Pop/Rock/AlternativeThese pop, rock, and alternative-focused festivals bring radio hits and chart-topping wonders from the biggest names in music into the heart of London.
British Summer Time/BST Hyde Park
British Summer Time, widely known by attendees and industry insiders as BST Hyde Park, is a multi-weekend extravaganza.
It draws mega crowds (about 65,000 people in 2023), thanks to a roster of artists that has included Billy Joel, Guns N' Roses, Lana Del Rey, Pink, and BLACKPINK. It’s a diverse array that speaks to the festival’s game plan. There’s a mix of legendary headliners and supporting, rising stars that turn one of the biggest parks in London into a music lover’s paradise.
There’s plenty happening mid-week, too. The festival’s Open House program offers a thrilling slate of activities and entertainment, all totally free. Bring the kids for a cinema presentation sponsored by British Airways, eat at The House of Peroni, or take them to workshops teaching arts, crafts, and theater techniques.
Camden Rocks Festival
The Camden Rocks Festival is a celebration of music that extends across over 20 sites in and around central London in early June. The accessible location makes it a cinch for people to drop in for a show or two and duck out via the Tube. With major London airports only a hop, skip, and a jump away, there are plenty of international visitors coming to Camden Rocks as well.
As for the lineup, you’re not going to find Billboard toppers and pop stars here. Camden Rocks is more about giving a platform to diverse rock and alternative acts. Some have cross-Atlantic name recognition, while others are still establishing a following.
Playmaker, Frank Turner, Wheatus, Ash, Escape the Fate, Bill Bragg, Young Guns, Norma Jean, Eliza & the Bear, Deaf Havana, SikTh, The Cribs, Bullet for My Valentine — they’ve all been to Camden and left their mark.
The history of hip-hop and urban music in the United Kingdom is richer than many realize. Jamaican immigrants brought more than one type of spice to London in the '50s, '60s, and '70s. Now, rap, soul, and all kinds of rhythmic explorations have a solid home here, especially at these hip-hop and urban-themed festivals.
The Wireless Festival was originally sponsored by O2, a telecommunications company. The current iteration of the hip-hop-a-palooza is run by Live Nation and typically takes place in early-to-mid July.
The 2023 get-together was a single weekend at Finsbury Park after a few adjustments in previous years due to the impact of COVID-19. If you’re a fan of live music in London, this is an event you won’t want to miss.
Heavy corporate backing makes for big-name headliners. Bop along to Playboi Carti, Lil Yachty, Travis Scott, Ice Spice, 50 Cent, Lil Durk, Cardi B, J. Cole, Lil Baby, Mahalia, Summer Walker, Gunna, SZA, Nicki Minaj, and Megan Thee Stallion, with smaller supporting acts that still have the juice and swag to entertain epic crowds reported to be up to 50,000 people strong.
Not all music festivals in London feature a lead singer and backup band. Electronic music festivals and dance festivals embrace the futuristic side of making music. Computers and control boards are very much involved.
Back in elementary school, field days were fun-filled extravaganzas involving relay races. Field Day the festival is way more heart-pounding. This outdoor music fest in London happens every August, first at Victoria Park from 2007 to 2017. It then bounced around until its triumphant return to Victoria Park in 2023.
The focus of Field Day is on electronica. Artists come equipped with synthesizers, processors, and other computer-based devices that help them stretch the boundaries of melody, harmony, and what it means to keep the beat.
Aphex Twin, Bonobo, Actress, Arca, Fever Ray, Kelela, Skepta, Modeselektor, Diplo, Pusha T, Thundercat, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Erykah Badu are some of the names gracing the Field Day lineup over the years. There’s a mishmash of music that defies description while thrilling the hordes eager to dance like no one’s watching.
Eastern Electrics Festival
While many music fests choose alfresco venues such as parks and even open fields for their platforms and stages. The powers behind the Eastern Electrics Festival opted to make use of the disused buildings and sparsely decorated art venues around London.
In many ways, it’s less like a super-organized festival and more like a strategically run system of underground warehouse raves.
Fests have moved to Lee Valley Showground, where organizers have more control over the settings and the sound setup.
The result is a more official-feeling festival, but there’s also more space to host techno, disco, and house acts, like The Martinez Brothers, Mason Collective, DJ Minx, Very Special Guest, Rossi, Cuttin’ Headz, Ben Klock, Marcel Dettmann, Goldie, Ocean Wisdom, Big Narstie, Oxide & Neutrino, and Roni Size.
Some London music festivals refuse to be put in a box, much like the wacky and free-spirited characters of Cirque du Soleil. These celebrations embrace variety, so participants can find all the acts they love, regardless of genre, in one very festive place.
Kew The Music
Imagine turning a UNESCO World Heritage site into a concert venue. Somebody did, and thank goodness for it, because the yearly festival at Kew Gardens, called Kew The Music, is one you won’t want to miss.
Lounge on the lawn, unpack your picnic, and take in the sounds as Mika, Passenger, JLS, The Human League, James Blunt, Gipsy Kings, Van Morrison, Gabrielle, Bananarama, Rick Astley, Billy Ocean, and Lewis Capaldi stream their music across a collection of some 50,000 living plants and a lot of appreciative human ears.
If you’re feeling fancy, check out the festival’s VIP section. Hampers By Panzer’s offers fans a chance to upgrade their experience with picnic baskets packed with charcuterie, vegan bits, bread, crisps, and fruit salad. There’s everything you need for a proper British summer spread.
And if you’re looking to continue your evening in style, why not check out some of the best rooftop bars in London?
If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like if one of your favorite artists curated their very own high-scale jamboree, well, here you go. Meltdown Festival puts organizational power in the hands of one chosen talent every year. That reigning king, queen, or royal group can pick whoever they want to grace the stages at the sprawling Southbank Centre complex.
There’s about 21 acres of space available for Meltdown directors such as David Bowie, Patti Smith, Nick Cave, Ornette Coleman, Elvis Costello, Morrissey, Lee "Scratch" Perry, and Scott Walker to fill with the acts they themselves can’t wait to see. The result is a mix of musical styles that isn’t always what you’d expect but works anyway, every single time.
This unique approach to an annual festival may have raised eyebrows at first. However, 2024 will mark the event’s 29th year, and the demand for tickets hasn’t flagged.
All Points East
Like Field Day, the All Points East festival takes place at London’s Victoria Park. Sponsor AEG Presents has taken over the lush venue for a 10-day event that includes two weekend concert series.
A four-day stretch in between that offers free entry for locals and out-of-town fans who want to take advantage of community activities such as theater performances, workshops, and sporty events.
Each day of the festival has a headliner. A handful of supporting artists keep the energy up until someone like Stormzy or Dermot Kennedy graces the stage. Names such as Aphex Twin, Bonobo, Jayda G, The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jungle, Erykah Badu, Lil Silva, 070 Shake, and Olivia Dean made 2023 a banner year.
Some of those acts were UK exclusives, meaning festival goers had the only chance to hoot and holler at bands that otherwise wouldn’t be appearing locally anytime soon.
Mighty Hoopla is one of the most open and diverse festivals on this already varied list. It’s like flicking through radio stations and getting the best from each broadcast. A lineup of 200 acts across 10 stages represent everything from top pop to queer culture to unusual yet satisfying alternative bops.
Over the years, Mighty Hoopla has welcomed Sugababes, Chaka Khan, Jessie Ware, Steps, Cheryl, Kelly Rowland, Flo, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, B*Witched, Nadine Coyle, and Mumba. Go just Saturday or Sunday, or get a weekend pass to join 30,000 or so other like-minded people.
It’s a party that’s part music, part roaming comedy acts, part mass karaoke attacks, and an endless amount of fun.
The Wilderness Festival isn’t in London, but don’t hold that against us. This fest is about an hour and a half outside the city at Oxfordshire’s Cornbury Park. That distance from urban life allows the hosts to think outside the box and create a more immersive experience.
The Chemical Brothers, Christine and the Queens, Fatboy Slim, Sugababes, Björk, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Róisín Murphy, Burt Bacharach, Robyn, Bombay Bicycle Club, and Groove Armada have all graced the Wilderness stages, setting the scene for a weekend of “escapism, high jinks, and wholesome hedonism.”
Look into booking glamping tents that come with access to luxury toilets, a "pamper parlour," a restaurant and bar, and 24-hour reception. You don’t even have to bring your own tent if the idea of wrestling with canvas and stakes strikes fear into your music-loving heart.
Jazz & Blues
London doesn’t have the jazz and blues background that New Orleans or Paris do. However, there are clubs aplenty and enough aficionados to make these festivals popular.
EFG London Jazz Festival
EFG London Jazz Festival celebrated its 30th birthday in 2022, and 2023 marked the event’s 15th year in partnership with sponsors EFG. It’s proof positive that this enduring fete is beloved by audiences and artists alike.
Maybe it’s because the festival is in November instead of the hot summer months. It could be because it’s a full 10 days of music instead of a few zany, jam-packed days. We think it’s because the lineup includes existing acts, brand-new collaborations, and musical partnerships that only happen because of the festival’s support.
Whatever we can attribute the popularity to, you don’t want to miss acts like African Manifest and the Dele Sosimi Afrobeat Orchestra taking over Clore Ballroom, Generations of Chicago Weekend at the Barbican, and Chucho Valdes and guests, such as Harold Lopez Nussa and Yilian Canizares. The list is large and guaranteed to get your inner ear tingling.
Dare to Be Dazzled!
Adventure awaits in London with high-energy Cirque du Soleil shows. Dive into a world of acrobatics and wonder.
Rounding out our list of London music festivals are a couple of entries that focus on classical melodies. They help keep royal playlists alive centuries after the powdered wigs and petticoats have disappeared from the dance floors.
Opera Holland Park
Forget a weekend or even 2 weeks of entertainment with acts packed onto stages that will be put up and torn down just as fast. No, Opera Holland Park is too big to be contained like that. It turns its year-round commitment to opera into a 3-month summer free-for-all at Holland Park.
The site has a plethora of formal gardens and woodland vistas that provide the perfect backdrop for a few dozen heartrending arias.
The open-air auditorium is robust, helping the music flood fans with energy and goosebump-inducing melodies as they take in classics like Rigoletto, Hansel and Gretel (sung in German), La Bohème, and Tosca.
You can eat and drink before and after performances, by snagging refreshments from the on-site Theatre Bar. You can also bring your own food and rent a picnic table in the Dutch Garden Lounge or the Terrace area.
London Festival of Baroque Music
Baroque music was de rigueur in the 1600 and 1700s, when composers tiptoed out of the Renaissance period and transitioned into ornate music. Now the London Festival of Baroque Music is a tribute to a style so captivating that it was an essential part of balls thrown by Louis XIV.
The annual May festival brings in musicians from across the UK as well as places like Spain and France. There are solo performances, group events, and even masterclasses.
Dance Your Heart Out in London!
Musical festivals in London tend to be all-encompassing affairs, but there’s more than one to make the most of your time in the Big Smoke. When you’re not at Victoria Park or flashing your phone light at the stage at another iconic London venue, take a moment to amplify your excitement at shows in London.
Our London productions are designed to amaze, with edgy, awe-spiring themes that take the things you love about music and transform them into dreamy (and brilliantly weird) odes to optimism and creativity. Book your tickets for a show in London and discover a new way to escape.