United Kingdom

THE BEST FESTIVALS & FAIRS IN LONDON

by Roisin McAuley  |  Updated January 29, 2018

As one of the world’s great capitals of entertainment, it is little surprise that London plays host to a huge and diverse number of festivals and fairs throughout the year. A vibrant cultural landscape combined with a cosmopolitan outlook draws hundreds and thousands of visitors, while a population of over 8.5 million, including a large number of students and youngsters, means there are plenty of creative minds to help conceive of such events.

Vault launches London’s first annual festival dedicated to comedy and immersive theatre (Photo: Vault Festival)

Artists, scientists, musicians, filmmakers and many more will showcase their work and ideas this year in London; a city that is renowned for hosting festivals and fairs that rival anywhere else in the world. We’ve put together our selection of the very best set to take place from January to June 2018. Hopefully you get a chance to attend at least some of them.

January 2018

Re:Solutions

London is known for its hectic lifestyle and long working hours, so this health and wellness festival is a much needed escape for the community. The aim is to rest and rejuvenate for the year ahead, emphasising the relaxation process and refocusing on the mind and body. Hosted at Juju’s Bar & Stage, Re:Solutions has such a variety of classes that there is something to appeal to most people, whether you relax more with yoga or by channeling your energy into dance classes. Speakers and wellness coaches are part of the programme, alongside workshops and evenings filled with live music. 

WHERE Juju’s at The Old Truman Brewery, 15 Hanbury Street WHEN January 12-21, 2018  

SFF’s Programme includes a Brexit Shorts strand (Photo: London Short Film Festival)

London Short Film Festival 

Now in its 15th year, the London Short Film Festival has established itself as one of the best UK and International film festivals. From documentaries and fiction to experimental moving image art, the creative, cross disciplinary programming runs alongside industry events to make LSFF top of both filmmakers and film lovers’ schedules. This edition will see a strand dedicated to the topic and implications of Brexit and after a tumultuous year for the entertainment industry, the issue of diversity will be on the minds of many.

WHERE Various Venues WHEN January 7-31, 2018 

London Art Fair

The 30th Anniversary of the London Art Fair brings together over 100 galleries exhibiting modern and contemporary art from across the globe. The main fair will be accompanied by two additional exhibitions: Photo50 dedicating its walls to contemporary photography practices, and Art Projects, which focuses on diversity by providing a platform for international galleries. Visitors are invited to enjoy a daily programme of talks and tours. Tickets for the day are £15.95, increasing to £23 on the door; alternatively make the most of the late night opening on Thursday, when tickets are priced from £9.

WHERE Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street WHEN January 16-21 

Waterlicht by Studio Roosegaarde will light up London as part of Lumiere (Photo: Lumiere London)

Lumiere London

Now in its second edition in the capital, Lumiere Festival previously lit up many of England’s cities before coming to London for the first time last year. Iconic architecture and streets become canvases for UK and international artists, as they design public spaces both North and South of the Thames with bold, colourful lights. The team behind the festival aims to change the way the communities think about these public areas and this eclectic mix of digital art, bright lights and interactive installations certainly does that, transforming the city into a nocturnal playground.  

WHERE Venues across London WHEN January 18-21, 2018 

February 2018

Watch Where the Wild Things Are come to life at the creative workshops of the Imagine Children’s Festival (Photo: Southbank Centre)

Imagine Children’s Festival

A great half term event for those with children, Imagine Children’s Festival has over 12 days of activities, theatre shows and authors to entertain and inspire the next generation of creatives. This year Radio 1’s Greg James and Chris Smith will host a superhero event based on their new book Kid Normal and children’s favourite author Jacqueline Wilson will be discussing her characters and books, both old and new. The multi-arts programme is created for children from 0 – 12 with both free and ticketed events covering performance, illustration and talks.

WHERE Southbank Centre WHEN February 7- 18, 2018

Flamenco Festival London

With a season dedicated to celebrating flamenco dance and music, this two week festival injects the passion of the culture into London. The programme includes 12 unique shows exhibiting film, dance and music by some of the world’s best flamenco talent. A true celebration of the history and future of flamenco, the gala explores its gitano roots and showcases emerging talent who will continue the traditions of the culture. Tickets are sold for individual performances with different prices dependent on seating choices.

WHERE Sadler’s Wells Theatre WHEN February 14- 25, 2018 

Gin Festival is the original biggest, and best UK gin festival (Photo: Gin Festival)

Gin Festival

The Gin Festival brings gin from across the world to London, including selected rare or limited edition bottles. Masterclasses are spread across four days, with distillers in attendance, so enjoy the great atmosphere and live music by heading to the cocktail bar for your favourite gin based drink. Any gin enthusiast would not want to miss this and tickets are very limited so book in advance! The event has both evening and day sessions, both priced at £16.

WHERE Tobacco Docks WHEN February 15 -18, 2018  

Chinese New Year 2018

The London Chinatown Chinese Association brings in the year of the dog with this annual event, offering London a taste of Chinese culture. This is the largest parade outside of Asia with over 30 teams designing floats for the day’s celebrations. Trafalgar square hosts the main stage with performances from midday and other activities include calligraphy, Chinese music, martial arts performances and dressing up in traditional outfits. A traditional Chinese New Year menu is served at both the street food trucks in Trafalgar square and restaurants in Chinatown. The celebrations finish with a pyrotechnic show! For visitors to the city, surrounding areas will be very busy making travel a little longer than usual so make sure you arrive in plenty of time to enjoy the vibrant Chinese celebrations, which are free for everyone.

WHERE Trafalgar Square & Chinatown WHEN February 18, 2018

Craft Beer Rising

Last year, the UK’s biggest craft beer festival sold over 25,000 pints and this year it looks like the event will be even better than before. The 175 breweries attending offer a selection of craft beers, ales and ciders, and a variety of food stalls and BBQs keep craft beer enthusiasts fuelled all day. The incredible beers, complimenting international tastes and live music combine to make this event unmissable. Tickets can be bought in advance from £12- £20.  

WHERE The Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane WHEN February 22- 24, 2018

March 2018

Delicate displays and authentic Thai ephemera feature at the Orchid Festival in Kew Gardens (Photo: Jeff Eden, RBG Kew)

Orchid Festival

One of the nation’s most-loved plants celebrates its Thai origins and culture at Kew Gardens’ Orchid Festival. Escape from the busy streets of London into what seems like another world with its serenity and exoticness. Floral displays, embellished arches and authentic Thai ephemera decorate the gardens; pleasing more than just the eye with tours, talks and activities that share insights into the endangered flower and its use across Thai cuisine, medicine and culture. There is also the opportunity to attend after hours visits where, in addition to the day experiences, there are Thai dance performances, relaxing massage and spa treatments, cocktails and insect tastings. 

WHERE Kew Gardens WHEN Feb 10 – March 11 , 2018

Southbank Centre’s WOW – Women of the World festival runs 7-11 March 2018, supported by Bloomberg (Photo: Southbank Centre)

Women of the World Festival

Celebrating the power of women and girls across the world, the WOW- Women of the World Festival aims to highlight equal rights and discuss a simple question: why is gender equality taking so long to achieve? Off the back of a year where the #metoo campaign reached almost every industry, the WOW festival is well positioned to debate contemporary problems and celebrate women’s successes. Speakers include female artists, writers, politicians and activists who have been selected for a programme of talks, concerts, art installations, performances, workshops and much more. A range of passes are available; visitors can attend one day, or select 2 or 3 day passes all priced £30, £55, £80 respectively.

WHERE Southbank Centre WHEN March 7-11, 2018

Chivaree Circus presents Becoming Shades at Vault Festival (Photo: Vault Festival)

Vault Festival

Interested in comedy? Or dance? Maybe theatre or film are more your thing? Whatever you enjoy, Vault Festival has curated a programme that presents artists across disciplines showcasing new ideas. Over eight weeks displays, diverse in both genre and themes, appear in bars and venues across Waterloo making this London’s biggest arts and comedy festival. The comedy shows will feature some this year’s most highly-anticipated acts with Edinburgh Comedy Award Winners, stand-up heavyweights and TV panel show stars all showcasing new material. The boundary pushing programme will also include an immersive and VR performance space, Unit 9, with interactive experiences following a dystopian theme and a lifeboat escape room. Another sensory filled highlight is the Chivaree Circus’s production Becoming Shades; a performance of dance, aerial acrobatics, music and fire that runs the length of the festival. Tickets can be bought for each individual performance online and vary in price.

WHERE Various Venues, Waterloo WHEN Jan 24 – March 18 , 2018

St Patrick’s Day Festival

London’s annual St Patrick’s Day Festival runs for three days bringing the best of Irish food, music, dance, art and culture to the capital. A one day parade is at the heart of the festival, with activities for all ages including family treasure trails and partner community fairs. Experience both old and new film, poetry and music, where the atmosphere always promises to be fantastic. Best of all, no tickets are required to enjoy any of the weekend’s events so everyone is free to join in. 

WHERE Trafalgar Square WHEN March 16-18, 2018

Head to the banks of the Thames and hope for sunshine to enjoy this year’s boat race (Photo: Head of the River Race)

Head of the River Race

Join spectators on the banks of the Thames to cheer on over 400 national and international rowing crews. The Thames Championship Course is a 4.25 mile section of the river from Mortlake to Putney, but you don’t need to be rowing to enjoy the race. This is usually a popular event, so arrive in plenty of time to pick your spot or head to one of the many riverside pubs to see who will win this year’s fiercely competitive boat race. 

WHERE Thames between Mortlake and Putney WHEN March 11, 2018

April 2018

Barbour & Parlour are one of many specialists exhibiting at the London Coffee Festival (Photo: Hope & Glory PR)

The London Coffee Festival

Masters of the coffee industry host a festival that combines coffee and creativity for a weekend; inviting attendees to sample enough coffee to power them through to next year’s exhibition. Open to everyone from industry professionals to individuals who simply love coffee: live music, DJs, exhibitions and coffee based cocktails feature throughout the weekend. Highlights include the bottomless tastings of fresh coffee, world class baristas and specialists, live latte art and labs demonstrating everything you will ever need to know about the caffeinated pick-me-up. Tickets are priced from £14.50 with special prices available for those in the industry.

WHERE Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane WHEN April 12-15, 2018, Buy Tickets here

Cyril Leclerc and Elizabeth Saint-Jalmes’ Slow Pixel at Cryptic’s Sonica (Photo: Courtesy of the Artists)

Sonica

It’s difficult to sum up what you’ll experience at Sonica; exhibitions showcase diverse and boundary pushing ideas experimenting with sound based art. Sonica launched in Glasgow in 2012 and since then has toured across the world becoming a permanent biennial event in both its native city and London. Prepare for all your senses to be stimulated, as emerging and established international artists produce multimedia performances combing music, sonic and visual art. Each performance has its own admission fee so head over to the website to select the performances you want to attend.

WHERE Kings Place WHEN April 20-21, 2018

Virgin Money London Marathon

Whether participating in the race or cheering from the sidelines, the London Marathon draws thousands of people to the streets of London every year. Previous years have seen over a quarter of a million people from the UK apply to race; many raising money for charity or achieving personal fitness goals. For those not running, the city transforms into a 26.2 mile street party. Head to the pub, enjoy a drink and maybe a bite to eat- the party or run, depending which criteria you fit, will go on all day.

WHERE Starting at Greenwich and finishing at Buckingham Palace WHEN April 22, 2018 

A visitor samples some high-tech gear at Imperial Festival (Photo: Imperial College London)

Imperial Festival

Open to all ages, the festival will inform kids and inspire adults alike. At the heart of the programme is a range of new technology and science combined with live music and great food. Enjoy fascinating talks and get involved in workshops that showcase innovative, new developments that will impact our lives in the future; from medical advancements to environmental alternatives. This is an exciting opportunity to immerse young people in an interactive and educational environment opening their minds to new interests.

WHERE Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus WHEN April 28-29, 2018

May

London Burlesque Festival

The burlesque, cabaret and variety show returns for another year. Bold and memorable performances make up a programme that is recognised as one of the most prestigious of its kind internationally. Since its debut in 2007, the festival has built on its reputation every year continuing to attract international audiences of burlesque fans and intrigued newcomers to the genre. Whatever your knowledge, the festival is choreographed to astound, entice and entrance; pushing the boundaries of burlesque and the expectations of the audience.

WHERE Shaw Theatre WHEN April 27- June 2, 2018

Alchemy

Now in its ninth year, Alchemy returns to the Southbank Centre celebrating South Asia and its cultural connections to the UK. Over 11 days, the largest festival of South Asian culture outside of the subcontinent will feature the thought provoking work and ideas of both British and international artists. Themes of art, politics and society are explored through its multidisciplinary programme comprised of dance, music, theatre, visual art, comedy and literature.

WHERE Southbank Centre WHEN May 4- 7, 2018  

Eleanor Lakelin at Cockpit Arts during London Craft Week (Photo: Alun Callender Photography)

London Craft Week

A relatively young arts festival, Craft Week creeps into hidden studios and even the House of Lords to showcase the craft and artistry of hundreds of independent makers worldwide. Marvel at demonstrations and attend workshops, talks and tours to discover both new practices and innovative ideas on traditional craft. London Craft Week is a not-for-profit event so anyone can attend to access new techniques and learn practices themselves. 

WHERE Various Locations WHEN May 9- 13, 2018

PhotoLondon

With world renowned photo festivals taking place across Europe, London decided to host its own to cement its cultural capital status. Now in its third year, the fair gives opportunities to both established artists and galleries and emerging photographers, through the Discovery section and talks programme. Somerset House welcomes an audience of photographers, curators, art dealers and exhibitors, as well as the public to enjoy and celebrate the contemporary photographic medium and its past.

WHERE Somerset House  WHEN May 17-20, 2018

(Photo: MCM Expo Group)

MCM Comic Con

For three days pop culture enthusiasts gather at the MCM Comic Con, attending panel sessions and meeting special guests. This extravaganza will see some of the most creative costumes and dedicated fans immerse in everything to do with comics, movies, gaming, anime, television and gadgets.

WHERE ExCeL London WHEN May 25-27, 2018

All Points East

All Points East is a ten day celebration of music and entertainment, encompassing a three day music festival, a community focused programme and three additional headline shows. Taking place in Victoria Park, the main festival offers options of one, two or three day tickets with headliners LCD Soundsystem, the XX and Björk. If this isn’t enough to satisfy your ears for one week, then the further headline shows from the 1st-3rd of June are set to feature The National, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and more to be announced.

WHERE Victoria Park WHEN May 25 – June 3, 2018 

June

Aphex Twin played The Barn at the 2017 edition of Field Day (Photo: Max Miechowski via Fanatic Live)

Field Day

This year Field Day Festival will debut at a new location; moving away from its home of 11 years in East London. Known as one of London’s best music events, the festival also hosts street food stalls and local brewers within its fields so festival goers are spoilt for choice in terms of drink, food, music and activities. The line up has yet to be announced, but with its popularity building and headliners only getting better year-on-year, invest in a ticket now to be sure you don’t miss out.

WHERE To be announced WHEN June 1- 3, 2018

One day festival Mighty Hoopla returns (Photo: Luke Dyson)

Mighty Hoopla

Returning to a yet to be announced location in London, this one day festival has a reputation for staging extravagant shows with the best pop and guilty pleasure acts from across the world. Each stage is curated by different clubs and many are returning off the back of a brilliant festival last year: club giants Guilty Pleasures, pop fiends The Grand and the flamboyant Sink the Pink will all programme this year’s event. Promising to be a show-stopping day out, the energy of the audience is almost as unmissable as the music; the atmosphere an unfettered celebration of freedom and diversity.

WHERE To be announced WHEN June 3, 2018

Roof Garden Canary Wharf © Nunzio Prenna (Photo: Open Garden Squares)

Open Garden Squares

Rooftop conservatories and city centre plantations open their gates for one weekend this June. Across the entire city find little rural paradises and hidden natural gems, flowering in London’s summer weather. Larger public gardens that participate in the event also host guided walks, family activities, entertainment and food and drinks stalls for guests to enjoy, making this the perfect day out in the city.

WHERE Various Venues WHEN, June 9- 10, 2018

Stone Free Festival

Stone Free Festival is an all day celebration of classic rock, which has previously dedicated its stage to legends Alice Cooper, Rick Wakeman and the Darkness. Taking place over two 12-hour days, this year’s line up will include German rockers Scorpions and YES featuring Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman. Much of the lineup for this relatively new festival is still to be announced but, with high profile musicians regularly joining the bill, rock fans are advised not to wait too long to buy their tickets, which are priced from £52.50 per night.

WHERE 02 Arena WHEN, June 16 – 17, 2018

(Photo: Taste of London)

Taste of London

A lineup of London’s most exciting restaurants and world class chefs unite for the summer edition of Taste. For five days, a foodie paradise will evolve in Regent’s Park where attendees will get the opportunity to craft their own cocktails, follow live cooking demonstrations and shop at over 200 food and drinks stalls. So, whether you decide to attend a lunch or dinner session, your picnic in the park might just reach new levels of sophistication and flavour.

WHERE Regent’s Park WHEN, June 13- 17, 2018