Celebrate Summer With Festivals In London

Classical concerts, film and performance – book tickets for some of London's best summer festivals, some of them free.

Book tickets for classical music at the Royal Albert Hall, gigs at Kew Gardens, or turn up for free outdoor cinema screenings along the River Thames. London's summer festivals will leave you spoilt for choice.

BBC Proms (18 Jul-13 Sep)

The 120th BBC Proms aims to present the widest range of classical music at the highest standard to the largest audience, as it has done each year since it began in 1895. The Royal Albert Hall once again hosts top performers including Simon Rattle’s Berliner Philharmoniker and the China Philharmonic Orchestra. For something more experimental, join Pet Shop Boys Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe for their premiere of A Man From The Future, blending electro with orchestral sounds telling the life story of code-breaker Alan Turing. There's also a War Horse prom, with the life-size puppet from the show. Proving that classical music is accessible for everyone, tickets start at a humble £5. www.bbc.co.uk/proms

More London Free Festival (9 Jul-26 Sep)

The outdoor amphitheatre The Scoop, next to the sleek, rounded City Hall, has a dramatic location, with Big Ben, Tower Bridge and the River Thames practically in touching distance. During the summer-long More London Free Festival (from 9 Jul), enjoy free entertainment taking place most lunchtimes and evenings, from music to film screenings and theatre – all free. www.morelondon.com/events

Cinema under the stars at More London Free Festival
Cinema under the stars at the Scoop at More London (courtesy More London Free Festival)

British Summer Time at Hyde Park (4-12 July)

The head of England’s royal family – rock and roll royalty, that is – headlines at this high-octane festival in Hyde Park. Ozzy Osbourne’s band Black Sabbath will be rocking the night away, plus other acts including Tom Jones, The Pogues, The Libertines and Neil Young. The event is book-ended by two weekends of live music, while during the week there are more intimate events ranging from food and fitness. Let’s just hope there are no bats in the vicinity. www.bst-hydepark.com

City Of London Festival (22 June-17 July)

The huge, inflatable black bowler hat, incongruously next to St Paul’s Cathedral, is the venue for many events at the City Of London Festival, paying homage to the traditional city worker’s uniform. Inside there are over 100 musical, dance and events, with other performances taking place at St Paul’s Cathedral, and shopping mall One New Change. In fact the events are dotted around the City (the financial hub of London) in unconventional venues, including Liverpool Street Station. www.colf.org

Acrobatics and musical acts at City Of London Festival (courtesy COLF)
Acrobatics and musical acts at City Of London Festival (courtesy COLF)

Kew The Music (16-20 Jul)

With 30,000 different types of plants, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is splendid enough to visit on a normal day, but with this popular series you can enjoy the serene setting alongside live music. This year’s line-up includes top British acts Elvis Costello, Jools Holland and Simple Minds. To make your evening extra special, order a special picnic hamper or enjoy a barbecue at the Orangery Restaurant. www.kew.org

Royal Botanic Gardens, setting for Kew The Music
Royal Botanic Gardens, setting for Kew The Music (courtesy Kew The Music)

Film4 Summer Screen (7-20 August)

An 18th-century neoclassical courtyard is not the typical setting for a film screening, but this outdoor series of films at Somerset House has proved popular over the years, screening cult, classic and contemporary films. Book tickets for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Rosemary’s Baby and recent Oscar-winner The Great Beauty. Look out also for Q&A sessions with prominent directors. www.somersethouse.org.uk