You could easily argue that there’s no such thing as a bad time to visit England’s capital city – world-class events running year-round, incredible galleries and museums, cozy pubs, and beautifully landscaped parks and gardens. London does not hold back from flaunting its many stunning attractions no matter what the weather is doing….although, spoiler alert, what it’s doing often involves gray skies.
For this reason, summer is the season to be in this exciting capital. Festivals are rife across the city, pop-up markets and beaches (yes, pop-up beaches) appear all over, and al fresco eating and drinking are all the rage. Prices might be higher, but the option to entertain outdoors means summer is when London is at its most exciting and glamorous.
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As with anywhere, you should time your visit to suit your interests and budget. This guide, with its monthly list of events, can help you decide the best time for your visit to London.
Summer is the perfect time to explore London’s many beer gardens © Mauro Grigollo / Stocksy United
June to August is thebest time for festivals, events and sunny skies
Expect to be cheek by jowl with strangers on the sweaty public transport system and fork out higher prices for accommodations. But this is also the time the city is buzzing with events – from one of the largest street parties in the world to small pop-up book fairs and markets.
London’s parks fill up with locals enjoying the summer sun, and beer gardens overflow with the sound of vitamin-D-induced joy and laughter. It’s the perfect time to skip the speed of the tube and explore the city on foot.
Easter to May and mid-September to October are the best times for beautiful scenery
Spring can be a delightful time to visit the city, with events starting to pick up and many flowers blooming in the city’s gardens. It can also be pretty wet, so bring a waterproof jacket.
London in the fall means anything from dreary wet and windy days to crisp, bright sunshine glowing off the spectacular autumn scenery across the city’s many parks and commons.
Rainy days are well spent in one of London’s superb museums © Songquan Deng / Shutterstock
December to Februaryis the best time for visiting museums and galleries
Winter brings cold, wet, and gray days that don’t seem to last very long at all – the sun makes a fleeting appearance before slipping away mid-afternoon.
The city is far from empty, though, and major sights remain open, making this the perfect time to explore London’s incredible museums and galleries, wander the chilly but atmospheric streets, and get your fill of local food and drink in the warm confines of a traditional London pub.
Here’s a monthly guide to what you can expect throughout the year in London. All events are subject to change, and those held at the end or start of a month often switch between.
January is for nightlife
New Year kicks off with a big bang at midnight. London is in the throes of winter, with short days: light appears at around 8am and is all but gone by 4pm.
Key events: The London Parade, London International Mime Festival, London Art Fair
There are huge Chinese New Year celebrations in London’s Chinatown © Tadeusz Ibrom / Shutterstock
February is cold but occasionally lively with festivals
February is chilly and wet, and it may snow, which tends to bring the city’s transport to a grinding halt. Chinese New Year falls somewhere between the end of January and early February, drawing big crowds to London’s Chinatown for a huge celebration. Locals lark about with pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.
Key events: Chinese New Year, Imagine Children’s Festival, Pancake Day Races
March is great for visiting gardens
Spring is in the air, trees begin to blossom, and daffodils emerge across parks and gardens.
Key events: St Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival, Flare, Head of the River Race
Get active in April
Warmer days bring a lighthearted vibe. British Summer Time starts in late March, moving clocks forward an hour, so it’s now light until 7pm. Some sites previously shut for winter reopen. Crowds line the streets to cheer on runners in the London Marathon.
Key events: University Boat Race, London Marathon
Festival season begins in earnest in May
Days are warming up, and the locals enjoy two bank holidays (the first and the last weekends of May).
Key events: London Tweed Run, Chelsea Flower Show, Underbelly Festival
June sees long days and outdoor events
Peak season begins with long, warm days (it’s light until 10pm) and the arrival of many alfresco events, including a naked bike ride through the city. The South Bank is a lively spot for a wander, with something always happening, whether that’s street food markets or live music.
Key events: Trooping the Colour, London Festival of Architecture, Meltdown, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, London World Naked Bike Ride.
Come for fresh produce and cold beer in July
This is the time to munch on strawberries, drink in beer gardens and join in the numerous outdoor activities, including big music festivals and the arrival of Wimbledon.
Key events: Wireless, The Proms, Lovebox, Pride London, Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships
London’s diners and drinkers make the most of the streets during the summer months © fokke baarssen / Shutterstock
August is festival season
Many festivals take place across the UK, but London has one of the biggest and best – the hugely popular Notting Hill Carnival takes place on the last weekend of the month, a bank holiday when thousands of people party in the streets around this area of West London to celebrate Caribbean culture.
Key events: Notting Hill Carnival, Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House, Great British Beer Festival.
Things quieten down (slightly) in September
Fall begins. This is a lovely time to be in London, and it can be slightly quieter as local kids start a new school year. It’s the best time for architecture and interior design lovers to head to the city for the Open House Festival, where properties normally shut to the public allow visitors and offer tours.
Key events: Totally Thames, Greenwich Comedy Festival, Open House Festival.
October is for fall colors
It’s getting colder, but parks are splashed with gorgeous fall colors. Clocks go back to winter time the last weekend of the month, and school kids celebrate Halloween with ghoulish dress-up and trick-or-treating.
Key events: London Film Festival, Dance Umbrella, Affordable Art Fair, London Cocktail Week.
Cozy up in a pub in November
Nights are getting longer. Enjoy the last of the autumn colors with long walks through city parks and relax by an open fire in a pub afterward.
Key events: Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night), Remembrance Day, Lord Mayor’s Show, London Jazz Festival.
Ice rinks open up around the city during the festive season and run on into January © Distinctive Shots / Shutterstock
December sees Christmas markets galore
Christmas approaches, and a festive mood reigns. Days are at their shortest. Ice rinks open up across the city, with popular locations at Somerset House, the Natural History Museum, and the South Bank. Christmas Day is quiet, with all shops and museums closed and the public transport network shut. It all kicks off again on Boxing Day, as keen shoppers hit the sales.
Key events: Lighting of the Christmas Tree, Boxing Day Shopping, New Year’s Celebrations.
London local Tharik Hussain contributed updates to this article.