London is an excellent year-round destination, with plenty to do both indoors and outdoors no matter what your interests are. However, each season brings its own distinct vibe and activities. Here's a snippet of the best that London has to offer in each season.
London has a relatively mild climate. While it does sometimes snow, temperatures rarely drop below freezing and if they do, they don’t stay too cold for long. January is the coldest month, with average temperatures around 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius). Just note that because of the city’s northern position, winter days can be quite short and the city gets less than eight hours of daylight during the weeks around the solstice. Fortunately, while it can be foggy, London also experiences some cold-but-sunny days, so even in the dead of winter it can sometimes look bright out.
For winter travelers, December is probably the best month to visit London. The month is characterized by special meals and beverages in local pubs and beautiful holiday light displays around the city — popular West End areas such as Oxford Street, Regent Street, and the Strand offer some of the city’s finest and most elaborate displays. There’s also a giant menorah displayed on Trafalgar Square and lit every night of Hanukkah.
And while December still reigns supreme in terms of winter months, London offers plenty more to do throughout the season, including the New Year’s Day Parade and special Scottish feasts on Burns Night (a celebration of Scottish poet Robert Burns, held on January 25). Ice skating is another popular holiday activity, with temporary skating rinks opening in scenic spots such as Somerset House, Hyde Park, and even the Tower of London. And let’s not forget Christmas markets — you’ll find holiday them all over the city, from Southbank Centre to Leicester Square, and many stay open through January. The Chinese New Year is also feted with gusto (in fact, it’s billed as the largest Chinese New Year celebration outside of Asia), and includes a parade, cultural performances, and a fireworks show.
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While springtime in London is not quite as cheery as it is in, say, Paris, rising temperatures and blooming flowers — coupled with lower airfares than you’d find in the summer or right around Christmas — make it a good time to visit. Expect plenty of rain at the beginning of the season and temperatures in the 50s and low 60s (though April and May can occasionally get surprisingly hot).
While there’s generally not a ton going on in March, save for the annual St Patrick’s Day Festival in Trafalgar Square (and its related parade), things get a bit more interesting in April, when the London Marathon takes athletes from around the world (as well as plenty of locals, some in costume) from South London, across the Tower Bridge, and over to Buckingham Palace. The Feast of St. George, the patron saint of England, takes place on April 23 and is celebrated with cultural activities in Trafalgar Square.
May picks up even more as the temperatures start to become more pleasant. Anglophiles may enjoy the State Opening of Parliament, which includes a speech from the monarch amidst plenty of fanfare. May is also the best time to see the results of April showers in full bloom; if it’s flowers that you’re after, you’ll find plenty of varieties in Kew Gardens, Regent’s Park, and especially at the Chelsea Flower Show, a five-day festival of horticulture held annually at Chelsea’s Royal Hospital.
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Summertime in London is arguably the best time to visit, but it’s also the most expensive time of year to fly into the city. Hotels also often hike their rates this time of year to meet high-season demands. June starts out with average temperatures in the 60s, and while thermometers sometimes hit the 80s in July and August, the climate is generally mild. Given London’s temperate and cool overall climate, the summer months can also get rainy and chilly at times, so pack a jacket and an umbrella. Because of London’s northern position, expect early sunrises and late sunsets, with nearly 17 hours of daylight during around the summer solstice.
Londoners take advantage of relatively warm weathers and long nights by spending as much time as possible outdoors. Open-air theaters are a big hit, with outdoor performances at the beautiful park amphitheatre in Regent’s Park as well as right in Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. There are also plenty of outdoor cinemas that pop up throughout the summer, mainly held on rooftops or in parks.
London also has plenty of what are known locally as lidos — huge outdoor swimming pools, many of which are in parks or other main public places. North London’s sprawling, wooded Hampstead Heath has one of the better-known lidos — Parliament Hill Lido — but if you’re going to choose just one, head to The Serpentine in Hyde Park instead. This 40-acre manmade lake dates back to 1730 and has its own sectioned-off swimming area.
Summer is also festival season in London (and across the U.K.), with a wide range of events for music lovers. Popular events include Field Day, held in Victoria Park every year, which has hosted performers like Patti Smith, Skream, and more. For those who prefer music of the orchestral variety, The Proms is an eight-week season of classical music held in the Royal Albert Hall, along with smaller related events staged throughout parks in the city. And of course, perhaps the best summer music event of all is the Notting Hill Carnival, held over the summer bank holiday weekend at the end of August. This annual celebration of Caribbean culture is characterized by multiple sound systems set up throughout the Notting Hill neighborhood. The event includes live DJ sets, MCs, and concerts along with plenty of dancing, revelry, and even a parade.
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Autumn is arguably the best time of year to visit London if you want to catch the end of warm weather without having to pay high-season rates for hotels and airfare. September is only a bit cooler than August, with weather typically in the high 60s. While things start to cool down in October, the frigid winter doesn’t really start to seep in until later in November. While the season lacks the sheer number of events of summer and doesn’t have the festive ambiance of winter, there’s still plenty to see, do, and celebrate. Art enthusiasts won’t want to miss The London Design Festival, which is held across venues in late September and one of the best places to scope out projects from Britain’s most innovative and talented visual creators.
London has a large Hindu community and Diwali (the festival of lights) is celebrated every year (usually in October or November, depending on the lunar calendar) in Trafalgar Square. Along with stalls selling crafts and foods, the celebrations are marked with a host of traditional dance performances from across the subcontinent.
A big highlight of November is Guy Fawkes Day, referred to colloquially as Bonfire Night, which commemorates the failure of the Gunpowder Plot against Parliament in 1605. While the tradition in English towns is to light bonfires (and burn effigies of Mr. Fawkes, called “Guys”), firework shows are more common in London, with displays staged in Thames-side locations such as Battersea Park and the South Bank as well as in further-out locations, such as South London’s Crystal Palace and Blackheath.
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