Falling leaves, cuppas of Chai tea, and the delicate blue skies that signal the end of summer; London in the fall is a magical time. Though the warm summer days have come to an end and you might need an extra layer to stay warm as the temperatures drop, autumn is a great season to visit London – and there’s tons to do.
The vast majority of my trips to London have been in the autumn, and I first moved there in the fall. I loved watching the leaves change color, discovering all that there is to do, and experiencing the transitory season in my favorite city.
In this post, I’ll cover everything you need to know about visiting London in the autumn, including why you should, what to do, and more. Whether your dates are confirmed, you found a London flight deal, or you’re just considering a trip to London and trying to decide when to visit London – this post will convince you that autumn is a magical time well worth a trip (or in my case, several!).
When is Autumn in London?
Before I jump into the list of all the things there are to do in London during the autumn, you might wonder if your trip dates actually fall in the fall. While it obviously varies from year to year based on the weather, fall in London is generally from September to mid-November. August is a warmer summer month, and after mid-November, the weather typically turns dark, rainy, and cold.
For reference, I classify the other seasons in London as:
If you’re visiting London in early autumn, you’ll likely experience warmer weather than later in the season. You may also not see leaves changing color or experience quintessential rainy (winter) weather. Later in the fall, the leaves will definitely be in full color, plus the weather is more volatile as winter sets in over Great Britain.
But enough talk about rain – there’s plenty of other great reasons to visit London during the transition season of autumn/fall.
1. See Autumn Colors in London
Arguably the best part of visiting London in the fall is the chance to see London’s many green spaces change color – to orange, red, and yellow!
There are some incredible places for leaf-peeping and autumn colors in London. Some of the best include:
- Chelsea Embankment – A lovely tree-lined walk along the Thames that is gorgeous in the autumn months.
- Green Park – Despite the name, Green Park isn’t always green, especially when the leaves change each fall.
- Greenwich Park – Seeing the leaves change can be part of a great day trip to Greenwich.
- Hampstead Heath – In addition to having one of the best views of London, this area also shows off autumn’s best colors.
Plus I have nine more great places for fall colors in London.
2. Attend a Festival
London has incredible festivals and events all year long, but it really feels like autumn is the prime time for some of the best. While I don’t necessarily recommend planning your trip specifically for one of these festivals (unless you’re like really into that topic), they can be a fun way to add an extra day or half-day of activity to your itinerary. Best of all, you’ll come home with really unique memories since these don’t occur year-round!
3. Totally Thames
The Thames is more important to London than many visitors realize – it is truly the main artery and vein pumping in and out of the city. To celebrate the Thames’s important heritage, the Totally Thames festival occurs annually, usually in September (2021 dates haven’t been announced). The festival includes arts and education programs aimed at getting Londoners and visitors out to appreciate the river and the life it brings to the city.
4. Open House London
I first learned about Open House London when I moved there; unfortunately, I missed the dates that year because of the timing. In short, Open House London started as a chance to explore parts of London that are typically closed. Historic homes and buildings open up for visitors, and other events celebrate architecture and urban design. In 2021, the festival is currently scheduled for September 4-12.
5. London Fashion Week
Like every major city, London has its own Fashion Weeks; they typically occur in the late winter/early spring (February this year), summer (June this year), and autumn. In 2021, the autumn London Fashion Week will take place September 17-21.
6. BFI London Film Festival
For another festival aimed at those who appreciate the arts, the BFI London Film Festival is a must-attend if you’ll already be in the city. The BFI (British Film Institute) started this festival in 1957 and today it screens over 300 films per year from 50 countries around the globe – including some premieres that get the full red carpet treatment. In 2021, the festival will take place from October 6-17.
7. Frieze London
While there are certainly cultural festivals in London, October is the month for arts festivals! Yet another one focuses on the more traditional medium; Frieze London is a contemporary art fair that takes over part of Regent’s Park each October (the 13th to 17th in 2021). This is a chance to engage with new and up-and-coming artists across a number of mediums – and it only lasts a short time so it’s a treat if you love art.
8. London Literature Festival
Not to be forgotten, there is also a literature festival in London! The London Literature Festival is sponsored by the Southbank Centre and will take place the final 11 days of October this year (21st to 31st). Details and the schedule haven’t been released yet, but it’s perfect for those who love the written word and want to hear talks and sessions about books across genres.
9. Africa on the Square
Once a year, Trafalgar Square is transformed: Africa on the Square is the cultural festival celebrating all things African, as diverse as you can imagine! In 2021, the festival will take place on October 23rd, as part of Black History Month in the U.K. The event typically has food stalls, a market, and live performances. Be prepared though – it’s popular and this single day draws crowds of more than 25,000 in normal years!
10. House Plant Festival
After this past year, many of us got to really love our house plants… is it any surprise then that in the city that has everything, there’s also a House Plant Festival? This festival is hosted by the Garden Museum and details for 2021 are scarce at this point. Last year, the event was October 23-25, and here were the details; 2021 info should be coming soon!
No, this article isn’t about Munich – London has its own Oktoberfest! After pivoting to an at-home experience in 2020, the organizers haven’t announced if the event will take place this year. (For comparison, Munich cancelled Oktoberfest 2021 in early May, so it’s hard to know if this smaller spin-off will take place.) If it does happen, look for multiple locations and dates and reservations will likely be required.
12. London Restaurant Festival
London is a great place to eat, so it’s unsurprising that there’s a festival to encourage us to try new places. The London Restaurant Festival typically occurs in October each year (exact dates for 2021 haven’t been announced) and they’re also doing a special festival in July for the first time. Staying focused on the autumn dates, keep an eye on the website for updates about participating restaurants and special menus.
13. London Jazz Festival
Finally, the London Jazz Festival can’t be ignored, though it straddles that fine line between autumn and winter. Maybe it’s that the hot jazz will heat you up! An incredible line-up has already been announced for 2021, when the festival will take place from November 12-21. No matter which style of jazz you enjoy, you’ll get to hear it live at this festival.
14. Celebrate or Memorialize a Holiday
Visiting London in the fall may also mean you’re visiting when a holiday is occurring! There are actually a number of holidays that occur during October and November:
- Canadian Thanksgiving – October 11 (2021) – While Brits don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, there are enough Canadian expats that some pubs and restaurants may offer a special deal or meal for the holiday.
- Halloween – October 31 – Halloween also isn’t a British holiday, but it’s been catching on. Turns out Brits love to put on “fancy dress” and have a party.
- Diwali – November 4 – This festival of lights is celebrated by a number of religious groups from India; the large population of Indian Britons make this a popular holiday in London.
- Bonfire Night – November 5 – Remember, remember… We all know about Bonfire Night from V for Vendetta, but this night is marked with bonfires and fireworks in different parts of London.
- Remembrance Day – November 11 – The British equivalent of American Veterans Day, this sombre holiday is marked with events to memorialize the sacrifice made by the Armed Forces through the many wars Britain has participated in.
- American Thanksgiving – November 25 (2021) – Similar to Canadians, there are enough Americans in London that some pubs and restaurants offer an American Thanksgiving dinner. No promises it will top you’re family’s turkey dinner though!
As I mentioned with the autumn festivals in London, I wouldn’t necessarily plan your trip around these holidays – with the exception of Bonfire Night which is a fascinating and uniquely British event – but if they are occurring during your trip, you may want to participate.
15. See a Show Open (or Close) in the West End
Going to the theatre is one of the top activities to do in London. The West End is a world-class theatre district and many of the best shows in the world will appear on stage there early in their global tours. If you love live theatre and want to experience it in London, the autumn is a great season for new shows opening and closing. Unlike with festivals and holidays, these typically run for a long amount of time – so you can add a show into your London itinerary without having to change your entire travel plans.
Here are the specifics for this shows opening and closing in London this year.
Shows Closing in Autumn 2021
- Be More Chill at the Shaftesbury Theatre, ends September 3
- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the London Palladium, ends September 5
- Constellations at the Vaudeville Theatre, ends September 12
- Amelie at the Criterion Theatre, ends September 25
Shows Opening in Autumn 2021
- Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical at the Lyric Theatre, opens October 1
Obviously, this year is a bit less busy than in years past – and the London theatre scene will likely pick up again in 2022 and beyond. I’ll be sure to update this post in early 2022 with all the relevant shows so you can better plan your trip.
Should You Visit London in Autumn?
All this said: should you visit London in the fall? Yes, autumn is a great season to visit London. There’s lots to do, plus the city is beautiful with changing leaves and the last blue sky days of summer tapering toward winter.
If you’re trying to decide whether to visit London in the autumn compared with another season, I recommend it! Heck, it’s the season I’ve visited London the most often and I look forward to return London trips in the fall.
Have any questions about visiting London in the fall? Let me know the comments.