London: Things to do

London Insider
Colourful houses near Portobello Road (Photo: Doug McKinlay / Lonely Planet Images)
Colourful houses near Portobello Road.
"Head to the Prince Charles Cinema, just off Leicester Square, for a determinedly no-frills option to see films a couple of months old."
London Insider

Find out all about the not-to-miss restaurants, attractions and more in London. From our local expert to you.

Museums and major spaces

London's museums and major art spaces are world renowned but can be crowded, especially on weekends and during the summer months. Part solution to this and part an attempt at offering an alternative to boozy pub Friday nights, several of London's major spaces are offering late-night openings combined with performance art, lectures, DJs, installations and film screenings.

Both the Tate Modern and Tate Britain are open late on Friday nights, the latter offering discounted entry and a chance to dine at the Rex Whistler-designed restaurant.

The Dana Centre is a part of the Science Museum and offers a fascinating series of lectures, performances and debates on science and society.

The Victoria and Albert Museum is hosting a Motown-themed night in honour of the current Supremes exhibition, including a film screening and a DJ set by the legendary Norman Jay.

The ICA hosts late-night events including gigs from artists such as MGMT, Midnight Juggernauts and even a speed dating event specifically for gay and lesbian artists.

For the more traditional visitor, the Sir John Soane's Museum hosts late-night openings by candlelight, where visitors can feel as if they have stepped back into the late 19th century in the setting of this architect's untouched home. Dennis Severs' House also offers candlelight tours on Mondays, the times of which vary according to sunset.

Portobello Road market

One of London's most popular attractions, this Saturday street market is often overcrowded and filled with tourists. It is well worth a visit but the streets surrounding the market also happen to be home to some of the best independent boutiques selling homewares, jewellery, fashion and food.

Rather than the overpriced vintage stores along Portobello itself, head to the 1920s-1990s Crazy Clothes Connection on Lancaster Road. For upscale boutiques such as Aimé, Diane von Furstenberg, Matches and Joseph, head to Westbourne Grove and Ledbury Road.

The Dispensary is a fabulous independent boutique on Kensington Park Road and great finds can be had in Coco Ribbon and The West Village on the same road.

If the overpriced antiques on Portobello Road itself don't take your fancy, head to Golbourne Road where there are a handful of excellent antique shops and a small selection of flea market-style stalls. It's also worth noting that some of the second-hand stalls around Portobello Green are open on Sundays, which makes for a far more relaxed shopping experience than a crowded Saturday.

West End theatre and cinema

A West End theatre and cinema habit can be a pricey addiction; however, many theatres and cinemas offer cut-price tickets on certain nights of the week. Sloane Square's Royal Court Theatre halves its prices on Mondays, as does the bijou Electric Cinema.

A fabulous alternative to spending £15 on a Leicester Square multiplex ticket is heading to the Prince Charles Cinema, just off Leicester Square, for a determinedly no-frills option to see films a couple of months old, or even classics from further back. The entrance starts from a mere £1.50 and real highlights are the sing-a-long performances of the Sound of Music and Hairspray.

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