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10 Absolutely Unmissable Events That Will Have You Planning a Trip to London

· Ruth Hargreaves · Culture

Cheese festivals, immersive cinema and secret gardens – oh my!

Arcadia 10th Anniversary Festival

Fancy a trip to London? Virgin Trains has a mighty fine offer for you – book a Standard Advance ticket at least 1 week before you travel and you’ll never pay more than £29 each way on direct trains from 10am-3pm, Mon-Fri. Book now...

Get ahead of the game and grab a spot at one of London’s hottest upcoming events – these one-off wonders don’t come around often.

As the days get longer and air gets warmer, London’s buzzing events calendar goes into overdrive. Big things are afoot in the capital with food festivals, giant spiders and West End pop-ups all taking the city by storm. They’re the perfect excuse to plan a trip down South, so round up your friends and start synchronising your diaries.

The Faulty Towers Dining Experience

The Faulty Towers Dining Experience

Have you ever wanted to eat at the most incompetent restaurant in town? Based on the much-loved Fawlty Towers television sitcom, this interactive dining experience combines a 70s style three-course dinner with a live-action performance packed full of slapstick humour, mayhem and improvised comedy.

The meals may be set but the antics are not, with only around one-third of the evening scripted. That leaves plenty of room for a few surprises from the cast, so expect a reasonable dollop of audience participation alongside your blancmange. It’s a delicious tribute and a must for fans of the show.

Fawlty Towers Dining Experience will be at Torquay Suite Theatre until December 2018. Tickets cost between £67.50 and £79.50 per person, including the three-course meal.

Secret Cinema’s Blade Runner

Secret by name and secret by nature, Secret Cinema’s outlandish theatre experiences are always a closely guarded operation, but that doesn’t stop everybody from talking about them. Why? Because the full-scale, immersive worlds they create are unlike anything else around. Each show is based on a cult film and 2018 is the turn of science fiction favourite, Blade Runner.

Secret Cinema combines incredible sets built from scratch, hordes of live performers and atmospheric soundscapes to bring films to life. And you’re part of it. Each participant receives a dress code and a new identity, making you an active member of the free-roaming adventure. It’s a truly absorbing experience but you’ll need to be quick – Secret Cinema events always sell like hotcakes.

Secret Cinema presents Blade Runner at a secret London location (Zone 2) from 21st March to 10th June 2018. The venue will be revealed in the weeks before the show. Tickets start from £45.

Underbelly Festival

Underbelly Festival Southbank

Credit: David Jensen

Fancy oodles of theatre, cabaret, circus and comedy inside giant tents on the banks of the River Thames? Of course you do! Each year Underbelly Festival stretches across the whole summer – it’s the definitive ‘how-to’ in live entertainment.

Opt for a well-known name (Ruby Wax, Stephen K. Amos and Gina Yashere are all on this year’s line-up) or take a gamble on a little-known wildcard that could easily blow your socks off. Most shows are just an hour long, so you can mix’n’match to your heart’s content – there are discounts if you book three or more. The festival’s position on the beautiful South Bank makes it perfect for sightseeing, bar-hopping and street food-chomping after your culture fix.

Underbelly Festival comes to the Southbank from 6th April to 30th September 2018. Ticket prices vary for each show, but usually sit between the £10 and £20 mark.

London Burlesque Festival

London Burlesque Festival

Credit: London Burlesque Festival

Bringing together the best in burlesque and variety entertainment, London Burlesque Festival is an entire month dedicated to showcasing scintillating talent from around the world. There’ll be stripteases, of course, but don’t let that distract you from the other impressive talents on show – we’re talking singing, dancing, acrobatics, cabaret, fire-eating and sword-swallowing. Just in varying states of undress.

Diverse, unique and unfailingly fun, there are plenty of different themed shows to choose from (Tattoo Revue and Gin & Jazz are particular highlights) although the opening and closing galas are where the most raucous fun can be found.

London Burlesque Festival comes to Shaw Theatre from 27th April to 2nd June 2018. Tickets cost between £24 and £35.

Arcadia 10th Anniversary Festival

Arcadia 10th Anniversary Festival

Credit: Ben Duare

When was the last time you danced beneath a 50-tonne metal spider that was shooting flames from built-in cannons and pumping out music from its own DJ booth? That opportunity doesn’t present itself too often, does it? Well the good news is soon because Arcadia, the global performance art collective, is coming to London in May.

Their awe-inspiring blend of robotics, music and fire usually wows the crowds at Glastonbury Festival, but with that on hiatus this year, Arcadia are celebrating 10 years in pyrotechnic business in style. Big name acts like Groove Armada and Rudimental will be joining them at the Olympic Park for a mind-bending musical experience that will have you both awed and dancing ‘til it hurts.

Arcadia Festival comes to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from 5th to 6th May 2018. Tickets start from £49.50 per day or £85 for the full weekend.

All Points East

If you’ve ever been tempted to cross the Atlantic for a dose of California’s famous Coachella Festival, save yourself the airfare and get down to East London’s Victoria Park this May instead.

All Points East is a brand new music festival that comes straight from the organisers of Coachella, and for a first-time festival, it carries an impressive selection of headline acts for its opening weekend. You can see the likes of The XX, Bjork, Beck, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, LCD Soundsystem and Lorde live on stage.

All Points East comes to Victoria Park from 25th to 27th May 2018. Tickets cost £67.75.

London Cheese Project

London Cheese Project

An entire weekend filled with cheese tastings, talks and top traders may sound like the stuff of dreams, but it’s becoming a reality in London for the late May bank holiday. Wing your way down to the capital for the London Cheese Project and indulge your love of all things dairy with similarly impassioned cheesemongers and chefs from around the country.

Artisans at the forefront of the nation’s cheese scene will be showcasing their wares, leading a programme of special events and offering tutored tastings for those who wish to really understand the finer flavours of the product. There’ll even be one-off special cheeses made especially for the festival that you can’t get anywhere else. If you go gooey for cheese, this one’s for you.

London Cheese Project comes to The Geoffrey Museum from 26th to 28th May 2018. Tickets start from just £5.

Open Garden Squares Weekend

Open Garden Squares Weekend

Credit: Candy Blackman

London is full of hidden spaces if you know where to look, but if you truly want to experience the secret side of the capital, one that hardly anyone gets to see, you’ve got to go to Open Garden Squares Weekend. This annual event opens up 200 green spaces that are usually closed to the public.

You can explore hidden rooftop greeneries, private residencies, community allotments, little-known urban gardens and more – your ticket gives you access to them all. Highlights this year include The Master’s Garden (built above catacombs near Temple Church), King Henry’s Walk Garden (a lovely community fruit and vegetable garden which will be holding a summer fete on the Saturday afternoon) and the gardens of the world-famous 10 Downing Street.

Open Garden Squares Weekend will take place all over London from 9th to 10th June 2018. Early bird tickets start from £15 for adults for the whole weekend.

Taste of London

Taste of London Summer

Avoid the indecision of where to eat in London by visiting during Taste of London festival – it’s your one chance to find all the capital’s best restaurants and chefs in one place. This food lover’s paradise takes place in the leafy surrounds of the beautiful Regent’s Park.

On hand to get your tastebuds tingling will be world-class chefs, top London restaurants, interactive masterclasses, artisan producers and tastings aplenty. Guzzle as many taster-size dishes as you can, opt for fine dining deliciousness or get your sizzle on at the BBQ-heavy Fire Pit. There’s plenty to get stuck into, and as the definitive showcase of London’s foodie credentials, it’s a welcome chance to eat your way around the capital in a single weekend.

Taste of London comes to Regent’s Park from 13th to 17th June 2018. Tickets start from just £17.

West End Live

Paying for a seat at one of London’s top West End shows can be eye-wateringly expensive, but once a year, London’s leading musicals come together in central Trafalgar Square for a humungous singalong with the public. The best part? It’s completely free!

West End Live is a marvellous showcase of the greatest West End hits – the casts from some of the best productions on the circuit take turns rocking the stage and belting out show tunes in front of thousands of cheering spectators. The 2018 line up hasn’t been announced yet, but last year’s acts included The Lion King, Les Miserables, Wicked and The Phantom of the Opera. Top tip – if you want a good view, make sure you grab a space nice and early in the day as the square fills up.

West End Live comes to Trafalgar Square from 16th to 17th June 2018. It’s absolutely free.

Get a mighty fine deal on your train tickets

Virgin Trains Standard

Seen something you like? You can get a mighty fine deal on your train tickets. It won’t cost more than £29 each way when you book a Standard Advance ticket at least a week ahead. Available on all services between Leeds and London, from 10am-3pm, Monday to Friday.