Lucky Londoners have some of the best music, art, culture and sport scenes the world has to offer right on their doorsteps. And at no time of the year does the British capital buzz with activity quite as much as it does in summer, the busiest period in the city’s festival calendar. Here are just a few of 2017’s standout summer events.
Underbelly Festival Southbank (April 28-September 30)
Taking place on the riverside between Royal Festival Hall and Jubilee Gardens, this festival focuses on what it calls “the four Cs”: comedy, cabaret, circus and children’s theater. In addition to staged events, there are food stalls, bars and fairground-style rides thrown in for good measure. Entry to the general festival area is free, but you’ll need to pay for tickets to see specific acts.
StrEat Life (Various dates)
This pop-up food and drink festival takes place on select summer weekends in Alexandra Palace, a Victorian-era entertainment venue affectionately called the “people’s palace.” The festival features more than 30 street food stalls and vendors serving up craft beers, cask ales and cocktails, as well as live music and – provided the weather is clear – a pretty awesome view over London.
BBC Proms (July 14-September 9)
This annual eight-week classical music extravaganza is a staple in London’s cultural calendar. You can book seated tickets for the Proms online in advance, but the cheapest access comes to the so-called “Prommers” who wait in line at the door of the Royal Albert Hall to purchase cheap (£6) on-the-day standing tickets. Be aware that the more popular acts in the Proms program can draw quite a crowd, so arrive early and be prepared to wait.
The Camden Fringe (July 31-August 27)
Set up as an alternative to the wildly popular Edinburgh Fringe, this eclectic event encompasses performances ranging from stand-up and comedy sketch shows to dance, theater, opera, poetry and improv. More than 200 shows are staged in venues the length and breadth of the borough of Camden in north central London.
World Athletics Championships London (August 4-13)
The IAAF World Championships is the sporting event of the summer, with not just one but two of the world’s biggest sporting stars bidding adieu to athletics at the games. Eight-time Olympic gold medalist and the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt will run his final 100-meter event, while Mo Farah, the most decorated athlete in British athletics history, will run his last ever track race (after the championships, Farah will turn his attentions to road running). If you don’t already have tickets, you will have to make do with watching the event in one of London’s bars, where the atmosphere is set to be electric.
London Design Festival (September 16-24)
This city-wide festival is dedicated to showcasing London’s design chops and takes place at a number of venues across the city. Start by checking out the exhibits at the festival’s base, the V&A Museum in South Kensington, where all kinds of site-specific exhibitions as well as design-focused talks, tours and workshops are scheduled. Then explore some of the festival’s dedicated design districts, which present their own local community-oriented programs.
Looking for more things to do in London? Head on over to City Wonders and browse our London Tours.