London in the summer is unbeatable. When the sun is shining, the city is at its most vibrant, and with a busy schedule of events scheduled to take place throughout the capital, this year is set to be even brighter than usual. From colourful art fairs and thought-provoking exhibitions to tempting restaurant festivals and must-see live music performances, here are the best things to do in London in July.
Things to do in London in July
15 July – 22 August
Somerset House’s handsome 18th century courtyard has been given the Yinka Ilori magic touch this summer, transformed by the in-demand artist and designer into a vibrant, fairground-inspired spectacle of colour, sound and buzz. Ride the rainbow-hued dodgems, where every thump and bump triggers explosive new material from Mercury Prize shortlisted musician Anna Meredith and Bafta-winning sound artist Nick Ryan. A huge open-air immersive art installation by Ilori, which invites visitors to explore or perch at one of the outdoor seating booths, plus food from pop-up legend and chef Jimmy Garcia, as well as Dodge Lates and Bump & Brunch dates, complete the kaleidoscopic, futuristic fun.
1– 31 July
For the very first time, the London Restaurant Festival (LRF) is hosting a Summer Edition in July. The event will see over over 250 restaurants participate in collaboration with OpenTable, as well as over 50 experiences and exclusive menus created by London’s hottest culinary talent specifically for the occasion – all in celebration of outdoor dining. From fammed Michelin-starred dining rooms, such as Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley and Hélène Darroze at The Connaught, to some of the latest on the scene, such as Andy Beynon at Behind and Santiago Lastra at Kol, there is plenty to excite your taste-buds. Additionally, after the success of ‘LRF at-home events’ last year, there will be a series of interactive experiences available to those still wanting to stay indoors.
30 July -1 August
South London’s Gala Festival is returning to Peckham Rye Park for three days this July, instead of the usual May bank holiday date. This year will be the independent event’s fifth year anniversary – it should have been last year, however, COVID-19 happened – so the organisers decided to create an even bigger ‘weekender’ experience for the first time. Expect all the visual and audial escapism restricted for over a year in all its fabulously stimulating glory. The line up features some of the most exciting names in house, disco, dub and jazz, as well as celebrated chefs, restaurants, breweries, record labels and party brands from the surrounding SE postcode.
Beautiful blooms and innovative garden design return to London again this year in the annual RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival. Following the postponement of the 2021 RHS Chelsea Flower Show until September, this will be the first major outdoor event to make a safe return this summer from the gardening charity. Both flora and fauna will be on display, as well as shopping, live music and delicious food in the gorgeous grounds of Hampton Court Palace. Highlights include the Festival of Roses, where you can indulge in tea and cake surrounded by 2021’s Rose of the Year winner, as well as the infamous Floral Marquee, supported by St. James’s Place Wealth Management.
30 July-11 September
The BBC Proms, held every summer at the Royal Albert Hall in London, aims to bring the best in classical music to the widest audience – and has been doing so since founder-conductor Henry Wood’s original vision in 1895. With 52 concerts over 44 days, featuring 30 orchestras and ensembles with more than 2,000 musicians, this ambitious season promises a celebration of live music on a scale not seen since before the pandemic. And not only is the eight-week series held in The Hall, but events are also broadcast across the UK on big screens as part of Proms in the Park.
Until 19 September
The Greenwich Peninsula may not be the first place that springs to mind as a hotbed of art but that’s all changing. London-based British-Nigerian multidisciplinary artist Yinka Ilori has transformed the peninsula’s Tide Square – the capital’s first riverside linear park – into a colourful, interactive work of art for the summer. The immersive alfresco installation, titled Promise me memories and I will let you in, is a multilayered, multicoloured playground that encourages visitors to play and reconnect. The square is open to the public and is the backdrop of a series of events including live music performances, film screenings and open-air talks, as well as the Flow ecological farmers’ market, hosted every second Sunday throughout the summer.
Unmissable art event Affordable Art Fair returns to Battersea Park for a one-off summer edition in July. Bringing together both established and emerging artists and galleries from across London and the UK, the fair offers collectors an rare opportunity to source original contemporary works at affordable prices – to exhibit, artworks must be priced between £100 and £6,000. Visit on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday evening for complimentary Campari cocktails as you browse the hundreds of paintings, prints and sculptures on display. If you can’t make it during the day, discover art after dark at the Thursday Late View from 5.30-9pm.
23-24 July, 20-21 August
London’s famous Cocktails in the City festival is back with a special summer edition on two weekends at Bedford Square Gardens. Bringing together the finest bars in the capital, the event is a celebration of the city’s diverse mixology. The best mixologists from Shoreditch to Mayfair will showcase their skills and host alfresco pop-up bars in the grounds of London’s largest Georgian private gardens. Visit to sip cocktails in the sunshine and snack on award-winning street food or attend tastings and demonstrations to the background sounds of live music from the talented artists from The Piano Works.
Until 23 July
An environmental art exhibition featuring 100 lifesize elephants, CoExistence was created to challenge and provoke conversation on conservation. The powerful travelling exhibition, which is currently on a worldwide tour, tells a story of global overpopulation and how humans are taking space from animals. Discover the sculptures at Green Park, St James’s Park and Berkeley Square until 23 July. Sculptures are all available to purchase, with profits going to grass-roots organisations in India that work to enable humans and wildlife to coexist. You can also ‘adopt’ an elephant through the CoExistence platform.
1 July - 26 September
London’s original pop-up festival is back at its new home in Cavendish Square in Oxford Circus. Underbelly is a highlight of the annual cultural calendar, offering a busy programme of entertainment alongside tasty street food – think grilled fish, buttermilk fried chicken, Lebanese falafel, and more – and alfresco bars. From drag shows and comedy sketches to live music, cabaret and live podcast recordings, there’s something to entertain for everyone. Highlights this year include the European premiere of new cabaret Bernie Dieter’s Berlin Underground, starring the “Queen of punk cabaret” herself, and comedy from TuckShop, Abandoman and Frisky & Mannish. Bring the kids during the day as there’s plenty to suit families at this inclusive festival.