London is gorgeous any time of year, but we especially like it in autumn. Blue skies, less crowded than summer, it's the perfect time to explore.
NB: As we've learned this year, things are very prone to change and cancellation right now due to the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic, so if you're reading this in 2020, please be sure to Google any of the events listed above to see what is happening. If you're reading this in 2021, hopefully things are back to normal!
Here are our top picks for what to do in Autumnal London:
· Go for a leafy walk. We have a whole blog about the best places to see autumn colours and crunch through leaves HERE
· Celebrate November 5th with a bang at one of London’s many spectacular firework displays. Bonfire Night remembers Guy Fawkes’ foiled plot to blow up King James I and the Houses of Parliament in 1605. Our favourites are Ealing Cricket Club, Royal Docks in Newham, Alexandra Palace and Battersea Park but there will be displays all over the City. Be sure to check the date of the display you want to visit, some take place on the 5th itself, some choose the closest weekend. Some are free, some require tickets to be bought in advance.
· Swim outdoors in London Fields Lido – it’s heated!
· Celebrate the Festival of Lights in Trafalgar Square. Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains and represents the triumph of good over evil. The festival is timed to coincide with the new moon in October or November, so the actual date varies from year to year. Expect fabulous music and dance performances, craft activities and delicious Indian food. Even better, the Trafalgar Square event is free!
· Check out what’s behind the doors of some of London’s most iconic buildings in the Open House Festival. Every year on a weekend in mid September, this celebration of London’s architecture organises guided tours, talks and walks, all for free. The most popular buildings can have long queues, and some, like 10 Downing Street and the BT Tower, have visitors allocated by online ballot only. Previous years have included the Gherkin, the basements of the British Museum, the Freemasons Hall, New Scotland Yard and Southwark Integrated Waste Management Facility. Something for everyone!
Looking for some spooktacular London activities this October? Here are our favourites:
· Have your mind blown at the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities – located in Bethnal Green, this bizarre eclectic underground treasure trove of the intriguing and disturbing is well worth a visit. Everything from shrunken heads to Dodo bones…
· Ride the London Ghost Bus – All aboard the Necrobus! Self described as “The UK’s only comedy-horror theatre sightseeing experience on wheels”, this tour on a black Routemaster bus combines immersive theatre with riveting ghost stories and facts about the darker side of London.
· Or get close to the action on foot with a guided ghost walk. There are many companies to choose from, but we particularly like London Walks. They have a great selection of ghostly itineraries from the West End to the Old City, all run by excellent storytellers who can keep your spine tingling without relying on cheap tricks and jumps.
· One of London’s most grisly stories is the still unsolved mystery of Jack the Ripper , the murderer of several women during a terrifying killing spree in Victorian Whitechapel. Again, you have a wide range of companies providing guided tours of the gruesome murder sites and spooky alleyways of East London (London Walks runs an excellent Ripper tour), most meet outside Tower Hill station every evening between 18:30 and 19:30.
· Spend an evening watching one of the West End’s spooky spectaculars. Choose from classic musicals like the Phantom of the Opera and Wicked or one of London’s the longest running plays, the Woman in Black. Be sure to also check Prince Charles Cinema and the BFI for screenings of classic scary films.
· Raise a toast to a ghost in a haunted pub! From the resident poltergeist at the Viaduct Tavern opposite the Old Bailey, to a young soldier murdered for cheating at cards at the Grenadier, Belgravia, to Dick Turpin himself revisiting his father’s former establishment, the Spaniards Inn, London has its fair share of places you can enjoy a drink while keeping an eye on the other… customers… other top tips for a supernatural sup are the Marlborough Head, Mayfair, said to be haunted by several criminals who were executed at nearby Tyburn, the Flask, Highgate with two resident spooks: a Cavalier and a young barmaid, and the Ten Bells, Whitechapel – not haunted as such but certainly frequented by several of Jack the Ripper’s victims, and perhaps the mystery man himself.
· Visit some of London’s hauntingly beautiful cemeteries - Brompton Cemetery and Highgate Cemetery, two of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ Victorian graveyards, are stunning examples of the Gothic splendour that Victorians did so well. Brompton Cemetery is the final resting place of physician John Snow, known as the "father of epidemiology" for his work during the Cholera Outbreak of 1854, Emmeline Pankhurst, champion of women’s rights and actor Brian Glover, amongst 35,000 others.
While Brompton Cemetery is free to visit, Highgate is divided in two, both sides with an entry fee. If you’re short on time, you can visit the East side for a small fee and freely walk the leafy paths to visit the graves of Karl Marx, George Eliot and Tim Pigott Smith amongst many other famous ‘residents’, however we would recommend joining a guided tour of the West side (the only way to visit), as your £12 ticket price also includes the East cemetery. This side you’ll see magnificent Victorian monuments such as the Egyptian Avenue, the Circle of Lebanon, and the achingly sad Mausoleum of Julius Beer, and go inside the catacombs that sparked a vampire hunt in the 1970s. Famous names on this side of the cemetery include Alexander Litvinenko, Michael Faraday and Christina Rosetti. George Michael is also buried here, but the location of his resting place is not being released.
Do you have any hot tips for Autumnal activities in London? Somewhere you'd recommend for a hot toddy? Let us know below!