There’s so much to do in London that I could spend my whole life here and never feel like I’ve ticked all the boxes. But some things happen every year, so I get a second (and third, and tenth) chance. As such, today I want to share 51 things to do in London in 2019 with you. Or 2020. Or whatever year you get around to doing them.
51 Things to Do in London in 2019
My list goes through the year starting with things to do in January and ending with what can keep you busy in the last days of December. From events and festivals to themed weeks and multi-month extravaganzas, these show London at its best and offer world-class everything to residents and visitors alike.
1. London New Year’s Day Parade
Every year, London hosts a big parade on New Year’s Day. Featuring thousands of performers, dancers, floats, and more, it’s a festive way to kick off the new year. The parade starts in central London at noon on January 1st and goes throughout the West End.
2. Ice Skate
London has no shortage of amazing ice skating rinks, and most of them stay open into the new year. If you want to beat the January blues and get some exercise while you’re at it, this is a good way to do it.
3. Celebrate Burns Night
He may have been Scottish, but Robert Burns is revered in London, too. The 18th-century poet’s birthday is celebrated every year on January 25th with bagpipes, readings, and lots of haggis. Burns Night celebrations take place across the city, so there’s no shortage of ways to get into the spirit.
4. Cheer on the Snowdrops
My favorite part of any new year is seeing the first signs of spring. In London, that means snowdrops. These delicate blossoms herald warmer days ahead, and can be spotted everywhere from St James’s Park to the Chelsea Physic Garden.
5. Watch the Pancake Day Races
Every year on Shrove Tuesday, London comes alive with the sound of pancake races. In a fun British tradition, these races liven up the streets and provide a last hurrah before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
6. Celebrate Valentine’s Day on the Thames
London has no shortage of ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but one of my favorites is a day on the Thames. A boyfriend surprised me one year with a river cruise and London Eye journey, complete with champagne and roses. It was the perfect way to celebrate in London.
7. Get Excited for the Crocuses
After the snowdrops come the crocuses. By February London’s parks and gardens are replete with purple, yellow, and white blooms. They’re the second stage of spring’s awakening, and whether I spot them in Golders Hill Park or Kensington Gardens they get my heart aflutter.
8. Go to Trafalgar Square for Chinese New Year
London has some of the largest Chinese New Year celebrations outside Asia, and it’s worth heading to Trafalgar Square to join the festivities. With parades, performances, and good Chinese food in nearby Chinatown, it’s a perfect winter day out.
9. Watch the Head of the River Race
Every March the Head of the River Race takes place on the Thames in London. A rowing race from Mortlake to Putney, the day sees over 400 crews of eight participate in what is always an exciting event.
10. Drink a Pint of Guinness for St Patrick’s Day
You don’t have to travel to Northern Ireland to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in the UK. London has its share of festivities, from lively pubs with lots of Guinness to a big parade and performances in Trafalgar Square.
11. Watch the Boat Race
As if the Head of the River Race weren’t enough, London also hosts an annual Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge universities. Going strong since 1845, this traditional event runs from Putney to Mortlake and is a great spectator event on the Thames.
12. Marvel at the Daffodils
Once the crocuses fade, the daffodils take over. There’s no better place to see them in London than Green Park, and when they’re in full bloom they’re a spectacular sign of spring.
13. Remember Easter
Easter always seems to fly under the radar in London. Still, there are events here and there for fans of egg hunts and chocolate bunnies (and who doesn’t love egg hunts and chocolate bunnies?).
14. Watch the London Marathon
If you overdid it on the chocolate bunnies, the London Marathon is a perfect opportunity for redemption. The race takes over the city each year, bringing runners and spectators alike to revel in the excitement.
15. Admire the Tulips
I know, I know. I’m obsessed with London’s spring flowers. But they’re just so pretty. And the tulips are some of the prettiest. I love the ones in Holland Park in particular, and make a pilgrimage there each spring to see them in bloom.
16. Get Involved in London Craft Week
Spring is a great time to channel your inner creative and add to the frenzy of new life in London. Craft Week provides lots of hands-on opportunities to do just that, in whatever shape your inner maker wants to form.
17. Go to an Event for Museums at Night
Twice a year London’s museums throw their doors open for several nights of special events, late openings, and general revelry. From guided tours to themed evenings, this is a great time to treat your inner museum lover.
18. Get Garden Inspiration at the Chelsea Flower Show
The annual Chelsea Flower Show takes place at the beginning of the British summer season and sets off a frenzy of horticultural activity across the country. Whether you go for inspiration or admiration, this multi-day event is the perfect way to get into the summer spirit.
19. Wisteria Watch
Another way is to wisteria watch. In May London’s wisteria bursts into bloom, covering facades and framing doors in a riot of purple. Make sure to have your camera ready as you walk around the city.
20. Go to Photo London
If you love photography, head to Somerset House from May 16th to 19th for Photo London. This this large-scale fair will attract leading galleries and artists, and is a great place to experience the best contemporary photography from across the globe.
21. Witness the State Opening of Parliament
Royal watchers will also be excited to see the traditional State Opening of Parliament in spring. This elaborate ceremony will mark the official start of the parliamentary year, and the Queen’s Speech will set out the government agenda for the upcoming session.
22. Have a May Bank Holiday Weekend Barbecue
There are two bank holidays in May, which means double the chances for good weather. There’s nothing like a bank holiday barbecue to get the summer started, so fingers crossed for blue skies and bunting.
23. Attend the Household Division’s Beating Retreat
The Household Division’s Beating Retreat takes place at Horse Guards Parade in June. This evening pageant of music and military drills features horses, cannons, and even fireworks.
24. Go to the Trooping the Colour
The Trooping the Colour offers another chance to watch a military spectacle in London in June. Troops from the Household Division mark the Queen’s official birthday in a military parade tradition dating back 200 years.
25. Participate in Open Garden Squares Weekend
June is the perfect time to be outdoors, and Open Garden Squares Weekend is the ideal way to get into the spirit. Across the city, private gardens unlock their gates and welcome visitors with music, food, and a chance to explore the hidden green spaces of London.
26. Eat Your Way through Taste of London
Another outdoor event worth exploring is Taste of London in Regent’s Park. Every June this culinary spectacular sees London’s famous restaurants and chefs turning out their best dishes for avid foodies and curious visitors alike.
27. Experience the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival
The Greenwich + Docklands International Festival is one of London’s biggest free outdoor arts festivals. Featuring everything from theater to dance, art installations to music, it brings life and summer fun to Greenwich and its environs.
28. Develop a Green Thumb at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
If the Chelsea Flower Show doesn’t inspire you enough, the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is sure to do the trick. The largest flower show in the world, it features everything from show gardens to floral pavilions, educational talks, and demonstrations. If you love gardening, this is one of the best things to do in London in 2019.
29. Get into the Tennis at Wimbledon
Nothing says summer like Wimbledon, and the annual tennis championships always get me in the mood for the season (the strawberries and cream help, too). Whether you’re lucky enough to go in person or just watch on the big screens around the city, it’s always a fun time of year.
30. Indulge in Music at British Summer Time
British Summer Time sees musical acts from around the world take over Hyde Park for 10 days. From superstars to rising stars, this concert series is packed with talent and entertainment.
31. Go to the Proms at Royal Albert Hall
In a more traditional vein, the Proms at Royal Albert Hall last from July to September and bring London a variety of musical performances throughout their annual run.
32. Revel in Royalty at the Buckingham Palace Summer Opening
Even the Queen needs to get away sometimes, and when she heads to Scotland’s Balmoral, the official Buckingham Palace Summer Opening begins. From mid-July to late September, visitors can tour the palace, see the annual exhibition, and get a glimpse of royal life.
33. See a Film at the Summer Screen at Somerset House
The Summer Screen at Somerset House gives Londoners and visitors the chance to sit down, picnic, and watch a movie on London’s biggest outdoor screen. Set against the backdrop of the beautiful interior courtyard, this is my favorite place to watch films in the warmer months.
34. Swim in the Ponds in Hampstead Heath
If you’re brave and it’s hot outside, August is a great time to swim in the ponds in Hampstead Heath. The park’s famous bathing ponds have been cooling off Londoners for ages, and there’s no prettier place to be on a summer day.
35. Get a Taste of the Caribbean at the Notting Hill Carnival
The August bank holiday weekend means one thing: the annual Notting Hill Carnival. Europe’s largest street party, this colorful carnival has been celebrating all things Caribbean since 1966.
36. Be a Water Baby at Totally Thames
Totally Thames is a month-long celebration of culture, art, performance, and river-related fun along the Thames. Taking place in in September, it has a packed program of events and installations throughout the month.
37. Get Out and Listen at Last Night of the Proms
Last Night of the Proms is Britain’s largest outdoor classical music event and the finale of the Proms at Royal Albert Hall. This event features big names and big screens as Hyde Park comes alive for the traditional Last Night music and sing-along.
38. Learn and Do at the London Design Festival
Design lovers and creative types can beat a path to the many London Design Festival venues in September. Showcasing the latest in design projects in spaces across London, it’s a great time to learn and get inspired.
39. Peek Inside Iconic Buildings at Open House London
Open House London is one of my favorite events of the year. Every September, public buildings and those that are normally closed to the public open their doors to the world. Architecture lovers, photographers, and curious people alike can take in hidden spaces and sweeping views that are only on display once a year.
40. Eat Your Heart Out in October
October is food month in London, and everything from Chocolate Week to the London Restaurant Festival launches in this four-week period. Whether you want to celebrate Seafood Week or Cocktail Week, there’s a theme for every palate.
41. Channel Your Inner Art Lover at Frieze
Every autumn, Frieze London and Frieze Masters take over large spaces in Regent’s Park. Important events on the creative calendar, these simultaneous art fairs showcase leading talents of the present and past in a whirlwind of color, shape, and texture.
42. Soak up the Autumn Colors
Autumn is one of my favorite times of year in London, not least because the leaves make the city even more beautiful than it already is. From the biggest parks to the smallest mews, leaves of all shapes and sizes turn London into a seasonal feast for the eyes.
43. Get Spooky for Halloween
Halloween gets bigger every year in London, and events and parties across the city have stepped up their style significantly in the last decade. If you’re coming from out of town, just make sure your costume is spooky—they don’t do non-scary Halloween costumes here.
44. Watch the Bonfire Night Fireworks
Remember, remember the fifth of November. Every year in early November, Bonfire Night fireworks pop across London. This unique tradition commemorates the foiling of Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605.
45. Line the Parade Route for the Lord Mayor’s Show
Not long after the Bonfire Night fireworks come the Lord Mayor’s Show and its accompanying fireworks. Another unique London tradition, it’s worth lining the streets of the City of London to see the parade and coming back at night for the pyrotechnics.
46. Take a Moment of Silence for Remembrance Day
Remembrance Day takes place on the 11th of November (the date of the end of World War I) and is marked by symbolic red poppies. There are ceremonies across London to pay tribute to the members of the armed forces who have died in the line of duty, and a moment of silence at 11am.
47. Get Inspired by London’s Christmas Lights
As the days get shorter, London’s Christmas lights brighten up the night with stars and angels in the sky. Seeing them in the city center is a great way to embrace the coming season and fend off the winter blues.
48. Wish Your American Friends a Happy Thanksgiving
Okay, so this one might be a bit self-serving, but Thanksgiving is a really big deal for Americans and we get pretty homesick when we’re abroad for it. So spare a thought and send some well-wishes to your American friends if you’re in London on the fourth Thursday in November. There are also plenty of restaurants that offer Thanksgiving meals that day, so feel free to get into the spirit if you’re up for a cultural experience (and a LOT of food).
49. Get in the Seasonal Spirit at London’s Christmas Markets
London’s Christmas Markets get bigger and brighter every year, and there’s no better way to embrace the season than by getting involved. From Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park to the Southbank Winter Festival on the Thames, there’s no shortage of chalets and mulled wine to set you on course for Christmas.
50. Watch the The Peter Pan Cup
On Christmas day itself, The Peter Pan Cup is a chilly outdoor swimming competition in Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake. If you’re at a loose end and want some entertainment (or a dip), head over and take in the spectacle.
51. Go to the New Year’s Eve Fireworks Show
As the year comes to a close, London goes all-out with its annual New Year’s Eve fireworks show. This spectacular display lights up the sky above Westminster and the London Eye, closing out one year and ringing in another.
So there you have it. 51 things to do in London in 2019. Or 2020. But even if you don’t get around to them this year or next, I hope this list inspires you to explore more of the city’s events, neighborhoods, and traditions now and in the future.
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