March is a good time to head to London's parks
Ian Packham

Why London in May is a secret worth sharing

Whisper it quietly – London in May feels a lot like the more popular summer months to come. Daylight hours stretch from 5:30AM until 8:30PM, temperatures nudge towards 20°C, and rain showers seem to lessen by the day.

It means May in London is all about getting outside. Visit the likes of Borough Market and you’ll soon have more than enough goodies for a picnic in a Royal Park. Then cruise along the Thames for picturesque scenes of London’s historic skyline or meet the residents of London Zoo in their outdoor paddocks. These are just some of the great al fresco attractions that await visitors to the British capital in May.

Wild beasts (and where to see them)

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Choose to stay in southwest London and you may be a little early for Wimbledon fortnight but you will have the chance to soak up the sun in Richmond Park thanks to the improving weather in London in May.

The largest of London’s parks at 1000 hectares and a Site of Special Scientific Interest to boot, this former royal hunting ground still provides a habitat for several hundred fallow deer whilst King Henry’s Mound offers vistas reaching St Paul’s Cathedral.

But it’s fashionable Chelsea that's the center of attention in May, when the Chelsea Flower Show takes over the grounds of the borough’s Royal Hospital – a home for military veterans. An annual event par excellence since 1912, attracting senior royals and a smorgasbord of A-list celebrities, this is much more than a garden show, occupying hours of television and pages of newspaper coverage.

Further north, Regent’s Park is home to animals as diverse as penguins and tigers, being the site of ZSL London Zoo. A filming location in the first Harry Potter movie and a major conservation project, the zoo looks after around 20,000 animals, from leaf-cutter ants to less numerous pygmy hippos.

All the world’s a stage

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The zoo isn’t the only reason to visit Regent’s Park, whose Open Air Theater kicks off its season of performances as the calendar hits May. Amphitheater style in form, weather conditions mean no performance is the same twice for the 1240 audience members who’ve come to enjoy the show.

The South Bank’s Globe Theater also sees its actors hit the reproduction Elizabethan stage come May, though if you don’t make it to a performance of Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet, it’s still possible to head behind the scenes with a Globe Theater Tour.

Don’t forget that London is home to the West End, perhaps second only to New York’s Broadway for the quality of its shows. Its 38 theaters are packed out on a nightly basis with the latest in musicals, comedies and plays, whilst Hollywood blockbusters can be enjoyed in the comfort of the Curzon Soho Cinema.

Explore London’s top shopping destinations

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Dating back to at least 1276, Borough Market would have been known to Shakespeare and his troupe of actors, albeit in a slightly different form than the market takes today. Back then, and until the early 2000s, it served as a wholesale and retail vegetable market. It was then transformed to become a hub for curries rather than carrots and top-notch pies rather than pineapples as the street food craze took hold.

Combining everything from food stalls to antiques and bric-a-brac, Portobello Road offers something different each day of the week (excluding Sundays when traders are given the day off but the stores lining the street are still open). The main day for antiques is Saturday, when a bit of friendly haggling may well get you that souvenir of your trip for a bargain price.

The other big name in shopping has to be Oxford Street. This broad central London thoroughfare will be able to scratch any shopping itch, since there’s around 300 stores including most of the big names and a fair few flagship stores too.

Discovery the importance of sea power to British history

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Say ‘flagship’ to a sailor and they’ll probably point you in the direction of HMS Belfast, the Royal Navy’s command vessel for the D Day landings in World War Two. Now a museum ship moored between London and Tower Bridge, visitors are able to explore nine decks to discover what life was like on the high seas in peace and war time.

Belfast is just one of a series of things to do in London in May visible on Thames City Cruises alongside the Houses of Parliament, London Eye and Tate Modern. Four piers dotted along the river allow you to hop-on and hop-off as you choose, with the full journey occupying the historic stretch of the river from Westminster Pier to Greenwich, a part of London bursting with attractions.

Among them are the Royal Observatory and Greenwich Meridian, from where the world takes its timings. The orange ball on the top of the observatory continues to drop at precisely 1PM each day, connected to an atomic clock – the most accurate timepieces in existence.

But the naval links don’t stop there. As well as the scientific treasures awaiting in the National Maritime Museum, including objects used by Captain Cook in his ‘discovery’ of Australia, visitors to Greenwich can also step aboard the fastest tea clipper that ever set sail – the Cutty Sark. Compare the life of sailors onboard to that of HMS Belfast built just 70 years later, or soak in the atmosphere with a traditional afternoon tea in sublime surroundings.

Unleash the secret of London in May!

Thanks to relatively stable weather conditions you won’t have to worry too much about what to wear in London in May. Instead, you can concentrate on enjoying all that London has to offer. Travel with Go City, and you’ll also have the peace of mind of knowing you’re getting substantial savings on admission compared to turning up at ticket gates on the day!

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