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London Through the Seasons: What to Do & When

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London almost seems to have its own microclimate, with summers appearing much hotter than most other places in the UK. The price to pay for these precious few scorching months often involves unpredictable springs, snowy winters, and dismal falls; but, there is still so much to enjoy all year-round, regardless of what’s going on outside.

Christmas Lights in London. Photo by Jamie Davies from Unsplash.

Winter

When is winter in London? December, January, and February.

Winter is a magical time to come to London. Glittering displays of Christmas lights embellish the avenues and alleyways of the city, while sugary clouds hover in the biting air above street-food stalls, and buskers belt out festive tunes. Snuggle up in your very own igloo at the Coppa Club or hunker down with a Christmassy cocktail at the 1970s-themed bar Miracle at the Henrietta Hotel . For particularly extravagant illuminations, Carnaby Street, Regent Street, and New Bond Street never fail to disappoint—these are also great places for last-minute shopping sprees. Head to traditional department stores like Harrods , Liberty London , and Fortnum & Mason for one-of-a-kind gifts, to the Choose Love pop-up store to buy essentials for refugees, or to the Winter Market at Southbank Centre for handmade stocking-fillers. If the cold never bothered you anyway, get your skates on for the outdoor ice rink at Somerset House and the Winter Wonderland extravaganza in Hyde Park. Indoors, the signature production of A Christmas Carol by Old Vic Theatre is truly heart-warming, as are the candlelit carol concerts that always pop up around London at this point in the year.

Kew Royal Botanic Gardens. Photo by Diliff, licensed under CC3.0.

Spring

When is spring in London? March, April, and May.

The appearance of cheerful pink buds and the first tentative wisps of wisteria are some of the early signs that spring has sprung in London. To admire the most voluptuous cherry-blossom trees, visit Greenwich Park or Kew Royal Botanic Gardens . Wisteria-hunters will likely strike lucky in the West London neighborhoods of Chiswick, Notting Hill, and Kensington. Carpets of daffodils and crocuses quietly invade every patch of grass, with even more fine flowers for sale at Columbia Road Flower Market . May is usually quite crowded in London, with two bank-holiday weekends that month, but it’s a lovely time nonetheless. This is when Regent's Park Open Air Theatre opens for the season, producing at least one musical, one family show, and one classical play in its purpose-built amphitheatre. Be sure to pack for all weathers though, as the auditorium is entirely open to the elements. Join the throngs of people gathering on the Thames embankment for the Oxford and Cambridge boat race, and say hello to the new animal arrivals at a city farm; the Spitalfields, Vauxhall, Mudchute, Hackney, and Kentish Town areas all have their own.

Notting Hill Carnival. Photo by David Sedleck√Ĺ, licensed under CC4.0.

Summer

When is summer in London? June, July, and August.

London really comes alive during these months, with the city being swept up in a kaleidoscope of color ready to celebrate major annual events such as the LGBTQ+ Pride parade and Notting Hill Carnival. Beer gardens and rooftop bars become standing-room-only, picnics in a park are the go-to lunch choice, and tennis fans descend upon “Murray Mound” in droves to catch snippets from Wimbledon on the big screen. Food, arts, and music festivals are plentiful, with Taste of London, Mighty Hoopla, and Walthamstow Garden Party all being keen favorites. Balmy evenings are full of infinite possibilities in London, whether you rent a GoBoat or Skuna to explore the waterways, soak up some culture at Shakespeare's Globe , or see the sun setting over the skyline from Primrose Hill. Most Londoners like to end the hot days with a cooling G&T, dripping pint, or fruity Pimm’s in-hand, shrouded in views of a peach-hued London; Frank's Cafe , Skylight , Bar Elba , and Pergola Paddington are just a few of the numerous spots that understand this assignment.

Hampstead Heath. Photo by Amadeusz Misiak, licensed under CC1.0.

Fall

When is fall in London? September, October, and November.

Autumn can be a mixed bag in London, with what the Brits call that “in-betweeny” weather: when it is simultaneously too warm and too cold for a jacket. You can avoid this conundrum altogether by staying inside; maybe catch a movie at the BFI during the London Film Festival, sample whisky at Milroy's , or melt into a tub of red wine at AIRE Ancient Baths . Then there’s always the “in-betweeny” experiences, like watching the fire-cooking spectacle at Campfire or enjoying a warming brunch at Dalloway Terrace with its tonal backdrop of foliage. But nothing beats the life-affirming crunch of amber leaves under-foot in Hampstead Heath . There is so much to celebrate during the fall—or autumn, as it is locally known—in London. Totally Thames Festival is worth marking on your calendar, along with the city-wide program of events scheduled to commemorate Black History Month. For Halloween, take a graveyard walk through Highgate Cemetery or a ghostly tour around the docklands of London Bridge. And remember, remember that the fifth of November is Bonfire Night, so expect fireworks, fairgrounds, toffee apples, and a little anarchic spirit!

Despite the season, any time is a good time to explore London’s must-see sights and, even if it’s raining, there’s plenty to do. If it's your first time, check out our three-day itinerary which is a great place to start, regardless of the season you’re visiting.