- Harriet Clugston
London is packed with great things to see and do at the best of times, but on a bank holiday weekend it becomes officially a criminal offence not to make the most of our glorious city. From the vibrant Notting Hill Carnaval to the beguiling Festival of Love, outdoor theatre to calorific food festivals, there’s more to do than you could possibly squeeze in to just three little days—you can always try. From the 27th – 29th of August, ditch the lie-in and get out there with our rundown on the best activities.
Party At The Notting Hill Carnival
Having run every year since 1964, Europe’s biggest street party is back in London’s West End, the two-day long carnival celebrates the spirit of Afro-Caribbean culture. Starting with Sunday’s ‘Children’s Day’ and carrying on into the Monday bank holiday, the carnival revolves around a central float, a huge parade of performers, dancers and musicians traversing the streets of Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove, which kicks off at 9am sharp each morning and doesn’t stop until 7pm. With colourful costumes, flamboyant floats, delicious food, steel bands and calypso music, Notting Hill Carnival is the ultimate London party and the hottest destination for a bit of bank holiday fun. Remember, the party doesn’t stop at the end of the day with a plethora of after-parties taking place across the whole of London late into each night.
Western Road, London, W11 1AB
Catch The Tail End Of The Festival of Love
Bank Holiday Monday sees the last day of the Southbank Centre’s popular Festival of Love, which celebrate ‘the greatest human emotion’ in all its forms, from romantic love to love of place, as well as exploring the changing nature of love and its ability to inspire and bring change. After a jam-packed summer filled with pop-ups, installations and performances, closing the festival this year is the Big Wedding Weekend where you can dress up in bridesmaid dresses, learn some classic ballroom dancing, catch some wedding DJs and even watch a host of couples get married or renew their vows in mass ceremonies inside the iconic Royal Festival Hall. There’s plenty more to fill your weekend around the Southbank Centre, from the CopaCABANA beach, the ‘Appearing Rooms’ fountain and Jeppe Hein’s series of Modified Social Benches, creative reimaginings of the commonplace public bench.
Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX, +44 20 7960 4200
For #SCFestivalofLove we are delighted to have installed artist #JeppeHein's #modified #Socialbenches and we are REALLY enjoying watching visitors using them. You'll find them throughout our site all summer long. #publicart #installation @koeniggalerie #luminous #Seaking #benches #fun @jeppe_hein #London #outdoors #free Photos: @petewoodhead and @frankowski
A photo posted by southbankcentre (@southbankcentre) on
Catch An Outdoor Show
September is fast approaching and that means Autumn is nearly upon us. With shorter and cooler nights on their way, now is the time to really take advantage of the waning summer— what better way to do that than by catching a show outdoors? Throughout the summer months, London is filled with outdoor cinemas; temporary screens popping up in stunning locations. This bank holiday weekend you can catch a screening of Jurassic Park in Bushy Park courtesy of Nomad Cinema, or Highlander on top of Queen of Hoxton with Rooftop Film Club.
Alternatively, why not opt for a spot of outdoor theatre since we’re in the theatrical capital of the world? There are a range of productions currently playing at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, with both Macbeth and 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips playing over the bank holiday weekend, while the smash-hit comedy One Man, Two Guvnors is being resurrected for one night only on the National Theatre’s open-air River Stage as part of their mini bank holiday festival. Comedy lovers should be sure to catch the absolutely genius, laugh-a-minute Extravaganza Macabre by Little Bulb Theatre at Battersea Art Centre’s new outdoor theatre courtyard, which has been extended until early September. Three tremendously talented actors/musicians/singers don a series of naff costumes in a hilarious, madcap, interactive performance, which places tongue firmly in cheek while ripping off every theatrical trope in the book.
Pig-Out At A Food Or Drink Festival
Eating and drinking until you burst is pretty much a given on any bank holiday, and August is no exception, with two massive food festivals rolling into town. Over in West London, the BBC Good Food Show are taking over the stunning grounds of Hampton Court Palace for the entirety of the long weekend, with three days of shopping from artisan producers, expert demonstrations and talks by celebrity chefs including Paul Hollywood, Lisa Faulkner and Michel and Emily Roux, family entertainment, a masterclass courtesy of YoSushi and entry to the Palace included.
Alternatively, head to North London for the Alexander Palace Food Festival, where the focus is very much more on the eating. Stuff your face with delicious dishes from the Street Food Avenue, grab a glass of wine, champagne or craft beer in the Drinks Theatre or a cocktail from the Bar Bus, Pimms Teapot or Rum Bus, take afternoon tea in the Vintage Tea Tent or try your hand at the Chilli Eating Competition. In between gorgings, you can catch a spot of live music, learn to bake a cake or watch celebrity chefs in action, all while taking in Alexander Palace’s unparalleled views. Also in town bank holiday weekend is the UK’s biggest gin festival, where you can sample over 100 different gins while listening to live entertainment or talks from industry experts.
Now the only problem that needs solving is how to choose where to go. Or why not have a day at each? No judgements here.
Escape From London
Of course, this rare three-day weekend is a golden opportunity to escape the city for a while — although the whole of London probably has the same idea so you should get booking immediately. There are some fantastic places to visit within easy reach of London, from chocolate-box villages to market towns bursting with old-English culture. Visit the lavender fields of Hitchin, take a punt on the river past Cambridge’s historic colleges or admire one of the country’s best castles at Windsor.
If you’re after a bit of seaside fun, nearby Margate is pretty much as ‘authentic seaside resort’ as it can get, while Brighton is an enduringly popular destination for weary Londoners — why not test your mettle up the brand new British Airway i360, the world’s tallest and thinnest moveable observation deck?