London is famous for being the most visited city in the world and for attracting tourists from absolutely every corner of the earth.
And why wouldn’t it be so given the multitude of places that anyone should see at least once in their lifetime, the numerous historical and cultural landmarks and, even more than that, the incredibly diverse list of events that are organized here every year.
From music and film festivals, to major sport events or to extraordinary flower shows, London will always have something for the tourists who want to share its spectacular city spirit.
Here are some of the most popular annual events in London.
1. New Year’s Eve & New Year’s Day Parade
- When: 31st & 1st January.
- Location: Streets of London.
Like most cities, London finishes the year with spectacular fireworks at night, lighting up the skies above popular landmarks like the London Eye, Big Ben and Tower of London.
Fireworks will shoot into the sky all along River Thames.
Most visitors will find viewing spots along the river so you’ll need to find a spot very early of course.
The next day, New Year’s Day Parade runs through the streets of London.
The Parade was first organized in 1987, when it was called Lord Mayor of Westminster’s Big Parade.
It has a well established path: starting from Ritz Hotel and continues to Piccadilly, Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street, Pall Mall, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and Parliament Square.
The biggest event of this kind in the world, the London Parade attracts millions of participants every year and they only have to pay for a ticket if they want to sit near the start and end of the Parade.
The New Year’s Day Parade has donated a lot from the money raised to certain charitable organizations.
- When: December
- Location: Everywhere in London
Christmas is one of the happiest times of the year around in London as everyone prepare for short holidays and celebrations.
Streets are filled with decorations and lit up at night with towering Christmas trees.
Markets spring up in various locations including Covent Garden, Southbank, Hyde Park and London Bridge area.
Places not to be missed at night , include the London Eye, and Natural History Museum ice rink.
3. London Marathon
- When: April.
- Location: Red start – Greenwich Park; Green start – St John’s Park; Blue start – Shooter’s Hill.
The London Marathon, London’s biggest event of long distance running, is organized every spring, in April most commonly.
Founded in 1981 by the former Olympic champion Chris Brasher and athlete John Disley, the Marathon attracts today more than thirty million professional and amateur runners.
The event is so popular worldwide that, every year, more than half a million visitors line the route to observe the marathon, but also to cheer and encourage the runners.
Beginning at three different starting points (the Red Start – Greenwich Park, the Green Start – St John’s Park and the Blue Start – Shooter’s Hill Road), the marathon spans more than forty thousand kilometers and it passes near some of the most important landmarks of the city.
4. The Boat Race
- When: First week of April
- Location: River Thames; Start – Putney Bridge; End – Barnes Railway Bridge & Chiswick Bridge
The popular rowing race between the students of United Kingdom’s most famous universities (the Oxford University Boat Club and the Cambridge University Boat Club) takes place every first week of April and is commonly known as The Boat Race.
With each team having a distinctive shade of blue (Oxford – dark blue and Cambridge – light blue), the Boat Race became a landmark in the British sporting history, attracting every year thousands of visitors that want to be part of this exciting event.
The race takes place on the River Thames and covers almost seven thousand kilometers, starting from Putney Bridge, passing various traditional landmarks and ending near Barnes Railway Bridge and Chiswick Bridge.
With an enormous international audience, the Boat Race became the reason why many tourists choose April as the perfect time to visit London.
5. London Book Fair
- When: April
- Location: Earls Court Exhibition Centre.
First organized in 1971 as The Specialist Publishers Exhibition for Librarians by librarian Lionel Leventhal, the Book Fair, after proving to have such a success among the public, became a London annual event.
Basically being a book-publishing trade fair, the event attracts thousands of visitors every year who want to be part in the celebration of creativity and the written word.
Each year, the Book Fair focuses on the publishing industry of a specific country or region (some that have already been in the spotlight are South Africa, Russia, India, China, South Korea, Turkey and the Arab world).
6. Chelsea Flower Show
- When: May.
- Location: Royal Hospital Chelsea.
One of the most famous flower shows in the world in May, Chelsea Flower Show, attracts visitors from everywhere around the world to Royal Hospital Chelsea, the place where it is organized.
First held in 1862, the flower show was originally known as the Royal Horticultural Society Great Spring Show. C
helsea Flower Show is the perfect place where professional plant breeders can present their new accomplishments, always awarding the best gardens and exhibits of flowers, trees, vegetables and floral arrangements.
The show also attracts many admirers of the natural beauty who can watch the competition and buy some of the products that are for sale.
7. Trooping the Colour
- When: June.
- Location: Horse Guards Parade; St. James’ Park.
Organized annually on a Saturday in June on Horse Guards Parade in Central London, Trooping the Colour is a famous British ceremony with a tradition that dates back to the 17th century.
Also known as The Queen’s Birthday Parade, the ceremony is broadcast live by the BBC and has a big international audience, being watched by millions from around the globe.
On the whole, the ceremony consists of two major moments: the actual trooping of the colors, when the flags of the battalion are passed down the ranks of soldiers, and the Queen’s royal salute and inspection of her troops.
The wonderful music provided by almost four hundred artists helps to build a unique atmosphere that makes each participant feel as being part of an ancient ritual.
If you’re not in London during June, don’t worry.
The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is just as good.
8. The Proms
- When: August
- Location: Royal Albert Hall
Probably the most famous cultural event in London, the Proms – or The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, takes place annually, during summer, in the Royal Albert Hall, South Kensington.
First organized by Robert Newman in 1895, The Proms have become a tradition in the world of British classical concerts and orchestral music.
Lasting eight weeks every summer, The Proms include daily concerts and music events.
The impressive orchestras and the wonderful conductors make the audience enter the world of Beethoven, Mozart, Walton, Wagner or Strauss, but also include reinterpretations of famous pop soundtracks.
The best moment of the concert series is definitely the Grand Finale – The Last Night of the Proms.
9. Carnaval del Pueblo
- When: First week of August
- Location: Burgess Park
Organized yearly in London in the first week of August, Carnaval Del Pueblo is the largest event in Europe that celebrates Latin American culture and tradition.
Including the cultural heritage of nineteen Latin American countries, the celebration can attract over one hundred thousand visitors to Burgess Park.
By promoting each and every aspect of the vibrant and dynamic Latin American culture (from language to gastronomy, music, dance and literature), El Carnaval actively involves the participants through traditional dance lessons, classes, and various shows and group activities.
10. Notting Hill Carnival
- When: August, (the weekend before the August bank holiday Monday).
- Location: Notting Hill.
Organized every year since 1966, Notting Hill Carnival is a colorful celebration of the Caribbean history, culture and tradition.
Originally intended to raise people’s awareness in regards to the poor social conditions of the West Indian community in London, the festival has become an important aspect of the British cultural life, despite its tumultuous history.
Notting Hill Carnival has attracted millions of participants over the years and includes a various range of activities dedicated to persons of all ages and cultural backgrounds.
The Carnival is a great way to forget about the daily worries by entering the amazing atmosphere created by the bright-colored costumes, the traditional music and the wonderful aromas of Caribbean food.
11. London Film Festival
- When: The second half of October.
- Location: BFI Southbank
Organized annually in the second half of October by British Film Institute, London Film Festival has become an essential part of the British cultural life.
The idea of a Film Festival was first introduced in 1953 and soon became the largest film event in the United Kingdom, screening more than three hundred films and documentaries from more than fifty nations.
The festival celebrates the creativity, imagination and originality of the film producers, offering awards for the best production of each category.
The public is actively involved in a series of events, classes, lectures and Q&A sessions where they can find out more about their favorite film.
12. Lord Mayor’s Show
- When: 29th October
- Location: City of London
Lord Mayor’s Show is one of the biggest annual events in London, with a tradition dating back to the 16th century.
Officially known as The Procession to the Royal Courts of Justice and Presentation of the Lord Mayor to the Chief Justices, the annual Show is one of the favorite forms of entertainment for Londoners in particular, and for the whole English population in general.
Organized as a procession from Guildhall, Mansion House, St Paul’s Cathedral, to the Royal Courts of Justice, the Lord Mayor’s Show marks the oath of allegiance to the Crown trough a wonderful fireworks display, music, dance and other exciting activities.
Usually, the tickets are released in June and, until the 29th of October, when the Show takes place, and are generally sold out.
- When: Usually last week of June and first week of July
- Location: All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
The most famous tennis tournament in the whole world, The Wimbledon Championships, is organized annually in London as part of the four Grand Slam tennis competitions (the others being Roland Garros, the US Open and the Australian Open).
Throughout two weeks, usually in June or July, each and every Londoner watches, thinks and breathes tennis.
Besides the fact that it is the oldest tennis championship, dating back to the second half of the nineteen century, Wimbledon also differentiates itself from the other famous tournaments with the well-known traditions that are kept every year in Wimbledon’s Centre Court: the Royal patronage, the strawberries with cream snacks and the dress code for competitors.
14. London Fashion Week
- When: February and September.
- Location: Somerset House.
London Fashion Week was inaugurated in 1984 and it is one of the most famous fashion events in the world (together with the ones organized, in the same way, in New York, Milan and Paris – the Big Four in fashion, as they are called).
Organised every February and September by the British Fashion Council, London Fashion Week is an extremely popular event for designers.
This major fashion event is a great opportunity for designers to present their latest innovative collections and for the public to look at new trends for the next season.
15. Bonfire Night
- When: 5th November.
- Location: Throughout all London’s neighborhoods.
Bonfire Night is an annual celebration that is held in various regions of the world, dating back to different traditions and customs.
In the United Kingdom, Bonfire Night is held on the fifth of November, the day when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the House of Parliament with the intention of killing King James I.
Thus, Bonfire Night in London is a celebration of this soldier’s failure.
The original one-night festivity usually spreads over a whole weekend, attracting visitors with the customary bonfire toffee, candy apple, black peas or the Catherine Wheel biscuits that can be served while watching the spectacular fireworks display.
16. Ideal Home Show
- When: March.
- Location: Earls Court Exhibition Centre.
The first Ideal Home Show was organized by the Daily Mail in 1908 at Olympia Exhibition Centre.
In fact, Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition is how it was originally known.
Through various competitions, the Exhibition encouraged designers in England to let their creativity and skillfulness contribute to the formation of anything that would be necessary in the Ideal House.
Today, the Ideal Home Show is a major London event, attracting large numbers of buyers or simple visitors.
17. City of London Festival
- When: June or July
- Location: Throughout the entire City of London. Most notable venues are: St. Paul’s Cathedral, Liverpool Street Station and Guildhall Yard.
The City of London Festival is another popular annual event among Londoners of all ages.
The Festival, which is usually organized to last two or three weeks in June or July, includes a large number of activities, shows, concerts, exhibits and city tours that are mostly centered around the history of music, dance, opera, cinematography, literature and various aspects of the political, economical and social life.
Most parts of the event are held in the open air, in parks, gardens or city squares, but also in such places as St Paul’s Cathedral or Livery Company Halls.
18. Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
- When: Early July.
- Location: Hampton Court Palace
Although not very old in the historical culture of London (the first one being held in 1990), the Hampton Court Palace Show has grown in popularity rapidly over the years.
Run by the Royal Horticultural Society, The Flower Show is organized during the last days of July and it is situated, as the name tells us, at Hampton Court Palace.
With innovative elements every year, the Flower Show attracts large numbers of visitors with the amazing expositions and activities centered on the issues of the natural world and environment.
19. London Festival of Architecture
- When: Throughout the month of June.
- Common London locations: Design Museum, Serpentine Galleries, and Royal Academy of Arts.
Originally called London Architecture Biennale, London Festival of Architecture has a tradition as an annual London event since 2013, although it was first held in 2004.
It is organized by several cultural institutions, such as the British Council, Royal Institute of British Architects, New London Architecture and The Architecture Foundation.
The Festival has the purpose of presenting the latest innovations in architecture and design.
With the numerous exhibitions, open debates, shows, tours and various activities, the Festival attracts engineers, artists, architects, and designers from all over Europe.
20. London Motorexpo
- When: June
- Location: Canary Wharf
As any other traditional motor exhibitions, Motorexpo was created around the idea of letting people keep informed with the latest news and innovations about cars.
The biggest annual event of this kind that is free to visit, Motorexpo attracts important manufacturers, retailers, and also many interested visitors.
The motor show is organized in Canary Wharf in the London Docklands.
Among the most famous car models that were launched here are BMW X6, Breckland Beira V8 and Mercedes-Benz E-Cabriolet.
The Best Months to Visit
If you’re heading to London and want to be part of one of its amazing events, the best months to visit are March and June.
These are the months with the most events, so you will surely not get bored around those times of the year.
January, April (Easter), May, August, October and December (with Christmas) also have their share of beautiful and interesting events but if you prefer more quiet periods, try February, late July, September and November.