London’s back and buzzing with a packed calendar of blockbuster exhibitions, star-studded West End theatre and brilliant new places to stay and eat. Get your heart racing during the London Marathon or step into the immersive new Gunpowder Plot Experience at the Tower of London. Here are the biggest events in 2022 to put in your London calendar.
The West End’s got an all-star line-up
Book now to see stars of the big screen on stage including award-winning actress Amy Adams (American Hustle) making her West End debut in Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie showing from May to the end of August at the Duke of York’s Theatre. Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones and Star Wars fame is treading the boards as Nina in The Seagull (June to September) at the Harold Pinter Theatre; and David Tennant will also return to the Harold Pinter Theatre in Good (October to December).
The Bridge Theatre is now home to The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe (July to January 2023) starring Samatha Womock as the White Witch. Rafe Spall plays Atticus Finch in Aaron Sorkin’s Broadway hit, To Kill a Mockingbird (May to November at the Gielgud), based on Harper Lee’s classic novel. Stranger Things’ David Harbour is performing in Mad House (June to September) at the Ambassadors Theatre.
Stay: When the curtain falls, stroll back to the uber-cool NoMad hotel in the heart of theatreland – it’s located in the former Bow Street Magistrates’ Court (where Oscar Wilde, the Kray twins and Emmeline Pankhurst were all tried).
Eat: For pre- or post-theatre sustenance, head to the fantastic Brasserie Zédel for French classics in a Parisian-style dining space; Bocca di Lupo for next-level Italian; or theatre lovers’ favourite J. Sheekey for its legendary fish pie.
The city’s newest attraction opens
The Gunpowder Plot at the Tower of London is a thrilling new multi-million-pound experience that opened in May 2022, allowing visitors to become immersed in the sound, smells and sights of London in the 17th Century. ”It’s the only place in the world where you can step back into British history,” says Andrew McGuinness, CEO of the project design company, Layered Reality. The multi-sensory experience is the biggest tourist attraction to open in London since the Shard and tells the story of Guy Fawkes (played by Harry Potter star, Tom Felton) and his plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.
The action takes place in a new purpose-designed theatre in the Vaults opposite the Tower of London, where much of the real plotting took place. Amazing effects are achieved through layering live actors, virtual reality and sophisticated technology which produces changes in temperature, smell and motion control. Visitors become part of the action as they are guided through an amazing two-kilometre route passing through the equivalent of nine immersive movie sets.
Stay: CitizenM combines a brilliant location above Tower Hill station with hip design, light-filled spaces and an excellent rooftop bar.
Eat: St Katharine’s Docks is close for a quick meal at reliable chain favourites in a lovely marina setting. For more interesting options, take a 10-minute stroll to Spitalfields. There are plenty of delicious street-food stalls in the covered market or head to Som Saa for amazing Thai in a buzzy former fabric warehouse, St John Bread and Wine for delicious British food and Ottolenghi for unbeatable Middle Eastern-influenced café fare.
The exhibitions are blockbusters
London’s exhibition calendar is off to a flying start: furry friends loom large in Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature (February to September) at the Victoria & Albert museum, a family-friendly look at Potter’s original watercolours, diaries and manuscripts. While you are there, check out the first major exhibition of British menswear including work from Craig Green – Fashioning Masculinities: the Art of Menswear (19 March to 6 November).
Over at the British Museum, the Feminine Power exhibition (until 25 September) explores the role of female authority and female divinity across cultures. Towards the end of the year, the Science Museum launches Science Fiction: Voyage to the Edge of Imagination (October to May 2023), one of its most ambitious exhibitions ever, where visitors become part of an interactive story complete with spaceships and undiscovered planets. For art lovers, the Tate Modern has Surrealism Beyond Borders (24 February to 29 August) and the Royal Academy’s exhibition, Milton Avery is showing until 16 October.
Stay: The stylish Bloomsbury is close to the British Museum and has the prettiest flower-filled terrace in town. The new Hoxton Southwark is handy for the Tate Modern, has a buzzy vibe and a great rooftop restaurant. If you want to be close to the South Kensington museums, Number Sixteen is a chic boutique hotel tucked away on a pretty side street.
Eat: José Pizarro at the Royal Academy of Arts serves top tapas in the beautiful Senate Room, the Tate Modern’s own Kitchen and Bar has stunning views of the Thames, nearby Caravan Bankside is an all-day eatery, and foodie heaven Borough Market is only a 10-minute walk away. Visiting the Science Museum? The excellent Ognisko, the Polish Hearth Club’s restaurant, is just across the road in the most stunning high-ceilinged room.
Take part in one of the world's six major marathons on Sunday 2nd of October. The London Marathon has run for over 20 years and the 42.1 kilometre course itself passes the city’s most iconic landmarks including The Shard and Tower Bridge. You may even spot a famous face along the way: in 2021 former England cricket captain Andrew Strauss and Olympian Liz McColgan were seen on track.
The marathon starts at 9:30am with three starting points at Greenwich Park and the finish line is at the mall by Buckingham palace. Around three quarters of the race’s participants run for charity and in 2007, £46.5 was raised, breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest single day annual fundraising event; in years since, the marathon has continued to break the record.
Stay: After a monumental run, you’ll probably want to hit the shower and slip into bed soon after crossing the finish line – Hilton London Hyde Park and The Ritz London are within walking distance. If you want to be at the start line nice and early, why not stay right near where the race kicks off at The Clarendon.
Eat: Grab some liquid courage in the form of caffeine or a fresh-pressed juice at River Gardens Café or The Ivy Cafe, both perched on the edge of the start line. Pop over to the Smith & Whistle pub post race and treat yourself to a classic London fish and chips or a fresh avocado poke bowl and a pint of lager.
Image credits: HM Government (Platinum Jubilee); The Glass Menagerie (Amy Adams); The Gunpowder Plot; Victoria and Albert Museum (Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature).