As we bid farewell to 2022 — a year of ripped roofs, beautiful wildflowers, and the longest queue ever seen, we’re looking forward to what’s planned in London for 2023.
1. iFLY Indoor Skydiving at The O2 – February 2023
We kick off with a high-octane addition to London — an indoor skydiving venue, opening at The O2. Making use of a vertical wind tunnel, it gives you the chance to experience the feeling of flight without even a parachute to keep you airborne.
Originally planned for December 2022, we’re now expecting the doors to open in February 2023. Watch this space.
2. Wren 400 commemorations – February 2023
25 February marks 300 years since the death of Sir Christopher Wren, architect of St Paul’s Cathedral and 51 other churches after the Great Fire of London, as well as the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the Old Royal Naval College, parts of Hampton Court Palace and several other rather impressive structures. (Busy bloke.)
We’d expect at least some of these venues to be marking in the anniversary in some way, and we already know of the Wren300 Square Mile Churches programme, which’ll see events including including school pupils building a replica of the dome of St Paul’s, and a ‘Wrenathon’ of choirs across the Square Mile. Alternatively, go on your own Wren tour, with our map of the buildings of Sir Christopher Wren — there are almost 100 of them!
3. The Hunterian Museum reopens – early 2023
After what feels like forever, the Hunterian Museum — which closed in 2017 — is finally reopening. Originally the relaunch was scheduled for 2020 but… yup, Covid happened. Three years on down, it’s FINALLY reopening those doors.
For the uninitiated, the Hunterian Museum is a Royal College of Surgeons museum, displaying all manner of anatomical curiosities, collected by 18th century surgeon and anatomist John Hunter. Preserved tumours, skeletons affected by syphilis, and the full skeleton of ‘the Irish giant’ Charles Byrne were among the items on display previously — we can’t wait to see what it looks like when it returns.
4. Brent Cross West Station opens – early 2023
Let’s be honest, nothing is going to beat 2022 for transport fans — it was the year we finally got the Elizabeth line, for goodness sake! But 2023 does have a little treat waiting for us in the form of a brand new railway station: Brent Cross West.
It’s part of the new Brent Cross Cricklewood development, where a whole new town is being built, basically. Cricklewood station, further down the line, is also getting an upgrade, but the brand new Brent Cross West station will sit between Hendon and Cricklewood stations and be served by Thameslink trains.
5. Lee Valley Ice Centre opens – early 2023
Announced back in 2019, the brand new Lee Valley Ice Centre is on schedule to open in early 2023, and will feature two Olympic-sized ice rinks, a cafe, gym, exercise studios and various other facilities. It replaces the previous ice skating and leisure centre on the same site, between Hackney Marshes and Walthamstow Marshes, but its beefed up size means that more people can now get on the ice.
6. David Attenborough voices BBC Earth experience – March 2023
The immersive BBC Earth Experience — which opens inside the purpose-built Daikin Centre in Earl’s Court on 30 March 2023 — takes visitors on a virtual safari through seven continents, with narration by the inimitable David Attenborough. It’s a walk-through, 360-degree take on the 2019 TV show Seven Worlds, One Planet, and with Attenborough involved, it’s bound to be popular — but it’s only around until July.
7. Ryan Reynolds at The 02 – March 2023
Nonetheless, the Hollywood actor headlines Just For Laughs, a huge comedy festival at The O2 in March 2023, where he’s in conversation with Rob Delaney about his screenwriting/acting/entrepreneurial career. While he’s at the venue, perhaps he’ll have a go at indoor skydiving (above), and add another string to his bow?
Anyway, Graham Norton, Katherine Ryan, Aisling Bea, Richard Curtis, Shaparak Khorsandi and Nish Kumar are also on the festival’s talent-studded line-up.
8. Museum of Homelessness opens – spring 2023
Manor House Lodge in Finsbury Park is the location for London’s new Museum of Homelessness, opening in the spring. It’ll host performances, talks and workshops developed by people with experience of homelessness, and offer regular support sessions to those in need, on topics such as housing and legal rights and the cost-of-living crisis.
9. Croydon London Borough of Culture – April 2023
Picking up the mantel from Lewisham, Croydon assumes the role of London Borough of Culture for 2023. The borough has received £1.3m in funding from the Mayor of London to put together a programme of events and activities to boost the local economy and bring communities together.
Officially, Croydon London Borough of Culture launches in April, so we don’t have any details of what’s on the programme yet, but we’re promised “a celebration of the borough’s unique identity, diverse communities and rich heritage, culture and creativity”. Watch this space.
10. Wembley Stadium centenary – April 2023
Chances are, you’re old enough to remember the grand opening of Wembley Stadium in March 2007 — but the venue’s history goes back much further than that. 28 April 2023 marks 100 years since the opening of the original Wembley Stadium, by King George V, in time for the British Empire Exhibition of 1924. Official plans to mark the centenary haven’t yet been announced — we’ll keep you updated.
11. King Charles III’s Coronation and an extra bank holiday – May 2023
Saturday 6 May is the day to stick in your diary for the coronation of King Charles III — and we’re getting an extra bank holiday on Monday 8 May to celebrate (that’s in addition to the usual May bank holidays, which fall on Monday 1 and Monday 29 May this year).
Exact details of the coronation haven’t yet been announced, but we do know that it will take place at Westminster Abbey, and be conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. We will of course bring you all the details when they’re announced, and plenty of suggestions for how to spend the extra bank holiday in London.
12. Handel and Hendrix reopens – May 2023
It felt like the Handel & Hendrix in London museum hadn’t been open long when it closed for a transformation, known as the Hallelujah Project. The results will be revealed in May 2023 when Handel & Hendrix in London — located in the neighbouring flats which were home to George Frideric Handel and Jimi Hendrix, albeit a couple of centuries apart — reopens.
Expect to see a restored front façade and front door, a recreation of Handel’s kitchen and ground floor parlours, and new exhibitions.
13. Mrs Doubtfire Musical comes to the West End – May 2023
Well hello, poppets! Euphegenia Doubtfire makes her West End debut in May, as a Mrs Doubtfire Musical, based on the film starring Robin Williams, opens in London, following a stint in Manchester.
Carla Dixon-Hernandez (Matilda the Musical) is cast as Lydia Hillard, and Cameron Blakely (The Addams Family) plays Uncle Frank Hillard. The full cast has yet to be announced.
14. Elizabeth line runs a full timetable – May 2023
“But we’ve already got the Elizabeth line”, we hear you cry, “and she even runs on Sundays now!”
True enough, but the final peak timetable on the service isn’t launched until May 2023. After this date, 24 trains an hour (that’s one every two minutes) will run along the central section between Paddington and Whitechapel at peak times.
15. Disney 100: Wonder of Friendship – May 2023
Calling all Disney fans! Disney: The Wonder of Friendship is an immersive experience, celebrating 100 years since the opening of the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio. Exact details about the pop-up haven’t yet been announced but it’ll involve four themed rooms based on Alice in Wonderland, The Lion King, Lilo & Stitch, and Mickey and co. Sorry kiddos, it’s (strangely) aimed at age 18+.
16. National Portrait Gallery reopens – June 2023
Three years after it closed for a spruce up and refurb, the National Portrait Gallery reopens to the public in June. The main change is a new entrance, located on the north side of the building, including a forecourt and pedestrian bridge. Additionally, a wing that was previously used as offices has been transformed into public gallery space, and the curators have taken advantage of the closure to rearrange the collection.
17. We Will Rock You returns – June 2023
Queen musical We Will Rock You headbangs its way back into to the West End for the first time since 2014, to mark 21 years since it debuted in 2002.
This time round, the show eschews its old home at the Dominion, for the nearby London Coliseum — the same stage which saw Freddie Mercury’s Royal Ballet gala performance in 1979. Director Ben Elton and Queen members Brian May are on board once again, but bear in mind it’s only here for a 12-week run (2 June-27 August), and likely to be very popular.
18. Young V&A opens – summer 2023
The Bethnal Green museum previously known as the Museum of Childhood reopens as Young V&A this year. As the name suggests, it’s still very much aimed at younger visitors from toddlers to teenagers, with spaces designed to encourage play and creative activities. A central spiral kaleidoscopic staircase is a key feature of the building, along with artworks created with, and inspired by, young people. We’ll see three permanent galleries, on the themes of Play, Imagine and Design — with 2,000 different objects displayed across the site.
19. Guinness microbrewery comes to Covent Garden – autumn 2023
Autumn 2023 is being given as the opening date for Guinness at Old Brewer’s Yard in Covent Garden. The development will take up most of the block between Mercer, Endell and Shelton Streets and Long Acre, creating something of a haven for fans of the Irish stout brand, encompassing a brewhouse, bar, restaurant and retail shop.
20. Shakespeare’s Globe Folio 400 celebrations – November 2023
8 November 2023 is the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio, a collection of 36 of his works compiled by his friends, seven years after his own death.
Plans are afoot to mark the anniversary in locations all over the UK and beyond, throughout the year. The British Library has plans to unveil a display of the five First Folios in its possession (details TBC), and naturally, Shakespeare’s Globe is promising “year-long Folio 400th Anniversary celebrations”, though hasn’t yet revealed any details.
21. New tram-buses on London’s roads – sometime in 2023
The 358 bus route between Crystal Palace and Orpington will be the first to use newly-designed electric tram buses. They’re charged up using pantograph-style overhead fixtures at either end of the route, taking under 10 minutes to fully charge up.
20 of the emission-free vehicles will be rolled out on the route some time in 2023 (the exact date hasn’t yet been confirmed)
22. New skyscrapers at 40 Leadenhall Street (Gotham City) and 8 Bishopsgate
As always, there are a lot of new skyscrapers going up in London at the moment, and two in particular are expected to be completed in 2023.
40 Leadenhall Street, nicknamed Gotham City, will be 154m-tall when finished, and will block out one of the two remaining views of the Gherkin from the river. Meanwhile, 8 Bishopsgate should also be done and dusted this year, when its proximity to 22 Bishopsgate will create what is surely the tallest alleyway in London. Oh, and it’ll have a public viewing gallery at the top.
23. St Bartholomew’s Hospital 900th anniversary – all year
West Smithfield’s St Bart’s Hospital celebrates its 900th anniversary in 2023, making it the oldest working hospital in the UK. Celebrations are already under way, with a visit from the King in November 2022, and artist Adam Dant is working on a hyper-detailed map featuring stories from 900 people connected with the hospital. Copies go on sale in January 2023, in support of Barts Heritage and the Sharing Historic Barts project, and the hospital has further fundraising projects planned throughout the year.
Plus, the biggest exhibitions opening in London in 2023
Our art critic has a detailed look at what to expect in London’s museum and galleries in 2023, but here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights:
- David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away) at Lightroom: Hockney himself is behind this new immersive show, which transforms his art into a multisensory experience. From 25 January 2023
- Ukraine: Photographs From The Frontline at Imperial War Museum: A year since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, this exhibition shows photographs of life in Ukraine since Russian forces annexed Crimea in 2014. 3 February-7 May 2023
- Brick Dinos at Horniman Museum: A family-friendly exhibition of dinosaur models created from Lego bricks. 10 February-29 October 2023
- Donatallo: Sculpting the Renaissance at V&A South Kensington: The first major UK exhibition on renowned Renaissance sculptor Donatello. From 11 February 2023
- Beyond The Streets London at Saatchi Gallery: A wide-ranging look at street art and graffiti, with work from 150+ artists, plus photography, fashion and more. 17 February-9 May 2023
- Titanosaur at Natural History Museum: a look at the largest creature ever known to have walked the planet. 31 March 2023-7 January 2024
- Luxury and Power: Persia to Greece at The British Museum: In a nutshell, a look at luxury as a political tool in the Middle East and southeast Europe from 550–30 BC. 4 May-13 August 2023
- Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto at V&A South Kensington: The V&A continues its fashion exhibitions with the first UK exhibition dedicated to the work of French couturière, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel. From 16 September 2024