The best things to do in London this May

A South London jazz festival, a French-inspired bistro and a boundary-breaking exhibition top our picks of the best things to do in the British capital this May

Last updated: May 10, 2024
Orange smoke machines coat the stage at south London jazz festival Cross the Tracks
Cross the Tracks, Brixton

With British springtime well and truly underway, alfresco dining, seasonal pop-ups and London’s glorious green spaces are coming into their own. May kicks off and concludes with a long weekend, with London Craft Week, Chelsea Flower Show and RideLondon sandwiched between. There’s a whole lot of other exciting stuff happening this month, too. From a Middle Eastern rooftop restaurant arriving in Soho to a new neighbourhood wine bar opening in Fitzrovia – plus Hackney’s best-loved music festival and a slew of must-visit exhibitions – here is the ultimate shortlist of the best things to do in London this month.

Seasonal things to do in London

A person stands beneath a tree, where sunlight beams between branches
Forest Bathing at Kew. Photo by Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

Forest Bathing at Kew

When: 27 April – 5 October
Location: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AE
Price: Non-members 60 GBP 

Forest bathing – also known as shinrin-yoku – is the Japanese practice of connecting with nature through breathwork exercises that are said to de-stress and support the immune system. This spring, Kew is hosting a series of weekly events in partnership with the experts from London-based Forest Bathing Institute. The two-hour sessions include a walking trail through seasonal blooms, listening to the waterfall at Temperate House, discovering the tallest tree in the 500-acre grounds, smelling the earth and relaxing beneath an evergreen tree canopy. Coincide your visit with the International Day for Biological Diversity on 22 May and explore Kew’s diverse botanical collections.

A pink large-scale weaving painting
A large-scale woven painting by Cecilia Charlton

London Craft Week

When: 13 – 19 May
Price: From 20 GBP 

London Craft Week is celebrating its tenth anniversary this month, bringing together the finest creativity and craftsmanship from established and emerging global artists and designers. Spread across various locations in London, a roster of exhibitions, installations, panel discussions and workshops will take place. We recommend checking the website to find something that suits you, but a few must-visits include a clay tile workshop with talented ceramicist Lucy Smith at House of Hackney, knot and wool demonstrations at the Design Museum and embroidery sessions, courtesy of artist Cecilia Charlton at the Garden Museum.

A botanical cocktail with lemon slices at Ganymede in Belgravia
A zesty cocktail at Ganymede, Belgravia

Chelsea Flower Show

When: 21 – 25 May
Location: Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London, SW3 4SL
Price: From 47.85 GBP

It’s no secret that the Chelsea Flower Show once conjured images of a more traditional crowd, but a youthful tribe have injected a new lease of life into the springtime spectacle of late. A handful of local addresses are supporting the event, too. The Hunter’s Moon pub in Fulham has revealed an exceptional British garden menu, while nearby Ganymede restaurant in Belgravia presents delicious botanical-themed plates. Sustainability can also be traced in the garden displays with the addition of the “green audit”, where a designer’s environmental footprint is measured through material selection, impact on biodiversity and waste evaluation, resulting in an increase in reclaimed materials.

A group of cyclists at RideLondon pictured at sunset
RideLondon cyclists set off from Victoria Embankment. Photo by Jon Super

RideLondon

When: 26 May
Price: From 32 GBP

A legacy from the 2012 Olympics, RideLondon ranks as Britain’s largest cycling event with more than 75,000 cyclists set to descend on the city’s traffic-free streets on 26 May. There are three different routes that vary in distance, with the 100-mile course remaining the firm favourite. Riders will set off from Victoria Embankment, pedalling through east London to the rolling greenery of the Essex countryside before returning to the capital to cross the finish line at Tower Bridge. Tickets and charity spaces are still available, but are expected to sell out soon.

Food and drink happenings in London

A plate of seasoned chips and a pork sandwich
Tóu, Borough Market. Photo by Caitlin Isola

Tóu, Borough Market

Location: 8 Bedale St, London, SE1 9AL
Price: Small plates from 3.50 GBP; large plates from 16.50 GBP

London’s favourite Japanese pop-up is back, and this time Tóu has taken over the upstairs of Borough Market staple The Globe Tavern. Sibling to Tā Tā eatery, founders Ana Gonçalves and Zijun Meng have refined the limited menu with the addition of ice cream sundaes and natural wines alongside cult classics like the ibérico pork katsu sando: pork neck cutlet, cabbage, raspberry and shallot sauce sandwiched together in perfectly toasted brioche. Interiors inspired by the 1970s feature bold colours and glossy finishes, while a killer jazz soundtrack creates a go-slow vibe. It’s worth noting that Tóu operates on a walk-ins only basis and is open from Thursday to Sunday.

Candlelit tables, vintage mirrors and banquettes at French bistro Josephine
A look inside Josephine Bouchon, Chelsea

Josephine Bouchon, Chelsea

Location: 315A Fulham Road, London, SW10 9QH
Price: Small plates from 8.50 GBP; large plates from 18 GBP

Michelin-starred chef Claude Bosi and his wife Lucy are the force behind some of London’s hottest restaurants right now – Socca Bistro and Brooklands at The Peninsula are among the standouts – and they’re showing no signs of slowing down with the recent opening of Josephine Bouchon on Fulham Road. Red leather banquettes, tables dressed in white cloth, gallery walls, brass lights and linen cafe curtains are a tasteful nod to Claude’s Lyonnais roots. Start by ordering the steak tartare with a side of French onion soup, followed by the Cornish cod in a shallot butter sauce. Polish it all off with an extra-large slice of the lemon meringue tart.

A table setting at July with white wine and small plates
A table setting at July. Photo by Safia Shakarchi

July, Fitzrovia

Location: 10 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 2LT
Price: Small plates from 4 GBP; Large plates from 18 GBP 

July is the new neighbourhood restaurant and wine bar from partners Julian Oschmann and Solynkya Dumas on Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia. First bonding over a shared love of flavour, before hosting a string of successful supper clubs, July marks the first venture from the pair with an ambition to bring joy to the table. The all-day dining space – defined by its vibrant artworks, vintage furnishings and warm yellow accents – presents Alsatian-inspired plates, courtesy of chef Holly Haynes (formerly of 40 Maltby Street) and a low-intervention bottle list carefully curated by sommelier Honey Spencer. There’s also a lunch menu offering a fine selection of sandwiches: we recommend the roast beef, horseradish, crème fraiche and watercress.

Freshly made pasta sheets at Darling's Hackney Wick
Freshly made pasta at Darling's, Hackney Wick

Darling’s, Hackney Wick

Location: 455 Wick Lane, London, E3 2TB
Price: TBC

Following a successful crowd-funding campaign, Egle Loit’s pasta joint Darling’s has graduated from a Walthamstow pop-up to a permanent space in Bow. Inside, guests are encouraged to share their space with other parties on a bleached wood communal table lined by candles and linen fabrics. As for the food, a changing menu might include signatures such as paccheri with pistachio and brown shrimps or an exceptional casarecce with smoky tomato and burrata. For those keen to hone their cooking skills, weekly pasta-making workshops take place on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Middle Eastern plates at Yasmin restaurant in Soho
Yasmin, Soho. Photo by DRFRvisuals

Yasmin, Soho

Location: 1 Warwick St, London, W1B 5LR
Price: Small plates from 4 GBP; large plates from 8 GBP

Located atop Soho’s shiny new members’ club 1 Warwick, 64-cover Yasmin is the latest addition to London’s finest alfresco date spots this summer. Bag yourself a seat on the outdoor terrace amid potted plants and strings of fairy lights and get to work on the Middle Eastern menu. Charred flatbread with a sesame seed hummus, golden raisins and peanut dressing is a good place to start, and the lamb rump skewer with pomegranate, or buttermilk harissa bavette steak stand out among the larger plates. It goes without saying that the baklava and pistachio ice cream sandwich is a winner. Feasting menus, including an impressive all-veggie option, starts from 55 GBP.

An abstract painting and pink seating frame a table at Café Britaly
Interiors at Café Britaly, Peckham. Photo by Steven Joyce

Café Britaly, Peckham

Location: 191 Rye Ln, London, SE15 4TP
Price: Small plates from 4.50 GBP; large plates from 14 GBP 

This month marks the opening of Peckham’s much-anticipated Café Britaly, and if you hadn’t already guessed by the name, the food is a blend of British and Italian cooking. Brought to life by Richard Crampton-Platt and Alex Purdie – who first met in the kitchen of Soho’s Bocca Di Luppo – menus take inspiration from their shared love of 1950s cafe culture in London: think no-fuss breakfast sandwiches alongside grand evening specials. Be sure to try the extra-creamy carbonara served with a fried egg, and don’t miss the busiate pasta with asparagus, peas and broccoli. Café Britaly opens its doors on 8 May.

The best exhibitions in London

An artwork by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, Der Blaue Reiter, R. Piper & Co., as seen at Tate Modern Expressionists exhibition
An artwork by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, Der Blaue Reiter, R. Piper & Co., Munich, 1912

Expressionists: Kandinsky, Münter and The Blue Rider at Tate Modern

Location: Tate Modern, Bankside, London, SE1 9TG
When: Until 20 October
Price: 22 GBP

Tate Modern brings together boundary-breaking artwork from the celebrated Munich-based group The Blue Rider this summer. Forming in the early 20th century, friends and artists including Wassily Kandinsky, Gabriele Münter and Franz Marc transformed the modern art landscape with experimental colour, sound and light. In partnership with the Lenbachhaus museum, the curation sees some 130 artworks brought to the UK for the first time in more than 60 years with freestyle performance, experimental photography and abstract paintings dotted throughout.

Artwork from Nick Waplington's Living Room Exhibition
A snapshot from Nick Waplington: Living Room at Hamiltons Gallery

Nick Waplington: Living Room at Hamiltons Gallery

Location: 13 Carlos Place, London W1K 2EU
When: Until 1 June
Price: Free

Photographer Nick Waplington originally published his best-selling book Living Room in 1991 – a collection of images showcasing the lives of friends, families and neighbours on the Broxtowe housing estate in 1980s Nottingham. Fast forward to 2024 and Waplington has released a selection of unseen film images from the same archive. These are currently available to view at Hamiltons Gallery in Mayfair in a thought-provoking exhibition offering an insight into the everyday homes of Thatcher’s Britain.

The best things to do in London this month | Unravel at The Barbican
Solange Pessoa, Hammock (part of 4 Hammocks), 1999-2003. Courtesy of Rubell Museum. Photo by Photo: Chi Lam

Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art at The Barbican

Location: Barbican Art Gallery, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS
When: Until 26 May
Price: 18 GBP

Unravel at the Barbican explores how artists from the 1960s to today have explored the transformative and subversive potential of textiles, harnessing the medium to question power, who holds it and how it can be reclaimed. From small handcrafted pieces to large-scale sculptural installations, the exhibition brings together more than 100 pieces by 50 international artists, working across stitching, braiding, weaving, beading and knotting.

The best things to do in London this month | Yoko Ono at Tate Modern
Yoko Ono with Half-A-Room (1967) from HALF-A-WIND SHOW, Lisson Gallery, London, 1967. Photo by Clay Perry

Yoko Ono: Music of the Mind at Tate Modern

Location: Tate Modern, Bankside, London, SE1 9TG
When: Until 1 September
Price: 22 GBP

Tate Modern is hosting the UK’s largest exhibition celebrating the work of artist and activist Yoko Ono, particularly her trailblazing early conceptual and participatory art, film and performance. Spanning seven decades of the artist’s multidisciplinary practice, the show traces the development of her work and its impact on contemporary culture, bringing together more than 200 works including installations, scores, films, music, and photography. Also featured are her instruction pieces, which instruct the viewer to complete the work, sometimes with a single verb, such as ‘Touch’, or phrase like ‘Listen to a heartbeat’. A particular focus in the exhibition is her radical work created during her time living in London in the 1960s.

The best things to do in London this month | Skateboard at The Design Museum
Laura Thornhill skating in 1977

Skateboard at the Design Museum

Location: 224-238 Kensington High Street, London W8 6AG
When: Until 2 June 2024
Price: From 14.38 GBP

Skaters can ride a ramp at the Design Museum’s latest exhibition this spring, which traces the history of skateboard design from its DIY origins in the 1950s to the tech-informed professional-standard models of the present day. The exhibition is curated by author, designer and skater Jonathan Olivares, and is the first of its kind in the UK to explore skateboard design in such depth. Ninety unique designs are on display alongside more than 100 other objects, including hardware, VHS tapes, DVDs, magazines and other ephemera.

Large-scale paintings by Georg Baselitz frame the walls at White Cube Gallery
Large-scale paintings frame the walls at White Cube Gallery in Bermondsey

Georg Baselitz: A Confession of My Sins at White Cube

Location: 144-152, Bermondsey St, London SE1 3TQ
When: Until 16 June
Price: Free

German artist Georg Baselitz has taken over the White Cube gallery in Bermondsey this spring with his solo exhibition A Confession of My Sins. Bringing together 50 large-scale paintings and works on paper that the 86-year-old has created in the last year, featuring childhood memories of his hometown in a small village in Saxony and self-portraits with his partner Elke. There is a true sense of journey and movement throughout three rooms as Baselitz reflects on his artistic journey over the past six decades.

The best things to do in London this April | Sir Ian McKellen and Toheeb Jimoh in Player Kings
Sir Ian McKellen and Toheeb Jimoh in Robert Icke's Player Kings at the Noël Coward Theatre

Cultural Happenings in London

Player Kings at the Noël Coward Theatre

Location: 85-88 St Martin’s lane, London, WC2N 4AP
When: Until 22 June
Price: From 90 GBP

Sir Ian McKellen takes to the West End at the Nöel Coward Theatre this spring in award-winning director Robert Icke’s Player Kings production, a seamless retelling of both parts of Shakespeare’s best-loved Henry IV plays. Toheeb Jimoh (Ted Lasso) and Richard Coyle (Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore) will also appear on stage. There are just two months before the show sets off to tour Bristol, Birmingham and Newcastle, so grab your tickets now.

Sun-drenched crowds party at Queen's Yard Summer Party, Hackney Wick
Queen's Yard Summer Party, Hackney Wick

Queen’s Yard Summer Party

Location: Hackney Wick, multiple venues
When: Until May
Price: From 62 GBP

A honeypot for techno and house music fans, Queen’s Yard Summer Party is back for 2024 – conveniently falling across the early May bank holiday weekend. Dotted across multiple venues in Hackney Wick, including Crate Brewery, The Yard Theatre, Grow and Colour Factory, revellers can expect sounds from the likes of Daisy Moon, El Ganzo, Freshta, Harry James and Saturn Sisters. Collaborative efforts from local drinking dens such as Howling Hops, Beer Merchants Tap and Nico’s Bar means you’ll be hard pressed not to find craft beers, cocktails and tasty pizzas along the canal.

Vinyl fans gather at London's Independent Label Market
Independent Label Market, King's Cross

Independent Label Market

Location: Stable Street, King’s Cross, London, N1C 4DQ
When: 11 May
Price: Free

Independent Label Market has become something of a mecca for music lovers since its inception in 2011, bringing together founders and fans of the best independent record labels, with fairs across all different pockets of the world. This month the market returns to its hometown in London, with Coal Drops Yard geared up to host top UK labels including Big Dada, Brainfeeder, Marathon, Secretly Canadian and Chess Club, alongside performances from Soundway, Time Capsule, Goddezz and Fire Records. Outside of vinyl rarities, test pressings and signed discs, London Brewers’ Market will provide local craft beers and The Standard is throwing an afterparty.

Orange smoke machines coat the stage at south London jazz festival Cross the Tracks
Cross the Tracks, Brixton

Cross the Tracks 

Location: Brockwell Park, London, SE24 ONG 
When: 26 May
Price: From 74.50 GBP

South London jazz, funk and soul festival Cross the Tracks has prepared a stellar line-up for its fifth edition with headliners including En Vogue, BadBadNotGood, Erykah Badu, Eve and DJ Madlib. Emerging artists such as Ella Moore, Naima Adams, Faye Meana, and Dargz will also take to the stage. From independent craft stalls to flavour-packed food vendors and interactive workshops – plus plenty of panel discussions – this is the ultimate playground for pleasure-seekers looking to kick-start their festival season.

Continue your cultural tour of London with our insider guide to the city’s greatest galleries and museums.