Things To Do This Week In London: 20-26 May 2024

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Things to do this week is sponsored by UK Parliament.

All week

Two Chelsea Pensioners: one is pushing a wheelbarrow full of plants and the other is carrying a spade
It's Chelsea Flower Show week. Image: RHS

CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW: The Royal Hospital Chelsea is taken over by all manner of flora for the Chelsea Flower Show, a highlight of the gardening calendar. See cutting-edge garden design, discover new plants and trends, and take home a wheelbarrow of flowers/tools/inspiration — particularly on the final day, when the plants from the display gardens are sold off. 21-25 May

WEST LONDON IN BLOOM: No ticket for the Chelsea Flower Show? No problem — two other (free!) floral festivals take place in the area over the same week. Chelsea in Bloom (20-26 May) and Belgravia in Bloom (20-27 May) both see large-scale installations such as sculpture, arches and scenes, made entirely from flowers installed in public spaces, shops, restaurants and the like. They're free to visit and close enough that you can tick off both in one day if you're willing to put in a bit of walking.

AFTERNOON TEA: Feeling fancy? Why not try one of London's newest afternoon tea menus this week? New launches include a Parisian-inspired meal, one themed on a certain boy wizard, and a couple of limited edition floral afternoon teas to coincide with the Chelsea Flower Show, available this week only.

LET'S GOBOAT: Here’s a fantastic way to make the most of longer and (hopefully!) balmier days: hire your own electric vessel with GoBoat and set off on a nautical odyssey where you get to be the captain and choose the route. Assemble your friends/family/boatswains and get ready for a nautical odyssey along the Thames or inland waterways at Kingston, Thames Ditton, Paddington or Canary Wharf. Book ahead. (sponsor)

An array of French desserts
Dessert is served at the Brush Grand Café

FREE FILM FESTIVAL: The Herne Hill Free Film Festival has three final screenings this week. South London-set Pretty Red Dress is shown at the Half Moon on Monday; there's a screening of short films about cycling at Herne Hill Velodrome on Thursday, and the festival culminates with Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory at the Velodrome on Friday. FREE, until 24 May

EAT OF THE WEEK: Channeling the grand cafes of Vienna and Paris (albeit with a modern, Lichtenstein-like twist), the Brush Grand Café has just opened inside the new art'otel London Hoxton, dishing up continental classics like French onion soup, Wiener schnitzel with cucumber salad and parsley potatoes, and raspberry mille-feuille. The lounge and cocktail bar — which often has live music — serves seductively French-inspired cocktails featuring ingredients like champagne, absinthe and Lillet Blanc.

PUB OF THE WEEK: The Hero of Maida Vale in W9 has reopened with a fresh, pared-back look in W9 — and now features a pub area, grill room and cocktail bar. Grub-wise, the menu features the likes of brown crab & cucumber soup, and smoked eel and bacon salad — as well as comfort food, like cheese and onion pie.

DAY TRIP OF THE WEEK: With a bank holiday on the horizon, your thoughts might turn to the seaside. Might we suggest Brighton, home to independent shops, bars and restaurants, beautiful buildings, quirky museums and a classic seaside pier. Read our guide to spending time there for the full lowdown on our favourite spots.

LONDONIST PARTY: Psst! Londonist turns 20 this year, and we're celebrating with a party at Five Points Taproom & Courtyard in Hackney on Wednesday 12 June. There's live music from William Poyer, plus DJ Brad Hall is spinning Music for Your Soul. You can also chow down on amazing BBQ food courtesy of From The Ashes BBQ, sup tank-fresh beers — and mingle with the Londonist team and other London lovers. Nab a ticket here! (Your first couple of drinks are included.)

Monday 20 May

A bird's eye view of boats moored up in rows in a marina
Headdress by Donn Delson features in Photo Independent's exhibition, which opens on Tuesday.

BENEATH LONDON'S STREETS: Footprints of London guide Rob Smith offers a tour about what goes on beneath our feet here in London. Find out about a church crypt, the remains of London's largest tea warehouse, an underground market, overlooked tube heritage, bits of Roman London and what is probably London's deepest shop, as well as parts of subterranean London which can be seen from above ground, such as ventilation shafts and tunnel entrances. Meet at Tower Hill station. 2.30pm-4.30pm

THE MONDAY CLUB: Every week, the Museum of Comedy's bar hosts The Monday Club, a relaxed night where comedians try out their newest material. Ed Aczel, Jenny Collier, Luca Cupani, Maple Zuo, Declan Kennedy, Sarah Roberts and Charlie Hopkinson are among the names due to appear tonight. 7pm

APHEX TWIN WORKS: Camden's Jazz Cafe celebrates British musician and composer Aphex Twin, with a musical experience combining his electronic works with classical piano, performed by pianist and composer Dorian Dumont. 7pm

VIRTUAL LONDON TOUR: To raise money for the London Air Ambulance, there's a series of virtual London tours, offered by Historic London Tours. Today's focuses on the capital's fiery history from the Romans founding the city to Blitz bombings, fire and war. Watch online via Zoom. 7pm

NEW MUSIC: Every Monday night, the New Moon in Putney hosts a night of new music, showcasing singer-songwriters and bands starting out. Tonight's line-up includes Afrobeats singer Rasta Dine, and indie trio FOIL. 7.30pm

Tuesday 21 May

A woman in red feathered hat and costume jewellery
Magnificent Music Hall transports you back to the 1890s

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: The King's Festival of Artificial Intelligence (the university, not the monarch) brings together a range of experts to cover the latest developments in AI via talks, panel discussions, films, demos and workshops. The use of AI in healthcare and education are among the topics covered, and Saturday is family day. FREE, 21-25 May

PHOTO INDEPENDENT: American fine art aerial photographer Donn Delson is one of seven LA-
based photographers showing work at Photo Independent's exhibition, Visions Unbound: A Photographic Journey Through American Eyes at Cromwell Place from today. 21-26 May

POTHOLES AND PAVEMENTS: Author Laura Laker is at Stanfords in Covent Garden to talk about her new book, Potholes and Pavements, the story of her journey around the UK National Cycle Network to uncover the state of cycling in this country, meeting several regular cyclists along the way. 7pm-8.30pm

PIECE OF ME: "Ever feel like you’re being watched? You probably are, bitch." Piece Of Me is a new play by Claire Gaydon, which examines surveillance ethics and the cult of celebrity, through the lens of Britney Spears. It debuts tonight at Camden People's Theatre (at 7pm). 21 May-1 June

QUEER THEATRE: I've Never Met Anyone Quite Like You Before has been described as "a stellar and gripping piece of new LGBTQI+ writing" — and it's on for less than a week at the Old Red Lion Theatre in Angel — starting tonight (at 7.30pm). 21-25 May

MAGNIFICENT MUSIC HALL: Experience a traditional music hall of the 1890s, as Magnificent Music Hall returns to Wilton's. It's a gala performance featuring songs, dancing and music, with performers including pianist Tom Carradine — who is best-known for hosting regular Cockney sing alongs. 7.30pm

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Go all around the Houses (of Parliament) on a fascinating, family-friendly tour

Fancy following in the footsteps of famous leaders? Want to explore stunning spaces where laws are made, changed and debated? Curious about the (sometimes quirky) customs of UK Parliament? Then you need to book yourself a Palace of Westminster tour, pronto.

From the chambers of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, to Central Lobby, to Westminster Hall, the tour will take you through all manner of iconic spaces that have for centuries been central to national life.

Guided tours are available, though if you fancy exploring the Palace of Westminster at your own pace, we recommend the self-led audio version. You’ll get a multimedia device to help you make the most of it, and there’s even a family-friendly option featuring interactive games – why not give it a go this half term?

Palace of Westminster tours run on select dates this spring and summer. Book yours now.

Wednesday 22 May

A couple holding drinks glasses, in front of a tank at the aquarium
Stay late at Sea Life London

WEDNESDAY EVENTS: Lunchtime concerts. Salsa classes. Life drawing. Just some of the events which take place in London most Wednesdays of the year. Have a look at our guide to Humpday in the capital and get planning your day — or bookmark it for a future Wednesday when you're at a loose end.

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

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, 9am-12.30pm

SEA LIFE LATES: The Sea Life Centre — AKA the London Aquarium — stays open for the first in a series of Sea Life Lates. The adults-only events are a chance to experience the venue without the daytime crowds, with a complimentary drink of arrival included in your ticket. From 5pm

LOGARITHMS: If, like us, you have a dim memory of learning about logarithms at school but have totally forgotten what they're useful for, then get along to this Gresham lecture by Prof Oliver Johnson. He'll explain how logs underpin much of modern life, from cellular phone networks to Ronaldo's Instagram following. FREE, 6pm

WOMEN IN FOOTBALL: A panel of experts including playwright Amanda Whittington, Captain Kristina Wright of the Adjutant General's Corps, women's football historian Steve Bolton and historian Daniel Cowling are at the National Army Museum to discuss historic links between women's football and the British Army. Get an insight into the role of women's football since the ban on the game was lifted in 1971. 6.30pm-8pm

Thursday 23 May

A woman looking at a photograph of Princess Diana
Princess Diana: Accredited Access exhibition opens on Saturday

KINGSTON BEER FESTIVAL: Kingston Workmen's Club and Institute — just a few minutes' walk from the station — hosts the Kingston Beer Festival. Across three days, sample some of 110 cask and keg beers (many brewed locally) plus ciders and perries. 23-25 May

ROMAN TOUR: Join a Museum of London Docklands guide for a tour focusing on Roman London. Visit the Roman Wall and remains of the western gate of London’s Roman military fort, located beneath the streets next to the former Museum of London building. Age 13+. 2pm

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. 6pm

TED LASSO QUIZ: The Market House in Brixton regularly hosts quiz nights themed on popular TV shows. Tonight it's Ted Lasso, so swot up on the happenings at AFC Richmond, don your best fancy dress, and head down there early if you want to have a drink or meal before the quiz begins. 6.30pm-10pm

LUNGS OF EDMONTON: Head to Fore Street Library for a free screening of new documentary Pymmes Park: The Lungs of Edmonton. Funded by the Untold Edmonton Grant Scheme, it tells the stories of the many communities linked to the local green space, as well as the nature which calls it home. FREE, 7pm

Friday 24 May

A curator preparing three bird specimens for display
Birds: Brilliant and Bizarre opens at the Natural History Museum © Trustees of the Natural History Museum

MCM COMIC CON: Dust off your cape — MCM Comic Con is back at ExCeL London. Highlights include guest stars such as Ted Lasso actors Cristo Fernandez and Billy Harris, sword combat demonstrations, Korean calligraphy workshops, Nerd Bingo, plus a programme of talks and more. 24-26 May

DUNKIRK AT THE DOCKS: Wapping's St Katharine Docks hosts the Dunkirk at the Docks classic boat festival, with a number of the vessels which were involved in the 1940 Dunkirk evacuation mooring up for the weekend. Admire the ships (many prettily dressed in bunting), learn more about the part they played in the second world war, chat to owners, and maybe even step aboard one or two. FREE, 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

COURTAULD LATES: The Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House stays open late, offering visitors a chance to explore the galleries and exhibitions in the evening — including a last look at the current Frank Auerbach exhibition, and a preview of the new Good Morning, Midnight, which opens properly tomorrow. A pop-up bar serves themed cocktails throughout the evening, and there are live DJ sets in the gallery entrance hall. 6.30pm-10.30pm

ELEANOR CONWAY: Comedian Eleanor Conway performs her sex-positive stand-up show Talk Dirty To Me at Woolwich Works. She explores the ongoing battle for gender inequality, and offers a female perspective on the absurdity of dating, sex and relationships. 7.30pm

ARABS ARE NOT FUNNY: Regular comedy night Arabs Are Not Funny sees comedians with Arabic roots showcasing their talents and attempting to prove the stereotype wrong. Tonight at Grand Junction in Paddington, Ahmed Ibrahim, Isabelle Farah, Usif Musa, Talal Karkouti, Julie-Yara Atz and Muhsin Yesilada all perform. 8pm

Saturday 25 May

A chef preparing a large pan of food
Foodies Festival is at Syon Park all weekend

BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND: Today's the start of a three-day weekend for many, so take a look at our guide to spending a bank holiday weekend in London, and get planning to make the most of it.

FOOD TALKS: Love listening to people talk food? The British Library's where you want to be today (and tomorrow); its Food Season is a feast of topics from chefs, foodie writers and the like — including the golden age of restaurant writing, cooking and eating through the seasons, and 21st century farming. 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

FOODIES FESTIVAL: And to keep the theme going, 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

PRINCESS DIANA: New exhibition Princess Diana: Accredited Access Exhibition opens at Dockside Vaults in St Katharine Docks. Royal photographers Anwar Hussein and his sons Samir and Zak share their photographs of Princess Diana and her family, paired with first-hand accounts of the stories behind each moment, told via an audio guide. 25 May-September

GHOST SIGNS: Take a tour of Covent Garden in the company of guide Jane Parker, who'll point out the many 'ghost signs' to vanished businesses in the area. If you can't make today's tour, she has a similarly themed amble around Islington tomorrow. 11am-1pm

WIDE AWAKE: Young Fathers, Slowdive, King Lizard and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are among dozens of acts taking to the stage in Brockwell Park for Wide Awake - a one-day festival of indie/electro/ alternative sounds. 12pm-10.30pm

BISCUIT DAY: National Biscuit Day falls on 29 May, but they're celebrating early at Bermondsey's Blue Market, where biscuit historian Gary Magold, dives into the fascinating history of the local Peak Freans
biscuit factory and artist Sarah Sparkes leads a session where families can decorate biscuits. FREE, 12.30pm-4.30pm

SOAPBOX SCIENCE: Soapbox Science is an initiative promoting women and non-binary scientists and the work they do. Their events are a chance to chat to real scientists, including at South Bank (near the OXO Tower) today. 12 scientists from several disciplines take to their soapbox to share their research, and get the public excited about science — from cancer research to conservation. FREE, 1pm-4pm

FAMILY RAVE: Big Fish Little Fish hold one of their legendary family raves, in the Horniman Museum's gardens. There's a flower power theme to the party, and DJs Aphrodite and Aston Harvey play club classics, while craft activities, face painting, hula-hooping and the like keeps everyone entertained. 2pm-6pm

INDIANA JONES: Watch 1981 action film 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.7.30pm (repeated tomorrow)

ANIME SILENT DISCO: Fans of anime — get yourself to Notting Hill Arts Club, where an MCM Comic Con afterparty has a silent disco feat. the best anime openings, endings and OSTs. Cosplay is very much encouraged. 8pm-2am

Sunday 26 May

A dog sitting on the lawn in front of the Old Royal Naval College
Greenwich Dog Show takes places at the Old Royal Naval College

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

MONSTERS FOR KIDS: If your kids are fans of Tom Fletcher's There's a Monster in Your Book books, there'll want to see the stage version, which is on twice today at Blackheath Halls. The puppets are pretty adorable. 11am and 2pm (also on Saturday)

STRAWBERRY HILL TOUR: Strawberry Hill librarian and guide Carole Tucker offers a tour of the garden. Begin with a private view of two nature-themed paintings by Dutch artist, Jan van Huysum, before visiting the garden to see how the estate's owner Horace Walpole combined architecture, sculpture, poetry and painting. 10.30am-12pm

GREENWICH DOG SHOW: For the second time, the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College host the Greenwich Dog Show. All dogs are welcome, with categories such as best rescue dog, best celebrity lookalike, best trick and waggiest tail to compete in, and there's a food market and stalls selling dog-centric items too. 11am-4.30pm

BRUNCH WITH MARTIN KEMP: Travel back to an era of neon lights, big hair, and unforgettable tunes, at The Fable Back to the 80s Brunch, in the City. A two-course meal is included in the ticket price, but most importantly, Spandau Ballet's/EastEnders' Martin Kemp is on the wheels of steel. 12pm-5pm

GIN LANE: Guide Laura Agustin leads a tour of the Seven Dials area, recalling its impoverished, gin-soaked past, and the many curious characters who lived and worked there. 1pm

BATMAN CONCERT: Barbican marks the 35th anniversary of the 1989 film Batman with a special screening, accompanied by a live orchestra performing the score. 7pm

LORD OF THE RINGS: One for night owls: stay up through the night to watch the Lords of the Rings film trilogy at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square. Extended editions of all three films are shown, taking you through to mid-morning on bank holiday Monday. Age 16+. 11pm-11am

Good cause of the week

Chiswick House & Gardens Trust are inviting people to come and get involved with a day of gardening. It’s all part of national volunteering festival The Big Help Out (this year during National Volunteers Week), and will take place on Saturday 8 June from 10.30pm to 12.30pm.

The Big Help Out is an opportunity to roll up your sleeves, get some fresh air, learn something new and contribute to the community. Open to families, local residents, keen gardeners and newbies, everyone who gets involved will help the charity to improve the meadow and smarten up the appearance at Burlington Gate.