10 Things to do on a short break in London this autumn

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Shakespeare, Picasso and tales of the Swinging 60s; the Tate Modern extension, a last chance to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and more great ideas for days and nights out

1.The Red Barn

National Theatre. To 17 January 2017.

The hot drama ticket this winter is this adaptation by David Hare of a thriller by Maigret writer Georges Simenon. Starring Mark StrongElizabeth Debicki (who played gangster Hugh Laurie's girlfriend in The Night Manager) and Hope Davis, it is the story of two couples caught in the snow, on the way back from a party in New England in 1969...


2. Lazarus, the Musical

King's Cross Theatre. 25 October to 22 January 2017.

The David Bowie musical that appeared on Broadway shortly before his untimely death in January finally comes to London. Based on Bowie's film The Man Who Fell To Earth, it features songs from across his career and tells the story of a jaded alien, trapped on Earth, unable to return home. "It will be many years before we see a jukebox musical as unapologetically weird as Lazarus," said The Guardian of its Broadway incarnation, while Rolling Stone hailed it "a surrealistic tour de force."


3. Get Up High

At the Shard, a bar serves champagne and snacks 800 feet up while you take in 360-degree views of the capital. It’s slick and well done, although some might find it costly at £30.95 a pop, but where else are you going to get views like this?

Nowhere. The Shard's twice as high as any other vantage point in the city, and in fact is the only place where visitors can see the entire city at once.

An added bonus is the Shard's Skydeck garden included in the admission price, so you can lose yourself in Britain’s flora while taking in the panoramic views at your leisure. (Garden closes in September)


4. Immerse yourself in Picasso

National Portrait Gallery, 6 October – 5 February


A major exhibition of over 80 works by Pablo Picasso opens in October at the National Portrait Gallery.

The exhibition focuses on the artist's portrayal of family, friends and lovers and reveals his creative processes, with humorous caricatures and expressive paintings alongside may of his masterpieces showing how the artist moved through life. 


5. Last chance to see: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Palace Theatre. Booking to 7 January 2017

Now in its final year, this Sam Mendes-directed musical has won various accolades since launch – and rightly so. The technical wizardry involved in many of the scenes – we won't give away any spoilers here, but trust us – is almost enough on its own but, alongside its ingenious stagecraft and memorable sets, the choreography and music bring Roald Dahl’s well-loved story to a new life worthy of the West End. Catch it while you can. Until January.


6. Have dinner with the Twits

Another Roald Dahl themed attraction is the much talked about new interactive gastronomic experience Dinner at the Twits. A banquet of disgustingly foul foods are served up by the vile Twits, who take adults (no kids allowed) on a ‘multisensory journey through Dahl’s beguilingly bizarre world’.

Produced by the same team behind Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – theatre company Les Enfants Terribles, the show runs at the Vaults in Waterloo until the end of October.


7. Start a revolution

V&A, 10 September – 27 February 

A new major V&A exhibition, You Say You Want a Revolution: Records & Rebels 1966-70, explores the optimism, ideals and aspirations of the late 60s with a musical journey through some of the great performances of the time. Expect a whistle-stop tour through fashion, film, design and politics…


8. See Harry Potter on stage

Palace Theatre

'Imagine Star Wars was opening in one cinema in one city and that was the only place you could see it. That’s sort of what’s happening with this.'

So says the show’s instigator and co-producer Sonia Friedman of this extremely well received Harry Potter play, which has taken critics by surprise. The story is the eighth in the Harry Potter series – featuring the main characters as adults [pictured] –  and has been variously described as a ‘triumph’, ‘magical’ and ‘finely judged’. The play immediately sold out, but every Friday the theatre makes 40 tickets available for the following week. Good luck!


9. The new Tate Modern extension 

The new 10-storey extension to the Tate Modern opened on 17 June, offering more galleries and events – and a roof terrace with spectacular 360-degree views of London. A Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition is here until the end of October, and you can meet friends for drinks or eats at one of the cool cafes on site.


10. Eat. Out. 

The London Restaurant Festival returns for another month of foodie events in the capital all through October. More than 350 restaurants around London take part in this programme which includes restaurant-hopping tours (£49), where you can visit six restaurants in one day and get a small plate and drink in each. 


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