12 amazing things to do in London in 2023
Banish boredom with our pick of exhibitions, restaurants, festivals and museums to visit in this culture-stuffed capital
It’s not exactly news that there’s lots going in London. This is a city that’s packed to the brim with pretty much any and every activity you could possibly want, with great new stuff being announced all the time. And 2023 is no different in that respect, thanks to a dizzying – and constantly evolving – list of experiences.
To make life a little easier, we’ve picked out a few cultural highlights taking place across the year, covering art exhibitions, restaurant openings, museums, music festivals and other exciting happenings. Whether you’re visiting for a weekend or have lived in the city for years, clear your London calendar, because there’s a lot to fit-in during 2023.
See historical narratives and modern-day culture intertwine at this mixed-media exhibition, which uses photography, film and audio to provide a snapshot of contemporary Africa’s diversity. Themes include spirituality, identity, urbanism and climate emergency, and the exhibition promises to “guide the viewer through dream-like utopias and bustling cityscapes viewed from the artists’ perspectives.” This looks to be one of London’s most interesting and exciting exhibitions of 2023.
A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography
Tate Modern, Jul 6–Jan 14, 2024
Get a fresh perspective on life this year – the kind of perspective that makes the world look as if it’s been turned inside-out. Experience this somewhat twisted outlook at a new museum tucked-away in plain sight on one of London’s busiest stretches, Oxford Street. Here, you’ll learn about how your brain receives and processes information through a ton of optical illusions that royally mess about with your perception of, well, everything. It’s an interactive and hands-on journey, so be prepared to jump right in to the surreal action.
248 Oxford St, London, W1C 1DH
London’s already world-class dining scene is set to get even better this year, with a host of new restaurant openings throughout 2023. A few have already opened, including stylish Caribbean joint Jam Delish, where you’ll find meat-free versions of traditional Caribbean favourites, like curry goat with rice and Jamaican brown stew fish, plus a first London location for self-styled “pancake pioneers” Stack & Still, who claim there are over 12 million pancake/topping combinations possible at their restaurants – tortilla chips, peanut butter, flamed peaches and granola, anyone?
Set to open at the end of the month is “hyper-seasonal, low impact” restaurant EDIT, a buzzy new venue in east London offering elevated plant-based dining and a focus on sustainability. Then there’s the return of Asma Khan’s Indian innovations at wildly successful Darjeeling Express, which has found a new permanent Soho home. Also keep an eye on celebrated chef Adejoké Bakare, whose award-winning restaurant Chishuru – serving modern takes on West African cuisine – will announce its new location later this year.
Put yourself in the picture, quite literally, at this immersive art exhibition, where audiovisual projections of various masterpieces cover the walls, floors and ceilings, where they shift, expand and melt away in wondrous fashion. Visitors can essentially walk ‘through’ these digital versions of world-famous works by Salvador Dalí, Edvard Munch, Claude Monet, Hilma af Klint, Paul Klee, Rachel Ruysch and numerous others. Countless exhibitions nowadays claim to be immersive, but just aren’t. Frameless genuinely is.
6 Marble Arch, London, W1H 7AP
The opportunity to nose around some of London’s most interesting and unique buildings is not one to be passed up, and that’s exactly what you’ll be able to do at this brilliant annual festival. Numerous amazing buildings, including many not normally open to the public, will be swinging open their doors and welcoming visitors, allowing all and sundry to stroll around various grand halls, palaces, water towers, churches, gardens, private homes and other architectural treasures – all for free.
Open House Festival
Venues around London, Sep 6-17
London loves a music festival, and there are plenty of great ones lined-up for 2023 – far too many to name, in fact, but a few of the summer highlights include alternative-leaning Wide Awake in leafy Brockwell Park (featuring the kooky pop of Caroline Polachek and Daniel Avery’s otherworldly electronica), All Points East (featuring a day headlined and curated by London icon Stormzy, plus indie-rock vibes the following weekend from The Strokes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and Cross The Tracks (packed with soul, jazz and funk from NxWorries, Ezra Collective and Kelis).
Elsewhere, there’s electronica overlord Aphex Twin headlining Field Day, sweaty rave vibes at Junction 2, nostalgic pop at Mighty Hoopla, comedy, spoken word and art alongside the music at Kaleidoscope… The list goes on, as does the beat, as far as London’s concerned.
This award-winning museum has been in operation since 2015, but will be located in a permanent home in Finsbury Park from summer. Although it’s so far made appearances at major galleries like Tate Modern, much of the museum’s work is based around outreach work and awareness raising, alongside interactive exhibitions and cultural performances – everyone who works at the museum has experience of homelessness. The Finsbury Park venue will exhibit parts of the national collection for homelessness currently being built, as well as hosting exhibitions and performance, showcasing work from artists in residence, and providing support services for people affected by homelessness. An all-round insightful, innovative and urgent project.
Museum of Homelessness
Opening late summer
Since launching in 2012, VAULT has grown into a vast and varied arts festival, hosting hundreds of shows covering theatre, comedy, performance, cabaret, family theatre, parties and experiential goings-on. It all takes place inside a cavernous, subterranean complex called – appropriately enough – The Vaults, and you’ll find established names rubbing shoulders with plenty of talented up-and-comers.
The Vaults, Leake St, London, SE1 7NN. Jan 24-Mar 19
This large-scale exhibition showcases work from over 100 female artists in the UK between 1970 and 1990, in order to delve into “art, activism and the women’s movement”, as the event subtitle explains. Painting, sculpture, film, performance and drawing will all be on display, exploring topics and events including the Women’s Liberation Movement in Britain, the Rock Against Racism movement, the AIDs pandemic, and the experiences of female artists of the time who were ignored by the mainstream art world.
Women in Revolt! Art, Activism and the Women’s movement in the UK 1970–1990
Tate Britain, Nov 8–Apr 7, 2024
This annual event celebrates London’s status as one of the foremost design capitals in the world through a programme of cutting-edge installations, exhibitions, workshops and talks. Architecture, art, science, craft and sustainability all combine and bounce off each other at the festival, taking place at venues across the city.
London Design Festival
Venues around London, Sep 16-24
The UK’s ultimate street party and one of the biggest carnivals on the planet, this west London institution celebrating Caribbean culture and music is still going strong after 55 years. Colourful parades and steel bands fill the streets, with floats carrying epic soundsystems and dancers decked-out in incredible costumes. Bars, restaurants and cafes spill out on to the pavements, and there’s a party happening around every corner. Sunday is family day and includes a children’s parade, before the main parade springs to life on Monday, with soundsystems setting up camp to blast out dub, reggae, bashment, drum ’n’ bass, hip hop, techno, disco, house… You name it and it’s probably being danced to somewhere at NHC.
Notting Hill Carnival
Around west London, Aug 27-28
Africa Fashion at V&A: Mbeuk Idourrou collection, Imane Ayissi Ayissi, Paris, France, Autumn/Winter 2019 / Image: © Fabrice Malard / Courtesy of Imane Ayissi
Africa Fashion at V&A: Aso Lànkí, Kí Ató Ki Ènìyàn (‘We greet dress before we greet its wearer’) collection, Lagos, Nigeria, 2021. Lagos Space Programme / Image: © Kadara Enyesai
It’s not a new opening for 2023, but this superb exhibition at the V&A runs until mid-April, and we urge anyone who hasn’t visited yet to do so before it closes. As we highlighted last year in a round-up of London’s must-see African exhibitions, Africa Fashion is a celebration of creative and diverse fashion scenes from around a similarly diverse continent. Photography, textiles, music and visual art will be on display, representing more than 20 countries and totalling more than 250 items. Go experience it while you still can.
V&A, until Apr 16