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16 fabulous things to do this May in the City of London

After a slightly colder than usual April, we are ready for May to arrive and with it (hopefully) more sunny days and evenings spent exploring. With warmer days ahead, we're itching to embrace the outdoors once more. Picture-perfect scenes of al fresco dining, the mesmerising hues of wisterias painting the City and the thrill of discovering incredible new events, concerts and shows awaits.

Here are just some of the top things to do in the City of London this May.

1. See ‘Ballet Black: Heroes’ at the Barbican Theatre (15 – 19 May)

Cassa Pancho's Ballet Black is returning to the Barbican Theatre for its 22nd year with a double bill featuring new and innovative work by award-winning choreographer, Mthuthuzeli November and Sophie Laplane, Franco-British artist and Choreographer in Residence at Scottish Ballet:

  • November’s ‘The Waiting Game’, is an exciting and energetic work about the meaning of life, infused with a dynamic soundtrack featuring the voices of the Ballet Black artists.
  • Laplane’s ‘If At First’, is a new piece for Ballet Black after her dazzling 2019 BB ballet. Laplane's new work explores the complexity of humanity, heroism and self-acceptance in this celebratory and original piece.

Dancers performing on stage, wearing white crowns.

Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black in If At First, choreographed by Sophie Laplane. Dancers (L-R): Bhungane Mehlomakulu, Elijah Peterkin, Megan Chiu, Taraja Hudson, Acaoã De Castro, Isabela Coracy, Helga Paris-Morales, Ebony Thomas & Love Kotiya

2. Explore the City on foot for National Walking month

May marks National Walking month, and if you have decided to take on the challenge of getting out walking a bit more, the City has some fascinating trails to follow to help you lose track of time and get out in the fresh air.

Beyond the iconic landmark sites in the City of London there is a multitude of fascinating stories, hidden alleys, roman ruins and unexpected places to explore on foot. Some of our favourites self-guided walks include:

  • Great Fire of London: Raging for five days and nights, the Great Fire destroyed four-fifths of the City including 13,200 houses and 87 churches. From the first sparks to the last ashes, this trail brings together the story of the most famous fire in history. From start to finish, it will take about two hours at an average walking pace.
  • Roads to Rome: The City of London is the oldest part of London, dating back to AD50. There is a treasure trove of sites in the City to explore Roman Londinium and some of the remains are even still visible today, providing the spark for you to imagine what the ancient settlement looked like.

If you are looking to join a guided walk and really dive deep into the history of the City from the experts, the City of London Guides offer daily, weekly and monthly walking tours around the City of London. They offer a City Highlights tour, or for something different try one of the themed tours including, but not limited to:

  • Roman London
  • Christopher Wren's architecture
  • The Dark Side of the City
  • Riverside

Since 1 April, the City of London Guides are now running two guided walks per day from the City Information Centre, with three new themes joining their regular schedule of walks.

Guided tours of key City attractions such as Mansion House, Guildhall Art Gallery and Old Bailey are also available.

City of London Directory - people sat at The Royal Exchange - big stone steps with large stone pillars behind

3. Relax over the Bank holiday weekend

With not one but two bank holidays this month (6 and 27 May), we have our fingers crossed for the warmer weather to arrive and give us all a day out in the sun.

For those looking to explore some new attractions or attend an event check out what’s on in the City.

We also highly recommend heading to one of the wonderful rooftops or outdoor terraces or one of the peaceful gardens in the City to soak in those summer rays.

Cleary Garden in the City of London with wooden arbours and a green lawn.

© City of London Corporation

4. See Richard III at Bridewell Theatre (9 – 18 May)

A fresh retelling of the Shakespeare classic is coming to the Bridewell Theatre this month which combines modern political setting, innovative technical elements and Shakespeare’s timeless prose.

This retelling of one of Shakespeare’s most popular history plays does away with duels, grandly dressed nobles and pitched battles, taking its audience instead to the current seat of power in the United Kingdom: Westminster. The green benches and corridors buzz with betrayal, deception and plots as the protagonist tries to clear the obstacles blocking his route to the ultimate prize – and then to cling desperately to his position.

Bridewell Theatre - the sign says the name in old script on a black base with trees in the back ground

5. Join a Royal Mint Engraving Workshop at the Bank of England Museum (15 May)

A hands-on plaster modelling workshop with The Royal Mint’s Chief Engraver, Gordon Summers. The workshop will involve creating plaster cast models that attendees can take home. Participants will learn the age-old skills of carving. There will also be an in-depth talk on the engraving process.

For ages 16 and up. Free but booking is essential. 15 May, 10.30 to 4.30pm

A man using tools to engrave something onto a cufflink.

Royal Mint's Chief Engraver Gordon Summers working on a cufflink part of the new 886 collection

6. Enjoy Stunning Views at Rooftop Bars and Restaurants in The City

After a slightly cold and rainy April, we are now holding out hope for a warmer May and the chance to bask in some sun at one of the many fantastic rooftop restaurants.

Thanks to the Vintners, good wine has been flowing in the City since the 12th century, and where else can you drink and dine while gazing at iconic landmarks such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge and The Shard?

Read our guide to 11 of the top rooftop bars and restaurants in the City of London to find inspiration for your next sunny day out in the City.

Outdoor rooftop bar(Sabine) - tables and chairs set out on the terrace with a stunning view of St Paul's Cathedral in the background.

7. Visit the pop-up weekend markets at Leadenhall Market (26 May)

Putting the market back into Leadenhall, a series of pop-up furniture, fashion and craft markets will be taking over the cobbled stone walkways of the iconic Victorian Market for eight weekends during the summer starting on 26 May.

Kicking off the exciting new venture is the renowned Judy’s Vintage Furniture & Flea. Selling furniture from the mid-century onwards, alongside fashion from the twenties to the noughties, Judy and her team have 20 years of experience in sourcing beautiful one-off pieces that each have their own story to tell, for reasonable prices.

Taking place monthly on Sundays, Judy’s Vintage Furniture & Flea can be found in Leadenhall Market on 26 May, 30 June, 28 July and 25 August, from 12-5pm.

Complementing old with new, the South London-based organisation SoLo Craft Fair, famous for its unique hand-crafted art, jewellery, home accessories, children’s toys and more, from a pool of carefully-selected, talented crafters will be popping up in Leadenhall from June.

Running monthly on Saturdays, SoLo’s first weekend market at Leadenhall will be on 8 June, followed by 13 July, 10 August and 14 September, with stalls open from 12-5pm.

© Leadenhall Market

8. Bookbinding Friday Art Club by Broadworks by Hive Curates (3 May)

Broadworks by Hive Curates is a cultural Hub in the City of London that has now started hosting a Friday Art Club on the first Friday of every month.

This month, on 3 May, the workshop will guide participants through the process of creating an A5 or A6 notebook using simple bookbinding techniques, including folding and stitching.

The workshop will be led by Jenni Allen, a screenprinter who produces limited edition artworks on paper which feature bold colour and abstract shape.

Materials are provided and booking is on a pay what you can basis. Drop-ins welcome, although spaces are limited!

Several books with handmade covers.

9. Dine al fresco at The Royal Exchange

A building that has shaped much of London’s commercial history, The Royal Exchange has over 450 years of stories to tell and is a fascinating building to visit.

Established by Sir Thomas Gresham in 1566 as London’s first purpose-built centre for trading stocks, today, it is home to luxury retailers and high-end eateries including Fortnum’s Bar and Restaurant, named ‘The Most Instagrammable Restaurant in London’ by The Evening Standard.

During the Summer months, their beautiful outdoor terrace is open Monday to Friday and is the perfect spot for small but spectacular gatherings.

Outside terrace of the Royal Exchange with four tables covered in white table cloths.

10. Celebrate London Wine Week at Andaz London 1901 Wine Lounge (14 – 17 May)

Andaz London is celebrating London Wine week with sommelier led wine tasting in the 1901 wine lounge, accompanied by cheese and cold-cut platters. During the evening events they will be showcasing a curated selection of exquisite British wines from the renowned Hattingley Valley.

Classes will be taking place from 5.30pm and 7.30pm. This is a ticketed event and tickets cost ‎£25 per person.

11. See the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican (16 May)

The London Symphony Orchestra is ranked among the world’s top orchestras. Since 1982 they have been Resident Orchestra at the Barbican, and every year they perform around 70 concerts there.

This month they are bringing a number of beautiful concerts to the Barbican Centre including Mahler’s Third Symphony ‘The Beginning of Summer’, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas on 16 May. Conductor Laureate Michael Tilson Thomas is passionate about Mahler, and his recordings of the composer’s oeuvre have won no fewer than seven Grammy awards. He’s joined by expert Mahlerian vocalists.

Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas with orchestra

Michael Tilson Thomas © Mark Allan

12. Head to a lunchtime concert in the stunning surroundings of Merchant Taylors' Hall (13 May)

On 13 May, Tom Allery will be performing music from London City organists throughout history, alongside famous works by Bach and Handel with Soprano Claire Ward and Trumpeter Aaron Akugbo. The lunchtime concert will be taking place in the striking Merchant Taylors' Hall, the only livery hall in the City of London with a full organ installed.

Interior of Merchant Taylors' Hall.

13. Amble around these wonderful displays and exhibitions

  • Pewter Live 2024 (14 – 16 May): A curated selection of work by some of the best contemporary designers to promote the use of pewter and innovation in design, are displayed at a three-day event in the historic Pewterers’ Hall. More information on the event itself can be found below. Admission is free.
  • Anne Desmet: Kaleidoscope/London Exhibition at Guildhall Art Gallery (ends 8 September): Explore 150 artworks, including 41 London-themed prints created exclusively for this new exhibition and a selection of tools and engraved wood blocks, spanning over three decades of Desmet’s documentation of London through the mediums of wood engraving and mixed-media printed collage. Admission is pay-what-you-can.
  • To further immerse yourself in the world of 'Anne Desmet: Kaleidoscope/London' join a fantastic tour led by the exhibition artist and co-curator Anne Desmet RA on 25 May at 2.30pm.This is a ticketed event and standard admission is £10.
  • Folio 400: Shakespeare in Print at Guildhall Library (ends 29 August): Drawing on Guildhall Library’s remarkable Shakespeare collections, this exhibition examines the history of the printing of William Shakespeare’s plays. Admission is free.
  • Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art at the Barbican Centre (ends 25 May): Spanning intimate hand-crafted pieces to large-scale sculptural installations, this major exhibition will bring together over 100 artworks by 50 international practitioners. Drawn to the tactile processes of stitching, weaving, braiding, beading and knotting, these artists have embraced fibre and thread to tell stories that challenge power structures, transgress boundaries and reimagine the world around them. Standard admission is £18.

Four people looking at framed artwork on a gallery wall.

Credit to City of London Corporation.

14. Kick off the Summer Season at Searcys at The Gherkin (8 May)

Celebrate the start of the Summer season with Searcys at The Gherkin and Ultimate Provence at their Summer launch party.

Travel up to the top of one of London’s most iconic skyscrapers and indulge Ultimate Provence Rosé while the sun sets over the sparkling city. Dance into the evening to the sounds of a live DJ bringing the best summer beats, while enjoying canapés and bowl food as summer rolls in.

People in a bar with a view of the sunset through the glass roof (the Iris bar at the top of the Gherkin).

15. Head to the Garden at 120 to see beautiful Wisterias in bloom

Explore the City of London's largest public rooftop space, freely accessible without the need for booking. Situated atop the Fen Court building at 120 Fenchurch Street, The Garden at 120 offers stunning 360-degree views of the City and greater London from its perch 15 storeys high.

Designed by German landscape architects Latz + Partner, The Garden is a peaceful retreat in the heart of the City. It features 85 Italian wisteria trees, over 30 fruit trees, a 200ft-long flowing water feature, relaxed seating, and a kiosk selling teas, coffees, and snacks on the level below, all easily reached via dedicated public lifts.

Credit to City of London Corporation.

16. See one of the ancient trades of the City in action for free at Pewterers’ Hall from 14 - 16 May

The Worshipful Company of Pewterers is one of the older Livery Companies in the City of London, and this year they are celebrating their 550th anniversary of being awarded a Royal Charter.

A Pewterer is someone that makes products out of the material pewter. For two centuries from 1474 pewter was unrivalled as a material for plates, dishes, drinking vessels and similar ware.

Pewter Live is a free three-day event that has taken place in the heart of the City of London, at Pewterers' Hall, since 1988. Promoting the design and sale of traditional and contemporary pewter products in the UK, it also supports the trade from small individual craftspeople to the large pewter manufacturers.  The event includes the 36th annual Pewter Live Design Competition, where the designers use exceptional handcrafted skills to create their pieces, applying techniques that have been passed down over the centuries.

Over the course of the three-day event, visitors are invited to view the exhibition as well as attend a series of live workshops and presentations by professional pewter designers and craftspeople, providing insight into crafting skills, making with pewter and navigating the design industry.

Find out what else is on this month.

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The Conservatory x Ranjani Shettar
Cloud songs on the horizon is the artist’s first major institutional show in Europe and will feature five new, large-scale suspended sculptures across the entirety of the Conservatory space.
Folio 400: Shakespeare in Print
Drawing on Guildhall Library’s remarkable Shakespeare collections, this exhibition examines the history of the printing of William Shakespeare’s plays.
Christopher Wren: The Quest for Knowledge
Investigate the genius of Christopher Wren and his ever-enquiring mind in this new exhibition at St Paul's Cathedral - said to be Wren's masterpiece.
The Tower Bridge Cat Trail
02.01.2024 31.10.2024

The Tower Bridge Cat Trail

Tower Bridge
Inspired by 'The Tower Bridge Cat' and the characters from the award-winning books, families are invited to complete our interactive Trail as they make their way through Tower Bridge.
Barbican Music Library Exhibition – From the Caribbean to Coventry
A free exhibition for the fans by the fans going some way to explain not just what 2Tone music is, but why and how they got there.
DREAM-BRIDGE-OMNIGLYPH by Leo Robinson
This new installation is inspired by the Roman Temple of Mithras discovered on the Bloomberg site during the 1950s.
Tour of London’s Roman Amphitheatre – May
Join archaeologist Dr Andrew Lane for an extended tour of one of the most important buildings in Roman London.
Pop-Up Monthly Markets: Judy’s Vintage Furniture & Flea
Putting the market back into Leadenhall, don't miss these monthly pop-up Sunday Markets filled with furniture and fashion.
Summer Season at Guildhall School of Music and Drama
This summer, Guildhall School of Music & Drama presents a varied programme of events for the public to enjoy, including concerts, drama productions, opera and jazz.
Queer 80s: Cinema on the Brink of Global Change
From Wed 5—Wed 26 Jun, the Barbican Cinema will be presenting ground-breaking movies from across the globe as part of the Barbican’s Pride season this summer. 'Queer 80s: Cinema on the Brink of Global Change' invites audiences to time travel back to a decade when LGBTQ+ representation and creativity on screen thrived.
Summer Music in City Churches – Concert Series
Ten days of beautiful music on themes of love, romance and Shakespeare at St Giles Cripplegate church.
Theatre: The Handlebards – The Comedy of Errors
Taking place at The Charterhouse - a bicycle-powered production of Shakespeare’s ‘The Comedy of Errors’ like you’ve never seen before.
June Lunchtime Concert at Butchers’ Hall
Join City Music Foundation's lunchtime concert on 17 June at Butchers' Hall, home to one of the City Livery companies.
LSO Half Six Fix: Prokofiev 7
Kick-start your evening with a Half Six Fix concert. One piece in a 60-minute concert, introduced by the performers, with screens in the hall to bring you closer to the action.
Open Garden Evenings at Charterhouse
Visit the stunning Charterhouse Gardens on selected summer evenings - enjoy a relaxing evening with live music.
Anne Desmet: Kaleidoscope/London Wood Engraving Workshop
Join artist and co-curator Anne Desmet RA for this interactive 'introduction to wood engraving' workshop.
Cart Marking Ceremony
The annual Cart Marking Ceremony is a free-to-watch historic tradition in the City of London, led by a City Livery company (the Worshipful Company of Carmen).
Roman London Family Quest
Bring your family back in time to Roman Londinium in this interactive fun family day.
Lord Mayor’s Show
Visit the City for the Lord Mayor’s Show - a three mile long outdoor procession with colourful floats, music and fun.