What’s on in London this autumn and winter 2018

I’ve been looking through all kinds of listings to pick out some good stuff for you for the next 3 months of what’s on in London. Scroll through the various categories to find what floats your boat: special events, theatre, art galleries, shopping, fashion and markets, museums and exhibitions, foodie things, parks gardens and royal palaces, sport and music!


OCTOBER  This is a big month for film and art with major events for both creative industries. The 62nd London Film Festival is a showcase for Hollywood stars and blockbuster films and yet still finds space for first-time directors and documentaries.  Frieze Art Fair brings the art world to London and takes up residence in Regents Park showcases top galleries and there is a whole range of other shows around London offering some pieces at more affordable prices.

NOVEMBER The week of the 5th sees firework displays all over town as we mark Guy Fawkes Night when a group tried but failed, luckily, to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.  It’s a great month for jazz fans when the London Jazz Festival brings top names to London’s famous night spots like Ronnie Scott’s. As winter is chilling the temperatures, you’ll see ice rinks opening all over town at great venues such as the Tower of London and the Natural History Museum. The Lord Mayor’s Show will delight the crowds with a parade around the streets of the City as it has since 1215!

DECEMBER The build-up to Christmas is in full flow with all the famous lights decorating the streets of London with their best festive look. Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park offers a fun fair and a large Christmas market offering something for all the family. Look out for the famous, tall Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, an annual present from the people of Norway in memory of Britain’s help during the 2nd World War where carols are sung each evening – a magical sound to put you in a festive mood.


OCTOBER So much buzz about the opening of Sondheim’s Company, a gender-reversed production which he has blessed (!), starring Broadway legend Patti Lupone coming to the Gielgud Theatre.  London theatre regular Florian Zeller’s latest play The Height of the Storm has attracted Jonathan Pryce and Eileen Atkins to the Wyndham’s Theatre in his favourite topic of marital problems.  David Hare’s new play at the National Theatre tackles topical issues as ever, I’m Not Running looks at a GP deciding whether running for office is worth the sacrifices of personal life and peace of mind. The Young Vic throws brass bands and Beyoncé at Twelfth Night in Kwame Kwei-Armah’s musical technicolour production so stand by for something very different. As we build up to 100 since the end of WW1 The Wipers Times opens at the Arts Theatre, exploring the incredible story of soldiers who manage to produce a newspaper in the middle of trench life new Ypres.  Maisie Williams fans (Game of Thrones) will be rushing to see her in I and You at the Hampstead theatre in a work about an isolated teenager and an unlikely friendship.

NOVEMBER A major Pinter season is in full flow this autumn and November brings us a double bill – at the Pinter theatre of course – of Landscape and A Kind of Alaska starring Tamsin Greig. This is followed by the next double bill: Moonlight and Night School. Caroline Or Change transfers to the west end after quite a gap bringing an extraordinary performance by Sharon D Clarke in a musical exploration of the life and challenges of a 1960s maid and the young boy in the house where she works. Magic Mike Live at the Hippodrome has been promoted for months with TV interviews of its star Channing Tatum, such is the build-up.  I’m not sure what it is, perhaps it’s just what the promotional material calls ‘sexy dance routines… and one of a kind acts’!!  To calm us down we have the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Don Quixote at the Garrick theatre with David Threlfall and Rufus Hound.

DECEMBER It’s the build-up to Christmas so we have A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic and Peter Pan at the Park Theatre, Snow White at the London Palladium and A Christmas Carol with Simon Callow at the Art Theatre.  The return of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has been very welcome after gathering so many awards on previous runs in the UK and around the world.  True West by Sam Shepherd comes to the Vaudeville theatre starring Kit Harrington as one of a pair of troubled brothers in Hollywood, the other brother is played by Johnny Flynn.


OCTOBER  It’s Art month with events all across London. The Moniker International Art Fair takes on the Truman Brewery with 30 galleries exhibiting urban contemporary work with the theme of ‘uncensored’!  Don’t miss the huge and influential Frieze Art Fair in Regents Park and the associated Frieze Masters and sculpture park.  Somerset House has a major African art fair called 1-5.  The Affordable Art Fair comes to Battersea Park for the less well-heeled collector (most of us)! The Tate Modern has 2 new openings – Annie Albers, combining ancient hand-weaving craft with modern art, and the latest Turbine Hall commission from Tania Bruguera around which there is some mystery but no doubt it will be impressive. Tate Britain is excited about their new exhibition on Edward Burne-Jones, one of the last of the pre-Raphaelites has his first solo Tate show since 1933 with over 150 objects to enjoy. The Barbican’s new photography show is Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-Garde looking at how relationships between artists and what emerges from them. The National Gallery’s Mantegna and Bellini delights in these 2 great Renaissance artists, also brothers-in-law, and follows their careers through rare loans.

NOVEMBER The Queen’s Gallery showcases work from the Royal Collection and their new show is called Russia: Royalty and the Romanovs in this centenary year of their death. The National Portrait Gallery opens up Gainsborough’s Family Album featuring over 50 works from public and private collections across the world, some of which have never been seen on public display.  Charting his full career this show will offer new perspectives on his life and his era. The Royal Academy’s new show for November is Klimt/Schiele Drawings from the Albertina Museum Vienna. Marking the centenary of both artists’ deaths this show offers insights into their artistic relationship and differing creative processes.

DECEMBER  As everyone is busy shopping there are few new openings this month so it’s time to catch up on great exhibitions already on before they close such as Oceania at the Royal Academy, which is only open for the first part of this month. Much praised, Oceania takes us on a voyage around the Pacific to explore the diverse peoples and their dazzling art.  As the Courtauld Gallery has closed for a 2-year refurbishment their works have gone to the National Gallery and been put into a new show alongside some of the National’s own impressionist painting in Courtauld Impressionists: From Manet to Cezanne, well worth a visit and this one is open through January.


OCTOBER  London Chocolate Week has events all over town from a chocoholic show at Olympia to themed cocktails at the best bars, they offer the chance to ‘learn’ about chocolate, I assume that’s code for ‘eat’!  Don’t forget London’s regular markets: Portobello on Saturdays, Spitalfields biggest on Sundays and Camden all the time and Duke of York Square on the Kings Road has a wonderful food market on Saturdays.

NOVEMBER  Christmas markets are popping up all over town from the South Bank to Kew Gardens and the huge Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is full of chalet style stalls. The Spirit of Christmas Fair at Olympia is packed full of present ideas, and some for yourself of course!

DECEMBER  The Christmas lights will all be on now and London’s shopping street look at their festive twinkly best. Don’t miss Regent Street, Oxford Street, South Molton Street, Covent Garden, Carnaby Street and the beautifully decorated shop windows including John Lewis, Liberty’s, Selfridges, Harrods and Bond Street’s top-end shops. Don’t forget that all the museums have great shops which are excellent places for top quality present hunting.


OCTOBER  The Science Museum has an exhibition on the Sun offering spectacular interactive experiences and to shed new light on our relationship with our closest star. As well as the latest images, they have historic artefacts from 1400 BC, so it will be surprising. October sees the annual Museums at Night when museums as varied as exploring the mind at the Freud Museum,  a gothic night at Strawberry Hill House, sneak into the Bank of England Museum, and a look at identity at the Freemason’s Hall (as well as many of the big names) stay open late and put on special events.  It’s a great chance to try out some less frequently visited museums. The Imperial War Museum hosts some of the famous ceramic Poppies which were part of the Tower of London poppies display in 2014, commemorating the First World War. The Weeping Window and Wave will be there through until mid-November and will be a chance for new audiences to see them and for those who saw them at the Tower to renew that powerful experience.

NOVEMBER  The British Museum has a new exhibition called I Am Ashurbanipal King of the World, King of Assyria.  Looking back into his reign from BC 669 to 631 when he was one of the most powerful men on earth and yet little is known about him now, so this exhibition may well change that. The Design Museum’s new show is Home Futures looks at our homes today through yesterday’s imaginations – are we living today how we thought we would be, how the 20th predicted we would be? Or has the idea of home proved strangely resistant to change.

DECEMBER  As with art galleries, everyone is busy shopping there are few new openings this month so it’s time to catch up on great exhibitions already opened.  The National Maritime Museum opened 4 new galleries this autumn which are well worth a visit to find out more about the Polar Worlds, Pacific Encounters, Tudor and Stuart Seafarers and Sea Things. The British Museum’s I Object traces the history of dissent over the millennia from Babylonian times to the present day.


OCTOBER  It’s Chocolate week at last and there are shows going on in many shops with an amazing array of artisan chocolates, chocolate tastings and new brands to try out so indulge yourself at London’s great bars! October also sees London Cocktail week so it’s all go! Marriages Freres has finally made the journey across the Channel from Paris to open its first branch in London in a 5 storey Covent Garden tea emporium.  Caractere is filling up a slot in Notting Hill that has been empty for far too long since Bumpkin moved out and another generation of the Roux family makes her mark (Emily) brings us part French and part Italian cuisine. The first European opening for a Japanese uber-cool coffee shop as Omotesando Koffee comes to Fitzrovia. Tracks and Records near Liverpool Street will bring us Jamaican food, worth a mention because it is brought to us by Usain Bolt – hence the title!

NOVEMBER  Taste London has a big winter event as well as its summer extravaganza in Regents Park. In November they head for Tobacco Doc, east of Tower Bridge, still with the top list of chefs including Tom Aikens, Sebby Holmes (Farang), and Karan Gokani (Hoppers).  They have Michelin stars from their sites around the world and now Imperial Treasures bring their Chinese cuisine to London at a luxury location in St James. One of my favourite sites is going to be taken on by Sushisamba who are setting up in the Opera Terrace Covent Garden.

DECEMBER  Adam Handling, very hot right now, is opening in the Belmond Cadogan Hotel in Knightsbridge – the flagship city Belmond hotel who have Raymond Blanc at their country version! Also listed for late 2018 but no confirmed dates are the following. Quique DaCosta’s InPaella will open in Oxford Street, this Michelin star winner comes to the UK to bring us lots and lots of paella. Continuing this theme, Mamarosa is a Barcelona beach restaurant coming to Shoreditch Village – a new space next to Boxpark so no beach view…  Another area to watch grow is the Coal Drops Yard at Kings Cross with restaurants moving in all through the autumn to add to the vibrant scene in this regeneration area of London.


OCTOBER  Kew Gardens hosts the Handmade Fair where artists sell their own pieces directly to the public. Regent’s Park hosts the enormous marquees of Frieze Art Fair and Frieze Masters so expect lots of very fashionable arty looking folk in the park.

NOVEMBER  Kew Gardens put on a big show at Christmas with their Illuminations Trail, a one-mile sparkling path around the gardens including dancing illuminated fountains. It’s very popular so book early as it’s well worth a visit, I loved it and it is a truly magical sight. The ice rinks will be opening all across London including at the great venues of Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London.

DECEMBER  Hyde Park hosts the huge Winter Wonderland event which has stalls selling food and gifts, a seasonal fun fair and even its own ice rink, circus, comedy tent and Ferris wheel. The annual Peter Pan swimming race will take place on the Serpentine in Hyde Park on Christmas morning, an annual event for the very hardy since 1864! The Royal Palaces all have festive events and fairs and don’t miss the BBC Good Food Festival Festive Fayre at Hampton Court Palace.


OCTOBER  The NFL rolls back into town with 3 American Football matches at Wembley and you can see the following teams: Seattle Seahawks v Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans v Los Angeles Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles v Jacksonville Jaguars. Six Day London is an extraordinary cycling event held in the Velopark in the Olympic Park which combines all the disciplines in men’s and women’s racing with a party atmosphere. The world’s best riders will be racing with a backdrop of wild lighting and music – sounds great!  In contrast, the International Dance Championships are held at the Royal Albert Hall for Latin and Ballroom, professional and amateur in their 65th year, and you can see the best talent in the world make it all look so easy, yet we all know how hard it really is.

NOVEMBER  The Autumn Rugby Union Internationals see the 4 Home Nation teams of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland take on the best teams in rugby.  Matches are held across the world on consecutive Saturdays in November.  Twickenham is hosting the 3 home games for England against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia so some juicy games there.  The Nitto ATP end of season tournament takes place at the 02 where the top 8 men’s players battle to be World Tour Tennis Finals champion – sadly for us Brits, no Andy Murray again this year as he’s still recovering from his surgery but the big guns will be there and it’s a great tournament.

DECEMBER  Tennis greats bring their skills and loads of fun to the Champions Tennis tournament at the Royal Albert Hall, they are just as competitive but hide it well! This is billed as McEnroe’s last year but is he serious? The London International Horse Show at Olympia is always popular with jumping, dressage and driving competitive events.  The World Darts Championships sees the world’s top darts players at Alexandra Palace competing over a major 2-week competition. There’s netball at the Copperbox in the Olympic Park as England, our Commonwealth Champions (!) take on Uganda.  Let’s not forget the brave folk who take the early swim in the chilly waters of the Serpentine Lake every year on Christmas morning in the Peter Pan Cup!


OCTOBER  Tom Odell brings his tunes and angst to the Hammersmith Apollo, followed later in the month by the Black Eyed Peas and Spandau Ballet and Five Seconds of Summer.  The large venue of the 02 Arena hosts Shania Twain, Enrique Iglesias, U2 and David Byrne. The 02 Arena hosts some events of the London Blues Fest bringing us: John Fogarty; Robert Plant and Van Morrison; Zac Brown Band; Counting Crows and Alison Krauss; and, the Robert Cray Band.

NOVEMBER  The London Jazz Festival will be taking place all over town with big names from Jeff Goldblum, Archie Shepp, Dave O’Higgins and Liane Carroll with Clare Martin and a whole lot of new talent to discover.   The 02 Arena has a good range of big names this month from Childish Gambino to Andrea Bocelli, Jess Glynne, Florence and the Machine, Pete Tong and Ibiza Classics and The Four Tops and the Temptations! The Royal Albert Hall presents a range of concerts from Gary Numan to Interpol, Jessie J and Michael Bolton. They are also screening Star Wars A New Hope (1977) in hi-def with a live orchestra which should be fun.

DECEMBER  The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 20th Anniversary Tour rolls into the Wembley Arena. Orbital are at the Hammersmith Eventim Apollo as are The Blockheads (formerly with Ian Drury). Kamaal Williams is at the Electric Brixton and it takes the huge venue that is the 02 to stage The War of the Worlds, Jeff Wayne’s musical version featuring Liam Neeson and even Jason Donovan!  Bjorn Again perform their ever-popular tribute show at the Shepherds Bush Empire. It’s nearly Christmas so of course Madness will be on at the 02, wouldn’t be the same otherwise!



*All listings correct to the best of my knowledge but exact details should be checked with each venue.

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