The British autumn is a beautiful season not only in London, but in the whole of the UK. As leaves change from green to golden and red in between late September and early November, autumn shrubs come to life and everything from fashion to food changes to accommodate the cooler weather and prepare for winter. Here are 17 things you just can’t miss when you visit London this autumn:
1. Visit a London Park or Common
To fully understand the changes autumn brings, pick a crisp day – sunny, cool but dry – dress in something warmish and have a wander in one of the many parks or commons in London.
Visit Hyde Park and the neighboring Kensington Gardens and you will walk past Lady Diana’s former home – Kensington Palace, the Serpentine Gallery and The Albert Memorial. The Serpentine Gallery also offers free exhibitions until late November, so it’s definitely worth a look even if you are not an art lover.
If you fancy something a little different, visit the Kyoto Gardens at Holland Park. Designed by a famous Japanese garden designer as a gift, Kyoto Gardens sports the most dramatic and majestic colours during autumn. Add the water feature and koi carp and you will feel like you are in a Japanese film!
If you are feeling brave, you can take The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk. The seven-mile-long walk will take you through Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and St James’s Park, showcasing the best of each park and celebrating locations associated with the Princess during her life.
Address: Hyde Park, London
Nearest Tube station: Queensway, Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch or Knightsbridge
Opening hours: Park – 5am to midnight, Serpentine Gallery – 10am to 6pm
More information: https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park
Address: Kyoto Gardens, Holland Park, London
Nearest Tube station: Holland Park
Opening hours: 7am to half an hour before dusk.
More information: http://www.greatbritishgardens.co.uk/england/item/holland-park.html
2. Have Afternoon Tea
Time your walk in the park well (suggestion #1) and you can finish it off with the all-famous afternoon tea. There are several places in London that accommodate this centuries-old English tradition, from smaller tea rooms to famous hotels, and it could cost you anything from £20 to £80.
If what you are after is a traditional classy affair, we would highly recommend the afternoon tea at The Ritz Hotel. For panoramic views of London, try the one at Oblix Restaurant at The Shard. Otherwise, you only need to Google afternoon tea in your area of London to take your pick.
It’s important to book this event early in your visit and to observe the dress code for the venue you are attending, as the most popular locations can be fully booked up to a month in advance and having tea in any of the famous spots will require you to dress up for the occasion. After all, afternoon tea has always been a high class affair.
Address: The Ritz Hotel, 150 Piccadilly, London W1J 9BR
Nearest Tube station: Green Park
Prices: £54 per person or £71 for champagne afternoon tea
Served at: Daily at set sittings times
More information: https://www.theritzlondon.com/dine-with-us/afternoon-tea/
Address: Oblix, The Shard, 32 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9SG
Nearest Tube station: London Bridge
Prices: £38 per person or £48 with glass of champagne or cocktail
Served at: Monday – Friday 12pm to 3.30pm, Saturday – Sunday 2.45pm to 4.30pm
More information: https://www.oblixrestaurant.com/menus/afternoon-tea
3. Learn about The Great Fire of London
In September of 1666 London was struck by one of its greatest tragedies – The Great Fire of London. It lasted just under 5 days, but by the end of it one-third of London was destroyed. Without firefighters, Londoners had to fight the fire themselves. Learn what happened, how the city coped and what followed such a disaster at the Museum of London. And why you are there, why not learn more about the city and its residents? There are some great exhibitions on display.
Address: Museum of London, 150 London Wall, London EC2Y 5HN
Nearest Tube station: Barbican or St Paul’s
Opening times: 10am to 6pm
More information: Museum of London – The Great Fire of London 1666
Trafalgar Square Multicultural Events
Every year the Mayor of London celebrates London’s multiculturalism with several cultural events in Trafalgar Square. This autumn it celebrates Japan Matsuri on the 24th of September, Africa on the Square on the 15th of October and the Diwali Festival the day after on the 16th. A brilliant opportunity to sample another culture and try something new. And the best? Admission is free!
Address: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
Nearest Tube station: Charing Cross
Admission: Free event
4. Japan Matsuri (24th September)
Japan Matsuri celebrates Japanese culture with live music, art workshops, martial arts demonstrations and a tasty food market.
Opening Hours: 10am to 8pm
More information: https://www.london.gov.uk/events/2017-09-24/japan-matsuri-2017
5. African on the Square (14th October)
Africa on the Square celebrates African art and culture with music, a market, food stalls, fashion shows and a lot of other fun activities, all part of London’s support for Black History Month.
Opening Hours: midday to 6pm
More information: https://www.london.gov.uk/events/2017-10-14/africa-square-2017
6. Diwali Festival (15th October)
The Diwali Festival commemorates the Hindus’, Sikhs’ and Jains’ festival of light. Diwali celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and essentially hope, new beginnings and renewal. Trafalgar Square’s version is a combination of performances, music, food and art.
Opening Hours: 1pm to 7pm
More information: https://www.london.gov.uk/events/2017-10-15/diwali-festival-2017
7. Bonfire Night at Hampstead Heath (4th – 5th November)
Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night is a British tradition celebrating the failed Gunpowder Plot to set ablaze the Houses of Parliament and kill King James I in 1605. All over the UK the date is marked by setting the sky alight with fireworks.
In London, several public events take place in many of the London parks as well as private events, some with free admission, some ticketed, but the best way to really catch the action is to watch it from a high vantage point where you are able to see several fireworks going off at once. Hampstead Heath is one of the highest places in London and although the park itself is not organising a Bonfire party, from Parliament Hill you not only have stunning panoramic views of the city, but you will also be able to watch any firework display going on across the skyline.
The park is open 24 hours, however, fires and barbecues are not allowed and anyone exhibiting disorderly behaviour will be asked to leave the park. This is really a place to take a little picnic, admire the beautiful skyline and watch all the fireworks, then pack up and go for a drink somewhere warm. As Hampstead Heath is also quite large, we would definitely recommend you stay safe and download the map of the park before paying it a visit after sundown.
Address: Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath Park, Camden, London
Nearest Tube station: Kentish Town
Opening times: Open 24 hours
More information: http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/hampstead-heath/visitor-information/Pages/default.aspx
8. Remembrance Sunday in London (12th November)
One of the most beautiful and contemplative ceremonies celebrated in London, Remembrance Day takes a moment to remember all British and Commonwealth fallen soldiers and vows not to forget their sacrifice.
Concerts, church services and commemorative events take place all over the city, but the highlight is the Cenotaph Service and Parade in Whitehall, which is attended by Her Majesty the Queen as well as politicians and military representatives. This service includes a march from Wellington Barracks to the Cenotaph and two minutes’ silence in remembrance of the fallen.
It’s customary to wear a commemorative red poppy pinned to your outer clothing as a token of remembrance and support for The Royal British Legion. The streets will be busy with people watching the parade, so arrive early for a good view.
Address: The Cenotaph, Whitehall, London SW1A 2ET
Nearest Tube station: Westminster or Charing Cross
Opening times: 9am to midday (11:00 two minutes silence)
More information: The Royal British Legion – Remembrance Sunday 2017 Event
London Events In September…
9. Totally Thames Festival (1st – 30th September)
Totally Thames is a month-long festival including arts, community events, environmental activities, river races and archaeology all centred around London’s famous river. This year there are over 120 events from exhibitions to hands-on activities, some of them are even free! Check the Totally Thames’ what’s on guide and get involved!
Address: Various locations on the banks of the River Thames
Nearest Tube station: Depends on the event you choose to attend
Admission: Free and ticketed events
Opening times: Various times of the day
More information: http://totallythames.org/whats-on/current
10. London Design Festival 2016 (16th – 24th September)
If you are arty or in the design industry in any shape or form, this is for you. London Design Festival is one of the world’s most important annual design events and it will combine over 300 exhibitions, talks, lectures, workshops as well as creative parties, covering anything from dress making to architecture. Pick your poison and get stuck in!
Address: Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum, Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL (please note not all events happen at the V&A, but it’s the central hub venue and point of call for the festival)
Nearest Tube station: South Kensington
Tickets: Free and ticketed events
Times: Various times of the day depending on event
More information: http://www.londondesignfestival.com/home
11. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (27th September – 28th October)
A visit to London would not be complete without a trip to the theatre. London is home to world-famous plays as well as smaller independent performances, but our highlight for autumn just has to be the Royal Ballet’s performance of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The main stage at the Opera House itself is worth the visit! A truly magical performance bringing the famous story to life.
Address: The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9DD
Nearest Tube station: Covent Garden or Holborn
Tickets: From £6 -£125
Opening Hours: Various times depending on date
More information: http://www.roh.org.uk/productions/alices-adventures-in-wonderland-by-christopher-wheeldon
What’s On in London in October…
12. BFI London Film Festival (4th – 15th October)
This is any film lover’s dream! 12 days filled with 242 features from 67 countries. As well as the usual red carpet galas, there will also be several film screenings all over the capital and a full programme of events.
Tickets sell out quickly so you will need to get yours early. Alternatively, you can try your luck at the doors of the event you wish to attend. Return tickets will go on sale 30 minutes before each event, but please note these events are very popular and it’s not guaranteed you will get tickets at the door. Having said all this, even if you are unable to attend any of the screenings or galas, there will still be plenty of commotion in places like Leicester Square – the home of red carpet premieres – so you can still be part of the action.
Address: Different cinemas across London, depending on the screening
Nearest Tube station: Depends on what event you are attending
Tickets: £12.95 to £40 per adult, concession tickets available
Opening Hours: Various times throughout the day and evening
Full programme: BFI London Film Festival events programme
More information: BFI London Film Festival 2017 homepage
13. Erdinger Oktoberfest London (5th – 22nd October)
German brewery Erdinger Weissbier is landing in London from the 5th to the 22nd of October to offer visitors and londoners a true German Oktoberfest experience. Think food, music, entertainment, German waitresses and, of course, a lot of beer. A must if you are a beer lover or just want to try something different.
Address: Greenwich Peninsula, Tunnel Avenue, Greenwich, London SE10
Nearest Tube station: North Greenwich
Tickets: £5 – £187.50
Opening Hours: Wednesday – Thursday 5pm to 11pm, Friday – Saturday 11am to 11pm
More information: http://erdinger-oktoberfest.co.uk/
14. London Literature Festival (13th October – 1st November)
If books are more your thing, then you should not miss the London Literature Festival at the Southbank Centre. Think readings, signings, talks and all the good stuff that comes with a Lit Fest.
This year, the festival celebrates the 50th anniversary of Poetry International and explores how literature and poetry can remind us of our shared humanity in a world on the brink. Even Hillary Clinton is making an appearance! While at Southbank, you will also be right next door to some of London’s main attractions, including the London Eye, the London Aquarium, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.
Address: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX
Nearest Tube station: Waterloo or Embankment
Tickets: Free and ticketed events
Opening Hours: Southbank Centre – 10am to 11pm
More information: https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/festivals-series/london-literature-festival
15. Secret Halloween Balls (28th October)
There will be plenty happening in London for Halloween, but in our humble opinion, it couldn’t get more exciting than a secret party where the location is kept under wraps until just before the event.
The Mansion London’s Halloween Ball will include two dancefloors, live performances and entertainment, as well as a cemetery tour for the bold and brave. The Candlelight Club is a group of 1920s aficionados who love throwing secret candlelight parties all year round. Their Halloween Party will, of course, be 1920s themed, happen by candlelight and include a lot of jazz and entertainment. If you want to make it a big event, you can also book a table and have dinner.
Address: Secret location
The Mansion London Halloween Ball (28th October)
Opening Hours: 9pm to 3am
More information: http://www.themansionlondon.com/next-event
The Candlelight Club Halloween Ball (28th October)
Tickets: £30 admission only, table and dinner tickets available
Opening Hours: 7pm to midnight
More information: http://www.thecandlelightclub.com/
Things to do in London in November…
16. Lord Mayor’s Day (11th November)
The Lord Mayor’s Show is a London tradition that started in 1215 when King John tried to win Londoners over by allowing them to elect their own Mayor. The Mayor, however, had to leave the City of London and travel up the River Thames to Westminster, where he was to swear loyalty to the Crown. Over the centuries this procession lost its meaning and became just a celebration. Today it is bigger than ever and it closes with a big fireworks display near Waterloo Bridge.
Address: Various points in between the City of London and Westminster, see event guide and map
Nearest Tube station: See event map or download phone app
Tickets: Free or you can purchase tickets for the Grandstand near St Paul’s for £39
Opening Hours: 9am to 6.30pm
More information: https://lordmayorsshow.london/
17. Black Friday (24th November)
While this is mostly an American tradition, the massive sale day has made its way across the pond. In the UK, this is mostly celebrated online, but you do find high-street retailers now participating on the discount bonanza, although not as outrageously as their American counterparts. So if you are on the hunt for a shopping bargain, it’s always worth heading to Oxford Street – the mecca of high-street brands – to bag yourself a good discount.
Address: Oxford Street, London
Nearest Tube station: Covent Garden or Holborn
Tickets: Free (not including any shopping you do!)
Opening Hours: 9am – 6pm (different retailers could have extended hours for Black Friday)
More information: http://oxfordstreet.co.uk/