September seemed to whizz by, which means that Christmas is just around the corner! Before the festive season kicks in, however, London has a host of exciting events and activities to keep everyone busy.
October is the perfect time to visit London, and not just because of Halloween events and half term celebrations.
Temperatures start to dip this month and the parks and gardens transform from sunny green spaces into rich autumnal landscapes; October is a good time of the year to visit one of the city’s many Royal Parks including Hyde Park and Regent’s Park.
October is Black History Month and the there are lots of special events taking place across the capital city to celebrate including the Black British Book festival taking place towards the end of the month.
Buckingham Palace is now closed for the summer but the Changing of the Guard still takes place; check the timetable here.
The best things to do in London in October
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If you are footloose and kid-free then celebrate London Cocktail Week (12 – 22 October) with oodles of delicious cocktails. There are still some tickets remaining for London Restaurant Festival events taking place this month. Towards the end of October is when the Oktober Fest celebrations kick off if you happen to be in town without the children and fancy drinking flagons of beer!
The following are our pick of the best events taking place in London in October, enjoy!
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Diwali on Trafalgar Square
The Hindu Festival of Lights is celebrated on Sunday 29 October on Trafalgar Square in central London. Diwali on the Square will feature 200 colourfully dressed dancers, live music and performances from the Hindu, Sikh and Jain community.
There is also a marketplace, lots of delicious food and activities including Sari and Turban tying. There is a dedicated children’s marquee too.
When: Sunday 29 October
Where: Trafalgar Square; nearest tube Charing Cross; free event
The Tusk Gorilla Trail
The Tusk Gorilla Trail, held in partnership with the African conservation charity Tusk and Westbrook Gallery, takes place across Covent Garden until mid-October.
Scattered around Covent Garden are 15 life-sized gorilla sculptures decorated in designs created by an array of artists from the world of art, design, film, photography and comedy.
Some of the famous names involved include Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood, British artist and feminist Chila Kumari Singh Burman, actress and producer Sally Wood, and graffiti and street artist Pure Evil.
When: Until 12 October
Where: Download the free walking trail from the website.
Queer Nature at Kew Gardens
Taking place this October in Kew Gardens is a colourful exhibition celebrating the diversity and beauty of plants and fungi. Queer Nature is talking place in Kew’s iconic Temperate House and will include a large-scale suspended artwork and a horticultural installation that explores the amazing world of plants and fungi, especially those that challenge traditional expectations.
When: 30 September – 29 October
Where: The Temperate House, Kew Gardens; nearest tube Kew Gardens
Astronomy Photographer of the Year
Get lost in space at the National Maritime Museum this month with the opening of Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition, showcasing the world’s greatest space photography. This annual event is the chance to marvel at glittering stars, shimmering galaxies, fiery suns, and sliver moons all presented in some incredible photos. Photographers from across the globe compete to take home the prestigious title.
Where: National Maritime Museum; nearest tube Cutty Sark
Halloween At The Tower of London
Time to coincide with the October half-term holiday and Halloween in London is the chance to discover thousands of years of history housed within the Tower of London’s walls.
Look closely and you may see the trail of a Tudor gown swish past or a medieval queen upon a crooked throne. Other ghosts from the tower’s past may reveal themselves too: the Wizard Earl can often be spied in his apothecary concocting potions and a Roman solider has been seen near the remnants of the London Wall.
This event is spooky but not scary and all ages are welcome.
When: 21 – 29 October
Where: The Tower of London; nearest tube Tower Hill; included in admission price
Family Day: Living Memory at Westminster Abbey
Get creative during Family Day at Westminster Abbey this October. Take inspiration from the hundreds of Abbey statues and memorials, use the Abbey’s collection of props, wigs and costumes, and unleash your imagination as you consider what legacy you family might leave for future generations.
When: 21 October 10am – 2pm
Where: Westminster Abbey; nearest tube Westminster
Japan: Myths & Manga at the Young V&A
After three years, a £13 million renovation, countless consultations with local children and a name change (it used to be called the Museum of Childhood), the Young V&A is once again open and is quite brilliant.
The vastly new and improved museum for children opened in July with three new galleries to explore – Play, Imagine and Design – with plenty to delight kids of all ages. A mysterious “sound tree” houses an interactive game, a make-your-own board game table and a giant foam construction set. All together it’s a wonderful world of colour and imagination.
Opening this month is a new exhibition, Japan: Myths to Manga, that explores how landscape and folklore have influenced Japan’s culture, technology and design.
When: Japan: Myths & Manga opens on 14 October
Where: Young V&A, nearest tube Bethnal Green
Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto at the V&A
You’ll be hard pressed to get tickets for this exhibition in October – it’s been a huge hit since opening on 16 September. Still, it’s well worth booking tickets even if the next available are in 2024. Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto explores the enormous influence of the famous French couturier from her Parisian roots to establishing the House of Chanel.
Exhibition highlights include original Chanel dresses, iconic tweed jackets, photographs and more
Ongoing at the V&A is the exhibition DIVA, which celebrates the power and creativity of iconic performers across opera, stage, popular music, and film. Make a day of it and explore both exhibitions.
When: Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto runs until Sunday 25 February
Where: The V&A Museum, closest tube South Kensington
Re:Imagining Musicals at the V&A
If you’ve not seen this exhibition yet then book tickets quick as it’s only running for a few more months. The excellent exhibition explores how some of the best-loved musicals have been adapted, revived, and retold. Re:Imagining Musicals explores musical theatre from Miss Saigon to SIX the Musical.
When: Closes 4 February 2024
Where: V&A Museum; nearest tube South Kensington
A Great and Dirty City: Dickens and the London Fog at the Charles Dickens Museum
London used to be well known for its ‘pea soupers’; heavy, dense fog of greens, yellows, rust colours or even black that enveloped the city. Dickens wrote often about the continual fog and this exhibition explores the circumstances that created this problem and how Dickens was inspired by the phenomenon.
Among the items on display are a first edition of Dickens’s ‘foggiest’ novel, Bleak House and Dickens’ own fire poker, used to tend his dining room fire while he lived at Gad’s Hill.
When: Closes 22 October
Where: The Charles Dickens Museum; nearest tube Russell Square
The Bloomsbury Festival
This annual festival celebrates the neighbourhood’s colourful history and culture with 10 days of events taking place in various venues around Bloomsbury.
The theme for 2023 is ‘Grow’ and there are dozens of events taking place inspired by science, arts and culture.
Many of the events and activities are free but it’s well worth booking in advance for the more popular events.
Taking place on 13 October is a workshop for under 5s called ‘Time to Grow’. Led by artist and author Ella Philipps, children will be invited to make, touch, listen and play in a fun-filled workshop inspired by her series ‘My Grandma’s Magic Recipes’.
When: 13 – 22 October
Where: Various locations around Bloomsbury, check the website for details.
Frieze London is back transforming Regents Park into a giant outdoor gallery. This year marks the event’s 20th anniversary and to celebrate the occasion Frieze London has invited eight leading artists including Tracy Emin and Olafur Eliasson to select other artists to receive solo stands.
The sister fair, Frieze Masters (for art before 1980), will have a special section dedicated to women artists.
This year’s edition will feature 160 galleries from 40 countries. Kids and families are welcome just remember that children over the age of two years do need a valid ticket.
When: 11 – 15 October
Where: Regents Park; nearest tube Regent’s Park, Great Portland Street and Baker Street; this is a paid ticketed event
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirror Rooms
The immersive Infinity Mirror Rooms by Japanese artists Yayoi Kusama at the Tate Modern have proved such a hit that the dates have been extended until 28 April 2024. Tickets do go quickly, however, so best to snap yours up quickly.
Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled with the Brilliance of Life is shown alongside Chandelier of Grief as well as a small presentation of photos and moving image providing historical context for these art works.
When: Until 28 April 2024
Where: Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1 9TG
UNIQLO Tate Play Painterly
Get ready to get ‘painterly’ at the Tate Modern this October half-term. Taking place in the Clore Studio is the chance for families to unleash their inner artists and create artwork in fun and unusual ways inspired by the abstract works of artists including Agnes Marten, Cy Twombly and Huguette Caland.
When: 22 – 30 October
Where: Tate Modern; nearest tube London Bridge
London Literature Festival
Now in its 16th edition, the London Literature Festival is back this month at the Southbank Centre to celebrate the written and spoken word.
There are a number of family events taking place including an inspiring talk by Stuart Lawrence, brother of Steven Lawrence titled “Growing up Black in Britain”.
Other events worth marking your diary for include Rug Rhymes for songs and rhymes for under-5s, Telling Your Story that celebrates diverse children’s writers and stories, and The Best Sleepover in the World with bestselling author Jaqueline Wilson. See the website for details on these events and other family-friendly sessions taking place.
When: 18 – 29 October
Where: The Southbank Centre on the South Bank
Power Up at the Science Museum
A must for all gamers out there is the Power Up exhibition at the Science Museum. This interactive exhibit showcases the best video games and consoles from the past 50 years and includes everything from Pong to Pacman and Minecraft to Mario.
Play against friends in multiplayer showdowns, test out new virtual reality experiences, and more.
Where: The Interactive Gallery at the Science Museum, nearest tube South Kensington
The BFI London Film Festival
The BFI Film Festival opens this month with a fun family programme that includes animated tales from across the world. Family films this year include Dancing Queen, Deep Sea, Kensuke’s Kingdom and The Sacred Cave. Also showing is Robot Dreams, an engaging animation about a friendship set in New York City in the 1980s.
Remember that last minute tickets are sometimes available on the day so do check back regularly. Young people aged 16 to 25 can sign up for a free BFI 25 & Under account and get festival tickets for just £5, including red-carpet premieres.
When: 4 – 15 October
Where: Various cinemas, check the website for details
Family Fun Weekends on board the Cutty Sark
Taking place on the first weekend of every month, these family fun days feature workshops, songs, activities and experiences for all ages. Meet characters from Cutty Sark’s past, sing a sea shanty or two, get dressed up and much more.
When: 7 – 8 October
Where: Cutty Sark; nearest stations Greenwich station, Cutty Sark DLR, Maze Hill station; included in admission price
The Missing Thread at Somerset House
Discover the stories of Black British fashion in this major new exhibition taking place at Somerset House. Starting in the 1970s and spanning the decades to the present day, this unique exhibition examines the influence that black culture has made to Britain’s rich design history from home and tailoring to performance and nightlife.
When: 21 September to 7 January 2024
Where: Somerset House; nearest tubes Temple, Covent Garden and Charing Cross
Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the NHM
One of my favourite exhibitions of the year opens this month at the Natural History Museum. The Wildlife Photographer of the Year opens on 13 October in its newly redesigned exhibition space that includes short videos, quotes from jury members and photographers as well as insights from museum scientists alongside the photos.
When: Opens 13 October
Where: The Natural History Museum; nearest tube South Kensington
Family Walks with the Museum of London Docklands
Two guided walks are taking place this month with the Museum of London Docklands, exploring different stories from the city’s past.
The hour-long Great Fire of London family walking tour explores how the Great Fire of 1666 started, how it spread and how it was finally stopped. It also answers questions such as, was the baker of Pudding Lane really to blame? This tour is aimed at primary school aged children and their families.
The Roman London family walk takes families back 2,000 years to a time when the city was called Londinium. Visit the remains of the Roman city wall, discover the remains of a hidden amphitheatre and ore on this interactive guided tour for families.
When: Various dates in October, check website for details.
Where: These are external walks, check website for details.
Brick Dinos at the Horniman Museum
This is the last month you have to catch Brick Dinos at the Horniman Museum. Some of the largest beasts to ever walk the earth have been created in miniature form by artist Warren Elsmore and his team.
The exhibition also features rarely seen specimens from the Horniman’s stores, and a range of hands-on activities for children to enjoy including build your own dinosaur and digging for fossils.
When: Until 29 October, 2023. Advanced booking recommended.
Where: Horniman Museum, 100 London Rd, London SE23 3PQ; nearest station Forest Hill