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Photograph: Luke Dyson

Top 10 things to do this May bank holiday

The second May bank holiday is on its way to London with brand new beer gardens, big gigs and the return of theatre

By Time Out London Things To Do

Now that things are opening up again, weekends are no longer just meaningless lumps of time that appear at the end of the working week. We actually have plans now. If you have more than one Type A personality in your friendship group, chances are you have LOTS of plans (anyone else getting WhatsApps asking you if you’re free for dinner in JULY?!).

Not that we’re complaining. This gradual return to life just so happens to coincide with a BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND. The second May Bank Holiday weekend no less. The Met Office will try and tell you that summer begins on June 21, but we know the truth. Summer really begins with that first May Bank Holiday, a time when we all silently agree to kiss goodbye to our sleeves at the first whisper of sunshine. Not that we’ve had so much as a whisper.  

Consider these three days off work your chance to reintegrate into society. Reacquaint yourself with the thrill of eating a meal you didn’t have to cook by booking a table at a great restaurant, head to the theatre for the first time in 2021, wander around an art gallery for free or go on a walk because you actually want to – not because it’s the only option.

Check out our guide to the best events and things to do across London for the bank holiday falling on Sat May 29 - Mon May 31 2021. 

RECOMMENDED: Read our full guide to the bank holiday in London

10 awesome May bank holiday events

SoLo Craft Fair
Photograph: SoLo Craft Fair

Visit a craft market by a giant beer garden

News Drinking

The South London (‘SoLo’ Craft Fair) has been going for years, usually with cosy Sunday set-ups in pubs like Ninth Life in Catford, but now it’s going big with 16 weeks of themed markets at Between the Bridges, a new beer garden spot on Queen’s Walk that covers 4,000 square feet. First up is a Maker’s Market on May 30 (knitted hats, handmade earrings, you get the gist).

When is it? Sat May 30. Where is it? Queen’s Walk, South Bank. Find out more here. 

Museum of Youth Culture
Photograph: Tony Davis

Go on a nostalgia trip with the Museum of Youth Culture

News City Life

The Museum of Youth Culture is sharing a snapshot of its collection in person with a pop-up shop, gallery and event space. Inside, you’ll find a bunch of books on youth counterculture, as well as dozens of pictures of mods, rockers, Acid Ravers and glum punks. If you were one of the thousands of people who submitted photographs for the museum’s ‘Grown Up in Britain’ campaign, keep your eyes peeled. You might just see your sulky teenage face staring right back at you.

When is it? Open Mon-Sat until early July. Where is it? 3 Carnaby St W1F 9PH. Find out more here

Lawrence Chaney
Photograph: Lawrence Chaney

Head to the South Bank for DJs and drag

News Drinking

Remember that giant beer garden we mentioned a moment ago? Well, Between the Bridges has a whole bunch of events planned for its Bank Holiday weekend launch, but you’ll need to book a table. On Friday evening, there’s an unashamedly pop-addled DJ set from Guilty Pleasures, and on Saturday, the pride of Glasgow city Lawrence Chayney, winner of ‘Rupaul’s Drag Rac UK’, will be crashing drag brunch with a live performance. It’s not every yet you get a chance to meet the queen over breakfast. 

When is it? Fri May 29-Mon May 31, events are ongoing. Where is it? Queen’s Walk, South Bank. Find out more here. 

Ryoji Ikeda, spectra III, ©Jack Hems, 180 The Strand, 2021.
Ryoji Ikeda, spectra III, ©Jack Hems, 180 The Strand, 2021.

See brain-meltingly good art by Ryoji Ikeda

Art Contemporary art 180 The Strand, Strand

Immersive art gets a bad rap, dismissed as twinkly lights and pretty colours designed to get Insta likes. But there’s nothing twinkly or pretty about Ryoji Ikeda’s exhibition at 180 The Strand, and it is seriously immersive. The artist has filled the labyrinthine brutalist spaces of this former office block with eye-searing, brain-liquifying light and sound installations, and you should see them immediately.

When is it? On until Aug 1. Where is it? 180 the Strand. Book tickets here.

© Tristram Kenton
Photograph: Tristram Kenton

Watch a play inside an actual theatre

Theatre Drama

It’s finally happening: the theatres are reopening, social distancing is set to be eased in June, and it feels like there’s a reasonable chance that you can book for plays and musicals with the reasonable expectation that they’ll actually go ahead. This weekend alone you can see a very extra production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at The Globe or a revival of Alfred Fagon’s ‘The Death of a Black Man’, playing at Hampstead Theatre. Move quickly and you might be able to snag tickets to new drama ‘Walden’ at the Harold Pinter theatre, in which Gemma Arterton stars as a Nasa botanist returning from a year on the moon.

More into musicals? Here are the big West End shows returning for 2021


Jean Dubuffet 'Paysage aux argus (Landscape with Argus)' (1955) © Fondation Dubuffet, Paris / DACS, London, 2019. Image courtesy of Fondation Dubuffet, Paris

Look at brutal, brilliant paintings by Jean Dubuffet

Art Painting Barbican Centre, Barbican

French painter Jean Dubuffet was a true one-off: his works are raw and ravishing (he coined the term ‘art brut’ – ‘raw art’) to describe them. This show at the Barbican will take you through an evolution of the artist’s process, from his early portraits to his butterfly-wing works. The jolt of colours from his heaving, viscous canvases touch just about every nerve. It’s exactly the kind of overstimulating return to art London needs. 

When is it? On until Aug 22. Where is it? Barbican. Book tickets here.


Meet some cute new lambs at a city farm

Things to do

Lockdown has been particularly tough on city farms, seeing as many of them rely on donations to keep the gates open. And so, understandably, some are taking a cautious approach to reopening. Freightliners City Farm in Holloway is operating on reduced hours, and over at Kentish Town City Farm, you’ll need to book your free tickets in advance. Still, their return could not have come at a better time. As it’s still May, it’s likely there will be young lambs and baby bunnies prancing about the place. In need of some sheep cuddling therapy? Here’s our roundup of the best farms to visit.             

De Beauvoir Arms
Photo: De Beauvoir Arms /Time Out

Visit these great pubs that you don’t need to book

Bars and pubs

The pubs are open! That’s good. All the pubs are booked up until November! That’s not good. One result of the easing of lockdown rules to allow for outdoor dining has been a mad rush for seats. Quite simply there are more thirsty Londoners prepared to brave the cold than there are seats in beer gardens. We believe that disorganised people deserve a chance to socialise too, so we’ve put together a list of London pubs that are open to walk-ins. You’re welcome.

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

Visit these London art galleries

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. Here’s where you should be heading to get your spring art fix. Check with the galleries first if you ned to book an appointment.


Royal Victoria Docks Open Water Swimming
© Fergus McNeill

Book in for an outdoor swim

Sport and fitness Royal Docks

If you’re at the stage of open-water swimming where you now have a wetsuit in your wardrobe, you might be ready to register with the National Open Water Coaching Association, which provides safety bands and access to swim at specific locations. One of those locations is the London Royal Docks, a scenic spot that has set courses for casual swimmers. Whatever you do, do not forget that wetsuit, temperatures at the Docks can be less than 10°C, even in summer. London Royal Docks. Session days vary. £8 per swim + £12 annual membership fee. Find out how to register here

Not floating your boat? See what else is going on


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