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The Wimbledon special: Wandering beyond SW19

Lounge picks four non-Wimbledon things to do in London this July

‘Last Night’ of the BBC Proms. Photo: Alamy
‘Last Night’ of the BBC Proms. Photo: Alamy

This July, all the action in London will be centred at Wimbledon. But while you might be visiting England for SW19 (Wimbledon’s postal code), there’s much else to do in other boroughs and postcodes. Summer means a full bill of cultural happenings around art, theatre, music and more. Lounge picks the most exciting treats:

BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, 13 July–8 September

This eight-week classical music festival, held at the Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington, has been going strong since 1895. Like Wimbledon, it’s one of those quintessentially British experiences, not to be missed. The best strategy is to go “promming"—buy a standing ticket and watch the concerts from the arena (right in front of the stage), in solidarity with fellow “prommers", like the “groundlings" at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, south of the Thames. Prommers religiously queue up for some 1,350 standing tickets, each costing £6 (around 540), that are released on the day of the concert. Of the 75 concerts, some to look out for in July are a semi-staged version of Debussy’s operatic masterpiece Pelléas Et Mélisande (17 July), Ravel, Mozart and Fauré pieces by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (14 July), Gustav Mahler’s grand Symphony Of A Thousand (22 July), the BBC Symphony Orchestra performing Beethoven, Shostakovich and Rachmaninov (23 July), and the concert Havana Meets Kingston (31 July), combining reggae, dancehall, dub with salsa and Afro-Cuban music.

As You Like It, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, 6–28 July

Regent’s Park, sitting next to the cricketing mecca of Lord’s, is one of the most beautiful public parks in London. Apart from hosting the world-renowned Frieze Art Fair & Frieze Masters, the park is home to the Open Air Theatre, which hosts a popular summer theatre festival. Although a mix of modern and classical plays are staged, Shakespeare dominates. A highlight this time is the new production of As You Like It (tickets starting at £25). The location couldn’t be more apt for the comedy of love and double identity which plays out in the enchanting Forest of Arden.

Sir John Soane’s Museum, Lincoln’s Inn Fields

Had your fill of London’s main museum attractions like the Tate or the National Gallery and want a respite from the crowds? Head to the quaint Sir John Soane’s Museum, a short walk from the British Museum. This tiny house is crammed with all kinds of historical artefacts. The collection was amassed by the 18th century British architect John Soane, who lived there. When not designing buildings, he collected clocks, watches, paintings, antique furniture (which includes Tipu Sultan’s ivory chairs), a 2,500-year-old sarcophagus of the Egyptian king Seti I (father of Ramesses II), and replicas of Greco-Roman sculptures. The museum, which was a hidden gem for some years, has become fairly popular but, luckily, not enough to be swamped by Entry free.

Hamilton, Victoria Palace Theatre

After making theatrical history in 2016 with its genre-redefining inventiveness on Broadway, US, the hip hop musical Hamilton made the transatlantic jump in December. Based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, the first US treasury secretary, it has picked up a dozen awards, including the Tony, the Grammys and the Olivier. It also won its creator Lin-Manuel Miranda the Pulitzer Prize in drama. The wild box office response, with tickets on resale sites going for thousands of dollars a pop, was dubbed “Hamilton mania". Former US first lady Michelle Obama called it “the best piece of art in any form I have ever seen in my life". Tickets are hard to come by, but it’s worth trying your luck with the £10 daily lottery ticket.

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