We think London is at its best in the last two weeks
of September. But there's actually plenty to do and
see the year round. Weather is likely to be a major
factor and it often surprises visitors to find that
August can be quite a wet month. The weather
patterns have been shifting over the past few years
so the 'Azores High' (this has nothing to do with
drugs) which builds over the Atlantic and supplies
Britain's summer has been happening later and later,
and in 2008 didn't happen - meaning no summer. It
was quite grim and conversations came round to talk
of emigration for a bit of sun. 2010 proved the
exception and we've heard people comparing it with
1976 - the last big heatwave. As soon as it was
actually warm in summer, complaints focussed on the
For a list of military ceremonial events (there are
a surprising number, not just changing of the guard)
see the Army's Website. Actually it
can be more fun to attend a rehearsal of an event
such as 'Trooping of the Colour' consult the list
before you come. For the official public
events calendar click HERE
January: Often a pleasant month - not too cold, and
not too wet. The very end of the month sees Atlantic
gales blowing in. The Sales are on and everyone is
shopping crazy. The theatres & concert halls are
getting back to normal after the Christmas rush:
good ticket availability. On the 1st a (crap)
New-York style parade through the centre of town.
Positive: sales, xmas theatre season still on, but
easier to get tickets. Negative: people have the
post-xmas blues, can be overcast.
February: Unpleasant. Not cold - but dull with low
cloud and rain. Those in the know are off skiing.
Little to recommend the month apart from low hotel
prices. Theatre and music often quite good by
compensation. Chinese new year celebrations (lunar,
so shifts) in Soho - nice day out, if crowded. At
end of month (depends on the lunar feast of Easter)
there can be a half term holiday week for
schoolchildren when things get chaotic - avoid.
March: like February, only less so. Unsettled
weather: some sun but also wet and windy. Where
there's an early Easter things get better: school
half-term holidays can liven things up (movable
feast). Oxford/Cambridge boat race usually last
weekend. British Summer time begins end of March.
April: weather getting better though often wet and
windy. Some optimists hold 'Spring festivals' of
theatre, music etc. asnd are usually disappointed.
London Marathon. Watch out for Easter. Bank (ie
public) Holiday 1st April.
May: most Brits vainly hope summer is upon them in
May, and are cruelly disappointed. Although it is
getting warmer and there is more sunshine, showers
betray the foolhardy. Extremely hard to predict the
weather. However, with changing weather pattens (see
above) there has often been a 'window' of good
weather late May/early June for a couple of weeks,
before the 'monssoon' sets in. May day is celebrated
in Oxford and sometimes in London (eg Hampstead,
Greenwich) with Morris-dancing and other festive
treats - eg sweeps day in Rochester. Football
cup-final (usually). Coin Street Festival on South
Bank. Chelsea Flower show. First Monday is a bank
June: Generally dry and sunny but can still upset as
brief storms blow in off the Atlantic. Some venues
like the Barbican can be beginning their Summer
shut-down. Pub-theatres and other small venues begin
their pre-Edinburgh run of comedy and short plays.
Horse guards - trooping of the colour and beating
the retreat rehearsals - first week. Royal Academy
summer exhibition of dreadful painting. City of
London Festival (good) of theatre and music, Covent
Garden Festival. Wimbledon tennis championships. The
Derby and Ascot horseracing.
July: It's summer and warm enough to wear just a tee
shirt - usually. Don't forget that umbrella though
as the storms are now coming in from another
direction. Music drying up in preparation for the
Proms. Hampton Court flower show (this one's
actually for gardeners)
August: Dearth of theatre as most companies are up
in Edinburgh for the festival. Proms are on every
night suffocating other music venues. Countryside in
bloom. Lots of tourists - hotel prices soar. Notting
Hill carnival last weekend in August (avoid). Last
Monday usually a bank holiday is a bank holiday.
September: The best time to visit London.
Warm, usually dry, especially the latter half.
Mayor's Thames festival (usually middle of month)
and Open House weekend (usually its end) when you
can visit buildings usually closed to the public
(recommended). Theatre back from Edinburgh with a
host of new shows. Proms ends with its last night
and the new music. Opera and theatre season begins.
Pleasant slightly misty evenings. Seafood festival
in Hay's Galleria. Soho Jazz festival (good).
October: Like September but shorter days and less
buzz. Or it can rain. Unpredictable. That Indian
Summer is trying to work its way in but has to push
out a lot of rainclouds to do so. Theatre and music
good. In 2001 there were many, many days of warm,
sunny weather, but one month's rain fell in one day,
screwing up the rainfall averages and causing
flooding in central and eastern Britain. British
Summer time ends end of the month - expect a glum
week as the nights draw in. The
November: truly Autumnal: the battle is on between
the fading Indian summer and the next lot of wintery
rainclouds. Rarely bad weather for more than a
couple of days. Wear a jacket over your teeshirt.
The 5th is Guy Fawkes night when Catholics are
burned on bonfires across England (actually only
straw dummies) and fireworks are let off. Lord
Mayor's show (this is in the City.. not usually as
good as the London Mayor's festival (London is
actually tweo cities, The City of London and The
City of Westminster, hence two competing Mayors -
the former is in thrall to bankers and pampers to
their every whim, the latter is political).
December: Chilly but often dry. Shopping frenzy
pre-christmas. Most businesses do most of their
trade in this month. Pretty lights in streets. Lots
of very drunken office parties in latter half.
Christmas week is dead. New Year's eve celebrations
in Trafalgar Square. If able book the new year away,
either out of London in Norfolk of the northwest of
Scotland, or in North Norfolk - or on a mountain
with good skiing.
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