things to do london october

The coolest things to do in London in October

Even with curfews and Covid restrictions, there’s still plenty of excitement to be found in the capital

It’s not an easy time to be an arts or hospitality venue right now. Where once October would have meant the launching of new blockbuster exhibitions, star-studded plays and fine dining restaurants in which to wile away the long evenings, now ever-changing restrictions, curfews and group limits mean it’s almost impossible for a bar, theatre or gallery to know how to plan for the future.

And yet, with incredible strength of spirit, the London’s finest institutions continue to throw caution to the wind and open their doors to bring culture, art and a great night out back to the capital. From delayed exhibitions to the play everyone will be talking about, here’s what to book this month.

The event: London Craft Week

The capital is bursting with artistic talent and once a year London Craft Week brings the best of it together to celebrate the breadth of London’s creative scene. This year’s festival features more than 250 makers spanning jewellery, architecture, ceramics, textile design, furniture making and much more. As well as individual events from brands including Globe-Trotter, Lalique and Tom Dixon, there’s also a huge programme of tours, talks, exhibitions and workshops not to miss.

The Belmond Cadogan Hotel, for example, will be offering a tour of its extensive art collection – usually only available to view by guests – while the illustrious brands of St James, including Luca Faloni, Budd London and Floris, have come together to help visitors explore the craftsmanship of the area with its QEST Craft Trail. Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross will also provide a focal point of the festival. Book yourself into Joseph Cheaney & Sons’ shoe polishing masterclass before dropping into Paul Smith for its exhibition of Vic Wright artworks. Events run until 10 October.


The delayed must-see: Royal Academy Winter Exhibition

royal academy summer exhibition
Image courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts/David Parry

The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition is one of the biggest events on the capital’s art calendar so culture seekers were hugely disappointed when it was cancelled for the first time in 252 years this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the RA is back and, this month, so is the newly renamed Winter Exhibition. Bringing together works from new and emerging artists including Tracey Emin, Gillian Wearing, Ai Weiwei and Anselm Keifer, it promises “art you love, art you hate, and art that puts a smile on your face”.


The nightlife: London Cocktail Week

london cocktail week

Okay, nightlife may be a stretch seeing as everything shuts down at 10pm now – but that doesn’t mean you can’t expand your at-home aperitivo repertoire with the help of London Cocktail Week. The name itself is also something of a misnomer as, due to Covid restrictions, the event has been extended to last the full month of October.

And, trust us, you’ll need it. Buy a festival pass and every night this month you’ll be able to enjoy £6 signature cocktails at hundreds of venues across the capital, including the Black Rock whisky bar, Double Standard at The Standard hotel and Mr Fogg’s. There also a full schedule of events to take advantage of, including an exhibition on the history of Moët & Chandon at Selfridges, a virtual reality pop-up hosted by Laphroaig and cocktail workshops from the likes of Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire and Havana Club.


The play: Beat the Devil at Bridge Theatre

ralph fiennes beat the devil
Image courtesy Bridge Theatre/Manuel Harlan

London Bridge’s Bridge Theatre, the first venue run by Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr’s London Theatre Company, has recently emerged from lockdown with a series of 12 one-person plays performed to a socially distanced audience of 250. Among the highlights are Inua Ellams’ An Evening With An Immigrant and Zodwa Nyoni’s Nine Lives but we’re making a beeline for Beat the Devil, David Hare’s autobiographical play starring Ralph Fiennes.

Framed around an outpouring of frustration over the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, Beat the Devil explores the social, political and medical issues we’ve all faced over the past few months, delivered with a powerful yet self-deprecating rage by Fiennes. This is the balm your theatre-deprived, sick of social distancing self needs. Runs until 31 October.


The exhibition: Turner’s Modern World

jmw turner painting

The Tate Britain’s autumn blockbuster will bring together 160 of JMW Turner’s most important works, including major loans and rarely seen paintings and drawings from the Tate’s own Turner Bequest. A landmark show, Turner’s Modern World will take in the full scope of the artist’s work, examining the influence of the conflicts that raged for much of his life, his interest in social reform, politics, labour and slavery and how he explored these in his works and, finally, his response to the Industrial Revolution and the marked change to his style that developed as a way of processing the fast pace of change. Opening on 28 October, we recommend you book your ticket early.


The day out: Halloween at Eltham Palace

eltham palace
Image courtesy of English Heritage.

Now restricted to just six people, your annual Halloween blow out might be more damp squib than demonic spectre but that doesn’t mean you can’t find some serious spooks if you look hard enough. Eltham Palace, a former medieval residence that was transformed into an Art Deco masterpiece by eccentric millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld, has been home to its fair share of ghastly goings-on over the years. Long rumoured to be home to the supernatural, experience its haunting atmosphere for yourself with a guided after-dark ghost tour this Halloween. And, even if you don’t happen to have an encounter of the unexplained kind, it’s still worth a visit for the house’s stunning architecture.


The night out: London's activity bars

Similarly, any night out is also restricted to six people — which throws cold water on your extravagant cocktail evenings. Thankfully, like many bars and pubs around the country, bookings are still being taken at freshly-sanitised activity bars — which offer you a welcome distraction from these distracting times. From darts to shuffleboard, mini-golf to ping pong, there are plenty of options in the capital. Our choices? For top quality food and safety measures that won’t impede on your game, head to Swingers City. And for a taste of old-fashioned pub magic in a thoroughly disinfected setting; Flight Club Bloomsbury.

Staying at home? Here’s what to watch on Netflix this month…

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