Britain’s capital is a captivating mix of history and culture year-round, and as such, there’s no best time to visit London. Caressed by the warming gulf stream, it experiences mild temperatures for its latitude – further north than Vancouver in Canada. Dodging a shower or two is a rite of passage for visitors to London, and even in the depths of winter daytime temperatures rarely fall below freezing.
Each season shows another side to this constantly evolving metropolis of over nine million people. The crisp spring air brings out vast banks of flowering plants in the gardens of Kew and Hampton Court Palace, whilst summer is packed full of outdoor events. Fall’s changing weather makes a great excuse to explore London’s food scene, whilst winter encompasses Christmas, New Year and Valentine’s Day celebrations.
What’s the weather like in London in spring?
Roughly coinciding with the period from late March through to late May, spring in London sees a new found sense of momentum hit the capital’s streets. Temperatures may not have reached their peak, averaging 13 – 17°C, but the move to British Summer Time lengthens days and the city’s famed rainfall is no greater than at any other time of year.
Things to do in London in spring
London’s green spaces come back to life with a flourish in spring. Woodland bluebells and parkland daffodils erupt from the very beginning of March, with the cherry blossom of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and Greenwich Park following closely behind in April.
May then sees the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea – a nursing home for military veterans – taken over by the show gardens of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The world’s most prestigious horticultural event, it’s visited by everyone who’s anyone, including the royals.
Don’t despair if umbrellas are the order of the day, there’s always the covered Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street, better known as the Walkie-Talkie building. When it comes to new life of the animal variety, look no further than ZSL London Zoo, the world’s oldest scientific zoo and a vital cog in active breeding programs for animals as diverse as gorillas to Galapagos tortoises.
Typical weather in London in summer
Historically, the summer months have been considered the best time to visit London as they give the greatest guarantee of good weather. This is the time of year when riverside restaurant terraces and rooftop bars come into their own.
July is the hottest month of the year, with temperatures averaging a pleasant 22°C and headline writers going into overdrive should the mercury creep anywhere near 30°C. July is also a month of long, warm evenings doused in natural light until 10PM. The drawback is that humidity can become a factor, and you might want to swap the Tube for an open-top hop-on hop-off bus.
Things to do in London in summer
London in June, July and August is the time of outdoor festivals, from Trooping the Colour to the Notting Hill Carnival. The Queen’s official birthday celebrations, Trooping the Colour takes place on Horse Guards Parade in St James’ Park. Attended by the nation’s movers and shakers, it’s a Changing of the Guard on steroids, and sees the capital at its most majestic.
Bridging the last days of June and first days of July, the leafy suburb of Wimbledon in southwest London takes center stage by playing host to possibly the world’s most coveted tennis competition. The Wimbledon Championships sees London go tennis crazy, with public screens popping up across the capital. But there’s nothing quite like being at the All England Club, whether with a grounds pass or on one of the show courts.
Neatly wrapping up the London summer is the Notting Hill Carnival, spread across two days during the late summer public holiday. One of the world’s largest street carnivals, it traces its history back to the West Indian population that settled the area in the 1950s and 60s, and has become a much-loved part of the capital’s calendar.
London weather in fall
The steady fall in temperatures – to a daily average of 15°C in October and 10°C in November – means a warm coat is the order of the day. On the plus side, London’s thoroughfares adopt a mellower vibe with the steady fall of conkers from the capital’s horse chestnut trees.
Stroll through Hyde Park, and as well as Wellington Arch and Kensington Palace you’ll find children and adults alike picking up particularly fine specimens of this inedible nut, since it holds a special place in the hearts of anyone who grew up in London.
Things to do in London in fall
The start of fall coincides with the Open House Festival, where usually private addresses are opened to the public. If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the black door of the Prime Minister’s official residence at 10 Downing Street, or want to see where Phileas Fogg set off to go around the world in 80 Days in the Jules Verne classic, then this is the London fall event you won’t want to miss.
Whilst Halloween is making headway in the capital, it’s still Guy Fawkes’ Night (Bonfire Night) five days later that takes the fall crown. Marked by backyard bonfires and public firework displays equal to anything on Independence Day in the US, it commemorates the foiling of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament over 400 years ago.
But Guy Fawkes’ Night isn’t even the oldest event to take place in London in fall. This honor goes to the Lord Mayor’s Show in the City of London, the historic ‘square mile’ bounded by the Tower of London, Temple Church (from Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code), the Barbican arts center, and the north bank of the River Thames.
Riding in a glittering state coach the new Lord Mayor is welcomed to the city with a procession of cheerleaders, drummers, brass bands and costumed performers from around the world celebrating the capital’s diversity in an event dating to the 13th Century.
London in winter
Rarely does the London winter weather put too great a damper on the festive season. Temperatures generally hover around 3°C, so snow and any resulting disruption is rare. Outside of the Christmas period, winter is the cheapest time to visit London, although there’s still plenty to keep visitors enthralled and even now crowds aren’t unheard of.
Things to do in winter in London
Leading up to Christmas, major shopping areas like Oxford Street and Stratford’s Westfield shopping mall are filled with cheer. The city’s main roads are draped with Christmas lights, whilst stores do all they can to tempt shoppers through their doors with attractive window displays.
A few short days later, London comes alive once more for its New Year’s Eve fireworks. Centered on the London Eye, the UK’s largest fireworks display contains some 12,000 individual fireworks in a display triggered by the ‘bongs’ of Big Ben. Needless to say, the revelry continues until the early hours.
For those with romance in mind, the best month to visit London has to be February. The capital’s hotels and restaurants pull out all the stops to make any Valentine’s Day stay extra special, with a traditional British afternoon tea a great way to get things started.
You then might consider taking in a show at the Southbank Centre, float along the Thames on a river cruise, or capture the sunset from The View from The Shard panoramic observation deck.