As we emerge from the wreckage of 2022 it’s hard not to see yet more wreckage in 2023, and yet there is opportunity too. This is not to deny the problems but to seek solutions, and as Londoners we have chances to create, debate, challenge and participate in social and cultural explosions. On this optimistic basis we have put together this here list of reasons to love life in the capital this year...
1. Bukayo Saka
Even non-Arsenal fans can appreciate the England star: an electric performer, he’s smart and nice, too, a fan example for everyone. Has he taken Stormzy’s crown for London’s most beloved son? (A million Spurs fans chant something unprintable.)
2. Innovative theatre
Even a light skim of 2023’s schedule reveals: interactive site-specific spectacles with the AI-infused sci-fi of Saint Jude (near St James’s Park) and Alice’s Adventures Underground (at Labyrinth Waterloo); exciting new adaptations of classics, like Kafka’s Metamorphosis by poet Lemn Sissay and a Richard III directed by and starring Bridgerton’s Adjoa Andoh; important documentary theatre with Grenfell: System Failure — Scenes from the Inquiry; and crowd-pleasers like The Great British Bake Off Musical, and Groundhog Day the Musical. Is there a more vibrant theatre scene anywhere in the world? Shut up, New York, no there isn’t.
3. Cheap, amazing restaurants are everywhere
Yes, very expensive restaurants too. But constraints on budgets mean it’s a terrific time to go exploring for cheap eats. Where to start? Try Diwana Bhel Poori in Drummond Street, Silk Road in Camberwell Church Street or Café Helen in Edgware Road.
4. LGBTQ+ pubs are thriving
All London pubs are amazing and any closure is a tragedy, but we want to particularly celebrate the LGBTQ+ pubs — stalwarts like The Glory in Kingsland Road or local stars such as The Old Nun’s Head in, yep, Nunhead — which are showcasing a vibrant drag scene but also building themselves into communities for all sexualities and leading the way for all venues with zero tolerance for any form of prejudice.
5. Female art icons will be celebrated
Marina AbramoviÄ’s major retrospective at the Royal Academy has been delayed several times due to Covid but is finally set to land in September. And with a Sarah Lucas retrospective opening the same month at Tate Britain, plus an exhibition about women in abstract painting at the Whitechapel Art Gallery from February, this is a year to celebrate more than just the same old art blokes in Bretons with their very young and naked “muses”.
6. Hate is being battled
The Mayor has just announced a £2 million fund to support grassroots community groups to tackle hate crime and extremism. Groups funded will include Exit Hate UK’s Peace Advocates project which involves former extremists training Londoners to spot signs of radicalisation and the Groundswell Project which educates communities to challenge racism and prejudice. Yes, brilliant people are taking action to create a safer city for everyone.
7. Historic sites are getting a revamp
Work will be starting on a new entrance to the National Gallery, but more imminently the Old War Office in Whitehall, where Churchill had a desk, is being turned into a food hall with high end restaurants and bars. First to open is authentic Italian, Paper Moon. Expect expense, but there’s romance in these grand places coming alive again.
8. Anti-urination paint
As part of a “Don’t Pee Off Soho” campaign an anti-urination paint is being put on walls everywhere, to deter men (and all enterprising genders?) by splashing their waterworks back all over them. Actually not sure if this will work, sounds like it could turn into a new kind of challenge.
10. The women’s football world cup
The Lionesses head to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in July. The classic 8pm kick-off over there will be 9am here, with earlier games taking places in the middle of the night for us. Pre-work drinking anyone?
11. Adventurous dating
Polyamory is catching like Covid, apps like Feeld are thriving, and singles nights are back in vogue for “offline” dating. Yes, for single types, the sexual possibilities are endless… er, don’t forget the love bit, guys!
12. Elite laziness
London is a great place to be lazy. You can sit at home all day having Persian food from Berenjak and designer goods from Selfridges delivered to your door, but then look out the window, see a hint of the Shard and think, well, even when I’m doing nothing, I’m doing something, I’m living in London. And then eat some crisps.
13. Climate conscious eating
Given the revelation that food systems — namely farming, harvesting, transporting, cooking, disposal — are responsible for a third of greenhouse gases that humans produce, to see Cop27 dedicate a day to managing this was a start. London has climate-conscious places like Spring, Warehouse at The Conduit and Native, and there’s hope for more.
14. The Coronation
King Charles’s big moment is on Saturday May 6, and we all get the following Monday off. Talk about winning people over in your first week in a new job. Prepare to mark the occasion with all the solemnity and ceremony it deserves eg drinking yourself blind.
15. Zadie Smith is back
Zadie has ditched New York and moved back to good old London, and now she has her first novel since 2016’s Swing Time coming out this year. The Fraud is historical fiction based on a Victorian trial in Britain involving a man claiming to be baronet who was thought dead. Welcome home, Zadie!
16. It’s the ‘hashtag capital of the world’
According to a study by real estate consultancy Resonance — which has named London as the Best City in the World for 2023 — the city’s visitors and residents produce the most hashtags, Facebook check-ins and Trip Advisor reviews. We don’t just enjoy it here, we actively promote it. Kind of strange, really.
17. Weird sports are growing
Yes on the weird front, at weekends you can play Quidditch on Clapham Common or Bubble Football near the Southbank, or chess boxing at the Islington Boxing Club. Or how about this year’s big tip: Padel Tennis? Doubles played on a court half the size of a usual court and in an enclosed space so you can play off the walls like in squash. Too much fun.
18. Fitness is booming
Really, the variety of exercise activities is quite astonishing. From VR HIIT classes to wild swimming in Beckenham Palace Park to the ever-brutal Barry’s Boot Camp, we’re fitness mad in this city.
19. So is cutting loose
We exercise hard because we party hard. Yes, times have been tough for bars and nightclubs in the pandemic but there’s plenty of action out there, including the one-night-only return of legendary after-hours LGBTQ+ party, Trade. It’ll be taking over Egg in King’s Cross on February 25; turning up any time before 3am is a no-no.
20. It’s a great place to start a business
London has just beaten San Francisco and New York to become the world’s biggest centre for fintech investment. New businesses are cropping up everywhere because London has one great resource: the talent. The thriving, multicultural mix means ideas can flourish and there’s endless networking opportunities for people to get together to find a way out the turmoil. People have the power! And sometimes the rats.
21. Paul Mescal is here and he’s single
Mescal is in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Almeida. And he is now single, having split with Phoebe Bridgers. It’s pretty certain that he’ll find his next partner by picking out a twinkly-eyed ES reader from the audience. Surely. Exciting times.
22. Cheap high-brow art
You can see world-beating opera and ballet for the price of a couple of coffees. The Royal Opera house offers cheap tickets for 16 to 25-year-olds and has the Friday Rush for last minute cheap deals.
23. The return of girl bands
Music is at the heart of London and there are some massive shows including Blur at Wembley, Bruce Springsteen, and Florence + the Machine coming up in the summer. But we’re particularly excited about Flo, the 90s girl group throwback who have just won the BBC Sound of 2023 and who we profiled oh about six months ago… just saying.
24. The Thames is now your Tube
Uber boats are not just offering scenic “oh that’s why I live here” journeys down the Thames, they also serve beer on board. Londoners: putting the lit into cosmopolitan.
25. The Elizabeth line
Basically the Elizabeth line is a theme park ride which you can use to commute. From May it will be running a full timetable which means by 2024 it will smell quite bad and be rammed as hell, so enjoy it at its best in 2023.
26. It’s a kind city!
Bear with us on this, but to live here is to see acts of kindness wherever you go. The violence and abuse gets all the headlines but London just wouldn’t work without all the politeness and daily kindnesses and moments of humour amid the stress. It’s far from perfect, but relatively speaking, this is a remarkable tolerant city. Seriously, most people are nice! Except that one bloke, obviously.
27. You can get a train to Berlin
If all else fails, from May you can take a sleeper train to Berlin. For techno fans, this could be the revival of their youth and the end of their careers. For everyone else, it’s just a nice easy weekend away opportunity to a very cool city. Not quite the coolest though.