Visit the UK capital this month to witness British horticulturalists in full swing at the Chelsea Flower Show, catch a concert in Trafalgar Square, and view works by the father of pop art

There are many reasons to visit London, but nothing lifts the spirits more than a wander through the city’s streets at the height of spring when the sun is shining. In May, the capital is positively blooming with things to do and see – take a look at our top picks.

Tate Modern – housing the UK’s collection of modern and contemporary art – is presenting a retrospective of British pop artist Richard Hamilton (until 26 May). The show will encompass the full scope of Hamilton’s work, from his early exhibition designs of the Fifties to his final paintings of 2011.

Step outdoors to enjoy spring by admiring the spectacular gardens at the annual Chelsea Flower Show (20 to 24 May). Celebrating 101 years, the event, held at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, is a riot of extravagant displays, showcasing astonishingly established-looking gardens, often on a grand scale. A spot of horticultural retail therapy is also at hand – those who like a bargain should book for the final day, as the exhibitors start to sell off their plants just before closing time.

The London Symphony Orchestra playing in Trafalgar Square

The London Symphony Orchestra playing in Trafalgar Square

It’s also the time of year when open-air concerts are plentiful, but as far as London experiences are concerned, listening to the London Symphony Orchestra in Trafalgar Square, one of the city’s most storied public spaces, is a must-do. The free performance – conducted by Valery Gergiev – is on 11 May, featuring Prokofiev’s First Symphony and music from the ballet Romeo and Juliet.

Gladiator Live at the Royal Albert Hall

Gladiator Live at the Royal Albert Hall

From 24 to 28 May, you can relive the epic drama of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, with a live score in the grand confines of the Royal Albert Hall. A short stroll from Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London – ideally situated for a casual pre- or post-performance meal at its bistro and wine bar, Bar Boulud – the circular venue, which opened in 1871, was based, aptly, on ancient Roman amphitheatres. The film runs on a big HD screen, while Justin Freer conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra and Philharmonia Chorus in a powerful rendition of Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard’s soundtrack.

The Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival

The Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival

For some typical British quirkiness, on 11 May the annual Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival – now in its 352nd year – brings together puppeteers from all over the country to celebrate Punch and Judy in a colourful day of good old-fashioned fun. It’s the perfect event to entertain children, as puppet shows, workshops, folk music, maypole dancing and clowns abound.

The London International Antiquarian Book Fair

The London International Antiquarian Book Fair

Visiting bibliophiles, meanwhile, can immerse themselves in a library of classic tomes at the annual London International Antiquarian Book Fair (22 to 24 May). With a global following, the fair brims with printed works dating from the 15th to the 21st centuries. But you don’t have to be a collector to enjoy all that is on offer. LIABF is ideal for any book lover with a curious eye, or just someone looking for a unique gift to take home.

Originally from South Africa, Lauren Ho has lived in London for over a decade and is currently the Travel Editor at Wallpaper* magazine

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Panoramic view of London from Mandarin Oriental's 5-star hotel overlooking Knightsbridge.

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