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Things to do in London this July: 10 exciting events not to miss

From the capital’s most fun free outdoor festival to the opening of the hottest new rooftop spot, these are all the key dates for your diary this month

Summer in the city has finally arrived and with it comes a fresh new crop of things to do in London this July. The capital is abuzz with unmissable events, from the return of the National Theatre’s much-loved outdoor River Stage festival to Somerset House’s Summer Series and a thought-provoking new season of film at the BFI. If you’re stuck for what to do in London this July, we’re here to help. Read on for our round-up of the best London events to know about this month.

The Glossary Edit

Things to do in London this July

Snoop around a royal palace

Buckingham Palace’s East Wing opening

11 July – 29 September

The arrival of summer means it’s time for Buckingham Palace’s State Rooms to open up, always one of the best things to do in London in July. But this month is extra special, as it will see the Palace’s East Wing open to the public for the first time since it was completed 175 years ago. It is this wing that encompasses the Palace’s famous façade and features the iconic central balcony, where the monarch and members of the Royal Family have gathered for public appearances since 1851 – most recently for the rather damp Trooping the Colour in June.

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Principal Corridor of Buckingham Palace. Photography by Peter Smith

Small groups of visitors will get the chance to see the famed balcony from the Centre Room, as well as explore the Yellow Drawing Room, with its towering Chinese porcelain pagodas. But the real standout has to be the 240-foot-long Principal Corridor, which spans the entire width of the Palace and features priceless paintings by the likes of Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Thomas Lawrence.

Dance under the stars

Somerset House Summer Series

11 – 21 July

There’s nothing lovelier than spending a balmy summer evening in Somerset House’s beautiful neoclassical courtyard – so it’s little surprise their popular Summer Series is one of the best things to do in London this July. Every year they bring together some of the most influential artists on the scene – along with the finest trailblazing new acts – to create a concert series like no other.

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This year they’re kicking things off with a show from up-and-coming R&B star Pip Millett, with support from hotly tipped South London soul songstress Nia Smith. Other highlights include performances from Corinne Bailey Rae, Brighton-based rock band Yonaka, east London singer-songwriter Hak Baker, with the event rounding off in style with the legendary Patti Smith Quartet.

Enter a floral wonderland

RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival

2 – 7 July

While the Chelsea Flower Show may be the most famous of all the UK floral events, the RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival comes in at a close second. Somewhat surprisingly, it actually eclipses its better-known sibling, earning the title of the world’s largest flower show. Set against the backdrop of one of London’s most spectacular royal palaces, it’s not to be missed.

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In the Floral Marquee you’ll find plants and flowers grown by over 90 nurseries, as well as the Potting Bench, where you can watch demos from top growers. Meanwhile, the Festival of Roses celebrates this beautiful bloom in all its varieties and forms, while the RHS Allotment is the place to go to learn all about growing your own.

Shake it on the South Bank

The National Theatre’s River Stage

Every Friday to Sunday from 5 – 28 July

Summer weekends in London just got that much livelier thanks to the return of the National Theatre’s River Stage. The free outdoor festival is back on the South Bank with a bang, bringing together an eclectic mix of live music, theatre, dance, family workshops and club nights across four weekends in July.

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Rambert in Goat Photo by Camilla Greenwell

Over the first weekend the stage will be hosted by The Glory, the grande dames of the London drag world, known for their raucous and radical performances. From 12-14 July come to see the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, where you’ll be dazzled by street theatre, dance and circus acts. The third weekend will be curated by the brilliant Rambert dance company, while the festival closes with the NT throwing open their doors for the final weekend, offering NT Live screenings and iconic tours of the building.


Squirm in your seat

Discomfort Movies at the BFI

1 – 31 July

We’re all familiar with the concept of ‘comfort movies’ – the feel-good flicks you turn to when you need a bit of a pick-me-up that never fail to put a smile on your face. But this summer the BFI is hosting a season of ‘discomfort movies’, which are designed to do the exact opposite. Often inducing feelings of stress, anxiety or despair, these are films that push the boundaries and wind up haunting us long after they’ve ended.

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The season kicks off in style with a screening of Eraserhead, David Lynch’s spectacularly surreal first feature. Other highlights include Billy Wilder’s noir masterpiece The Lost Weekend, Darren Aronofsky’s frenzied portrayal of addiction Requiem for a Dream and the heartrending They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, which earnt Jane Fonda her first Academy Award nomination. All of them make for thought-provoking and compelling viewing.

Soak up the summer in Hyde Park

BST Open House

28 June – 11 July

BST Hyde Park is one of the musical highlights of the summer, with a suitably stellar line-up this year that includes Kylie, Shania Twain – fresh from her Glastonbury slot – and Stevie Nicks. But if you haven’t managed to nab tickets for your favourite artists, why not head down to the BST Open House instead?

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Stevie Nicks

Held in between the three weekends of music, the event is completely free and offers a great range of activities for the whole family. It starts with a ticketed classical concert from All Things Orchestral on Friday 28 June, along with a range of Pride-themed events taking place across the weekend. Elsewhere you can expect Wimbledon live screenings, outdoor cinema, drag performances from Angels of the North and a Cornish Orchards chef’s table with Woodfired Canteen.

Experience London’s coolest new space

Dalston Yard launch

5 July

London is getting a cool new community hub this July in the form of Dalston Yard. Located in the heart of East London, it’s set to act as a new multifaceted cultural playground, where Londoners can come to interact with renowned and emerging art experts, music programmers, wellbeing professionals, and food and drink creators. The space is spearheaded by Dominic Cools-Lartigue, who founded Street Feast in 2012, so you’re in very safe hands.

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The food offering is set to be particularly strong, with new permanent restaurants including the Butcher of Dalston and Andrew Clarke’s international chop house, as well as summer residencies from the likes of Budgie Montoya and Gizzi Erskine. Elsewhere, you’ll find seven new bars, live music, film screenings and expert talks, along with different musical collectives each weekend. It’s also set to be an exciting new space for art, featuring large scale wall murals from artists like Joy Yamunsangie and Jazz Grant.

Immerse yourself in music

Summer Jazz Series at the Barbican

29 June – 21 July

There’s a whole host of great summer events taking place at the Barbican, from their outdoor cinema screenings to their upcoming immersive Francis Alÿs exhibition, but we’re most excited about their Summer Jazz Series. Over the month, a range of global stars will be brought to the Barbican’s famed hall, inspiring collaborations, themed strands and special creations.

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Come to enjoy the tropical pop of Cape Verdean singer Mayra Andrade and the distinctive, honeyed tones of American jazz artist Madeleine Peyroux, who’ll be performing her captivating ninth album, Let’s Walk. The series will also include a special screening of Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash, accompanied by a live performance of Justin Hurwitz’s acclaimed soundtrack.

Enjoy sky-high cocktails with a view

The Berkeley Rooftop Bar

Opens 11 July

If you’re looking for London’s coolest new rooftop bar, you’ll find it at the top of The Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge. The ultra-exclusive spot – known for being home to one of the most glorious outdoor pools in the capital – is normally only reserved for hotel guests. But following on from the success of their pop-up offering last year, they’re planning to open it up again to all this summer.

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Set to be the destination of the season, visitors will enjoy unrivalled views of London’s skyline alongside a brand-new Mexican-inspired menu of Patrón Tequila cocktails and tacos. Expect the Patrón Tequila Colada – which replaces rum with PATRÓN Reposado and pairs it with mango lassi, coconut cream, vanilla, and lime – to be the most popular sunset tipple. On the menu, meanwhile, you’ll find a trio of tacos made with salt marsh lamb shoulder, barbeque jack fruit and crispy Dover sole, along with a ‘make your own’ guacamole.

Lose yourself in Shakespeare

Theatre on Kew: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

20 July – 1 September

Kew is always a magical place to visit, but that’s doubly true in the evening, when the sun sets over the treetops and the gardens take on a twilight charm all of their own. So, what better way to enjoy that then with a trip to Theatre on Kew, which this summer is running a rendition of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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The Australian Theatre Company will be bringing the Bard’s beloved comedy of enchantment and transformation to life in Kew’s bucolic surroundings, complete with feuding fairies, eloping lovers and a hapless troupe of actors. Expect a fun alfresco romp peppered with contemporary references.

Main image: Kylie by Erik Melvin
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