Cultural things to do in London this summer

Last updated on September 27th, 2023

Get your summer diaries out and get planning with my guide to some of the best cultural things to do in London this summer including art exhibitions, theatre, events, opera, dance and music.

Londoness Loves: Cultural things to do in London this summer 2023

Free things to do in London this Summer

free art exhibitions London this summer

Portrait of artist Paula Rego in her studio with Crivelli’s Garden, 1990 .© Ostrich Arts Ltd. Photo: The National Gallery, London.

More than 30 years after Dame Paula Rego was invited to create a mural for the Sainsbury Wing Dining Room at the National Gallery, a new exhibition will celebrate the relationship of one of the most ambitious of Rego’s public commissions. Crivelli’s Garden had long been planned in collaboration with Rego who died on 8 June last year. It will unite the monumental 10-metre-long artwork with the 15th-century altarpiece by Carlo Crivelli that inspired it. Room 46. 20 July to 29 October.

This summer sees the return of Out to Lunch – a series of lunchtime concerts bringing world-class jazz performances and renowned artists to Cadogan Hall. The series presents concerts every Tuesday and Thursday at midday from 18 July to 24 August, featuring artists from across the jazz world, including Tara Minton, Lulu Pierre, Tony Kofi and Paul Higgs. Free standing tickets are available for each concert (as well as seated tickets costing £5). Performances run from 12-2pm with a 30-minute interval.

Richmond Theatre is holding another free Open Day this summer, allowing families and members of the local community to step inside the beautiful Matcham theatre, take part in workshops and find out more about the Grade-II listed building. Saturday 15 July. More information here.

Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, is returning for a third year with Doorstep Duets, touring to communities across the South-East this summer from. It showcases original choreography by upcoming artists in outdoor spaces and non-traditional performance venues, bringing the joy and wonder of dance to all. Performances begin on 11 July at Farnham Maltings, before visiting Essex, Suffolk, Kent, Surrey, and Eastbourne. More information here.

Now in its 13th year, Whitecross Street Party (WXSP) is back with the theme “Art not War.” The party theme takes a stand against all violence against people and against the earth. This year’s artist highlights include Helch, Voyder, string artist Perspicere, Ben Eine, Lucy Flynn and Carrie Reichardt, the winner of the 2023 Ceramics Biennale. Sunday is the No Frills Street Tea-Party with Duckie’s Posh Club performers and local DJs to end the party. 15 and 16 July. More information here.

Free things to do in London this summer

Details of Asim Waqif, Improvise, 2022 © the artist

The Hayward Gallery is getting a a new, immersive and striking bamboo structure by Indian artist Asim Waqif. वेणु [Venu] which explores themes of urban space, ecology and community. The 2023 commission joins a vibrant portfolio of outdoor summer installations at the Southbank Centre, continuing the Centre’s commitment to providing engaging, free art for all. 20 July to 22 October.

free art exhibitions London this summer

Christie’s Images Ltd. 2023

Spanning art from antiquity to the 20th century, Christie’s Classic Week in London returns this Summer with ten live auctions and one online sale. These include a pendant incorporating a rare medallion commissioned by Queen Charlotte as a gift to close friends who had remained loyal during King George III’s illness, to celebrate the King’s ‘recovery’ in 1789. The collection will be on public view from 1 to 6 July at Christie’s London.

Victoria Miro is hosting The Seven Deadly Sins, a major new series of paintings by Chris Ofili. Completed over the past six years, the works on view offer an expansive meditation on sin and the complex experience of sinfulness.

Free things to do in London this summer

Mika Rottenberg_Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo © Nick Turpin

Sculpture in the City, is back, the celebrated annual free exhibition of public art placed amid some of the most recognisable buildings of the City Cluster. 18 artworks by 17 artists from 10 countries, with internationally high-profile names as well as emerging artists, will be on display for a year against a backdrop of the City’s public spaces. More information here.

In a new immersive new work, the multi-disciplinary artist Phoebe Boswell inhabits Orleans House Gallery and its surrounding woodlands, engaging the audience in an intergenerational call and response, where trees become repositories of enquiry. Boswell creates a sanctuary for us to raise our questions and listen to the voices of our elders as they endeavour to articulate life.  7 July to 5 November.

Free things to do in London this summerBelgravia is kicking off a summer of sport with free, giant al fresco screenings of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in Eccleston Yards. Visitors can soak up the atmosphere in style with over 100 seats including beanbags, deck chairs and picnic benches across the central London courtyard from 3 to 16 July. An array of restaurants, cafes and pubs will be offering courtside treats. The huge screens will also show the England vs Australia Ashes Test match from 19 to 23 July as well as the 27 to 31 July, while on 20 and 27 July some film favourites will be shown, perfect for an evening of family fun.

Opening this summer, London Mithraeum Bloomberg SPACE will present The Pavilion, the first UK solo exhibition at a public institution by Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum. Central to the installation will be a wooden pavilion-like structure designed in collaboration with Remco Osório Lobato, comprising a promenade of interrelated viewing booths reminiscent of Victorian ‘cabinets of curiosities’, often considered as precursors to museums. 27 July to 13 January 2024. Book your free ticket here.

The National Maritime Museum is launching its first programme celebrating South Asian Heritage Month to celebrate the history and culture of South Asia as well as the communities that have had such a positive impact on British culture. The program will feature talks, events and workshops alongside installations and artworks. Throughout July.

Take an hour out of your day to relax in the sumptuous surroundings of the Queen’s House Great Hall and listen to talented musicians from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. 5 July. No booking required. More information here.

The Artist’s Garden, is a site-specific work which occupies the vast terrace on the roof of Temple Underground station. The project continues theCoLAB’s dedication to commissioning innovative contemporary installations by women artists within this unique, half-acre site.  The Artist’s Garden has been realised in close partnership with Westminster City Council since 2022. 6 July to September 2024.

This July, Saatchi Gallery will showcase paintings by Ukrainian folk artist Maria Prymachenko one of the country’s best-loved artists. These works will be shown in the UK for the first time, having been preserved by the artist’s family for more than fifty years. 13 July to 31 August.

London Art and Exhibition this Summer

Curated by Aindrea Emelife, Black Venus at Somerset House brings together the work of 18 Black women and non-binary artists to explore the othering, fetishisation and reclamation of narratives around Black femininity. 20 July to 24 September. Book here.

In the summer of 1819, the landscape artist J.M.W. Turner set off on a journey to Italy that would have a profound impact on his life and work. Visitors to Turner’s House this summer will be able to enjoy an exhibition of evocative watercolours capturing some of Turner’s first impressions of the place he was to later call the ‘land of all bliss’, and which provided inspiration for the rest of his career. Seeing the Light is on from 7 July to 29 October. Book house tickets here.

Cultural things to do in London in summer

Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg designed by Herzog & de Meuron (image: Linda Doran Roitman)

Get ready to immerse yourself in the work of one of the most revered architecture firms in the world, Herzog & de Meuron at the Royal Academy of Arts. Curated in close collaboration with the architects, this is a rare opportunity to see the inner workings of the practice whose projects include Tate Modern Switch House and the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. 14 July to 15 October. Book here.

Outfits worn by Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla at the Coronation will go on public display for the first time as part of the Summer Opening of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace. The clothing will form part of a special Coronation display staged in the Ballroom to celebrate the historic service held at Westminster Abbey on 6 May. The centrepiece of the display will be the outfits worn by Their Majesties as they departed from Westminster Abbey in the Gold State Coach and then appeared on the Buckingham Palace balcony to greet the crowds. Shown alongside these will be a selection of the historic vestments worn by The King at the moment of crowning, including the Coronation Glove, Girdle (or Sword Belt) and Stole Royal. 14 July and 24 September. Included with palace admission.

Tate Modern is launching a major new exhibition celebrating the dynamic landscape of photography across the African continent today. Bringing together 36 artists from different generations and geographies, A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography will explore how photography and video have allowed artists to examine legacies of the past while imagining more hopeful futures. 6 July to 4 January 2024. Book here.

A new exhibition, at the Freud Museum will investigate the unexpected journey which fulfilled a lifelong fantasy of Sigmund Freud, but which left him perplexed. Tracing Freud on the Acropolis will explore Freud’s visit to the ancient Greek citadel, which had occupied his thoughts since childhood, and the confusing feelings it caused at the time and for many years after. 26 July to 7 January 2024. Book here.

London Theatre and Stage this June

During the month of August with Kids Week, a child 17 and under goes free when accompanied by an adult paying full price to select performances. An additional two children can attend for half price. Book here.

Cultural things to do in London in summer

© Feast Creative

Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein’s show-stopping classic, La Cage aux Folles is coming to the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre this summer.  29 July to 16 September. Book here.

London Ballet & Dance this Summer

Presented by Artistic Director Viviana Durante, the English National Ballet annual summer performance is an opportunity to watch the rising stars of the ballet world. In this specially curated programme, students from across the school’s three year groups showcase their artistry, skill, and versatility. 8 and 9 July at Sadler’s Wells. Book here.

The Australian Ballet is coming to the Royal Opera House as part of its 60th anniversary celebrations. George Balanchine’s Jewels will be the first international tour for The Australian Ballet under the leadership of Artistic Director David Hallberg. 2 to 5 August. Book here.

London Opera and Classical Music this Summer

This year’s London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) Young Composers scheme culminates with its annual Debut Sounds concert, entitled Where to Begin? The 2022/23 cohort have created five new works inspired by other artforms, guided and conducted by LPO Composer-in-Residence Brett Dean. Thursday 13 July at 7.30pm at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. Book here.

London Events this Summer

Cultural things to do in London in summerDid you know Damian Lewis could sing and play the guitar? Catch him and his jazzy tunes at the Union Chapel and if you can spare the time and the pennies, grab dinner beforehand at the Margins Café. All profits go towards The Margins Project which helps the homeless. 11 July. Book here.

The Islington Festival of Music and Art returns this summer with a programme around Van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhône. The 10 day festival celebrates classical music and takes place across 5 iconic venues around Islington 13 to 22 July. More information here.

Talawa Firsts, the two-week festival of innovative writing, poetry, live music, cabaret, wellbeing workshops, networking and a club night, is coming to Fairfield Halls this July. Talawa is the UK’s outstanding Black theatre company, which has shone a spotlight on Black British artists for over 37 years. Talawa Firsts will see different themes each day during this new-look contemporary festival.  More information here.

Celebrate 20 years of Museum of London Docklands this summer with a street party, queer pub crawl in Limehouse, a scavenger hunt and an architecture walk in London. The museum will hold a special evening of poetry & performance; fusing words, sounds, dance and discussion to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury Docks and will honour the enduring spirit of one of London’s most vibrant communities. More information here.

Taking inspiration from much-loved village fêtes, join the Museum of the Home for their Summer Party on the 1 July. There will be something for all the family, including giant board games, children’s entertainers and an epic bouncy castle. Book your tickets here

Find out how to build your own art world with the Association of Women in the Arts (AWITA). This year the conference will be chaired by Melanie Gerlis, Art Market Columnist and Contributor at the Financial Times, and will take place at Phillips Auction House Monday. Presenting a tool kit for women in the arts with practical examples, the conference will depart be filled with panels and workshops to empower women with core skills and competencies, time for reflection, self-awareness and opportunity to connect with peers, all led by the leading females in the industry. More information here.

Out of Towners

Longhope Opera 2023

Image: Tom Lovatt

Established in 2019, and based in the picturesque and remote village of Newton Valence in Hampshire, Longhope Opera has quickly gained a reputation for producing high-quality productions featuring emerging artists, all in the beautiful setting of the South Downs. With audiences of 350 people, guests can soak up the beautiful surroundings and enjoy first-rate opera in a much more intimate setting. More information here.

Waterperry Opera 2023Waterperry Opera is back, one of my favourite summer destinations outside of London. Set in the stunning historic Waterperry Gardens, the ten-day open-air festival includes eight productions, as well as an array of talks, workshops, and more. There will be performances suitable for the whole family and opera aficionados alike. 11 to 20 August. Book here.

On a Final Note

Thank you to Feedspot who have featured FamilyJourney as one of the 20 best UK Classical Music Blogs. I’m also ranked number 34 in the Top London Blogs and number 20 in the Top London Lifetstyle Blogs. I am honoured!

A London arts and culture blog featuring articles about art, theatre, opera, dance, music and design.

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