The summer kicks off in earnest soon, and there are tons of brilliant things to do in London in May 2021.
It’s a different May than usual – at this point, we’d be mere weeks away from the launch of London’s music festival season, for instance – but that doesn’t mean it’ll be any less memorable. In fact, with even more freedoms scheduled to return on May 17, I’d say it’ll be more memorable than ever, and that’s before we even get to huge art exhibitions, floating restaurants, and the small matter of two bank holidays. We’ve found a load of wonderful things to do in London in May 2021, so let’s get stuck in!
1. Scoff your way through London’s giant Italian food hall
Eataly might just be the promised land for London foodies; with 42,000 square feet of pasta, pizza, cheese, and wine, it’s a place that demands to be checked out, like immediately. Get the scoop here.
2. Dive into the world of Banksy at this art exhibition
The Art of Banksy, which pitches up in Covent Garden on May 17, is set to be the largest touring exhibition of Banksy’s artworks – and in a fitting twist, it’s entirely unauthorised, with all works assembled from private collections. Tickets are on sale now.
3. Hop aboard London’s shiny new Cheese Barge
It’s a big month for new openings, as The Cheese Barge finally welcomes diners over a year and a half after it was first promised. It looks to be well worth the wait, though, and it’ll be bobbing into town (and our hearts) on May 20. Read all about it here.
4. Snag a seat on a glorious outdoor dining terrace
Until we’re allowed back inside restaurants, summer terraces are the dining destination du jour. Luckily, we’ve rounded up 125 of the very best in town, which should keep you busy for the time being.
5. Join the big London cheese crawl for Edam gouda day out
Never tire of cheese puns, do we? Anyway, London’s fabulous Cheese Crawl is back for more curd excursions across the capital, and it’s quite the memorable day out. More info and tickets here.
6. Get amongst the wisteria hysteria
May is the true pivot of springtime, as you can catch the last of the cherry blossom, see the bluebells in full bloom, and prepare yourself for a true London tradition: #WisteriaHysteria. Find out more with our guide to spotting flowers in London.
Love the scandalous exploits of the society papers, but want to combine it with upmarket dining inside a comfy bubble? Fret not, for the Queen’s House in Greenwich is adding a little hint of Bridgerton to your summer dining, as their swish new dining domes sit in front of the stately manor that’s appeared in Netflix’s hit series. More here.
Say “prost!” to summer drinking festivals at Springfest, which comes from the folks behind Camden Oktoberfest. Taking over Camden’s Electric Ballroom for six whole weeks, Springfest offers Bavarian vibes and beer and cider from world-class breweries. Grab your tickets here.
9-13. Celebrate the return of indoor dining with London’s top restaurants
Here at Secret London, the stomach leads and the rest of us follows. So, the return of indoor dining on May 17 is a Big Deal for us, and we’re in the mood to celebrate at our favourite dining destinations in town. Plus, you can support restauranteurs and employees who’ve been unable to work for the past few months, which is a vital bonus. Here are some of our highlights!
🙋♀️ The best restaurants in town, as chosen by us
👏 The best restaurants in town, as chosen by YOU!
😍 Just some of the prettiest restaurants in London
⭐️ All of London’s Michelin star restaurants
🥳 The quirkiest restaurants in the capital
14-18. Or pop along to the city’s favourite drinking establishments
As the next stage of England’s roadmap relaxes the rules on indoor drinking, too, we’re already plotting a course to our favourite watering holes. Depending on what you’re in the mood for, we have some suggestions…
Dining in the dark has been proved by psychologists as an ‘amplified’ way to enjoy food, so stepping inside a restaurant blanketed in darkness and being served a sublime three-course meal is going to be an intensely tasty experience. Find your tickets here.
20. Squeeze every last drop of fun out of May’s two bank holidays
Oh May, you do spoil us with a double dose of bank holidays! The first one is coming this weekend, and we’ve already planned out plenty of stuff for you to try. As for the second.., well, we have some ideas!
21. Fall down the rabbit hole at the V&A’s massive Alice in Wonderland exhibition
Billed as the most ambitious Alice exhibit of all time, this show will span art, film, performance, fashion, and photography to trace 150 years of cultural impact since Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published. The V&A have also promised “theatrical staging”, which is all kinds of intriguing. Find out more here.
Getting in just under the wire for May is Gaia, which is unveiled at Greenwich’s mesmerising Painted Hall at the end of May. A huge, illuminated 3D model of our planet, Gaia invites us to appreciate our incredible world in a whole new light. Whilst the dedicated Friday evening tickets have now sold out, we have a nifty little hack. Pick up a general access ticket to The Painted Hall between May 31 and July 1, and you’ll be able to see Gaia in all its glory!
23. Soak up the summer vibes at this ace rooftop bottomless brunch
To kickstart a brilliant summer of fun, Bar Elba are promising “bucket-loads of glitter, endless summer vibes, and banging views”. That’s on top of bottomless prosecco or beer, flame-grilled burgers, and sweeping views of South London at their rooftop brunch extravaganza. Nifty, right? Tickets are available here.
24. Explore the Natural History Museum once again
On May 17, after several long months without dinosaurs, visitors will finally be able to set foot in the Natural History Museum once again. Let’s hope some spooky ‘Night at the Museum’ drama hasn’t gone down while we were away…
25. Split your sides laughing at London’s incredible Comedy Brunch
Laughs have been in all-too-short a supply this year, so the return of Comedy Brunch to London is very timely! With a mission to put a smile on your face – and bottomless food and rum punch in your mouth – this brunch boasts a stellar lineup of comedy acts that’ll put you in a famous mood. Tickets are available here.
The BBQ Club, brainchild of pop-up king Jimmy Garcia, have built a giant deck along the South Bank with private picnic areas and personal dining cabanas. You’re invited to grill your own BBQ tasting menu, and once you’re all nice and fed, quintessentially English lawn games are waiting to awaken your competitive side. Read all about it here.
27. Kick back and relax at a candlelight tribute to Ludovico Einaudi
Ludovico Einaudi’s meditative, minimalist tunes ensnare the senses, making his work perfect for one of Fever’s fabulous candlelight concerts. Several of Einaudi’s beautiful piano pieces will be performed by the glow of candles, as a talented pianist brings the moving compositions to life. Pick up your tickets here.
28. Wander round London’s indoor rainforest once again
The verdant Barbican Conservatory, a glass-bound rainforest in the heart of the City, is one of the many brilliant free things to do in London. Happily, it’s welcoming guests once again from May 17, and is well worth a spot on your London bucket lists!
Ready to roll after lockdown, Covent Garden restaurant CIRCUS promises Asian-fusion food with a backdrop of world-famous performances – best watched with a glass of prosecco in hand! As the evening passes by, expect skilled performers twirling magically from suspended hoops, showstopping cabaret, and more dazzling spectacles. Tickets can be found here.
Rather than reaching for the next bottle in the supermarket, why not opt for a rum you know has been created with true craftmanship and love – by you! Islington cocktail bar Laki Kane is running rum-making classes, teaching you the fine art of distilling and bottling rum, along with a history lesson and cocktails. Pick up your tickets here.
31. See if Salt Bae’s long-awaited restaurant lives up to the hype
The man, the meme, the legend that is Salt Bae will finally open his London steakhouse on May 17. Can it possibly match the hype that surrounded his now-infamous salting technique? We’ll find out soon…
32. Add Caribbean sunshine to your weekend with a tropical bottomless brunch
Instead of dreaming about beachside resorts you can’t afford to visit, escape to your nearest Cottons this summer for bottomless rum punch and Caribbean vibes. It’s the staycation you deserve – although you might want to leave your bikinis at home for this one… Tickets can be found here!
33. Return to the opulent halls of the Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House have signalled their grand return to the stage on May 17 – and hopefully for good! Audiences will be welcomed back for a series of in-person performances from both the The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet, and in our eyes, it’s not a moment too soon. See more here.
34. Bounce down to Barrio for their Sunday sesh brunches
Barrio Shoreditch know that Sundays aren’t for lie-ins and lazy days, they’re just another day for brunching and bottomless cocktails! Their tasty brunch burgers are sure to soak up Saturday’s hangover, and bottomless Bloody Marys, Prosecco, Mimosas and Sol will keep the vibes going all weekend long. Tickets available here.
35. Make a beeline for this gorgeous new rooftop bar
Filled with hanging baskets and artfully draped plants, and boasting incredible views of St Paul’s Cathedral from beneath the fully-retractable roof, luxe new rooftop bar Sabine instantly becomes a must-visit when it opens on May 20. Full story here.
36. Cross your fingers for a swim in this jaw-dropping sky pool
We’ve been teased with this elusive sky pool for a couple of years now, and I’m not sure anyone believed it would actually happen. But the pool has been built, shipped over from Colorado, hoisted into place, and filled with water, and finally has an opening date of May 19. Unfortunately, you need to be a resident of the building to use it – so if you’ve got a spare £900K lying around, you’re in luck!
37. Immerse yourself in a load of brilliant events at Southbank Centre
The Southbank Centre’s excellent food market is the first returnee, but the rest of the centre follows soon after. On May 19, the Hayward Gallery reopens with two brand new art exhibitions, whilst the rest of Southbank Centre – including the National Poetry Library – will reopen to the public on May 21, with live events resuming on May 28. Expect to see Anoushka Shankar, Mitsuko Uchida, Nicola Benedetti, and Aaron Sorkin here this summer. More info here.
38. Sink your teeth into bottomless Korean fried chicken at this bottomless brunch
Korean fried chicken is the best KFC in my opinion, and after an hour of bottomless chucks and vodka punch, I reckon you’re going to agree. Find more info and tickets here.
Found at Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent, the new Hangloose Adventure zip wire is the longest and fastest of its kind in England, with punters invited to soar down the 725-metre long zipline. It’s set to open this May, although an exact date hasn’t been confirmed yet. Stay up to date here.
40. Journey around Asia at this fab bottomless brunch
Tai Pan Alley showcases the very best of Asian home-cooking, melding together the beautiful tastes of Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Japan, India and China into one spectacular brunch. Add bottomless Cosmopolitans, Prosecco or Langkawi Island Iced Tea, and you’re set for the weekend! Tickets available here.
41. Catch a play with the return of the Globe
Yes, Shakespeare’s Globe is due to make a wonderful comeback on May 19 for socially-distanced performances, although that famous tradition of standing in the Yard is gone for the time being. Still, all the world’s a stage… Read more here.
Inamo boasts one of the most incredible menus out there and if you want to eat (and drink) to your heart’s content, this is your best option! How does unlimited Asian tapas, sushi, and bottomless drinks sound?
The timing from the Standard Hotel couldn’t be better, as they open an all-new rooftop venue on May 1, all the better to enjoy those summer evenings with a freshly-shaken cocktail. More info here.
44. Swing your way around this new music video-inspired golf course
Inspired by the biggest pop music hits in history, new crazy golf course Pop Golf uses the iconic music videos of Drake, Kylie Minogue, and more to create an all-swinging, all-dancing homage to the power of pop. It opens at BOXPARK Wembley on May 17, and you can see more here.
45–48. Amble round these art exhibitions
Art galleries will fling open their doors across town, and new and returning exhibitions are just starting to be confirmed! Here are some of the early highlights:
❤️ Naturally Brilliant Colour, Kew Gardens (May 17): kaleidoscopic patterns of the brightest colours around, inspired by patterns in nature
💙 Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy, Whitechapel Gallery (May 19): big tribute to the noted Surrealist
🧡 Ryoji Ikeda, 180 The Strand (May 20): immersive, thought-provoking work from the Japanese master
💚 Turner’s English Coasts, Twickenham (May 22): display of the artist’s maritime watercolours and prints at his old home
49-62. Keep exploring this mighty city
Since the lockdown is coming to an end, we’ve redoubled our efforts to find the most interesting places in town. Here are some recent winners you ought to know about!
🇮🇹 Gloria: excellent, OTT Italian restaurant set to reopen this month
✨ Gods Own Junkyard: the neon wonderland of Walthamstow returns
🍔 Hackney Bridge: a new al fresco dining hub from the team behind Pop Brixton
⚡️ House of MinaLima: Soho townhouse filled with Harry Potter merch
🌿 Crossrail Place Roof Garden: serene rooftop garden with a street food hall
🍸 Model Market: Lewisham’s foodie market has its own tequila bar
🌸 Chiswick Flower Market: West London rival to Columbia Road is back trading
🔥 Campfire: beers and BBQ hangout from the Two Tribes Brewery team
😁 Wanstead Park: lovely London park now filled with bluebells
🤩 The Rooftop: summer hangout overlooking Leicester Square
🏏 Sixes: London’s first cricket-themed bar, with batting nets
🍻 Signature Brew: taproom with live music and banging beers
More things to do inspiration…
Also published on Medium.