11 essential dates for every London culture-vulture’s diary

10th September 2015

London has so many cultural events throughout the year, it’s hard to keep track… so let’s give you a hand.

Here’s our selection of the best intelligent events to enrich your calendar all year round.

1. Open house weekend

When: 19th and 20th September (2015 dates)

London's financial district as viewed from the BT Tower during Open House weekend 2011.

Picture credit: Michael Duxbury on Flickr / Creative Commons

A chance to explore places in London that are normally hidden from view or charge you to get in, for free. This year more than 700 buildings, walks, talks and tours – from 10 Downing Street to London buses and the Bank of England – are available to experience.

The most popular destinations (including the Gherkin) have long queues so go to openhouselondon.org.uk to search the venues and plan your weekend.

2. Nights tours with Thinking Bob

When: 12th, 19th and 26th September 2015


The Night Tube may be delayed – which means we had to postpone our planned weekend of 24-hour shenanigans – but we refuse to be beat and we’re running a few of them anyway. Besides, who doesn’t love a night bus?

Take a look at our Naughty London: Sex, Drugs and Sausage Rolls tour on the 12th September, our After hours Stories: Bullshit Serial Killer Tour on the 19th and our ‘What happens in Vegas…’ Murder Mystery on the 26th for some late-night bobbing action!

3. Sir John Soane Museum candlelit evenings

When: first Tuesday of every month

John Soane Museum, London

Picture credit: stu smith on Flickr / Creative Commons

A museum late like no other, the John Soane Museum candlelit evenings are so popular that they can’t even recommend a time to show up because people always turn up way before whatever time they suggest. So you just have to turn up as early as you can before the doors open at 6pm and hope you get one of the 200 places available.

Have a look at the Soane Museum website for the latest dates.

4. The Oxford and Cambridge Goat Race

When: Sometime around March/April every year

Goat race in london

Picture credit: Jodie C on Flickr / Creative Commons

No, that wasn’t a typo. You’ve done the boat race, now get yourself down to the goat race, which takes place every year at Spitalfields City Farm in east London.

A date for the 2016 race hasn’t yet been announced, but keep an eye on their website for more details.

5. The Serpentine Gallery’s summer pavilion

When: June to October every year

Serpentine gallery summer pavilion 2015

Each year – for 15 years now – a huge structure is designed and erected outside the Serpentine Galleries for the public to enjoy.

2015’s exhibition is a psychedelic ‘crysalis’ by Spanish architects Selgas Cano and, if you haven’t seen it yet, get yourself down there by Sunday 18th October – it’s pretty special. Check the Galleries’ website for more information.

6. More London Free Festival

When: 3rd June to 24th September (2015 dates)

More London Free Festival

Picture credit: mayeesherr. on Flickr / Creative Commons

Watch live music, theatre and films (and give Boris a wave) in the concrete amphitheatre outside the gherkin every summer – all for free. There’s still time to catch this year’s festival: it’s on until late September and thinking bob is going to a lot of the free film screenings, so get those cushions at the ready (you’ll be sitting on concrete for a few hours, after all).

Check the More London website for the full list of events, and take a look at our socials page to see which ones we’re going to.

7. Open Garden Squares weekend

When: 18th-19th June (2016 dates)

Garden of 10 Downing Street in London

Picture credit: Number 10 on Flickr / Creative Commons

200 gardens in 27 London boroughs open their gates every year for one weekend of green fingers and hidden gems. Like Open House weekend, many of the gardens taking part are usually closed to the public, so this is a unique chance to see the secrets hidden behind those walls.

The gardens for 2016 have yet to be announced, but previous years have featured classic London square gardens and roof gardens as well as the gardens of historic buildings, restaurants, schools and shops.

Keep your eyes peeled for news on the Open Garden Squares website.

8. The Rumfest

When: 17th-18th October (2015 dates)

Rum and coke with a bottle of Cruzan rum

Picture credit: Braden Kowitz on Flickr / Creative Commons

If you like your cultural fixes with a shot of something a bit, err, fruitier than coffee, then get yourself down to the Ibis Hotel near Earl’s Court for a whole day’s worth of rum-induced “culture”. The festival website states that ‘Rum is more than a spirit – it’s a lifestyle’ and promise to show you why.

All we know is, we like rum. *Hic*

For more details, visit the RumFest website.

9. Stoke Newington Literary Festival

When: 3rd-5th June (2016 dates)

Stoke Newington’s annual literary festival is fast becoming a major event in London’s cultural calendar. Speakers are already being announced for 2016, including Mark Thomas, Will Self, Polly Vernon and many other authors, writers and literary names.

Save the date for June 2016 and check the website for tickets when they’re released…

10. Eltham Palace Carol Concert

When: 10th December (2015 date)

Eltham Palace Great Hall, east London

Picture credit: DncnH on Flickr / Creative Commons

Held in the Great Hall that saw Henry VIII’s formative years, Eltham Palace’s annual carol concert is the perfect way for a culture-vulture to mark Christmas. The Palace is stunning in itself – its mix of Tudor history and 1930’s art deco interiors mean it’s known as ‘London’s hidden bling’ – and on a winter’s evening filled with carols it promises to be magic.

Booking via the Eltham Palace website is required.

11. Royal Opera House BP Big Screens

When: 10th June to 22nd September (2015 dates)

Royal Opera House BP Big Screens in Trafalgar Square

Picture credit: Garry Knight on Flickr / Creative Commons

A sing-a-long with a difference… Enjoy free, world-class opera and ballet from the Royal Opera House on the big screen in Trafalgar Square every summer – and you’ve still got time to enjoy it this year. The last event in the 2015 calendar is the Royal Ballet’s performance of Romeo and Juliet – how can you refuse an evening with these star-crossed lovers for free? For details see the Royal Opera House website.

Seen something you like, but need people to go with?

London social at thinking bob

Then take some thinking bob members with you! Our members are always up for some evening geekery and sharing the experience of a lecture is the perfect way to find like-minded new people you’ll click with.

Just grab the details of the lecture you want to attend and – providing you’re a thinking bob member (it’s only £1 to join if you’re not) – then you can suggest it for our calendar and we’ll be in touch!

Written by:

Charlotte Gunnell

London blogger at APeaceOfLondon.com on a mission to find chilled-out, cultured and unusual corners of the city. Lover of Lego, loyal bobber and watcher of the odd historical drama.

Follow me on Twitter @apeaceoflondon

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