takes over the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, with gardeners from all over the country showing off their work; stalls where you can buy flowers and plants to take home; and a chance to pick up tips from gardening experts. 21-25 May

LORD MAYOR'S RIDE: Ride Around the City sees The Lord Mayor of the City of London Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli and the Sheriffs of the City of London, Alderwoman Dame Susan Langley and Alderman Bronek Masojada, riding through the City of London. It's a charity event, raising awareness and fundraising for The Lord Mayor's Appeal at various stops along the way. FREE, 22 May

A group of walkers pushing a man in a wheelchair. All are wearing matching pink charity shirts and waving at the camera
Sign up to take part in the Marsden March

PODCAST SHOW: Make a podcast? Want to make a podcast? The Podcast Show is the place for you, featuring live podcast stage shows, 450+ speakers, panel sessions, networking events and more, all taking place at the Business Design Centre in Islington. 22-23 May

CONCOURS ON SAVILE ROW: Start your engines! All manner of high-end and classic cars and motorbikes park in central London for Concours on Savile Row, an event combining motoring with tailoring. The street closes to traffic, with tailors displaying their wares alongside the vehicles, and a live stage for music and talks. FREE, 22-23 May

THE GLASS MENAGERIE: Tennessee Williams' memory play The Glass Menagerie gets an airing at the Alexandra Palace Theatre. It's based on the writer's own family life with his mother, a faded Southern belle, and his extremely shy sister. Age 12+. 22 May-1 June

DARTS: The season semi-finals and final of Premier League Darts takes place at the O2, the result of 17 nights of the sport played at venues all over the UK. See the final four players battle it out for the top prize of £275,000. 23 May

KINGSTON BEER FESTIVAL: Kingston Workmen's Club and Institute — just a few minutes' walk from the station — hosts the Kingston Beer Festival. Sample some of 70 cask and keg (many brewed locally) plus ciders and perries. 23-25 May

MCM COMIC CON: Dust off your cape — MCM Comic Con is back at ExCeL London. Highlights include guest stars, author talks, costume competitions and more. 24-26 May

BIRDS: BRILLIANT AND BIZARRE: The next big exhibition at the Natural History Museum takes flight, giving us a closer look at the only surviving dinosaurs. Birds: Brilliant and Bizarre delves into the world of birds, looking at how different species have evolved to survive, and how the way we live is affecting them. 24 May-26 January

Crowds watching a stage  in the sunshine, with the O2 in the background
The Urban Village Fete takes place in North Greenwich. Image: Kris Humphreys Photography

CHELSEA IN BLOOM: Coinciding with the Chelsea Flower Show (above), the local streets are decked out with floral sculptures for free festival Chelsea in Bloom. The theme this year is 'floral feasts' with local squares, restaurants and shops taking part. Wandering around to see the installations is free. FREE, 20-26 May

BELGRAVIA IN BLOOM: Likewise, the neighbouring area has its own free flower festival, Belgravia in Bloom — why not slip on some comfy shoes and visit both in the same day? Here, the theme is 'floral fun and games'. FREE, 20-27 May

SOAPBOX SCIENCE: Soapbox Science is an initiative  promoting women and non-binary scientists and the work they do. Their events are a chance to meet real scientists and chat to them about their work. Scientists from several disciplines take to their soapbox to share their research with the general public, and get them excited about science. Full details of this year's event TBC. 25 May

DUNKIRK AT THE DOCKS: St Katharine Docks in Wapping hosts a Dunkirk at the Docks Classic Boat Festival — 'the largest UK gathering of Dunkirk Little Ships in years'. Around 20 of the vessels used in the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940 are on display. 25-26 May

INDIANA JONES: Watch 1981 action film Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark on a large screen at the Royal Albert Hall, while the London Symphony Orchestra plays John Williams' accompanying score live. 25-26 May

THE TACOVER: Apparently London's only taco festival, The Tacover comes to Signature Brew in Walthamstow. Held in association with the Mexican embassy, the foodie event champions authentic Mexican owned brands from across the UK, with 30 taco vendors (including vegan and Halal options) present at four sessions across two days. 25-26 May

A pastel blue food truck parked in a field, with a man leaning out serving people
Foodies Festival is back at Syon Park for the bank holiday weekend

FOODIES FESTIVAL: Head to Syon Park for Foodies Festival, a three-day celebration of all things edible (and quaffable), with a side of live music. Sister Sledge, Blue and Symphonic Ibiza are among the performers, with live demos by celebrity chefs, street food and artisan markets, kids' cookery sessions, pop-up bars and more. 25-27 May

RIDE LONDON: This year's RideLondon is routed through Essex once again, beginning at Victoria Embankment and heading out to Braintree, before returning to the finish line at Tower Bridge. Sign up to take part, or line the route on the day to cheer the riders on. Either way, be aware of road closures across the capital and beyond. On the same day the FreeCycle takes place, when Londoners are invited to ride around the streets while they're free of traffic. 26 May

BATMAN CONCERT: Barbican marks the 35th anniversary of the 1989 film Batman with a special screening, accompanied by a live orchestra performing the score. 26 May

OPERA HOLLAND PARK: Another of our favourite outdoor cultural events in London, Opera Holland Park's summer season gets under way. First on the programme is Giacomo Puccini's Tosca, performed by the The City of London Sinfonia and the Opera Holland Park Chorus. From 28 May

Paddington Bear, holding a stack of marmalade sandwiches
The Paddington Bear Experience opens during May half term

PADDINGTON BEAR EXPERIENCE: Opening at County Hall, The Paddington Bear Experience promises a 'multi-room, immersive experience' based on the world of the fictional ursine character. A full-sized train carriage puts you in 'Paddington station', before you're whisked to the Brown family's house at 32 Windsor Gardens in time for the Marmalade Day Festival. From 31 May

MAY HALF TERM: The final week of May, running into June, is May half term, when the kids are off school. Keep an eye out for our May half term events guide, for plenty of ways to keep them entertained.

MUSIC FESTIVALS: London's music festival scene really ramps it up a notch towards the end of May when Gala, Slam Dunk, Wide Awake, Cross The Tracks and City Splash all pitch up, among others.

WISTERIA HYSTERIA: The bulk of #WisteriaHysteria should be in bloom in London throughout May, with the gorgeous purple (other shades available too) flowers draped over walls, fences and pagodas — here's where to see London's wisteria at its finest.

SMELL THE ROSES: May is rose season too, and London has a fair few of the thorny flowers tucked away — these are our eight favourite rose gardens in London.

LAST CHANCE: A few things are closing this month too. It's your last chance to see:

A colourful sculpture of a Guide Dog
Last chance to see Paws on the Wharf. Image: Matt Crossick/PA wire.
  • TURN IT UP: The Science Museum's family-friendly and interactive deep-dive into how music shapes our lives, including a musical playground, and a chance to play some weird and wonderful instruments. Until 6 May
  • WHEN FORMS COME ALIVE: See sculpture at its most impressive — a collection of contemporary artworks from the last 60 years that bring the cavernous spaces of the Hayward Gallery to life. Until 6 May
  • ART OF THE BRICK: More than 90 bricky sculptures by Lego artist Nathan Sawaya are on display in Shoreditch, including interpretations of famous art masterpieces, such as Michelangelo's David, and The Scream by Edvard Munch. Until 12 May
  • INJECTING HOPE: A free exhibition at the Science Museum, looking at how scientists work quickly to produced vaccines as new pandemics take hold. FREE, until 12 May
  • PAWS ON THE WHARF: London's latest free sculpture trail is Paws on the Wharf, which sees individually designed sculptures of dogs dotted around Canary Wharf in aid of Guide Dogs. The free trail is in situ until this month, after which the artworks are auctioned off to fundraise for the charity. FREE, until 17 May
  • SKATEBOARDS: 90 rare and unique skateboards are on display at the Design Museum, in an exhibition looking at the history of skateboards, from 1950s onwards. Until 19 May