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17 must-do things in London this summer

Careful not to scorch your calendar, now – summer in London is looking seriously hot

London during the summer is the best place on earth. Fact. Yes, there may be a tourist at every corner you turn; yes, the the kids are let loose for the school holidays; and yes, the sunshine might not exactly be scorching, but none of that matters when you’re faced with a line-up as hot as this. From new art blockbusters and fresh faces in the West End, to London music festivals and a beachload of fun things to do, here’s 17 events you don't want to miss this summer. Ice creams not included.

Open Garden Squares Weekend
© NTPL/Stuart Cox

Open Garden Squares Weekend

Sat June 18-Sun June 19 Various gardens in London
More than 200 gardens will unlock their gates for a weekend to take part in this annual summer event. Spanning 27 boroughs, the gardens take all sorts of forms, from traditional squares to roof terraces, as well as gardens belonging to historic buildings. 138 of the gardens taking part this year are normally closed to the public, so it's the perfect chance to do some serious shrubbery snooping. 

Unlock more details to the Open Garden Squares Weekend in London

The ArcelorMittal Orbit slide

The ArcelorMittal Orbit slide

Fri June 24-Sat Dec 31 ArcelorMittal Orbit, Stratford
Belgian artist Carsten Höller (who set up a pair of spiral slides outside the Hayward Gallery as part of his 2015 exhibition) has designed this new addition to the Olympic Park's sculpture-cum-attraction. Opening this summer, it promises to be the world's longest and tallest slide. 

Read more about the ArcelorMittal Orbit Slide plans

Sundance Film Festival at Picturehouse Central

Sundance Film Festival at Picturehouse Central

Thu June 2-Sun June 5 Picturehouse Central
The Sundance Film Festival is back for a long weekend in June, featuring UK premieres of some of the hottest movies and docs from the mother festival in January. This year the whole festival will unspool for the first time at the gorgeous Picturehouse Central cinema in the West End.

Check out the full line-up of films with our Sundance Film Festival 2016 guide

Bao opens a second restaurant
© Rob Greig

Bao opens a second restaurant

Opening June 2016 31 Windmill Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 2JN 
Bao down London, the Taiwanese steamed bun maestro Bao is opening its second branch this summer. Just off Tottenham Court, Bao will be bringing its queue-worthy buns and snacks to Fitzrovia, plus some new sharing dishes. We hear that the site will have double the amount of seats (yay!) but sadly this one will also be no reservations (boo!). 

Head to the original Bao on Lexington Street in the meantime

Sunset Safari at London Zoo

Sunset Safari at London Zoo

Fri June 3-Fri July 15 London Zoo, Regent's Park
Delve into after hours zoo-life and get the chance to see animals having dinner or bedding down for the night at one of London Zoo's Sunset Safari events this summer. A self-guided Safari Trail will lead you through a packed schedule of feeds and wild talks and a world food market will provide dinner for hungry humans.

Read more details about Sunset Safari

The unveiling of the new Tate Modern

The unveiling of the new Tate Modern

Fri June 17 Tate Modern, South Bank
A new Tate Modern will soon be unleashed when its extension, known as The Switch House (that’s the big, twisty building that’s been rising up near Bankside for the past couple of years) opens to the public. Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the building will provide 60 per cent more exhibition space, and allow for a ‘progressive rehang’ of Tate Modern’s permanent collection. 

Find out more about the plans for the new Tate Modern

'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' hits London

'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' hits London

Tue June 7-Sat May 27 2017 Palace Theatre, Soho
The biggest stage event of 2016 – and conceivably of all time – is coming to London this summer. The epic two-part stage play by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany is the eighth official Harry Potter adventure, and follows the adventures of both a middle-aged Harry and his son Albus as starts life at Hogwarts. Sounds magic.

Read more Harry Potter news with our guide to 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child'

The London Anniversary Games returns
© Matt Buck

The London Anniversary Games returns

Fri July 22-Sat July 23 Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
World-class athletics fills the Olympic Park once more in 2016 for two days of Anniversary Games. Athletic superstar Usain Bolt will be in attendance on the Friday with other top stars including David Weir, Jonnie Peacock and Hannah Cockroft before they jet off to Rio later in the year. 

Read more about the London Anniversary Games and how to book tickets

Somerset House Summer Series gigs

Somerset House Summer Series gigs

Thu 7–Sun 17 July Somerset House
There’s no secret to the success of Somerset House’s annual gig series. The venue offers all the open-air excitement of a festival right in the centre of the capital. The line-up is always great too – Adele, Amy Winehouse and Sam Smith have all graced the stage – 2016 is no exception. 

Explore the full Somerset House Summer Series line-up

David Hockney at the RA
© David Hockney

David Hockney at the RA

Sat July 2-Sun Oct 2 Royal Academy of Arts 
After his mega 2012 show, David Hockney returns to the Royal Academy with a smaller show in the Sackler Wing. The blues of the backgrounds immediately recall his seminal swimming pool paintings, but, instead of bare-bummed beach boys, the relatively small works are populated by Hockney’s current friends, family and acquaintances.

Find out more about 'David Hockney RA: 79 Portraits and Two Still Lifes'

Sunfall festival in Brockwell Park
Jamie XX © Ben Stas

Sunfall festival in Brockwell Park

Sat July 9 Brockwell Park, Herne Hill 
This new one-day festival comes from the teams behind ace nightspots PhonoxThe Nest and XOYO, plus equally ace Croatian festivals Dimensions and Outlook. It's in two parts: a day of raving in Brockwell Park, followed by eight eclectic afterparties with no extra tickets needed. The line-up features Jamie XX, Benji B, Goldie and Joy Orbison.

Read more about Sunfall and find out who else is playing

Groundhog Day the Musical
© Rob Greig

Groundhog Day the Musical

Mon July 11-Sat Sep 17 2016 Old Vic, Southwark 
A new musical based on the 1993 hit film proves that the Old Vic is anything but stuck in the past. The venue's new boss Matthew Warchus has brought together the team behind 'Matilda': composer Tim Minchin, choreographer Peter Darling, and designer Rob Howell. Together, they'll adapt the tale of a bad-tempered TV weatherman who is doomed to relive the same day over and over again.

Read more about Groundhog Day the Musical

Ragnar Kjartansson at the Barbican
Ragnar Kjartansson, 'God', 2007. Photo: Rafael Pinho. Courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York and i8 Gallery, Reykjavík

Ragnar Kjartansson at the Barbican

Thu July 14-Sun Sep 4 Barbican Centre
If you missed one of the standout shows of 2015, the Vinyl Factory’s presentation of Kjartansson's musical installation, ‘The Visitors’, fear not as you’ll be able to experience it at the Barbican’s summer exhibition dedicated to the Icelandic artist who has brought fun back to art. He’s played guitar naked in a bath, become a captain of a boat, and dressed up as a knight. As Kjartansson says, ‘Sometimes you need to add a little theatre to life and vice versa.’ 

Find out more about Ragnar Kjartansson's exhibition at the Barbican

Fire! Fire! exhibition at the Museum of London
© Museum of London

Fire! Fire! exhibition at the Museum of London

Sat July 23-Mon April 17 2017 Museum of London
Rarely seen artefacts - including burnt padlocks and keys - sit alongside hands-on exhibits in this blockbuster show marking the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London. It aims to give visitors a sense of what London would have felt like before, during and after the flames tore through the city.  

Read more about the Fire! Fire! exhibition at the Musuem of London

Visions Festival

Visions Festival

Sat Aug 6 Various Hackney venues
Now in its fourth year, Visions brings Hackney a big dose of creative fun this summer. The promoters have earned their reputation for booking up-and-coming artists, with this year’s acts including Young Fathers, Anna Calvi, Mykki Blanco and Gengahr.

Read more about Visions Festival

Notting Hill Carnival
© David Tett

Notting Hill Carnival

Sun Aug 28-Mon Aug 29 Notting Hill 
Since 1964, the capital's Caribbean communities have celebrated their culture and traditions at this two-day festival of fantastic live music, which ranges from reggae to dub to salsa. The celebrations also include soca floats, steel bands and a whole lot of jerk chicken and fried plantain.

Discover top tips with our ultimate guide to Notting Hill Carnival 2016

Elytra Filament Pavilion at the V&A
© V&A Museum

Elytra Filament Pavilion at the V&A

Until November 2016 V&A
Pop into the V&A's courtyard garden to marvel at its massive new installation, a 200-square-metre pavilion that was designed by a robot. Its design is based on the fibrous structures in the shells of flying beetles known as elytra, and the work itself will evolve over time according to how visitors move under the canopy.

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Find more things to do in London

Explore London's great outdoors

Outdoor London

When the sun does finally appear in London, you need to maximise every sweet second of it. Here's where to go to catch an open-air film or a show at an outdoor theatre, take a swim in one of London’s outdoor pools or just get good and squiffy at a rooftop bar.

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By: Time Out London Things To Do