Last updated on July 31st, 2023
It’s time to gallop into June and into the London season with some of the best events of the year coming up. Ascot, Wimbledon, the Summer Exhibition and the Serpentine Pavilion are just some of the events which should get your summer juices flowing. Get your June diaries out and get planning with my guide to some of the best cultural things to do in London this month including art exhibitions, theatre, events, opera, dance and music. And this June issue has over 23 free things to do in London!
Londoness Loves: Cultural things to do in London this June 2023
Free things to do in London this June
Hurrah! After a 3-year redevelopment closure, the National Portrait Gallery re-opens this 22 June. In addition to the Gallery’s year-long programme of exhibitions (see below), visitors to the new Gallery will experience a complete redisplay of the collection and a transformational refurbishment of the building.
This year’s Serpentine Pavilion, designed by French-Lebanese Paris-based architect Lina Ghotmeh, will be unveiled on 9 June. Inspired by the architect’s Mediterranean heritage and fervent discussions around the table over current affairs, politics, personal lives, and dreams, the Pavilion is titled À table – a French call to sit down together at a table to engage and participate in dialogue while sharing a meal.
Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra will perform live in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 10 June 2023 at 5.00pm. More information here.
As part of the Wren300 celebrating the death of starchitect Christopher Wren, the Wrenathon kicks off with Our City Sings (13 – 23 June), an eleven-day programme of musical recitals, performances and open rehearsals taking place in some of the historic churches associated with Wren, located within the City’s Square Mile. It culminates in a unique, vocal music marathon featuring singers from 11 community choirs across nine City of London churches on one, single day on 24 June. More here.
Staying with Wren, a new exhibition opens at the Guildhall Gallery this month. Visit the re-creation of Wren’s St Paul’s working ‘office’ and experience the intensity the rebuilding of London and the new St Paul’s cathedral after the 1666 fire. 16 June to 15 October. Book your free ticket.
Also part of Wren 300 and running from 31 May to 2 June is a rare chance to marvel at the artistry and skills of some of London’s stonemasonry apprentices and students, before picking up a hammer and chisel to try your hand at lettering and carving in stone. Pre-booking required. Book here.
Luke Jerram’s world famous Gaia artwork is coming to the Landmark Arts Centre in Twickenham. The centre will also be holding a range of events under Gaia, including live music, late night opening, yoga, family activities, talks and much more. 16 June to 2 July. Book your free ticket here.
Two exhibitions open at the Soane Museum this month. Visions in Porcelain: A Rake’s Progress will feature eight specially commissioned vases mirroring the story of Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress, one of the Museum’s most celebrated works. Architects’ Houses celebrates five London houses, all of which, like the Soane Museum, have been designed by architects, who lived – and in some cases still live – in them.
London Art Week is back with when participants in galleries across Mayfair, St James’s and at Cromwell Place in South Kensington throw their doors open to the public. 30 June to 7 July. More information and map of the galleries here.
The great museums, science laboratories, art schools and historic buildings of South Kensington will take a giant leap on to the street as the Great Exhibition Road Festival returns. Hundreds of free events, experiments and spectacular surprises for all ages will happen all weekend as scientists step out of their labs and artists leave their studios, bringing along their inventions, prototypes and wildest imaginings. 17 to 18 June. More information here.
A Celebration of Portraiture – Twentieth Century Britain opens at the Piano Nobile gallery to coincide with the re-opening of the National Portrait Gallery. 5 June to 31 July. 96 Portland Road W11 4LW
Taking inspiration from African American writer and novelist James Baldwin, Whitechapel Gallery presents a free three-month programme of collaborations with artists, performers and thinkers to examine the interface between art and everyday life, and connections between local and global concerns at a time of uncertainty and change. 14 June to 17 September. More here.
He is, arguably, the Bloomsbury group’s least well-known member. Yet Stephen Tomlin with his glossy mop of hair, disarming charisma and undeniable talent, deserves to be just as renowned as his contemporaries Duncan Grant, Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf. Now the first major exhibition of his work at Philip Mould & Company is aiming to return Tomlin to the artistic spotlight where he belongs. 5 June to 11 August. More information here.
As part of the London Gallery Weekend programme, Barbican Curator Wells Fray-Smith will be leading a walkthrough of Maki Na Kamura’s exhibition, currently on display at Michael Werner Gallery. Friday 2 June, 6:30pm–7:30pm, 22 Upper Brook Street. Attendance is free; the talk will be preceded by a welcome reception starting at 5:30pm.
During London Festival of Architecture, the City of London will host a programme of events to celebrate the unique architecture of the City. 1 to 30 June. More information here.
Spirit of Invention opens at the National Archives, offering offers an interactive creative experience, with a workshop space where visitors of all ages can try their hand at inventing using a range of materials. The exhibition celebrates innovation past and present, showcasing cutting-edge contemporary technology along with eye-catching inventions from the Victorian era. On until 29 October.
Free for all to attend, London Gallery Weekend provides an opportunity to discover and explore London’s world-class gallery scene, celebrating the city’s diverse cultural and creative communities. An extensive programme scheduled by galleries specially for the weekend includes talks, family workshops and special events, with extended opening hours. More information here. 2 to 4 June.
Songs on the Steps, a series of seven free lunchtime recitals for picnickers and passers-by, returns for a second season at Opera Holland Park. Featuring artists from the company, the fortnightly concerts will be held on Fridays at 1pm on 2, 16, and 30 June and 14 and 28 July.
A new exhibition opens at the Wellcome Collection this June. Genetic Automata is an ongoing body of video works by artists Larry Achiampong and David Blandy. Consisting of four films, the series explores race and identity in an age of avatars, videogames and DNA ancestry. 8 June to 11 February 2024. More information here.
Shubbak Festival, the largest contemporary Arab arts festival, returns for a summer of visual arts, performance, music, literature and much more this Summer, kicking off with a fantastic free weekend at the National Theatre’s River Stage. 23 June to 9 July. Full programme here.
Victoria Miro is showcasing the The Seven Deadly Sins, a major new series of paintings by Chris Ofili. Completed over the past six years, the works on view offer an expansive meditation on sin and the complex experience of sinfulness. 2 June to 29 July.
Science Gallery London and FutureEverything are launching AI: Who’s Looking After Me, an exhibition and public programme that playfully and provocatively explores Artificial Intelligence and its impact on our lives – both today and in the near future. Created by artists, King’s College London researchers, patients, young people and technologists, the free, interactive season will offer a nuanced look into the parts of life that are already informed by AI. 21 June to 20 January 2024. Science Gallery London, King’s College London, SE1 9GU.
London Art and Exhibition this June
The National Portrait Gallery re-opens its doors on 22 June 2023, with a programme of major exhibitions. Yevonde: Life and Colour (22 June – 15 October 2023) explores the life and career of the twentieth century photographer, Yevonde, who pioneered the use of colour photography in the 1930s. Paul McCartney Photographs 1963-64: Eyes of the Storm (28 June – 1 October 2023) will share, for the first time, an extraordinary archive of rediscovered and never-before-seen photographs taken by Paul McCartney. More information here.
Civilization is a landmark exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery tracks the visual threads of humanity’s ever-changing, extraordinarily complex life across the globe, through the eyes of 150 of the world’s most accomplished photographers. 2 June to 17 September. Book here.
Also at the Saatchi gallery is the 2023 RHS Botanical Art and Photography Show when new shortlisted finalists, competing internationally, present the world’s best botanical drawings and photographs. 16 June to 9 July. Book here
The Treasure House Fair is a celebration of outstanding and rare art and antiques. Held at The Royal Hospital Chelsea the fair continues the tradition of its predecessors, Masterpiece and The Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair. Book your ticket here.
The Garden Museum’s annual British Flowers Week exhibition returns, championing British-grown flowers, sustainable floristry and the immense talent in floral design found across the country. Five florists hand-picked by the Garden Museum will build immersive floral installations around the museum, with the fresh scents and colours of British-grown blooms taking over the space. 8 to 12 June. Included with entry to the museum.
Held every year without interruption since 1769, the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy showcases a diverse array of contemporary works, including prints, paintings, films, photography, sculpture, and architectural works. 18 June to 18 August. Book here.
Capturing the Moment at Tate Modern will explore the dynamic relationship between contemporary painting and photography. This group exhibition will unfold as an open-ended conversation between some of the greatest painters and photographers of recent generations, looking at how the brush and the lens have been used to capture moments in time, and how these two mediums have inspired and influenced each other. More information here.
Over 40 exhibitors from around the world will showcase world-leading design, confronting global challenges and inspiring audiences with thought-provoking installations as the London Design Biennale returns this June for its fourth edition. 1-25 June at Somerset House. Book tickets here.
Carrie Mae Weems: Reflections for Now is the first solo exhibition of the iconic interdisciplinary artist Carrie Mae Weems in a UK institution. Widely celebrated for her exploration of identity, power, desire and social justice, Weems’ multifaced artistic practice draws on photography, film, installations and more. Barbican Art Gallery. 22 June to 3 September. Book here.
Dear Earth at the Hayward Gallery highlights the ways in which artists are helping to reframe and deepen our psychological and spiritual responses to the climate crisis, hoping to inspire joy and empathy as well as promoting a sense of political and social activism. 21 June to 3 September. Book here.
London Theatre and Stage this June
Shakespeare in the Squares is back this Summer with a new production of Twelfth Night set in the 1920s. This unique venture sees the company take a new Shakespearean production annually to the glorious garden squares and open spaces which make the London landscape 7 June to 7 July. Book here.
Graham Greene’s iconic story, The Third Man, which was made into a landmark film with Orson Wells comes to the Chocolate Menier Factory and is directed by Trevor Nunn. 10 June to 9 September. Book here.
42nd Street, the showbiz fairytale and iconic song-and-dance spectacular is coming to Sadler’s Wells. Starring Ruthie Henshall, Adam Garcia and Les Dennis. 7 June to 2 July. Book here.
From the cobbled streets of Paris, through the French countryside to the splendours of Venice, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love is a sweeping romantic story of passion, love, betrayal and heartbreak across three generations. On until 11 November. Book here.
Mark Rylance returns to the West End as one of medicine’s greatest pioneers, maverick Hungarian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis – the man whose research could save many millions of mothers’ lives. 14 June to 7 October. Book here.
When Winston went to War with the Wireless is a gripping new play about the birth of a great British institution by multi award-winning stage and screen writer Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage play) and starring Adrian Scarborough. 2 June to 29 July. Book here.
London Opera and Classical Music this June
Figure are returning to London’s Opera Holland Park with a fresh staging of Shakespeare’s comedy classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Following the success of their five-star performance of Serse last winter (you can read my review here), the sensational ensemble is back, performing a brand new opera, accompanied by Mendelssohn’s enchanting orchestral score. 29 June to Saturday 1 July. Book here.
Spitalfields Music will see world premieres, new music, overlooked historic pieces and classic repertoire performed in iconic East London locations from Village Underground to the Tower of London. The 2023 festival will bring together acclaimed national and international artists for two weeks of concerts that demonstrate the extensive range and resilience of classical music. 30 June to 12 July. Book here.
A group of Ukrainian musicians will perform a programme of Ukrainian music at Duke’s Hall, Royal Academy of Music on Sunday 25 June. The proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Odesa Peace Fund, which provides food, medicine, clothing, and other necessary assistance to those affected by the war in Ukraine. Book tickets here.
London Events this June
Barnes Children’s Literature Festival the UK’s largest dedicated children’s literature festival is back. 24 and 25 June. Book here.
The Bow Bells will ring on 10 June as the Museum of London Docklands marks its 20th anniversary with a street party celebrating the history, cultures and communities of the East End. More information here.
Mad About the Boy: The Noël Coward Story opens in cinemas across the UK and Ireland this June. Featuring never seen before private home movies of Coward’s global travels, plus rare photography and extensive archive material, this brand new feature documentary chronicles the life and career of the famed playwright, director, and flamboyant wit. Narration is by Alan Cumming whilst Rupert Everett is the voice of Coward.
Chevalier comes to our screens this month, inspired by the incredible true story of composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. The illegitimate son of an African slave and a French plantation owner, Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) rises to improbable heights in French society as a celebrated violinist-composer and fencer, complete with an ill-fated love affair and a falling out with Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton) and her court. In cinemas June 9.
The first Queen’s Reading Room festival opens at Hampton Court Palace this June. Speakers include Judi Dench, Gyles Brandreth, David Olusoga, Ben Macintyre and more. Book here.
London Design Biennale returns this June for its fourth edition. Over 40 exhibitors from around the world will showcase world-leading design, confronting global challenges and inspiring audiences with thought-provoking installations. The theme of this year’s Biennale, ‘The Global Game: Remapping Collaborations,’ goes beyond borders and territories to enact new forms of international cooperation and participation through design. 1-25 June at Somerset House. Book tickets here.
Out of Towners
Experience world-class opera, summer picnics and Tudor history – all set in the bucolic grounds of Grange Park Opera. It’s a magical day out and one of my favourite outings of the year. This year’s lineup includes Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, Puccini’s Tosca Massenet’s Werther and the Bryn Terfel Gala. More information here.
Wedding Cake, a 12-metre-high sculptural pavilion in the form of a three-tiered wedding cake and clad entirely in more than 25k ceramic tiles – is a major new work by celebrated Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos. Part sculpture, part architectural garden folly, Wedding Cake is an extraordinary, enormous, fully immersive sculpture which combines pâtisserie and architecture. On at Waddesdon Manor. 18 June to 26 October. Included with tickets to the grounds. Book here.