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Photograph: Time Out

London events in May

Restaurants are reopening. Pubs are back. And, even better? There's loads of actual culture and proper IRL events on the way for May 2021. Get ready – your life is back

By Time Out London Things To Do

May: a month of extra days off work, creeping warmth and pre-summer excitement. It’s one of London’s finest, and it’s right around the corner. While 2021’s fifth month might not be quite as thrilling as the Mays of yesteryear (there’ll be no big nights out or early festivals or even RHS Chelsea Flower Show just yet), it’s sure to be better than 2020’s one. Spend the next few days getting much needed Vitamin D on the terrace of one of London's rooftop bars or in a pretty park. Visit an actual restaurant INDOORS. Get early installments of London’s returning culture (art galleries are back on May 17). Do your first exercise class of the year. And – of course – be sure to make the most of the Bank Holidays with mini-breaks to not-London or seated club nights. Here's our guide to the best events, parties, pop-ups and things to do in May 2021 in London. You're in for one sweet, sweet month.

While your diary’s out, remember that it's never too early to start planning for June either.

RECOMMENDED: The definitive London events calendar

Our May 2021 highlights

Photo: Matthew Johnson

1. Go to Clerkenwell’s classical caff

News City Life

Fidelio Orchestra Café is an eating and drinking establishment in which classical music happens. But not in the way you probably imagine, where posh old people slowly saw through beef fillets while studiously ignoring an insipid string quartet. No, Fidelio’s is for people who a) enjoy fun and b) actually like music. The café is due to open its doors for (Covid-safe) inside concerts from Tuesday May 18. Why is this news, you ask? Well it’s because Fidelio’s has decided that the music of Chopin, Beethoven and Brahms should be available to everyone and so has introduced a new extremely affordable ticket band for all its concerts. For 15 quid you’ll be able to have a pint while watching some of the world’s most skilled musicians play some of the most incredible pieces ever composed.

Photograph: Eataly

2. Visit ginormous Italian food market Eataly

News Eating

Already a familiar sight in 15 countries, Italian food market Eataly is finally dropping anchor in London at the end of April. Its first UK venue is a whopper at Broadgate next to Liverpool Street Station in the City. A kind of epicurean B&Q superstore, the 42,000 square foot temple of gastronomy features a huge retail market, several restaurants, takeaway food stalls, a drinking and dining terrace, and even a cookery school. The market offers more than 5,000 products alongside 2,000 wine labels, constituting London’s biggest cellar.


Kew Gardens
Photograph: Designed by Andrew Parker, 2017 © Lifescaped

3. See ‘the brightest colours ever’ at Kew Gardens

News City Life

Have you ever looked at the iridescent colours on the wings of a butterfly and thought: ‘how can I recreate that?’ Well, there is a way, and it involves a new technology called Pure Structural Colour, a method developed by scientific researchers at Lifescaped lab that can synthetically produce any shade of colour in its most vivid form using transparent materials. The technology is at the centre of Kew Gardens’ upcoming exhibition ‘Naturally Brilliant Colour’ which will feature artworks created using Pure Structural Colour. The curators at Kew aren’t holding back, and are making some big promises for the show, including a chance to see the ‘brightest colours ever to have been created’, a giant kaleidoscope and an evolutionary journey through vision and colour that will chart back through a tidy 500 million years. 


A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare's Globe 2019
© Tristram Kenton

4. Step back into Shakespeare’s Globe

Theatre Shakespeare Shakespeare's Globe, South Bank

Theatres can reopen from May 17, and most of them aren’t messing around. There's been no outdoor theatre at London’s iconic Shakespeare’s Globe since 2019, but it roars back into action with ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, from May 19.

Brixton Courtyard
Jake Davis

5. Party sitting down at Brixton Courtyard

News Nightlife

Brixton Courtyard has been a great fixture in a year of otherwise zero DJs and clubnights and general fun. Its outdoor space has seen a consistently great line-up of DJs and parties, and now that it’s able to reopen along with the rest of London’s beer gardens and terraces, it’s pulled together a stonking bill of entertainment for the grateful masses (that’s you/us). Spring highlights include Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard, the proudly rearing-on-their-hind-legs Horse Meat Disco, Bolier Room regular Ahadadream and Carnival legends Channel One. There’s also a new regular Sunday brunch with food from Only Jerkin’ (who are also going to be on hand for the other events dishing up barbecue, fried chicken, hot wings and more).


Jules Richard Rodin dans son atelier Musée Rodin, Ph.02392 © Musée Rodin
Photograph: Jules Richard Rodin dans son atelier Musée Rodin, Ph.02392 © Musée Rodin

6. Catch ‘The Making of Rodin’ at Tate Modern

By now, we’ve all seen Auguste Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’, but you might be less familiar with his 1898 sculpture ‘Balzac’, a monument to the French novelist that may or may not depict him fondling his penis beneath his coat. The artist was influenced by the sculptures of ancient Greece, but as this Tate Modern exhibition seeks to show, Rodin was a modern radical. Tate Modern. May 18-Nov 21. £18, £17 concs. Find out more here


Lloyd Park
Photograph: Teds Veg, Lloyd Park

7. Find food markets in pretty places

Shopping Markets and fairs

Gearing up for one last ‘big lockdown stroll’? Try the Hampstead Heath Circular Walk. Time it just right on a Saturday or Sunday, and you can finish up with a takeaway pint and big slab of mature farmhouse cheddar from the stalls at Parliament Hill Farmers’ Market. William Ellis School, off Highgate Road.
Every Sat and Sun.

Every Saturday, Lloyd Park is taken over by a bigger-than-you’d-expect street-food market. Traders change a little each week, but you’re guaranteed to find single-origin coffee and some sourdough. Watch out for the plethora of hyper toddlers that have the run of the park each weekend. Lloyd Park. Every Sat.

8. Schedule in an open water swim

Things to do Event spaces Manor House

Sessions at West Reservoir Centre are only open to experienced open-water swimmers, but courses for beginners will be offered as the temperature increases. The reservoir covers 23 acres, with a clear view of the built-up London skyline, which makes it feel like you are taking a giant, freezing bath right in the middle of the city. Green Lanes. £10 (for non-Better members). Find out more here

Pajor Pawel/Shutterstock

9. Plan your Bank Holiday in London

Things to do

Sound the long weekend klaxon! Spring is upon us and you know what that means – there's a bank holiday on the horizon. The early May bank holiday on Monday May 3 2021 is one of two bank holidays this month. The second, late May bank holiday falls on Monday May 31 2021. This means you have many sweet, empty days to fill. Make them count.

Rooftop Film Club
Photograph: Rooftop Film Club

10. Pull up to Rooftop Film Club’s drive-in cinema


Rooftop Film Club is doing its best to push the LA-style drive-in dream at multiple locations: the romantic horizon of Alexandra Palace, and the not-so-romantic rooftop of Brent Cross Shopping Centre. The movies on the slate are the usual event-cinema fare (‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘Dirty Dancing’) but there are some welcome surprises, like  ‘Dazed and Confused’ and director Lee Isaac Chung’s intimate Korean family drama ‘Minari’ (Brent Cross). If you happen to have a dog, a car and a high tolerance for whimsy, there’s also the option of a canine-friendly screening of ‘Isle of Dogs’ (May 2, Ally Pally) where there will be dog dress-up, pup popcorn and an appearance from the ‘puparazzi’. We did say a high tolerance for whimsy. Alexandra Palace, Brent Cross Shopping Centre. Various dates until May 16. From £27.50 per car. Find out more here

Concept art by Mary Blair for Walt Disney's 1951 adaptation of Alice in Wonderland
Concept art by Mary Blair for Walt Disney's 1951 adaptation of Alice in Wonderland © Disney

12. Book a ticket to the V&A’s ‘Alice: Curiouser & Curiouser’

News Art

Like Lewis Carroll’s Alice, we’ve all been living on the wrong side of the mirror this year, so it feels like a good time for this V&A exhibition, which explores the way Carroll’s character has been milked to death by the visual worlds of fashion, illustration, film and photography. They can add this event listing to the pile. Find out more here


13. Get sweaty at a fitness class for the first time this year

Sport and fitness Exercise classes

Whether you’re craving a space for peace and mindfulness or fancy sweating it out in a high-octane rowing class, London’s health and fitness options are wide-ranging. Whether you want to try a completely new activity such as a skipping class at 12x3, challenge yourself on the gymnastic rings at Gymbox or simply perfect old-school weightlifting techniques with BXR’s Form & Focus class. Let’s not forget the classics either – from Barry’s Bootcamp to Barrecore. There’s something for everyone on the London fitness scene, but here’s our pick of the best exercise classes in London right now. 

14. Head on a chill weekend break

Things to do

Don't know about you, but a relaxing trip with no airports or Brexit-related passport queue confusion sounds pretty tempting already. And while the weather's going to be a bit hit and miss you can't beat the UK's restaurants, museums, shops and stunning scenery. When you want to get out of London without any faff, look no further than these gorgeous getaways – from cosy rural retreats to proper city breaks.

Gilbert & George, ‘Priority Seat’ (2020)
Image: White Cube

15. Pop into a commercial gallery for an art fix

News Art

London’s art scene has been locked down with the rest of us, but now it’s had a towel down, spat in the bucket and is coming out of its corner swinging. The major art galleries are reopening on or around May 17, including major shows from Matthew Barney, Zanele Muholi and Jean Dubuffet. Until then, there are scores of shows at small independents. We've rounded up where you should be heading to get your spring art fix. Check with the galleries first if you ned to book an appointment.

Photograph: Shutterstock

16. Spot bluebells blooming across London

News City Life

Between April and May, the elusive bluebell comes out to play, creating a carpet of cobalt across the country. We've rounded up the best places to catch them in London. Don’t wait around, these guys don’t stay in bloom for long. Just remember, no picking them – the native flowers are a protected species.


hwk, the lot, hackney wick
Photograph: HWK

17. Have a party in a Hackney Wick car park

News Nightlife

You know that Joni Mitchell song about paving paradise to put up a parking lot? (‘You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone’ etc). Well, in Hackney Wick, the exact opposite is happening –an alfresco paradise has popped up IN a parking lot. The space was the car park at Hackney venue HWK, which opened up as an events space last summer. Now, it has a new name – The Lot – and is officially open again as of this week. New for this year, the venue now has a custom-built sound system, which will come in handy for its weekly programme of ace DJs. You can also expect a new food offering thanks to an outdoor kitchen and barbecue, which will be dishing up Californian- and Mexican-inspired dishes including beer-battered fish tacos, tuna tostadas and loaded burritos.


Photo of buses in a museum!
London Transport Museum

18. Get your tube fix at London Transport Museum After Dark

News City Life

Like ‘Hollyoaks After Dark or Ballie Balllerson, the Thursday evening events are basically a spicier version of just visiting the (mainly for children) museum but for adults’ eyes only, shhh. You can expect all of your favourite classic museum late activities like interactive poetry sessions, quizzes, panel talks and drinking lukewarm wine from disposable cups. Plus, each session is themed around hot topics like London’s lost rivers and the history of the Thames Tunnel. They kick off from mid-May and will run every couple of weeks, from 6.30pm until 9pm.

Find great things to do all year round


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