50+ Excellent Things To Do In London This Month: October 2023

50+ Excellent Things To Do In London This Month: October 2023

Things to do this month is sponsored by the Royal Albert Hall.

Two girls playing with an interactive exhibit in a museum
Musical exhibition Turn It Up opens at the Science Museum. © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum Group

MONTH OF THE DEAD: Halloween may not be until the end of October, but London Month of the Dead goes on all month. Informative, entertaining, and often pretty creepy — the festival enthuses on the subject of death, through talks, cemetery tours, screenings and workshops. There's often a free gin in the mix, too. 30 September-1 November

BLACK HISTORY MONTH: October is Black History Month, honouring the all-too-often unheralded accomplishments of Black Britons in all fields throughout history. It's national, but we've picked a few highlights happening in London this month. 1-31 October

LONDON RESTAURANT FESTIVAL: London Restaurant Festival runs for the entirety of October, with eateries across the capital putting on special menus. There are usually plenty of events, too, including restaurant-hopping tours, tastings and masterclasses. Keep an eye on the website for details. 1-31 October

NFL IN LONDON: Five NFL teams take part in matches at Wembley Stadium and Tottenham Hotspur's Stadium for this year's NFL in London season. Tickets are hard to come by, though you might get lucky. Otherwise, head along to your nearest sports bar to catch the action. 1-15 October

APPLE DAY: Fulham Palace celebrates the orchard harvest with its annual Apple Day, a family-friendly event featuring market stalls, a tombola, a baking contest, garden games, storytelling, children's crafts and other activities. 1 October

Around 25-30 hot air balloons flying over London
Fingers crossed that the Hot Air Balloon Regatta finally goes ahead this month. Image: Exclusive Ballooning.

JAPAN MATSURI: It's been a few years since the Japan Matsuri took place in Trafalgar Square, but now it's back, offering a free celebration of Japanese culture that's open to all. Music and dance performances, a cosplay catwalk and other entertainment takes place across two stages, with food and info stalls scattered throughout the square. FREE, 1 October

HOT AIR BALLOONS: When the weather didn't play ball earlier in the summer, we thought we'd missed our chance to see dozens of balloons flying across the London sky this year. But organisers of the Lord Mayor's Hot Air Balloon Regatta have added two extra dates for 2023 — cross your fingers for ideal conditions on Sunday 1 or 22 October, to see the balloons taking off from Battersea Park in the early hours. FREE, 1/22 October

DECORATIVE FAIR: 135 specialist dealers descend on Evolution in Battersea Park for the Decorative Fair. Browse and buy antiques, design and art pieces dating from the 1700s to the 1970s, with a particular focus on 20th century design. 3-8 October

BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL: The 67th incarnation of the BFI London Film Festival takes place at various venues on the South Bank and in the West End, with some events also screened on BFI Player after the festival, for those who can't make it in person. The public premieres of Emerald Fennell's Saltburn, futuristic The Kitchen, and One Life, starring Anthony Hopkins, are the festival's headline events. 4-15 October

A male and female ballet dancer entwined together in a leap
Skydiver is a family-friendly performance that's part of Dance Umbrella. Photo: Nikolas Louka

GEORGIAN ILLUMINATIONS: Sir John Soane's Museum launches a new exhibition, Georgian Illuminations, telling the history of the light shows of the Georgian era through surviving designs, drawings and prints. A new commission by artist Nayan Kulkarni will illuminate the front of the museum on Lincoln's Inn Fields each evening too. 4 October-7 January

BALLROOM DANCING: As a new series of Strictly gets underway, get in the mood for all things sparkly with the International Ballroom Dancing Championships, taking place at the Royal Albert Hall, and starring the world's best professional ballroom and Latin American dancers. 5 October

KNITTING AND STITCHING SHOW: The Knitting & Stitching Show is at Ally Pally, with hundreds of exhibitors selling supplies including yarn, fabric, buttons, fat quarters, sewing machines and more. Get inspired in the galleries, which display works by textile artists and groups. 5-8 October

FAKING BAD: Unauthorised Breaking Bad parody 'methsical' Faking Bad opens at the Turbine Theatre in Nine Elms. We're promised "one of the stupidest and best pieces of musical theatre to ever grace a stage", starring actor-musicians who whizz through the whole TV show in a couple of hours. 5-28 October

People looking at a yellow and black robot
New Scientist Live brings cutting-edge science and tech to ExCel Centre.

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See Danny Elfman perform live at this bewitching Tim Burton spectacular

A screening of The Nightmare Before Christmas in the Royal Albert Hall - with orchestra

What's This?! The sketches, drawings and storyboards of gothic movie genius Tim Burton, set to a live score from Danny Elfman? Consider us bewitched!

The BBC Concert Orchestra, Crouch End Festival Chorus — and the great composer Danny Elfman himself — grace the Royal Albert Hall for this one-day-only spectacular in October, featuring music from Burton movies including The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland, Beetlejuice, Batman, Dark Shadows and many more!

Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton premiered at the Royal Albert Hall in 2013, and quickly sold out — here's another chance to see one of the most talented composers of our time, and pssst! you even get to hear Elfman sing some of his beloved classics.

Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton comes to the Royal Albert Hall for two performances on Saturday 7 October 2023, at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets from £26.50-£106.50.

DANCE UMBRELLA: International festival Dance Umbrella returns to venues across London, for contemporary performances spanning hip hop culture, performance art, audio-visual experiences and operetta, with a particular focus on intersectional, diverse, innovative, international and national female dancemakers. 6-31 October

NEW SCIENTIST LIVE: Archaeology, solar power, telescopes, lab-grown meat and AI are just some of the topics covered at this year's New Scientist Live. Experts from all manner of fields give talks on their topics at ExCeL London, including BBC Strictly winner & wildlife photographer Hamza Yassin, and neurologist and author, Suzanne O’Sullivan. 7-8 October

TIME TRAVELLER'S WIFE: One of most anticipated West End openings this year is The Time Traveller's Wife, a new musical based on the book and film of the same name. It's about a man with a genetic disorder that allows him to travel through time, who meets the love of his life while doing so. David Hunter plays Henry and Joanna Woodward is Clare. From 7 October 2023

TEA EXHIBITION: Pour yourself a cuppa and have a read up about Horniman Museum's new exhibition, Chá, Chai, Tea, which tells the story of the much-loved drink, including its productions, and traditions around drinking it in different countries around the world. Have a little swot up on the history of tea in London before you go. FREE, 7 October-7 July

A clay teapot
There's a new exhibition brewing, all about tea. Image: Horniman Museum and Gardens

ROYAL PARKS HALF: The Royal Parks Half Marathon takes runners on a route through four of the eight Royal Parks (Hyde Park, Green Park, St James's Park, Kensington Gardens), and closed-off roads around central London. You've missed your chance to take part this year, but why not turn up on the day to support the runners. 8 October

LONDON MEMORY WALK: Not quite up to tackling a half marathon (above)? Instead, sign up for the London Memory Walk, and walk either 2km or 5km through London, raising money for Alzheimer's Society. Starts and finishes at Potters Fields Park, next to Tower Bridge. 8 October

RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE: RuPaul’s Drag Race: Werq The World sashays into The O2 as part of its UK and Ireland arena tour. Bimini Bon-Boulash is the only UK queen taking part in the show, which is described as the "largest drag show on Earth" and also stars Jaida Essence Hall, Aquaria, Vanessa Vanjie, Angeria, Bosco, Daya Betty, Kandy Muse and Ginger Minj. 8 October

PINK FLOYD EXPERIENCE: For one night only, the Dominion Theatre hosts the UK Pink Floyd Experience, a tribute to the legendary band, celebrating 50 years since The Dark Side of the Moon album was released. 8 October

Six drag queens posing in black leather outfits
RuPaul's Drag Race: Werq The World comes to The O2

MENTAL WEALTH FESTIVAL: On World Mental Health Day, City Lit launches its Mental Wealth Festival, with a focus on the impact of connections on mental health through workshops and talks. All events are either free or low-cost. 9-14 October

HIROSHI SUGIMOTO: Hayward Gallery at Southbank Centre holds the largest retrospective to date of work by Japanese photographer and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto. Time Machine showcases thought-provoking works dating back 50 years, including key works from all of the artist's major photographic series, as well as lesser-known pieces. 11 October 2023-7 January 2024

ART FAIRS: Two of London's biggest art fairs take place in October, bringing members of the art industry from all over the globe back to the capital. Frieze London (11-15 October 2023) sets up shop in Regent's Park, with galleries showcasing work by contemporary artists in a variety of mediums. Over in east London, The Other Art Fair (12-15 October 2023) takes over the Old Truman Brewery, with a focus on artworks available for all budgets, from over 100 artists.

ROUNDHOUSE RISING: For more than a decade, the annual Roundhouse Rising festival has showcased and supported diverse music talent through gigs, workshops and industry events. That continues this year, with performances across three days. 12-14 October

Clive Myrie
Clive Myrie is on the line-up at Wimbledon BookFest © Sophia Spring

LONDON COCKTAIL WEEK: London Cocktail Week claims to be the biggest cocktail festival in the world, and who are we to argue? Buy yourself a festival wristband for £15 to get access to £8 signature cocktails at hundreds of bars across the capital. There are also cocktail tours, special menus and other events going on. 12-22 October

WIMBLEDON BOOKFEST: Clive Myrie, Ben Okri, Annie Macmanus, Afua Hirsch, Peter Frankopan, Wes Streeting, Anne Enright, Paterson Joseph, Kate Mosse and Steve Backshall are among the speakers at this year's Wimbledon BookFest, which has a theme of culture, community and global connection. 12-22 October

AFRICAN ART FAIR: 62 exhibitors from 31 different countries descend on Somerset House for 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair. See work by African artists across a range of mediums including painting, sculpture and installation. Works from established artists such as Joana Choumali, Ibrahim El-Salahi and Soly Cissé sit alongside pieces by young and emerging artists including Josué Comoe, Anya Paintsil and Edozie Anedu. 13-15 October

BLOOMSBURY FESTIVAL: Beginning with a street food and flower market on Store Street, Bloomsbury Festival celebrates the area's arts, culture and science, through more than 100 events across nine days, including theatre, music, exhibitions, talks and walks. 13-22 October

A replica of a Walt Disney castle on display in an exhibition
Celebrate the 100th anniversary of Disney at this new exhibition.

DISNEY100: The centenary of the Walt Disney Company is celebrated with a huge exhibition, Disney100, at ExCel. It spans 10 galleries, covering films, theme parks and more. The carousel horse which Dick Van Dyke rode in Mary Poppins (1964) and the crystal glass slipper from Cinderella (2015) are among the exhibits. From 13 October

OM YOGA SHOW: Head to Alexandra Palace for the Om Yoga Show, apparently the biggest yoga gathering in Europe with open classes led by the world's top teachers, along with 200 exhibitors offering yoga accessories, clothing, jewellery, retreats and more. 13-15 October

FASHION CITY: Coats worn by Princess Diana and Dot Cotton, alongside items from high street retailers including M&S, Wallis and Moss Bros are part of Museum of London Docklands' Fashion City exhibition, which looks at how the Jewish tailors and designers of the East End shaped fashion worldwide. 13 October 2023-14 April 2024

A display of Sylvanian Families figures
Japan: Myths to Manga at Young V&A. Image: Sylvanian Families group. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY: One of our favourite annual exhibitions, Wildlife Photographer of the Year returns to the Natural History Museum for its 59th incarnation. See photos of animals and the natural world taken by photographers all over the globe, including the overall winners (announced on 10 October). 13 October-30 June 2024

JAPAN EXHIBITION: The first exhibition at the newly reopened Young V&A in Bethnal Green is Japan: Myths to Manga, which explores how landscape and folklore have influenced Japan's culture, technology and design. In keeping with the spirit of the museum, it's family-friendly, with manga-making, Taiko drumming and other hands-on activities to take part in. From 14 October

POWELL AND PRESSBURGER: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger were the filmmaking duo responsible for creating films including The Red Shoes. The BFI marks the film's 75th anniversary with Cinema Unbound: The Creative Worlds of Powell and Pressburger, a season of screenings and special events at BFI Southbank and nationwide. 16 October-31 December

A still from film The Red Shoes, featuring someone wearing a red pair of ballet shoes
The BFI celebrates the 75th anniversary of The Red Shoes.

BLACK SABBATH BALLET: Birmingham's musical heritage is celebrated in Black Sabbath: The Ballet, which is exactly what it sounds like — a performance by the Birmingham Royal Ballet, set to a soundtrack of Black Sabbath songs. It finishes its UK tour with six shows at Sadler's Wells. 18-21 October

LONDON LITERATURE FESTIVAL: George the Poet, Yu Miri, Teju Cole, Sir Patrick Stewart, Jada Pinkett Smith, Kerry Washington and Jacqueline Wilson are among the faces on the programme at this year's London Literature Festival at Southbank Centre, which celebrates the written and spoken word in all its forms. 18-29 October

TURN IT UP: Just in time for October half term, the Science Museum opens new family-friendly exhibition, Turn It Up: The Power of Music, which looks at the effect music has on our lives. It's interactive, with a musical playground, a musical robot, and a chance to see and play some rather unusual instruments. 19 October-6 May

A ballerina in black tutu and leotard playing a red electric guitar
Black Sabbath The Ballet. Photo: Perou

SKATEBOARD: The humble skateboard is the subject of a major new exhibition at the Design Museum, exploring how the board has evolved in design and performance since the 1950s, as well as how it has brought communities together. 20 October 2023-2 June 2024

HALF TERM: The school break falls over the last week of October, meaning there will be plenty of family-friendly events taking place around London. Browse our half term events guide for theatre shows, exhibitions and other events and activities for all ages. 21-29 October

ICE RINK: With more than two months to go until Christmas, the first of London's seasonal ice rinks opens for business. Ice Rink Canary Wharf is located at the foot of east London's skyscrapers, below hundreds of fairy lights. Oh, and it has a roof, meaning rain won't stop play. Alternatively, try one of London's year-round ice rinks. 21 October-February 2024

A photograph of a photographer taking a photo of a skateboarder in a skate bowl
The Design Museum opens an exhibition about the evolution of skateboards.

OVARIAN CANCER WALK/RUN: Sign up to take part in the Ovarian Cancer Walk | Run in Regent's Park and raise money for charity Target Ovarian Cancer. Choose either the 5km or 10km route. 22 October

STAR WARS MUSIC: The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra presents John Williams’ musical scores written for the Star Wars films, performed at the Royal Albert Hall. Tunes includes Star Wars: Main Theme, Imperial March, The Force Awakens: Suite, The Return of the Jedi: Parade of the Ewoks, and Princess Leia’s Theme. 22 October

LITTLE VENICE FILM FESTIVAL: Inclusivity is the driving force of the Little Venice Film Festival, a showcase of work by UK and international filmmakers with underrepresented voices. It takes place at locations around Little Venice and Paddington, as well as the Curzon Mayfair. 22-28 October

JUNIOR BOOK FESTIVAL: The Week Junior Book Festival is a one-day event at the Royal Institution, designed to inspire children to be imaginative through performances and workshops. Michael Rosen and Michael Morpurgo are among the special guests. 24 October

People ice skating on a rink inside a giant conservatory
Yep, it's that time of year again.

THE CULT OF BEAUTY: Find out how notions of beauty have varied across time and through different cultures, at free Wellcome Collection exhibition, The Cult of Beauty. Historical objects, artworks, films and new commissions are among the 200 objects on show. 26 October 2023-28 April 2024

JURASSIC PARK IN CONCERT: Believe it or not, the first Jurassic Park film is 30 years old, an anniversary that's being celebrated at a special concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra performs John Williams’ iconic film score live as the film is shown on screen. 26-27 October

BLACK BRITISH BOOK FESTIVAL: The Black British Book Festival takes place outside Birmingham for the first time, celebrating Black British authors across all genres. Events include the launch of Leigh-Anne Pinnock's memoir, as well as workshops and masterclasses to help people break into the publishing industry. 27-28 October 2023

MCM COMIC CON: Halloween isn't the only reason to dig out your fancy dress costume at the end of October. MCM Comic Con returns to ExCeL for three days of celebrity guests, panel discussions, cosplay, tabletop and video games and more.  27-29 October

A man and a woman running, wearing Target Ovarian Cancer t shirts and race numbers.
Sign up to support Target Ovarian Cancer

FANTASY: REALMS OF IMAGINATION: Imagined lands, languages and creatures are the subject of the British Library's new exhibition, Fantasy: Realms of Imagination, which looks at how fantasy creators bring their worlds to life, from fairy tales and folklore to the fantastical worlds of Studio Ghibli. 27 October-February 2024

DIWALI: Although Diwali falls on 12 November this year, London's official celebrations in Trafalgar Square take place on 29 October, with live music, dancing and more. Keep an eye on our event listings for details of other Diwali celebrations around town. FREE, 29 October/12 November

HALLOWEEN: Expect to see plenty of pumpkins, ghosts and witches around town as October draws to a close and Halloween celebrations take over. We'll bring you our guide to London's best Halloween events closer to the time, so keep checking back. In the meantime, book yourself into one of these spooky film screenings — including a rooftop Witches' Weekend at the start of the month. 31 October

ICE HOCKEY: We're well into the ice hockey season now. Don't know much about the sport? Need a refresher? Wondering where you can watch a match? Have a read of our guide to ice hockey in London.

AUTUMN IN LONDON See London's trees turning red and feel the leaves crunch under your feet on one of these gorgeous autumn walks around the capital. Find other autumn things to do with our guide to the best things to do in London this autumn.

A green and white dinosaur model made of Lego.
Last chance to see Brick Dinos at Horniman Museum. Image: Warren Elsmore

LAST CHANCE: A few things are closing this month too. It's your last chance to see:

  • CHINA'S HIDDEN CENTURY: The British Museum's exhibition, China's Hidden Century, is about the violence and turmoil the country faced during the 19th century, at a time when the modern republic of China came into being. Until 8 October
  • PORTRAITS OF DOGS: Paintings, sculptures, drawings, works of art, and even taxidermy, feature in Portraits of Dogs: From Gainsborough to Hockney at the Wallace Collection, which looks at humans' relationship with dogs through the centuries. Until 15 October
  • CROYDON STANDS TALL: If you've been to Croydon recently, you might have spotted a few colourful giraffes. In fact, there are 30 of the creatures — plus 30 mini ones — to hunt out for the Croydon Stands Tall art trail. FREE, until 27 October
  • BRICK DINOS: Last chance to see dinosaurs created from Lego bricks at Horniman Museum. Brick Dinos features replicas of creatures from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, alongside specimens from the Horniman's stores. Bound to be busy over half term, so worth booking ahead if you're planning to visit then. Until 29 October

Last Updated 25 September 2023

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