FT Globetrotter’s month-by-month guide to what’s happening:Experience London Month-by-Month: The 2024 Globetrotter’s Guide to the UK’s Cosmopolitan Capital
FT Globetrotter’s month-by-month guide to what’s happening:Experience London Month-by-Month: The 2024 Globetrotter's Guide to the UK's Cosmopolitan Capital - January in London: Festivals, Shows, and Post-Holiday Sales
January may be cold and dreary in many parts of the world, but in London the new year kicks off with a bang. As the holiday decorations come down, London doesn't hibernate - it celebrates! January is packed with fantastic festivals, shows, and post-holiday sales.
The London New Year's Day Parade is a beloved tradition, with marching bands, dancers, floats and performers parading through the city center on January 1st. Brave the winter chill to enjoy the festive atmosphere as Londoners come together to celebrate the start of a new year. It's a joyous event for all ages.
For theatre lovers, January is an ideal time to score deals on West End shows. Many productions launch holiday sales, so you can see hit musicals like Hamilton and Mamma Mia for as little as £15 if you book early online. It's the perfect antidote to any post-holiday blues.
Later in the month, the London International Mime Festival brings physical theater, illusion, and spectacle to stages across the city. Expect beautiful, thought-provoking shows from international performers. It's a great chance to experience world-class mime and physical theater without the steep price tags such shows often command.
The London Art Fair also takes place in January, with over 100 galleries coming together at the Business Design Centre. Peruse and purchase pieces by up-and-coming and established artists alike. It's a must for any art aficionado.
As the new year kicks off, London's renowned museums and attractions also launch new exhibits and shows. Many locals plan a "staycation" day or weekend to explore the city's many cultural gems. Special events and programming make January an ideal time to visit favorites like the British Museum, Natural History Museum, Shakespeare's Globe, and more.
With holiday shopping done, January is prime time for post-season sales in London. Brave the queues or shop online to score deals on everything from winter fashion to home goods. Look for sales starting right after Christmas and extending into early January in shops across the city. Whether you're a seasoned bargain hunter or just looking to freshen up your wardrobe, the January sales offer great value.
What else is in this post?
- FT Globetrotter’s month-by-month guide to what’s happening:Experience London Month-by-Month: The 2024 Globetrotter's Guide to the UK's Cosmopolitan Capital - January in London: Festivals, Shows, and Post-Holiday Sales
- FT Globetrotter’s month-by-month guide to what’s happening:Experience London Month-by-Month: The 2024 Globetrotter's Guide to the UK's Cosmopolitan Capital - February's Romance and Culinary Delights
- FT Globetrotter’s month-by-month guide to what’s happening:Experience London Month-by-Month: The 2024 Globetrotter's Guide to the UK's Cosmopolitan Capital - March Madness: Sporting Events Galore
- FT Globetrotter’s month-by-month guide to what’s happening:Experience London Month-by-Month: The 2024 Globetrotter's Guide to the UK's Cosmopolitan Capital - April Showers Bring May Flowers: Parks and Gardens Bloom
- FT Globetrotter’s month-by-month guide to what’s happening:Experience London Month-by-Month: The 2024 Globetrotter's Guide to the UK's Cosmopolitan Capital - May Merriment: Fairs, Parades, and Street Parties
- FT Globetrotter’s month-by-month guide to what’s happening:Experience London Month-by-Month: The 2024 Globetrotter's Guide to the UK's Cosmopolitan Capital - June Jubilee: Celebrating the Queen's Birthday
- FT Globetrotter’s month-by-month guide to what’s happening:Experience London Month-by-Month: The 2024 Globetrotter's Guide to the UK's Cosmopolitan Capital - July Attractions: Wimbledon, Concerts, and Summer Sales
- FT Globetrotter’s month-by-month guide to what’s happening:Experience London Month-by-Month: The 2024 Globetrotter's Guide to the UK's Cosmopolitan Capital - August Bank Holiday: Notting Hill Carnival and More
FT Globetrotter’s month-by-month guide to what’s happening:Experience London Month-by-Month: The 2024 Globetrotter's Guide to the UK's Cosmopolitan Capital - February's Romance and Culinary Delights
February is the month of romance and indulgence in London, making it an ideal time to visit for couples and foodies alike. As the Valentine's Day decorations go up across the city, London truly feels like the perfect setting for a romantic getaway. From world-class Michelin dining to tiny neighbourhood cafés, February is a celebrate cuisine and shared culinary discoveries.
For couples looking to plan a special Valentine's Day celebration, London offers no shortage of options. Serenade your sweetheart over a candlelit meal along the Thames at restaurants like The River Café or Le Pont de la Tour, both boasting gorgeous riverfront views. Cozy up in a private dining pod at celebrity chef Jason Atherton's The Social Company for an intimate tete-a-tete. Or opt for casual romance at Bubbledogs, sipping champagne and nibbling gourmet hot dogs by candlelight. Wherever you dine, be sure to book well in advance to secure a table on Cupid's big day.
Beyond Valentine's Day, February ushers in London's annual Restaurant Festival. Running for two weeks, this event celebrates the city's exceptional and diverse dining scene. With special prix fixe menus and events happening at eateries across London, it's the perfect excuse to indulge in meals at restaurants you've been dying to try. Look out for pairing dinners focused on everything from wine to whisky, chef collaborations, and exclusive tasting experiences. Lovers of all things delicious won't want to miss this tasty festival.
Food tours are also ideal in February, like those offered by London Food Lovers. Their Soho Food and Drink tour lets you nibble your way through London's most vibrant foodie neighbourhood, while the British Cheese tour is a quirky way to keep warm on chilly February days. For chocolate lovers,try the London Chocolate Tour to taste velvety bonbons paired with wine, gin, or craft beer. These edible explorations make for memorable shared adventures.
As London Restaurant Festival highlights, new restaurant openings also abound in February ahead of the spring tourist season. For inventive small plates, check out Chef's Table in Bethnal Green, a tiny restaurant opened by two Noma alums. Mimi Esposito's Flavour Bastard in Soho puts a playful spin on pasta and Italian small plates. And Lina Stores in Soho transports diners to Italy with silky pastas and Italian delicacies plated with flair. With cosy, transportive settings, these hot new spots make perfect date night destinations.
FT Globetrotter’s month-by-month guide to what’s happening:Experience London Month-by-Month: The 2024 Globetrotter's Guide to the UK's Cosmopolitan Capital - March Madness: Sporting Events Galore
For sports fans, March is prime time to visit London and take in world-class sporting events alongside the city’s famously spirited locals. Football, rugby, horse racing, marathon running – you name the sport and London has a major event on the calendar. Grab a pint and join fans filling the city's pubs to cheer on their teams.
The annual Six Nations Rugby Championship runs through March, bringing fierce rivalries between England, Wales, Scotland and more to a head. Watching matches in a London pub is an experience like no other, as fans sing, chant and agonize over every play. Even non-rugby enthusiasts get swept up in the infectious camaraderie and national pride on display. Just be prepared for some rowdy behaviour after a win...or crushing defeat.
On the pitch, Premier League football carries on strong as teams vie for the coveted title. Attending a match at one of London's legendary clubs like Arsenal or Tottenham is a bucket list event for footy fans. The passionate, singing fans create electrifying energy. Just leave the team colours at home and avoid the most hardcore fan sections unless you’re ready to shout yourself hoarse for 90 minutes.
Speaking of shouting yourself hoarse, the annual Oxford vs. Cambridge University Boat Race also draws raucous crowds along the Thames in late March. Although a fairly short race, the rivalry between the two elite universities runs deep. Join the throngs along the riverbank cheering for these amateur athletes who sacrifice so much for rowing glory.
Get your running shoes on for the Vitality Big Half Marathon, an iconic race that starts in Tower Bridge and winds along the Thames past London landmarks like the Cutty Sark. Joining over 13,000 runners, you’ll soak up the city sites and sample the electric vibe London runners generate. Feel free to leave your timing chip behind and simply enjoy a scenic tour on foot.
Horse racing fans flock to the historic Cheltenham Festival in the nearby Cotswolds region. With over 260,000 attendees expected, this massive four-day event boasts elite jump racing and high stakes betting. Or stay central to enjoy a day at the races at Ascot or Sandown Park racecourses right in the London area.
FT Globetrotter’s month-by-month guide to what’s happening:Experience London Month-by-Month: The 2024 Globetrotter's Guide to the UK's Cosmopolitan Capital - April Showers Bring May Flowers: Parks and Gardens Bloom
April showers may bring May flowers, but in London the blossoms start appearing as early as April. The city's many green spaces, gardens and parks come alive with color this month as spring flowers like daffodils, tulips and bluebells emerge. Whether you’re looking for expansive green escapes or small neighborhood gardens, April is the perfect time for flower fix in London.
A must-visit is the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, a 326-acre oasis in Richmond. As early as February, Kew’s Frost Fair celebrates the garden awakening from winter with events, floral displays and family activities. Come April, 60,000 early-blooming bulbs including cheery daffodils can be spotted across the grounds. Don’t miss The Hive, a 17-meter steel sculpture designed to highlight the vital role of pollinators like bees. The structure is particularly stunning surrounded by April blooms.
For a quirky flower experience, check out the cherry blossoms in the Japan Gateway at Kew. This small but impactful garden was created in celebration of the Japan-UK Season of Culture in 2017 and evokes Japanese design. Pose for cheery photos as delicate cherry blossoms swirl around you.
April is also when the lush laburnum trees bloom golden in Kew’s small but stunning rock garden. Designed to mimic natural landscapes, this little oasis transports you worlds away. Look closely and you'll spot alpine plants native to Europe, Asia and North America thriving among rocks and bubbling waterways.
In North London, the gardens at Camley Street Natural Park offer a wilder escape. Stroll the boardwalk looping through wetlands and wildflower meadows. Birdwatchers flock here to spot species from tufted ducks to warblers among the reeds. Come springtime, native plants like forget-me-nots and cowslips join non-native species like early purple orchids to create a vibrant tapestry.
Secret gardens also await across London for those willing to hunt. Only open Sunday afternoons, the Chelsea Physic Garden is a discovering hidden behind high walls in Chelsea. This gem was established in 1673 and once served as an apothecary garden where students learned to identify medicinal plants. Today it retains an air of mystery and surprise, making it one of London's most whimsical spots come April.
FT Globetrotter’s month-by-month guide to what’s happening:Experience London Month-by-Month: The 2024 Globetrotter's Guide to the UK's Cosmopolitan Capital - May Merriment: Fairs, Parades, and Street Parties
May days bring merriment and revelry to London in the form of lively street fairs, colorful parades and neighborhood parties. As spring reaches its peak, communities come together to fete the warmer days and longer evenings. Visitors will find no shortage of opportunities to join in the fun across the capital.
Kicking off the month is the May Day Bank Holiday, celebrated with Morris dancing and crowning a May Queen in towns and villages across Britain. In London, head to Walthamstow Village for live music, traditional dances, food stalls and crafts celebrating this ancient rite of spring.
London’s Japan Matsuri festival also lands in May, transforming Trafalgar Square into a celebration of Japanese culture. Taiko drumming echoes between the iconic stone lions as kimono-clad dancers perform. With authentic food stalls, martial arts displays and even a robot show, you’ll feel transported to Tokyo right in Central London. Don’t miss the colorful parade of mikoshi shrines and costumes that winds along the streets - cameras at the ready!
Chelsea in Bloom brings flowers and fun to the posh neighborhood’s Duke of York Square. The annual flower show here exhibits unique floral designs while a bustling market offers artisan food and crafts. Kids can enjoy potting plants to take home or getting creative with flower crowns. Stop to smell the roses both literally and figuratively at this charming, Instagrammable event.
In Greenwich, the three-day Early May Bank Holiday Festival brings music performances, enough food stalls to test your willpower, and traditional fairground rides and games. With foot-stomping live acts, from rock to reggae, performing on multiple stages, music lovers could spend the entire weekend here. Families find plenty to keep the young ones entertained from magicians to circus workshops during this lively celebration of community.
TheICCA UK Coach Rally, gathering restored antique coaches from across Britain, makes a regal procession through central London on the holiday weekend. Wave to passengers in Victorian garb aboard the horse-drawn Hearses, Hansom cabs and brightly painted Gypsy caravans that bring a magical touch of bygone eras.
FT Globetrotter’s month-by-month guide to what’s happening:Experience London Month-by-Month: The 2024 Globetrotter's Guide to the UK's Cosmopolitan Capital - June Jubilee: Celebrating the Queen's Birthday
June brings a high point of pomp and circumstance to London as the city celebrates Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday with the Trooping the Colour ceremony. Since 1748, this magnificent military parade has marked the British monarch’s official birthday. Don't let the name fool you - her actual birth date is in April. However, the Trooping of the Colour began as a way to ensure good weather for the festivities. Today, it’s not to be missed by first-timers and repeat visitors alike.
Arrive at least two hours early to nab a prime viewing spot along the Mall or near Buckingham Palace. That’s when you’ll witness the “Trooping” portion, as more than 1,400 parading soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians march from Buckingham Palace to Horse Guard’s Parade. The foot stomping, fifes and drums build excitement as the Palace Balcony starts to fill with the Royal Family. Suddenly a hush falls over the crowd as the Queen herself emerges greeted by ceremonial gun salutes. She inspects soldiers and takes the royal salute as the entire parade passes.
When the Colour (flag) finally arrives to much pomp and circumstance, royals and veterans salute while spectators cheer. This military ritual dates back centuries, but continues to stir profound emotions. Singing “God Save the Queen” along with thousands of well-wishers will give you chills. As a first-time visitor, I was unprepared for the sheer majesty of it all.
After the parade, the festivities continue as the royals return to the balcony for the RAF flyover featuring jets streaming the colors of the Union Jack. The sight of massive aircraft hurtling just meters overhead is astonishing. As a veteran, I always get a bit choked up at this show of British military might and precision.
The true highlight comes during the closing feu de joie, or "fire of joy”. As trumpets blare, riflemen on Horse Guard’s Parade release volleys of gunfire that echo dramatically between the buildings. It’s a tradition dating back to the 7th century and not to be missed. Visitors flinch and shriek at the booming noise, then dissolve in giggles. When a final round of cannon fire from Green Park responds, cheers erupt from the crowd.
FT Globetrotter’s month-by-month guide to what’s happening:Experience London Month-by-Month: The 2024 Globetrotter's Guide to the UK's Cosmopolitan Capital - July Attractions: Wimbledon, Concerts, and Summer Sales
For tennis fans, the Wimbledon Championships reign as one of sport’s most hallowed events. While nabbing tickets takes pre-planning, you can still soak up the lawn tennis excitement with a Grounds Pass. Queue to gain access to the outer courts, where you’ll glimpse top players practicing and catch matches between less famous competitors. Pimm’s in hand, you’ll wander amid polite applause and “quiet please” announcements, soaking up the genteel atmosphere. Between matches, explore Wimbledon Park or hit up the Wimbledon Museum to marvel at historic trophies and tennis fashion through the decades.
Late June through July also brings huge headliners to London Stadium, with rock legends like the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen whetting fans’ appetites. Concerts sell out fast, so act quick to live out your rockstar fantasies to pounding drums and wailing guitars under the open sky. Thank the concert gods these stages are massive - with over 60,000 concertgoers singing along fanatically, you’ll cherish the space during mega hits.
Hyde Park also hosts popular concerts, with acts like Elton John, Pearl Jam and Bon Jovi slated for summer 2024. Pack a picnic blanket and refreshments to lounge under sunny skies between soulful ballads. When your favorite power chords strike up, though, be prepared to jump to your feet for singalongs and elbow-to-elbow excitement. These outdoor shows have a joyous, communal vibe that will leave you grinning for days.
To keep costs down during your London summer holiday, plan to shop the season’s peak sales. With temperatures rising, stores slash prices on swimwear, sundresses, sandals and warm-weather wardrobe essentials. Look for discounts starting in late June and extending through July, especially around the middle of the month. Some of the biggest savings land on athletic clothing and outdoor gear meant for spring and autumn weather. So even if an item seems out of season, snap it up for next year.
FT Globetrotter’s month-by-month guide to what’s happening:Experience London Month-by-Month: The 2024 Globetrotter's Guide to the UK's Cosmopolitan Capital - August Bank Holiday: Notting Hill Carnival and More
Come August, Londoners celebrate their vibrant communities and cultures with abandon at the world-famous Notting Hill Carnival. For two days every August Bank Holiday weekend, the streets of Notting Hill come alive in an explosion of music, mouth-watering food, dazzling costumes and pure fun. Having experienced it myself, I can attest it’s an absolute must-do for anyone visiting London in late summer.
At its core, Carnival celebrates West Indian traditions and commemorates the rich history of the local Afro-Caribbean community. What began as a street festival in 1966 has morphed into Europe's biggest street party, attracting over 2 million revelers annually. The infectious energy and vibrant artistic displays will stay with you long after the last float winds out of sight.
Arrive early to nab a good vantage spot as the Parade of Bands kicks off Sunday and Monday afternoons. You’ll hear its approach as thunderous soca and calypso music precedes an endless procession of masquerade bands bedecked in feathers, sequins and barely-there costumes. Whistles trill and hips sway to sultry rhythms as elaborately dressed dancers whoop with joy. Bedazzled by so much movement and eye-popping color, you can’t help but shimmy and smile along.
When the last float drifts by, plunge into the teeming crowds following the music. Sound systems set up on street corners pulse with reggae, dub, dancehall and jungle beats, fueling impromptu dance parties. Seductive soca songs blare from jerk chicken stalls wafting spicy, smoky scents. Every narrow street offers an explosion of song and culture to stimulate the senses.
Costumed dancers in gravity-defying plumage pose for photos and teach you moves. Children squeal as they get their faces or hair beaded in the spirit of Carnival. When pure euphoria takes over, join in a “wine down” as bodies intertwine and wind sensuously to sultry soca. Releasing your inhibitions here is practically obligatory!
With rum punch lubricating the rhythmic revelry, Monday’s Children’s Parade makes a touching contrast. Seeing teens in Carnival garb dancing proudly, one grasps this celebration’s role in cultural identity. By nightfall, crowds soar to heavenly highs dancing to mighty sound systems.