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City slickin’: what’s on in London this autumn

London's heading into the cooler months with a host of unmissable cultural highlights. Bag yourself the best tickets now with our guide to what's worth seeing in the big smoke.

FROM WATERLOO

A quick wander across the bridge from Waterloo is the gorgeous Somerset House, where from 21 Oct you can enjoy a cheerfully cheeky exhibition on The Art of Breaking Rules — that is, how Beano, beloved icon of British comics, fired up successive generations to break the rules. The annual ice rink will also be up and running (skating?) from 17 Nov, featuring a swanky new partnership with Moët & Chandon. I say.

Or, stroll down to the Tate Britain for their upcoming exploration of William Hogarth in Hogarth and Europe, running 3 Nov – 30 March 2022. This looks at how European society and culture changed dramatically in the mid-18th century.

Heading in the other direction but still walkable from Waterloo is the Tate Modern, which is still showing its exhibition on The Making of Rodin until 21 Nov. This charts the way Auguste Rodin broke classical rules in the 20th century to craft complex, dynamic sculptures of the human body.

Where to eat nearby: Peckish after all that culture and walking? The Skylon restaurant at Royal Festival Hall does beaut food on a beaut terrace, and offers an especially (in)famous two-course bottomless Prosecco brunch on weekends.

FROM MARYLEBONE

If you come out at Marylebone it’s a hop and a skip over to the dinky but beautiful Wallace Collection, where you can see an exhibition on Frans Hals: The Male Portrait until 30 Jan. Frans Hal was the bloke who painted The Laughing Cavalier — but were any of his other portraits any good? Here’s your chance to find out.

Or, not too far from Marylebone station is the decidedly more contemporary Wellcome Collection on the Euston Road, which is hosting a series of (free!) exhibitions, events and activities exploring the theme of happiness.

Where to eat nearby: Head to the iconic Viennese café and restaurant Fischer’s on Marylebone High Street. Famous schnitzel the size of dinner plates, spatchcocked paprika chicken, and sugar-dusted chopped pancakes for afters — a fine feast in the surroundings of an early 20th century brasserie.

Heading south, take the excuse to peruse the shops on Marylebone High Street (a nosy about in TOAST is non-negotiable) as you continue down past Oxford Street, to the Royal Academy of Arts. Here you can catch the still-stubbornly named Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2021, even though it’s blatantly running in a different season, until 2 Jan 2022. Expect a celebration of contemporary art and architecture through thousands of curated pieces, from up-and-comers and sky-high-flyers alike.

Also at the Royal Academy of Arts is an exhibition on Late Constable — specifically the radical things he did with his brushwork further on in his career. Running 30 Oct – 13 Feb 2022. (And Fortnum’s is opposite, if you want to buy the foodies in your life something posh for Crimbo.)

FROM LIVERPOOL STREET

For the contingent coming in from Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, you’ll probably find yourself at London Liverpool Street and want to know what you can do in walking distance. (Which, naturally, depends on how much you like to walk.) In the immediate area you have the Whitechapel Gallery and its exhibition on the American artist Theaster Gates, entitled A Clay Sermon, which looks at the really fascinating relationship between clay pottery and theology, on until 9 Jan 2022. You can also see a collection of art pieces curated by Norwegian artist Ida Ekblad, exploring moonlit landscapes and dreams, inspired by the W.H. Auden poem Night Mail, on until 2 Jan 2022.

Where to eat nearby: The almost-impossible-to-get-into (well, it always was when we lived in town) Sky Garden in Fenchurch Street is an activity in of itself thanks to the view. Or, enjoy the rival views at Skylight, London’s largest outdoor venue, with street food and cocktail venues and even a selection of games like croquet and table tennis to play up on the rooftop. Shoreditch’s covered foodie haven BOXPARK is open for business as is the Brick Lane second-hand market and Columbia Road Flower Market on Sundays. (The latter, if you’re wondering, is still refreshingly full of people yelling out their wares just like that famous scene in Oliver!.)

JUST A TUBE-RIDE AWAY

It’s all Bacchic parties at the National Gallery from 9 Oct – 2 Jan, thanks to their exhibition on the seventeenth-century French painter Poussin and his exploration of ecstatic dance. Just like our old uni days, eh?

Or, catch their big exhibition on Albrecht Dürer, running 20 Nov – 27 Feb 2022, which follows the Renaissance artist’s travels across the globe and discussions of international art. It’s the first proper Dürer exhibition in the UK for 20 years, so worth seeing.

Over at The British Museum, you can catch a ‘thrilling’ exhibition on Nero: the man behind the myth until 24 Oct. Drawing on the latest research, this questions the traditional narrative of Nero, one of Rome’s most infamous rulers, as a ruthless tyrant. Or, from 11 Nov, take a vibrant journey through the history, art, and culture of Peru, in a nod to the country’s bicentennial year of independence.

Kensington, though not wildly near any of the London terminals (Victoria or Marylebone are probably the nearest), is home to some of the country’s best cultural offerings. First up: The V&A has a glitzy, glamorous exhibition on Fabergé: Romance to Revolution, from 20 Nov. This will look at the career and legacy of Russian craftsman Carl Fabergé, with oodles of decadent objects for ogling. Carp cigar-cutter, anyone?

Silver cigar-cutter, made 1908 for Fabergé

While you’re in the area, it’d be remiss not to point out the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum, the latter of which is displaying the amazing winners of its Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition from 15 Oct, as well as continuing its wizarding world exhibition Fantastic Beasts — interesting for little ones and big ones alike.

Then you can still catch a cool exhibition on the design of iconic trainers (Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street) until 24 Oct at The Design Museum off Kensington High Street. If you miss it, don’t sweat: it’s followed by an exhibition called Waste Age: What can design do?, from 23 Oct, which explores the way in which innovation can help us leave our ‘throwaway culture’ behind.

Where to eat nearby: Don’t expect anything, you know… low rent (it’s Kensington, darling). We recommend heading to The Ivy Kensington Brasserie.

Also accessible by TFL is Kew Gardens (actually a pretty easy journey from Waterloo, as you can take the train to Richmond and walk, but fiddlier from the others). From 1-30 Oct, the gardens are celebrating all things Japan, through art, culture, and (of course) plants.

Fancy something further from home? Check out our guide to 24 hours in the James-Bond-approved Matera, Italy

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