27 Things to Do in London on May Bank Holiday Weekend

Two bank holiday weekends make May a very good month indeed! From ballet to immersive movie experiences and exhibitions (that’s right, indoor events!), The Resident picks out the best events taking place over the late May bank holiday weekend

Lead image: English National Ballet in Take Five Blues by Stina Quagebeur part, of ENB’s Reunion, presented at Sadler’s Wells (photo: Laurent Liotardo)

1 The Art of Bond: Diamonds are Forever at The Milestone Hotel and Residences, Kensington
29 May
Delve into the secrets of the world’s most renowned special agent in an evening of Bond-themed glamour, intrigue and indulgence. Diamonds are Forever marks the long, long-awaited release of the 25th James Bond film, due to air in October. The experience begins with a champagne and canapé reception in The Milestone’s beautiful Conservatory, hosted by Linda Hugo of Beyond Curated and renowned Bond and food critic Richard Bagnold. You’ll then join Alessandro Borruso, Deputy Director at Sotheby’s, and Sophie Harley, who worked on the Casino Royale set, for a glass of 2005 Vintage Tattinger Blanc de Blancs as they discuss the world of rare gems and diamonds. You’ll then dine like Bond, enjoying a five-course menu where each plate is taken from a different Fleming novel. Welcome drinks from 6.15pm. Seating at 7.30pm. Price £340. Click here to book.
1-3 Kensington Court, Kensington W8 5DL; milestonehotel.com

2 Reunion by English National Ballet at Sadler’s Wells
25-30 May
English National Ballet returns to live performances with five works by renowned choreographers and rising talents, performed on stage for the first time. There’s Laid in Earth by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, set to Purcell’s famous aria from Dido and Aeneas; Senseless Kindness by Yuri Possokhov, based on Vasily Grossman’s novel, Life and Fate, about a Russian family caught in the Second World War, and set to Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No1; Take Five Blues by ENB Associate Choreographer Stina Quagebeur, inspired by Nigel Kennedy’s take on Bach in Vivace and his interpretation of Desmond’s Take Five; and more. Live music for Laid in Earth and Senseless Kindness is performed by musicians of English National Ballet Philharmonic. Tickets: £15-£65.
Rosebery Avenue EC1R; sadlerswells.com

3 Chromantics & Libertas at The Tide, Greenwich Peninsula
29 & 30 May
The Tide on Greenwich Peninsula, currently home to the colourful Hundreds and Thousands art installation by British artist Liz West, will play host two exciting events over the late May bank holiday weekend. First up on Saturday 29 May is Chromantics: A Fashion Showcase with Kitty Joseph, where the British textile and fashion designer curates an inclusive fashion event responding to the colour, optimism and scale of the installation, embellished by London DJ Marsha Smith (aka Marshmello) and choreographer and dancer Gareth Mole. On Sunday 30 May, Libertas, choreographed by dance artist and choreographer Laura Amy White, will bring the Hundreds & Thousands installation to life through the freedom of movement and dance.
Greenwich Peninsula SE10 0BN; greenwichpeninsula.co.uk

4 Bottomless Champagne Afternoon Tea at The Rubens at the Palace Hotel, Westminster
From 17 May
Bottomless champagne is a rare find indeed, but The Rubens at the Palace Hotel is offering just that with their new tipsy afternoon tea offering. Head for the Palace Lounge, which overlooks the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace, for a Bottomless Champagne Afternoon Tea featuring mouth-watering pastries inspired by Her Majesty the Queen and influenced by the House of Windsor. Enjoy the likes of the Crown Jewel (an Earl Grey-infused mousse with Yuzu chocolate), Jam Penny (almonds, raspberry jam, raspberry whip, raspberry chocolate) and Seasonal Rubens Éclair. Savouries include a Coronation chicken finger sandwich (but of course) with toasted almonds. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free alternatives are available. £60pp. Click here to book.
39 Buckingham Palace Road, Westminster SW1W 0PS; rubenshotel.com

5 Backyard Cinema, Wandsworth
From 17 May
Experiential cinema venue Backyard Cinema has imported more than 56 tonnes of sand to offer up beach vibes for those unable to fly away to sandy shores this summer. Backyard is the only immersive cinema to screen new releases, so as well as taking in classics like Grease, Dirty Dancing, Jurassic Park and The Bodyguard, you can watch Wonder Woman 1984, Judas and the Black Messiah, Top Gun: Maverick and BAFTA-nominated Minari. Choose from two immersive experiences: Miami Beach and LA Nights. Miami Beach is all glamour, art deco, blue seas, permanent sunshine and BYC’s signature palm tree cocktails, while LA Nights offers you the chance to board Backyard Airlines and take in the Los Angeles’ skyline. You can also enjoy food from Honest Burgers’ test kitchen and Backyard Pizza.
Capital Studios, Ram Quarter, Wandsworth SW18 1ET; backyardcinema.co.uk

6 A History Untold at Signature African Art, Mayfair
20 May-19 June
A History Untold at Signature African Art in Mayfair explores Black histories that are absent from the UK school curriculum. The exhibition is presented in partnership with England International Rugby player Maro Itoje – a strong advocate for education and the Black Curriculum – and curated by Lisa Anderson. New work by six African and Diaspora artists, including Giggs Kgole, Djakou Kassi Nathalie and Damilola Okhoya, celebrate Black history and the contributions Black figures have made to civilisation and society across the centuries, from the origins of mathematics to jazz.
20 Davies Street, Mayfair W1K 3DT; signatureafricanart.com

7 Bloomberg New Contemporaries at South London Gallery, Camberwell
19 May-6 June
Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2021 finally opens this month, showcasing the work of 36 emerging artists from UK art schools and alternative education programmes. The exhibition is supported by New Contemporaries’ specially created digital platform, made in collaboration with Hato Press and the selected artists, presenting the artworks alongside newly commissioned audio responses and contributions by UK-based curators and writers. Some of the themes addressed by this year’s selected artists include Identity Politics and Art Education, Dislocation and Home and Cyber Identities.
65-67 Peckham Road, Camberwell SE5 8UH; southlondongallery.org

8 Covent Garden Rosé Festival
17 May-6 June
Head to Covent Garden to raise a glass of rosé in celebration of the return of indoor dining. More than 20 Covent Garden restaurants are taking part in the Rosé Festival by serving rosé wine, cocktails and themed menus, while nine pop-ups, from the likes of Mirabeau, Amie Wine, Chez Antoinette x AIX-en-Provence, The Bubble Bros and The Oystermen x Pol Roger, will take over Covent Garden’s Piazza to serve up over 30 varieties of rosé wine and themed products. There’s also a pop-up rosé flower shop from Fiona Fleur, eight pop-up bars and terraces across the Piazza, live pianists, a rosé-inspired afternoon tea from Ladurée, and an exclusive Covent Garden Rosé and Strawberry Blossom combo from Bubblewrap Waffle.

9 Terra Nexus, South Bank
19 May-30 June 
Terra Nexus is an immersive experience featuring a labyrinth of 18 interconnected artist worlds reflecting on the human relationship with the biosphere. Produced by Proposition Studios, the experience first opened in Peckham last autumn, and has now been reconstructed and expanded with three new installations in artist studios overlooking the Thames. The installations explore the necessity of living soil, the perpetual migration of species, the cascading threat of impending extinctions, ways to reconnect with nature, conflict arising from depleted resources, the future of cities and how humans will live within them.
Proposition Studios, 60-72 Upper Ground SE1 9LT; propositionstudios.com

10 Unearthed: Photography’s Roots at Dulwich Picture Gallery
19 May-30 August
Dulwich Picture Gallery reopens with its first major photography exhibition, Unearthed, exploring the history of photography from the 1840s to today. The exhibition traces the rich history of the medium through depictions of nature, with over 100 works by 41 leading international artists. As well as revealing the fascinating technical processes and narratives behind these images, the exhibition will showcase innovations in photography by key figures like William Henry Fox Talbot, Imogen Cunningham and the English gardener, Charles Jones. Jones’ striking modernist photographs of plants remained unknown for 20 years after his death, until they were discovered in a trunk at Bermondsey Market in 1981. Adults £16.50, under 18s free. 
Gallery Road, Dulwich Village SE21 7AD; dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk

11 The Hatter’s Tea Party at The Egerton House Hotel, Kensington
From 17 May
This new afternoon tea from Egerton House hotel looks phenomenal. Inspired by the timeless classic Alice in Wonderland, and the unforgettable Mad Hatter, comes this fun, frivolous tea party featuring treats like the Queen of Hearts (a homemade raspberry jam tart with almond crumble), Pearl of Oysters (a white chocolate Lanson Champagne truffle), Plum Pudding (vanilla posset with stewed plums), and Eat Me (a chocolate cake with a rich buttercream icing). Sandwiches include H Forman’s smoked salmon, free-range egg mayonnaise, Blythburgh roast ham and English mustard, cucumber and cream cheese, and coronation chicken. Priced £52pp or £68 with champagne. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and kids options are available. You can also enjoy a picnic version to go for £55pp, or £125pp with butler service.
17-19 Egerton Terrace, Kensington SW3 2BX; egertonhousehotel.com

12 The Art of Banksy, Covent Garden
20 May-21 November

For the very first time, the UK will host an array of unique pieces from the mysterious political activist, satirist and artist, who has spent most of the last three decades anonymously tagging streets across the world. The Art of Banksy, launching in May for a limited season, will feature world-famous pieces including Flower Thrower, Rude Copper and Girl and Balloon, alongside works rarely seen by the general public. Anticipated to be one of the stand-out shows of the spring, the colossal collection includes authenticated and certified Banksy artworks, with infamous prints, sculptures and limited editions scattered across the walls of a vast 12,000 square foot space in Covent Garden. Tickets from £21.50.
50 Earlham Street, Covent Garden WC2H 9LJ; artofbanksy.co.uk

13 The Murdér Express, Bethnal Green
21 May-27 Feb 2022
Immersive dining experts Funicular return with their fantastic production, The Murdér Express. The experience takes place on a luxury train carriage, where you’ll enjoy a fantastic four-course meal curated by BBC MasterChef The Professionals Finalist 2017 Louisa Ellis, while a dramatic scenario plays out around you. Expect murder, mystery, a few moments of awkward eye contact as actors break the fourth wall, and some great cocktails.
Pedley Street Station, Arch 63 Pedley Street E1 5BW; funicularproductions.com

14 Bbar Brunch, Westminster
From 22 May
Bbar launches a brand new weekend brunch experience this month. Dine alfresco underneath London’s largest Living Wall directly opposite the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace. Choose from a delicious selection of South African dishes, from chilli bites and boerewors eggs benedict with chili chutney biltong to the signature ‘Son of a Gun’ buttermilk chicken burger. Finish with something sweet, such as buttermilk pancakes or brioche French toast with banana, coconut bacon and salted caramel sauce. Go bottomless for an additional £25 per person and enjoy unlimited prosecco (by the glass) for 90 minutes. Available Saturday or Sunday from 11am-4pm. Click here to book.
43 Buckingham Palace Road SW1W 0PP; bbarlondon.com

15 Doctor Who: Time Fracture at Immersive LDN, Mayfair
From 26 May

Olivier Award-winning producers Louis Hartshorn and Brian Hook, the duo behind The Great Gatsby, are set to launch a new immersive production of Doctor Who: Time Fracture. Taking place at Immersive LDN in Mayfair, a huge historic building with three floors of immersive theatre and event spaces designated for performance, live gaming, events, escape rooms and private parties, the ground-breaking theatrical adventure will plunge you into the incredible Universe of Doctor Who. It’s 1940, the height of the Blitz, and a weapon of unknown origin not only destroys a corner of Mayfair, it also opens a rift in the space-time continuum. Earth as we know it is a stake and it’s time for you to be the hero!. Tickets £49.95.
56 Davies Street, Mayfair W1K 5HR; immersivedoctorwho.com

16 Gaia at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
30 May-1 July
Following a sold-out display in summer 2020, Luke Jerram’s awe-inspiring art installation Gaia returns to the Old Royal Naval College. Set against the magnificent Baroque backdrop of the Painted Hall, a series of Friday late openings also offers the chance to see the internally-lit sculpture after dark. The monumental sculpture is an exact scale replica of our planet, measuring seven metres in diameter and floating in three dimensions like a ‘blue marble’. UK artist Luke Jerram used 120dpi NASA imagery to recreate the unique view of Earth experienced by astronauts in space. By standing 211 metres away from the slowly rotating artwork, you can see Earth as it appears from the moon, while enjoying a surround-sound composition created by BAFTA award-winning composer Dan Jones. Tickets £12.
Painted Hall, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, King William Walk SE10 9NN; ornc.digitickets.co.uk

17 Bohemia Place Night Market, Hackney
28 May
Bohemia Place Night Market is a new regular market taking place every Friday night from 6-10pm. The vibrant event hosts more than 20 traders offering street food, cocktails, desserts, drinks, clothing, beauty, artisan goods and more. London’s finest street traders offering up delicious food (incredible vegan options are available at every market), and there are also themed bars to help you toast farewell to another long week. Covid-secure measures are in place and pets and children are welcome. Entry is free but you’ll need to reserve a ticket (and a £2 donation is welcome).
Bohemia Place, Hackney E8 1DU; bohemiaplacemarket.com

18 Bottomless Afternoon Tea & Brunch from Fifty Seven Kitchen + Bar, East Dulwich
29 & 30 May
Fifty Seven Kitchen + Bar in East Dulwich, by award-winning caterer Suzanne James, is offering a Bottomless Afternoon Tea from 3pm-5pm on Saturday 29 May with fabulous food and bottomless prosecco cocktails that you can pimp up with a juice of your choice (£40pp). You can also enjoy Bottomless Brunch from 11.30am-1pm on Sunday 30 May with 90 minutes of brunch dishes and bottomless prosecco cocktails, again blended with the juice of your choice (£40pp).
57 North Cross Road, East Dulwich SE22 9ET; suzannejames.co.uk

19 West End Musical Drive In, Enfield
Until 29 May
Roll up for the final instalment of West End Musical Drive In, which brings West End stars direct to your cars. The perfect pitstop on the roadmap out of lockdown, it’s a great experience for theatre fans, where you can sing and dance along with your favourite stage stars as they belt their way through the musical canon. Previous Drive In performers include Kerry Ellis, Rachel Tucker, John Owen-Jones and Layton Williams, and on Saturday 29 May you can enjoy music by Luke Bayer from Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Nikki Bentley from Wicked, and Chelsea Halfpenny from 9-5 The Musical.  Contact-free delivery services will be available for food and drink. Tickets from £65 per car. Doors open at 1.45pm. Starts at 2.30pm.
The Drive In, Troubadour Meridian Water, Harbet Road N18 3QQ; westendmusicaldrivein.co.uk

20 Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street at the Design Museum, Kensington
18 May-24 October
The humble sneaker – or ‘trainer’, if you prefer – is the subject of the blockbuster exhibition reopening the Design Museum this month. From sneakers originally designed for specific athletic activities such as the Converse All Star Chuck Taylor, the Puma Disc, and Nike Alpha fly Next%, to their cultural resonance across the globe, the exhibition examines how the shoe became the cultural symbol of our times. Take a journey through the design process behind some of the most technically inventive shoes of today, see the adidas ‘FutureCraft.Strung’ shoe-making robot, learn about Satoshi, a brand using blockchain certification, see the world’s first biologically active shoes, developed for Puma, and relive legendary collaborations from the Air Jordan to Yeezy x adidas. Tickets £12.
224-238 Kensington High Street W8 6AG; designmuseum.org

21 Drive In Cinema at Alexandra Palace & Brent Cross
Until 31 May
Rooftop Cinema’s Drive In Cinemas at Alexandra Palace and Brent Cross come to a close this bank holiday weekend with tonnes of great film screenings. At Alexandra Palace, you can catch The Big Lebowski on Friday 28 May at 9pm, The Addams Family on Saturday 29 May at 2pm, 10 Things I Hate About You at 5pm and Pulp Fiction at 8.15pm, Beauty & the Beast on Sunday 30 May at 2pm, Forrest Gump at 5pm and Cruel Intentions at 8.30pm. On bank holiday Monday you can see Cool Runnings at 5pm and Fight Club at 8pm. Over at their Brent Cross site, there are 11 screenings across the bank holiday weekend with brilliant showings from Clueless to Sister Act and The Shawshank Redemption to Hocus Pocus.

22 Seven Dials Unplugged
29 May
Seven Dials Unplugged launched on 17 April for seven weeks of live music on Saturdays. Seven up-and-coming UK-based artists will play acoustic sets in the area’s iconic streets in an initiative to support performers heavily affected by COVID-19. Discover the pop-up performances in the West End village during select Saturdays between 2pm and 7pm up until 26 June. Performances will take place simultaneously in a number of different outdoor locations throughout the intertwined streets, encouraging music fans to move about rather than crowd around one performer. Each set will last 15 minutes. Timed road closures and additional outdoor seating for many restaurants and cafes mean that the iconic Seven Dials district will make a great alfresco destination this spring/summer.

23 Rooftop Film Club, Peckham & Stratford
Until 28 June
The Rooftop Film Club has returned to its rooftop homes at Peckham’s iconic Bussey Building and Roof East in Stratford with a line up of brilliant films ranging from Pretty Woman and Dirty Dancing to Sound of Metal, Queen and Slim and Spirited Away. Get yourself there early to soak in the spectacular views and bag yourself some drinks and street food. All seating is unreserved and the venue uses wireless headphones, which can be collected on arrival along with a blanket at the Box Office. Note that start-times are approximate and will vary according to the sunset. Highlights include Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry on Friday 28 May at 9pm at the Bussey Building and Pretty Woman on bank holiday Monday at 9pm.

24 Skylight Canalside featuring KERB, Wapping
Until 7 August
Skylight Canalside featuring KERB launches this bank holiday weekend, running every Saturday throughout the summer until 7 August. The new collaboration offers some of London’s finest street food across the Grade I-listed warehouses and cobbled lanes of Tobacco Dock’s ground-level Quayside area. Located waterside beneath the two ‘pirate’ ships, the new addition to east London’s eating and drinking scene is a great alfresco setting for Covid-conscious catch-ups. Two new KERB food trucks will park up each month, with Neapolitan-style pizzas by Fundi and Italian-inspired burgers by Tongue and Cheek up first. Tables of six are available to book on Saturdays throughout the summer, until 7 August. Tables are £10 to secure for a two-hour-45-minute session, starting at 12pm, 3pm and 6pm.
Tobacco Dock, Wapping Lane Entrance E1W 2SF; skylightlondon.com

25 Russell Tovey’s Tour of King’s Cross
From 27 April

A tour of the rich cultural history of King’s Cross with actor and art aficionado Russell Tovey is not something we had anticipated doing this bank holiday weekend, but we’re certainly game! Alas, he won’t actually be there in person, but his 45-minute audio guide will take you from the smoky heart of Victorian industry and London’s underground clubbing heyday, to today’s contemporary, vibrant hotspot. In King’s Cross: Art + Culture Tour, Tovey takes you through the world-class art installations, famous architecture and rich cultural history of the area. Did you know, for example, that the warrior Queen Boudicca’s final battle with the legions of Rome, ending the resistance to Roman rule in Britain, supposedly took place at Battle Bridge Road in King’s Cross? Let Tovey tell you all about it… The free tour can be accessed via an online app.

26 The Return of London at The St Martin in the Fields Crypt Gallery
1 May-31 July
A brand new commemorative printed map has been created by the celebrated artist-cartographer Adam Dant to mark the 300th anniversary of the first foundation stone being laid at the Church of St Martin in the Fields. Unveiled for the first time at The St Martin in the Fields Crypt Gallery, The Novel Map of the Parish of St Martin in the Fields forms the exciting centrepiece for an exhibition of the artist’s lively depictions of London public spaces. The Return of London is also part a wider series of activities celebrating the ‘reanimation’ of the capital, with the church of St Martin in the Fields at it’s heart. Running every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are free and bookings can be made here.
Crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square WC2N 4JH; stmartin-in-the-fields.org

27 The Silk Road: A Living History, King’s Cross
Until 16 June
The Silk Road: A Living History is an open-air photography exhibition by travel photographer Christopher Wilton-Steer. The exhibition documents Wilton-Steer’s journey along the historic trade route undertaken in 2019. Over a period of four months, he travelled 40,000km, traversing 16 countries by car, bus, train, ferry, horse and camel, from London’s King’s Cross London to Beijing. The exhibition’s linear design, around Granary Square, creates a physical route for the viewer offering them the chance to travel by proxy via more than 160 photographs capturing the places, people and cultures along the ancient trade route. Presented by The Aga Khan Foundation in partnership with King’s Cross.
Granary Square, King’s Cross N1; akf.org.uk