Ideas for the weekend……. so many Festivals!

It’s summer (apparently), and what means summer more than festivals? But it’s not only the usual music festivals we have to look forward to….. London is jam packed with celebrations, fetes, fairs and all sorts of festivals this summer! Here’s my pick of things to do over this weekend and the next few weeks…..

Celebrate the City starts today and runs for four days, celebrating all the City has to offer…… stunning architecture, rich history and heritage, must-see exhibitions, as well as a host of special events and entertainment. Most of the activities on offer are free and include, tours, walks, talks, and open days for some of the most impressive venues in the Square Mile.

It all kicks off this evening with a grand opening and launch event  at Guildhall Yard, with students of the famous Guildhall School of Music & Drama playing Tchaikovsky’s dramatic 1812 Overture in the shadow of the 600 year-old Guildhall. You can view all the events by date or type on the website here, but here are a few of my favourites…..


Reach for the sky

“A melting pot of ambitious modern structures and old buildings, this walk is a must for architecture fans.”

– Starts outside St Lawrence Jewry (front entrance) at 7:30pm. Free.


Keats in the City walk

“Keats was known as the ‘Cockney poet’ and this 2.5 hour walk explores parts of London where he lived and studied. Starting at Keats birthplace in Moorgate, it weaves through the quiet streets to Cheapside, to Apothecaries’ Hall and along the river to London Bridge, crossing the Thames to finish by the Keats memorial statue in Guys Hospital. Enjoy a selection of readings from Keats poetry and letters along the way.”

– Starts at Moorgate tube station (exit Moorgate east side by NatWest Bank, opposite cafe Nero) at 11am. Free, but contact Keats House to book on 020 7332 3868.

All Hallows by the Tower tour

“Take a tour of this historic church All Hallows based just by the Tower of London – reputedly the oldest in the City – which examines its heritage.”

– Starts at 2pm. Free.

The public face of Art

“Around almost every street corner in the City you’ll find a piece of public sculpture – this tour leads you here and explains how the enhance the Square Mile.”

– Starts at Bank Junction at 5pm, ends at Tower Bridge. Free, but to book email

Amore in the Churchyard

“Come and enjoy this exciting and fresh opera group in the romantic ruins of one of Sir Christopher Wren’s churches.”

– St Dunstan-in-the-East, St Dunstan’s Hill EC3, 6pm. Free, but to secure a place email

Sundowner at Tower Bridge

“Where better to watch the sun setting than from the world-famous Tower Bridge with a glass or two of champagne in your hand?”

– Tower Bridge, 6:30pm to 9pm. Free to enter, champagne cash bar, no booking required.


Bank of England Tours

“Take the opportunity to see inside the parts of the Bank not generally accessible to the public on these guided tours which leave every 30 minutes.”

– Bank of England Museum, 9.30am-5pm (last entry 4pm). Free.

Guildhall Market

“Tickle your tastebuds and browse Livery stalls at this one-off market in the historic Guildhall Yard.”

– Guildhall Yard, Gresham Street EC2, 10am-5pm. Free.

Bishopsgate Institute Open Day

“Head to this revamped cultural institution Bishopsgate Institute by Liverpool Street Station for a day of free talks, discussions, tours, music and courses (some activities in partnership with Spitalfields Music Festival).”

– 230 Bishopsgate EC2M 4QH, 10am-5pm. Free.


Building Opening: Guildhall

“This majestic 600 year-old Guildhall throws open its doors – peek into the Great Hall which will be set up for the next Sheriffs election; admire the Livery Hall; enjoy the Guildhall Art Gallery; marvel at the Old Library; check out the Print Room; hide in the Crypts and gasp at theRoman Amphitheatre. Come and see the Magna Carta (on display in the Amphitheatre) and other City of London treasures including Shakespeare’s Folio dotted around the complex. A treasure trail like no other!

– Guildhall, Gresham Street EC2 10am-5pm. Free.

Building Opening: Goldmsiths’ Livery Hall

“An opportunity to see inside the beautiful Goldsmiths’ livery hall with its magnificent rooms filled with rare and historic treasures.”

– Goldsmiths’ Hall, Foster Lane EC2V 6BN 10am-5pm. Free.

What the Dickens!

“Follow in the footsteps of Charles Dickens through the alleys of the City: his ‘magic lantern’ of inspiration.”

– Starts at Guildhall Yard, Gresham Street EC2, 10am and 1.20pm. Free, but to book email stating day, walk title, time and number of attendees. Maximum two bookings per adult.

Walk: The blooming City

“There are around 200 gardens and plazas dotted around the Square Mile – discover these oases of calm.”

– Starts at Guildhall Yard, off Gresham Street EC2, 12noon and 3pm. Free, but to book email stating day, walk title, time and number of attendees. Maximum two bookings per adult.

The City of London Festival starts this Sunday and lasts until the 27th July. The Festival seeks “to entertain and inspire the City’s workers, residents and visitors with special events and world-class artists in beautiful surroundings, whilst providing unique opportunities for targeted business dialogue, community involvement, learning and participation. Each summer the City of London Festival brings the City’s unique buildings and outdoor spaces to life with an extensive artistic programme of music, visual arts, film, walks and talks, much of it free to the public. Inaugurated in 1962 to revitalise the cultural life of the City, it has established itself as one of the UK’s leading arts events.”

Events range from large-scale orchestral concerts in St Paul’s Cathedral to intimate chamber recitals in the City’s beautiful but hidden livery halls, and from innovative aerial acrobatics to jazz bands in the Guildhall Yard. There are also exclusive walks and talks…… you can search the list of events by date and type here.

The London 2012 Festival opens today and will see over 12,000 events and performances across the UK in celebration of the Games, with incredible cultural events and top artists across the world. I’m not even going to attempt to cover this, as it’s huge, but you can see the festival brochure and guide here to learn more about the arts, literature, comedy, dance, fashion, film, food, heritage and music events coming up.

Some of 
East London’s most iconic venues open their doors to host a fabulous range of classical and contemporary music, family activities, and special tours for the Spitalfields Music Summer Festival. Bringing together world class artists and locals alike, the festival draws inspiration from the creative hub of East London, with the aim of bringing people together, changing perspectives and engaging body, emotions and intellect. Tickets vary in price, but you can find out how to book here and there’s a map of the events here….

I love this idea….. with the rain set to continue all Summer, the Old Vic Tunnels is the perfect place to enjoy a Summer Holiday Camp! There’s going to be indoor crazy golf, badminton & basketball courts, a ping-pong table, face painting and a bouncy castle! There’s also a Pimm’s summer meadow to relax in, as well as a circus tent with popcorn, ice cream and a Punch and Judy show! Oh, and the wonderful Tootsie Rollers will be playing around the campfire.

– Thursday 21st June to  Sunday 24th June,  Thursday to Saturday 7pm til 1am and Sunday 2pm til 9pm. Tickets are £15 in advance and £17.50 on the door.

Fabulous West End performances, including Lion King, Top Hat, Matilda and the Wizard of Oz will be shown in Trafalgar Square this weekend as part of West End Live. Featuring showcase performances from every  West End musical, live bands and a wonderful array of interactive exhibits from many of London’s top museums, galleries and cultural institutions, this free event is bound to be super popular!

Well, that should be enough to keep us all occupied for a while! Enjoy!

Ems x


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