Get us in your inbox

Search
Maltby Street Market, Bermondsey
Photograph: Tavi IonescuMaltby Street Market, Bermondsey

Free things to do in London this weekend

Make the most of your free time without breaking the bank, thanks to our round-up of free things to do at the weekend

Written by
Things To Do Editors
Advertising

Don't let your cash flow, or lack of it, get in the way of having a banging weekend. Read our guide to free things to do in London this weekend and you can make sure that your Friday, Saturday and Sunday go off with a bang, without eating up your bucks. After all, the best things in life are free. 

If that's whetted your appetite for events and cultural happenings in London, get planning further ahead by having a gander over our events calendar.

RECOMMENDED: Save even more dosh by taking a look at our guide to cheap London.

  • Art
  • price 0 of 4
  • Euston

Happiness isn’t hip. We like tortured artists, not happy ones. Think of the countless millions of sad songs about loneliness, heartbreak and misery. Then think of the happy ones. It’s ‘Walking on Sunshine’ and that’s it. Well, the Wellcome Collection doesn’t care, it absolutely loves Katrina and the Waves, and its new shows are all about happiness. ‘Tranquility’ comes first and you’re immediately confronted by Jasleen Kaur’s yoga-critical installation made of giant crystals and palo santo, taking aim at the exploitative, culturally insensitive practices of the wellness industry. It’s followed by old Taoist, Buddhist and German images of quiet, contemplative isolation, and sci fi master Octavia E Butler’s notes to self, filled with pleas of empowerment, before you find a thirteenth century book about centering the body that reads like it’s straight out of a 2018 juice bar.  You then get to sit silently in Chrystel Lebas’ immersive installation of photographs of ancient forests as the sound of a river burbles by. It’s forest bathing as photography. It’s calm, tranquil, but you can’t help thinking: do we really need an artist’s recreation of a forest when we can just, you know, go to a forest?  Upstairs, the ‘Joy’ exhibition tackles ideas of ecstatic happiness. Harold Offeh’s dancers in yellow are isolated but trying to lose themselves. David Shrigley does his usual wry, sardonic thing with drawings of rants and skulls and thumbs. Then there are ancient illustrations of whirling

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Art
  • price 0 of 4
  • Finchley Road

Allison Katz is in relentless pursuit of what she calls ‘genuine ambiguity’. Not that fake stuff you get off dodgy websites, but the pure, uncut, good shit: top grade ambiguity. So the Canadian artist’s paintings are - as you can guess - pretty ungraspable things, filled with symbols and concepts that mean multiple things, that signify contrasting ideas. They are, in other words, ambiguous AF.  The show opens with a painting of the inside of a lift. The perspective draws you in towards its gleaming silver surfaces, ready to usher you to the floor of your choosing. It’s the perfect start; a lift is the ultimate ‘liminal’ space, a constant in-between, a space that’s never permanently one thing or another, it’s always changing. Chickens show up a lot in this show, and eggs too, lots of eggs. Both hard and fragile, caught between conception and hatching, the egg is, again, an ambiguous object. One room here is made up of paintings seen from the inside of a mouth, the teeth and lips acting as a framing device for visions of a woman sat on a floor (a self-portrait), a cat, a room of paintings and another chicken, Behind each work is a painting of a cabbage. It’s an incessant clash of the super weird with the super mundane. Other works here depict a naked man in a field of bulls, or a car seen from the inside of another car. And you start to realise that everything is linked. The symbols here all repeat, you can draw lines between the works. All this chaos is connected. I don't thin

Advertising
  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Art
  • price 0 of 4
  • Hyde Park

There’s a strong possibility that we’re all being scammed, that the mind-frying success of American street-pop sensation KAWS is just an incredibly dark CIA psyop, or the work of a cabal of billionaire cultists in robes, hellbent on making people think – against everything they know to be true – that KAWS isn’t actually the worst artist of the twenty-first century. Because this show is room after room, wall after wall of vacuous, pointless, empty bullshit. KAWS has been given his first UK institutional show and it’s as hatefully tedious as anyone who’s ever seen his art would imagine it to be. For decades, KAWS has built a brand out of ultra-colourful toy imagery, appropriated cartoon aesthetics and mouse figures with Xs for eyes. Disney for Banksy fans, over and over and over. And it sells. This crap goes for millions. But it’s always remained the preserve of tech bros and coke-addled financiers, tat for people with infinitely more money than taste or brains. But now, it’s here, in a proper, respected art institution, and it reeks. There are a few of KAWS’s big sub-Cartoon Network sculptures – a neon orange behemoth, a little grey one, a family of monochrome black ones – but the bulk of the show is canvases. And they are, somehow, worse. They’re all glossy neon stripes and cartoon shapes, crossed-out eyes, Spongebob mouths and Nickelodeon colours. I could headbutt my keyboard and I’d be putting more effort into reviewing these paintings than KAWS has put into making them.  I

Christmas by the River
  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • price 0 of 4
  • Tower Bridge

London Bridge City’s annual Christmas market is back from November 16. You can expect extremely scenic views over the river and a bunch of lovely winter cabins offering pop-up boozers, street food and festive craft items. There will, as per usual, be lots of workshops and events organised, so keep an eye on official announcements.  Local bars will be serving up Christmas cocktails, warm cider, mulled wine and craft beers, while over 60 traders will be on hand selling gourmet treats and handmade gifts. Find more festive fun with our guide to Christmas in London

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • Quirky events
  • price 0 of 4
  • Isle of Dogs

The bright lights of Canary Wharf's towers are quite the spectacle after dark, but the business district will glow brighter than usual for 11 days in January thanks to the addition of sparkling illuminations created by artists from around the world. The Winter Lights festival returns for its seventh edition with a new set of dazzling artworks, installations and interactive experiences, plus some old favourites from previous years. ‘Permafrost – Sleeping Giants’ by Fisheye will bring three brightly coloured life-size mammoths to the area, 12 glowing swans will glide across the water in formation and Camille Walala’s mural at Adams Plaza Bridge, ‘Captivated by Colour’, will be transformed by light especially for the festival. All 27 of the artworks are free to visit and a map showing their locations will be available to download from the Winter Lights website soon. There will be food and drink stalls along the trail and many of Canary Wharf’s shops, restaurants and bars will be running special offers and discounts.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Art
  • price 0 of 4
  • Hyde Park

Hervé Télémaque saw the political potential of Pop, and pushed it to bursting. Born and raised in Haiti, Télélmaque spent a few years immersed in the abstract expressionism of New York before settling in Paris in the early 1960s. There, he set about building a visual language that would fuse pop aesthetics, found imagery and abstraction, all with a singularly political purpose.  The 1960s paintings here are angry, intense, colourful things. He takes aim at racist tropes in French culture, pictures of police brutality and military imagery. It’s brutal, impactful stuff, like a vicious mix of Tintin, Lichtenstein and radical politics. The self-portrait, playing on comic book depictions of black people, is the perfect distillation of all those ideas. Earlier works are rougher and harsher, full of angry brushstrokes and graffiti-like marks, a sort of proto-Basquiat. The later paintings are a little too bloated and aimless to have anything like the same impact. They’re not as clear in their intentions or targets, and sort of stumble as a result. It’s the 1950s and ’60s works that really standout. Radical, personal, passionate, and with a defined aesthetic. Pop perfection.

Advertising
  • Things to do
  • Quirky events
  • price 0 of 4
  • Peckham

Love belting out showtunes to a crowd of strangers? Then Peckham Skylight's West End Open Mic Night has got your name all over it. Bring your own sheet music – fancy! – and Josh Cottell will accompany you on piano as you holler along to any number of Broadway bangers, from Cats' Memories to Wicked's Defying Gravity. There'll also be special West End hosts, bringing a little razzle dazzle from London's theatre district all the way to Peckham. You can book a table if you like, but walk-ins are also accepted and the sign up sheet is first come first served. 

  • Art
  • price 0 of 4
  • Bank

It’s like Trigger’s Broom down in the London Mithraeum. The ancient Roman Temple of Mithras was discovered in the 1950s, moved about a bit, covered in crazy paving, moved into storage and then moved back a few metres from where they first found it, reassembled piece by piece each time. If you move a building from where it was built, is it still the same building? If you rebuild it, is it still itself? That’s one of the questions Korean artist Do Ho Suh is contending with upstairs, where he’s built his own recreation of an ancient temple: the long lost Sach’onwang-sa from the city of Gyeongju.  He’s recreated it based on a single account, imagining how it would have looked in its heyday. A square of stones marks the base and a frame above holds a rainbow of taut, shimmering fabric with a structure of twisting crystalline orange forms hung from the middle. It’s not an especially impressive work - if anything, it looks like a tarted up Argos gazebo - and it feels a little bit like it was just plonked in the space without much care. But what it lacks in that department it goes some way in making up for with its ideas, because a movable temple makes so much more sense when considered in the context of the Temple of Mithras, an ancient place of worship and revelry and prayer that has been endlessly moved and shifted and pushed about. Do Ho Suh’s structure takes that idea as a leaping off point to explore a world of rituals, prayer, transitoriness and power (the original temple was

Advertising
  • Art
  • price 0 of 4
  • Oxford Street

The latest pop-up to occupy the ever-changing Corner Shop in Selfridges Oxford Street, Universe is a wavy new exhibition exploring the work of Victor Vasarely, a groundbreaking French-Hungarian artist who was a key figure within the mid-twentieth century Op-art movement. A collaboration between the Vasarely Foundation, fashion house Paco Rabanne and Selfridges, the exhibition showcases Vasarely’s seriously wavy optical illusions and explores the artist’s enormous influence on both his contemporaries (like Paco Rabanne himself) and the tastemakers of today. Alongside checking out 55 seriously trippy op-artworks and sculptures — some of which are even available to purchase — you can also shop an exclusive collection of Vasarely-inspired products, as well as the Paco Rabanne Spring Summer 2022 collection, for which creative director Julien Dossena took inspiration from some of Vasarely’s geometric patterns. Wavy!

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Art
  • price 0 of 4
  • Fitzrovia

The way it usually goes with painters is that they’ll start off with the real stuff – still lifes, portraits, landscapes, etc – and then get progressively more abstract as they evolve and grow and experiment.  Not Mary Ramsden though, she’s gone the opposite way. The young English painter’s 2017 show at this gallery was all super bright abstraction covered in swirling love hearts. But this, this is something else. This is figuration. The works in this new show are all interiors: kitchen tables, dining chairs, sofas, stacks of paper, lamps. She’s chucked out most of the abstraction and gone fully domestic. And it’s proof of what a good painter she is that despite this lurch away from what’s traditionally seen as the more experimental side of her medium, everything here is still weird, still experimental, still unsettling. Every one of Ramsden’s interiors is pixelated, made of flat, clashing planes of colour. A table is a block of toothpaste green, floors are dappled splodges of pink or blue. The ultra-marine and fleshy pink triptych is gorgeous, the neon yellow and pea green diptych too. And in the smaller works, it’s like all the figurative ideas have been condensed into tiny explosions of domesticity. It all looks like what an AI would come up with when asked to imagine a living room, stuck in a slightly uncanny valley of recognisability. It exists just on the cusp of abstraction, like Ramsden has captured it just as it was all about to dissolve into nothingness. There are b

WTTDLondon

Recommended
    You may also like
      Best-selling Time Out offers
        Advertising