With its “fake spring,” occasionally chilly and wet summers, sometimes mild autumns and rather gray winters, there’s no reliable way of saying what weather to expect when visiting London. But what you can be confident about is that there are world-class museums, cozy pubs and lively events running year-round.
For many though, 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 is all the rage. Prices might be higher, but the option to entertain outdoors means summer in Britain’s capital is when London is at its most exciting and glamorous.
As with anywhere, you should time your visit to suit your interests and your budget. This guide, with its monthly list of events, can help you decide the best time for your visit to London.
June to August is the best time for festivals, events and good weather
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.
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.
December to February is 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, with the sun making a fleeting appearance. The city is far from empty though, and major sights remain open, making this the perfect time to dedicate to incredible museums and galleries, wandering the chilly but atmospheric streets, and getting your fill of local food and drink in a snug bar in a traditional London pub.
Here’s a monthly guide to what you can expect through 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.
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
Get active in April
Warmer days bring a lighthearted vibe. British Summer Time starts 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, although the event has temporarily shifted to October for 2022.
Key events: University Boat Race, London Marathon (held in October in 2022).
Festival season begins in earnest in May
June sees long days and outdoor events
Peak season begins with long, warm days (it’s light until 10pm), the arrival of Wimbledon and other 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:Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships, 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
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 places 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 all things to do with the Caribbean.
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 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 afterwards.
Key events: Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night), Remembrance Day, Lord Mayor’s Show, London Jazz Festival.
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.