2013 has been a pretty damn great year. If the seasonal buzz (or rather food-and-drink-induced haze) has clouded your memory, read on for the cultural highlights from our experts in Things to Do, Films, Style, Music, Clubbing, Classical, Comedy, Theatre, Art, Eating and Drinking and TV. Look lively 2014, you’ve got a lot to love up to!
February saw the opening of the tallest building in western Europe. Towering 87 storeys over London, the Shard’s ecclesiastical-spire shape make an impressive addition to London’s skyline and has proved to be a hit as a tourist attraction.
London hosted two Holi events at the beginning of August (only five months after the traditional Hindu festival takes place). Also known as the festival of colours, loads of Londoners enjoyed pelting each other with brightly coloured powder in honour of it.
Despite organisers cancelling this floating event on Regent’s Canal due to a lack of permit, it went full steam ahead anyway thanks to social media.
In November, the enchanting Charterhouse in Smithfield opened regularly to the public for the first time in 660 years to examine charity in the capital. Don’t panic if you missed it, it will reopen permanently in 2016.
Over 40,000 people queued to see the best-loved giant upside-down table at the Open House London festival before it became a building site.
A site specific production from Cardboard Citizens added to Elmgreen & Dragset’s ‘Tomorrow’ installation at the V&A in September, in the form of a philosophical showdown between an estate agent and squatter.
Swanky hotel restaurant from chef-restaurateur Jason Atherton, with a choice of four ace cocktail bars attached too.
Veggie-friendly menu from acclaimed chef Bruno Loubet in a warehouse in the revitalised part of King’s Cross.
Neighbourhood café-bar-brasserie in Haggerston, covering the gamut from a takeaway espresso counter to a smart British dining room.
The second of three Jason Atherton restaurants that opened in 2013 – and the most affordable.
If you’re looking for drinks that are a bit different, head for this cocktail bar in Hoxton. The experimental concoctions push the boundaries of modern bartending.
Arthouse hit. A tour of Rome that sweeps you up in its beauty and zest for life.
Unmissable. The lesbian sex controversy was just background noise.
Don Hertzfeldt is one of the best animators around. Watch on Vimeo.
If the Bin Laden scene was anymore gripping you’d need an oxygen mask.
Devastating Belgian drama about a young mother driven to the edge.
A miracle of a film from Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda and a pair of 12 year-old stand-up comedians.
Sarah Polley switched her camera on after discovering a secret about her family. One of the year’s best documentaries.
Cate Blanchett will win the Oscar. And she deserves it.
Blockbuster cinema boiled down to essentials: stars, spectacle, special effects, and sentiment.
Unforgettable, terrifying doc looking at Indonesian mass murderers.
The New Store: & Other Stories
New brand from those behind H&M and COS. Chic, grown up clothing we can actually afford.
The New Salon: Cheeky Parlour
From the owners of the Soho House Group, a spacious grooming lounge with some of the cheapest manicures and blow-dries in London, and first class service.
The Collaboration: Isabel Marant for H&M
Queen of rock chic teamed up with the Scandinavian fast-fashion giant and more or less replicated her £800 designs for £80.
The Makeover: The Denim Studio at Selfridges
The department store built a vast temple to denim, and we duly worshipped at it.
The Revamp: Debenhams
With its 200-year anniversary looming, Debenhams splashed out £25 million doing up its Oxford St flagship. The smart new look involves 180,000 metal rectangles shimmering on the outside façade.
The Teutonic techno-pop overlords made Tate Modern their own back in February, and set a precedent for bands showing their pseud-y sides in art galleries.
‘Baby we were born to run’ – appropriate lyrics for The Boss’s big show at the freshly opened Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park this year. The site has also hosted Jay Z, JT, and M&S (Mumford & Sons, that is).
The Mac were back for five shows at the O2 in September, but their influence was felt in many other ways – not least in the debut LP of break-out sister act, Haim.
Putney’s most wistful gave us a mini festival – June’s Night + Day jamboree – and inspired a whole new generation of sultry bands including Deptford Goth, London Grammar and Daughter.
The six-string was back, with acts like Savages, Fat White Family, and Toy heralding the future of fuzzy and furious rock ‘n’ roll.
Mercurial playing from the Scottish pianist produced an almost transcendental interpretation of Beethoven’s Sonatas No 21 and No 32.
Extraordinarily ambitious year-long series of concerts and talks based on the eponymous book by Alex Ross about classical music in the 20th century.
Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony was the star billing at this year’s Proms. Mariss Janson conducted the Bavarian Radio Symphony Choir and Orchestra in this beautifully controlled and emotional performance.
The BBC Symphony Orchestra’s dynamic new chief conductor produced a dynamic performance of Mahler’s Symphony No 1 (‘Titan’).
Georg Friedrich Haas’s work was superbly played by London Sinfonietta, especially with 20 minutes of it in total darkness.
This weekly Sunday night party may have celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, but the DJ collective of Luke Howard, Severino, Jim Stanton and James Hillard go from strength to strength.
The closest thing London clubbing has to The Proms an expertly-curated season of parties that has kept Londoners super warm this winter. They excelled themselves this year with hook ups with some of the finest labels in dance like Ninja Tune, Eglo, and R&S.
The long list of clubs shut down in London this year is an embarrassment for a city renowned for its nightlife, but thankfully a few great venues have opened too – such as this excellent Dalston basement.
Another new venue that’s serviced London’s club scene is this ace Hackney Wick rave den. First used for Bloc, it’s gone on to host everyone from Ben UFO to Legowelt.
Best of the bunch – Burnham’s show was overflowing with clever ideas and killer gags. Missed it? Watch it on his YouTube channel, for free!
Christie’s fiercely passionate show attacking everyday sexism walked away with a gong at Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards.
The large-collared loon finally hit the road again with his first stand-up show in six years. A perfect combo of extreme surrealism and ridiculous slapstick.
Winner of Best Newcomer at this year’s Foster’s Awards, Kearns’s debut hour of shriek self-loathing and Springsteen-inspired optimism was an utter joy.
Undoubtedly the biggest comic in the world right now, and rightly so – he’s at the top of his game.
Lucy Kirkwood’s epic thriller about an American photojournalist’s obsession with the Tiananmen Square Massacre was our show of the year.
The National Theatre of Scotland’s stage adaptation of the cult Swedish vampire novel is swoonsomely romantic and staggeringly gory.
Mad as a box of frogs, the NT’s surreal, sexy, screamingly other take on Marlowe’s tragedy proved there was plenty of life left in our flagship theatre in the year it turned 50.
Hysterically funny monologue about the sex-obsessed owner of a guinea pig-themed café.
If it narrowly failed to live up to the (self-generated) hype, Trey Parker and Matt Stone‘s musical is still extremely amusing stuff.
No other artist of the 20th century made marks, lines and doodles sing with quite the same melody as Klee. On until March, so may be in with a shot at best show of 2014 as well.
They cross the line so often that they end up in a tight knot of bad taste and belly laughs in this extravaganza.
The Scandi duo always build sneaky – and often scabrous – social commentary into their installations and this is no exception.
Beyond the jokes, Lucas also has plenty to say about the messy complications of contemporary life.
Monumentally bleak, formally audacious, superbly performed and exquisitely directed four-parter dealing with issues of grief, psychosis, and suspicion in a small town. Not an easy watch, but the year’s most essential one.
If there was a funnier labour of love on TV this year, we missed it.
This reimagining of John Lennon in 1991, trudging through an unfulfilled life 30 years after leaving The Beatles, was stunningly conceived.
It’s almost quicker to list the projects with which Maskell wasn’t involved in a banner year for this unsung talent.
Unapologetically cerebral authored history, moving and involving, delivered with verve, passion and deep personal insight.
Via his own intimate family history and a vast wider narrative, Eugene Jarecki constructed a shattering rebuttal to the war on drugs.
A paean to the nobility of teaching throughout, but the final episode, in which the redoubtable Mr Burton managed to coax fluent speech out of Musharaf (who had a chronic stammer), was the most uplifting hour of TV this year.
This terrifyingly beautiful small town New Zealand crime saga kept us entranced all summer.
Matt Berry is one of the most effortlessly amusing humans alive. And his latest vehicle, which introduced us to the pompous, rude, hilariously humourless luvvie Steven Toast, might be his most potently absurd creation yet.
To vote for the best of London in 2013 head to timeout.com/londonfirst