London is a 24/7 city, and it’s also a 12 months-a-year city! The most buzzing, fast-paced metropolis in northern Europe, there’s always something to see and do whatever the time of year. But be sure to bring an umbrella or a raincoat: even in high summer, the British capital gets some heavy showers! You can pair your visit with a specific festival or event, or choose a random weekend in winter if you want to beat the crowds. Whenever you choose to come to the UK, you’re sure to have a great time – here are a few of our favorite occasions to visit London…
6 of the Best Times of Year to Visit London
With the royal parks and gardens in full blossom, spring is the perfect time to visit the city before the bulk of the crowds descend in summer. There are also a few key events taking place that make London unmissable in spring! The Patrick’s Day Festival is a huge display of Irish pride in London – with parades, music, craft fairs promoting Irish culture and heritage, and food stalls around Trafalgar Square, where the fountains gush green. Plus: lots of Irish beer! In late March or early April, the annual Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race has been taking place on the River Thames since 1829. While the race itself lasts less than 30 minutes, the after-party continues well into the night. And finally, for the sports enthusiasts, the London Marathon takes place on a Sunday in mid-April, with some 35,000 runners taking part. Starting in Greenwich and ending at Buckingham Palace, it’s a treat for spectators as much as a feat for those running it.
The world’s most famous tennis tournament – enough said. Pack yourself a picnic of strawberries and cream, cucumber sandwiches and Pimm’s with lemonade, and make a day of it. Wimbledon’s Centre Court has seen everyone from Roger Federer to Serena Williams play (and win) on its perfectly manicured lawns, and there are generally celebrities to be spotted in the crowd as well as on the court. While rain has occasionally stopped play in the past, Wimbledon is famed for making even England’s grey skies turn blue for a couple of weeks – so it’s probably a good bet weather-wise!
Notting Hill Carnival (August)
Europe’s largest street parade, the Notting Hill Carnival is a veritable smorgasbord of cultures spanning the Caribbean as well as Eastern Europe, South America, and the Indian subcontinent. This famously colorful festival attracts some 2 million people during the August Bank Holiday weekend, which includes the last Monday in August. Expect (very) skimpy costumes, spicy food and drinks, floats weaving through the labyrinthine streets of Notting Hill, and all-night celebrations in the surrounding bars and clubs.
Guy Fawkes Night (November 5)
In 1605, Guy Fawkes attempted to assassinate King James I and the entire Parliament by blowing them up in the famous Gunpowder Plot. Rather curiously, to this day the British celebrate his failure to do so. Guy Fawkes’ effigy is thrown onto bonfires across the country, and fireworks rage in the night sky. Firework displays are scattered around town, including at Battersea Park and Alexandra Palace. Great views over the fireworks are to be had from Mount Primrose Hill or Hampstead Heath.
Christmas is a magical time in London. The city sparkles with twinkling lights and festive events during the holiday season, including the wonderful ice-skating rink at Somerset House. Christmas markets have more recently made their way over from the continent to the UK, and visitors can now pretend they’re in Sweden or Germany while sipping their gluhwein. But beware: central London is usually overrun with holiday shoppers, especially at Oxford Street and Old Bond Street.
As Big Ben strikes midnight, London rings in the New Year with fireworks over the Thames and the London Eye on the Southbank. For better crowd control, in 2015, the city began limiting attendance to 100,000 and requiring tickets. Wherever you decide to see in the New Year (and of course London is home to plenty of parties, just like many other cities), be sure to learn the words to Auld Lang Syne. Despite its Scottish origins, all Brits have appropriated it as the tune of choice to mark the passing of the year!