Top Events

Notting Hill Carnival, August

Chelsea Flower Show, May

Trooping the Colour, June

Guy Fawkes Night, November

Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships, June

January

The new year in London kicks off with a big bang at midnight. London is in the throes of winter, with short days: light appears at 8am and is all but gone by 4pm.

London International Mime Festival

Held over the month of January, this festival (www.mimelondon.com) is a must for lovers of originality, playfulness, physical talent and the unexpected.

London Art Fair

More than 100 major galleries participate in this contemporary art fair (www.londonartfair.co.uk), now one of the largest in Europe, with thematic exhibitions, special events and the best emerging artists.

February

February is usually chilly and wet (sometimes even snow-encrusted). The Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) is fun, and Londoners lark about with pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.

Chinese New Year

In late January or early February, Chinatown fizzes, crackles and pops in this colourful street festival, which includes a Golden Dragon parade, feasting and partying.

BAFTAs

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA; www.bafta.org) rolls out the red carpet mid-February to hand out its annual cinema awards. It's the British Oscars, if you will. Expect plenty of celebrity glamour.

Pancake Races

On Shrove Tuesday, in late February or early March, you can catch pancake races and associated silliness at various venues around town (Spitalfields Market, in particular).

March

March sees spring in the air, with trees beginning to flower and daffodils emerging across parks and gardens. London is getting in the mood to head outdoors again.

St Patrick's Day Parade & Festival

Top festival for the Irish in London, held on the Sunday closest to 17 March, with a colourful parade through central London and other festivities in and around Trafalgar Sq.

Flare

This LGBTIQ+ film festival, organised by the British Film Institute (www.bfi.org.uk/flare), runs a packed program of film screenings, along with club nights, talks and events.

Head of the River Race

Some 400 crews take part in this colourful annual boat race, held over a 7km course on the Thames, from Mortlake to Putney.

April

London is in bloom, with warmer days and a lighthearted vibe. British Summer Time starts late March, moving clocks forward an hour, so it's now light until 7pm. Some sights previously shut for winter reopen.

Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race

Crowds line the banks of the Thames for the country's two most famous universities going oar-to-oar from Putney to Mortlake. Dates vary, due to each university's Easter breaks, so check the website (www.theboatraces.org).

London Marathon

Some 35,000 runners – most running for charity – pound through London in one of the world's biggest road races (www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com), heading from Blackheath to the Mall.

Udderbelly Festival

Housed in a temporary venue in the shape of a purple upside-down cow on the South Bank, this festival of comedy, circus and general family fun (www.udderbelly.co.uk) has become a spring favourite. Events run from April to the end of September.

May

A delightful time to be in London: days are warming up and Londoners begin to start lounging around in parks, popping on their sunglasses and enjoying two bank-holiday weekends (the first and the last in May).

Museums at Night

For one weekend in May, numerous museums across London open after-hours (www.museumsatnight.org.uk), with candlelit tours, spooky atmospheres, sleepovers and special events such as talks and concerts.

Chelsea Flower Show

The world's most renowned horticultural event attracts London's green-fingered and flower-mad gardeners. Expect talks, presentations and spectacular displays from the cream of the gardening world.

June

The peak season begins with long, warm days (it's light until 10pm), the arrival of Wimbledon and other alfresco events.

Trooping the Colour

The Queen's official birthday (www.trooping-the-colour.co.uk) is celebrated with much flag-waving, parades, pageantry and noisy flyovers. The Royal Family usually attends in force.

London Festival of Architecture

This month-long celebration of London's built environment (www.londonfestivalofarchitecture.org) explores the significance of architecture and design and how London has become a centre for innovation in these fields.

Meltdown

The Southbank Centre hands over the curatorial reins to a legend of contemporary music (eg Morrissey, Patti Smith or Guy Garvey) to pull together a full program of concerts, talks and films mid-June (www.southbankcentre.co.uk).

Royal Academy Summer Exhibition

Beginning in June and running through August, this exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts showcases works submitted by artists from all over Britain and the world, distilled to a thousand or so pieces.

Open Garden Squares Weekend

Over one weekend, more than 200 gardens in London that are usually inaccessible to the public fling open their gates for exploration (www.opensquares.org).

Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships

For two weeks a year, the quiet South London village of Wimbledon falls under a sporting spotlight as the world's best tennis players gather to battle for the championships.

July

This is the time to munch on strawberries, drink in beer gardens and join in the numerous outdoor activities, including big music festivals.

Pride London

The gay community paints the town pink in this annual extravaganza (www.prideinlondon.org), featuring a smorgasbord of experiences, from talks to live events, and culminating in a huge parade across London.

Wireless

One of London's top music festivals, with an emphasis on dance and R&B, Wireless (www.wirelessfestival.co.uk) takes place in Finsbury Park in northeast London. It is extremely popular, so book in advance.

BBC Promenade Concert (the Proms)

Starting in mid-July and ending in early September, the Proms offers two months of outstanding classical concerts (www.bbc.co.uk/proms) at various prestigious venues, centred on the Royal Albert Hall.

Lovebox

This two-day music extravaganza (www.loveboxfestival.com) in Gunnersbury Park, West London, was created by dance duo Groove Armada. Its raison d'être is dance music, but there are plenty of other genres too, including indie, pop and hip hop.

August

School's out for summer, families are holidaying and the hugely popular annual Caribbean carnival dances into Notting Hill. The last weekend brings a bank holiday.

Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House

For a fortnight every summer, Somerset House turns its stunning courtyard into an open-air cinema, screening an eclectic mix of film premieres, cult classics and popular requests.

Great British Beer Festival

Organised by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), this boozy festival (www.gbbf.org.uk) cheerfully cracks open casks of ale from the UK and abroad at Olympia exhibition centre.

Notting Hill Carnival

Europe's biggest – and London's most vibrant – outdoor carnival is a celebration of Caribbean London, featuring music, dancing and costumes over the summer bank-holiday weekend.

September

The end of summer and start of autumn is a lovely time to be in town, with comedy festivals and a chance to look at London properties normally shut to the public.

The Mayor's Thames Festival

Celebrating the River Thames, this cosmopolitan festival (www.totallythames.org) brings fairs, street theatre, music, food stalls, fireworks and river races, culminating in the superb Night Procession.

Greenwich Comedy Festival

This week-long laugh fest – London's largest comedy festival – brings big names and emerging acts to the National Maritime Museum.

Open House London

For a weekend in mid-September the public is invited in to see over 800 heritage buildings throughout the capital that are normally off-limits (www.openhouselondon.org.uk).

Great Gorilla Run

It looks bananas, but this 8km gorilla-costume charity run (www.greatgorillarun.org) along a route from the City to Bankside and back again is all in aid of gorilla conservation.

October

The weather is getting colder, but London's parklands are splashed with gorgeous autumnal colours. Clocks go back to winter time the last weekend of the month.

London Film Festival

The city's premier film event (www.bfi.org.uk/lff) attracts big overseas names and shows more than 100 British and international films before their cinema release. Masterclasses are given by world-famous directors.

Dance Umbrella

London's annual festival of contemporary dance (www.danceumbrella.co.uk) features two weeks of performances by British and international dance companies at venues across London.

Affordable Art Fair

For four days in March and October, Battersea Park turns into a giant art fair (www.affordableartfair.com), where more than 100 galleries offer works of art from just £100. Plenty of talks and workshops, too.

November

London nights are getting longer. It's the last of the parks' autumn colours – enjoy them on a walk and relax by an open fire in a pub afterwards.

Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night)

Bonfire Night commemorates Guy Fawkes' foiled attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605. Bonfires and fireworks light up the night on 5 November. Primrose Hill, Highbury Fields, Alexandra Palace, Clapham Common and Blackheath have some of the best firework displays.

Lord Mayor's Show

In accordance with the Magna Carta of 1215, the newly elected Lord Mayor of the City of London travels in a state coach from Mansion House to the Royal Courts of Justice to take an oath of allegiance to the Crown – nowadays with floats, bands and fireworks (www.lordmayorsshow.london).

London Jazz Festival

Musicians from around the world swing into town for 10 days of jazz (www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk). World influences are well represented, as are more conventional styles.

December

A festive mood reigns as Christmas approaches and shops are decorated. Days are increasingly shorter. Christmas Day is the quietest day of the year, with all shops and museums closed and the tube network shut.

Lighting of the Christmas Tree & Lights

A celebrity is called upon to switch on all the festive lights that line Oxford, Regent and Bond Sts, and a towering Norwegian spruce is set up in Trafalgar Sq.

Ice-skating

From mid-November until January, open-air ice rinks pop up across the city, including one in the exquisite courtyard of Somerset House and another one in the grounds of the Natural History Museum.

Boxing Day

Boxing Day used to be the opening day of the winter sales, and one of the busiest days of the year for shops. Pre-Christmas sales have somewhat dampened the rush but it remains a lively day.

New Year's Celebration

On 31 December the famous countdown to Big Ben striking midnight is met with terrific fireworks from the London Eye and celebrated by massive crowds. There are parties in every pub and bar in town.