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The Great Debate: The Best Times of the Year to Travel to London – When To Go To England

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One question we get asked a least a few times a month is “When is the best time to Travel in London?”

Well, after our recent trip to London, I’m proud to say that I’ve had the chance to visit London in all four seasons and now I can give a clear and definitive answer.

The answer is NOT JULY.

Why?

While Britain is a vibrant and modern country, they are not used to the types of heat that most of America is used to. As a result, many places don’t have air conditioning. A lot of newer places have aircon (as the Brits call it) but one of the most attractive things about London is that there ISN’T a lot of new stuff. Older buildings just weren’t designed with modern cooling in mind, so they just don’t have it.

The same goes for the London Underground, which was mostly built during the Victorian Era. Most underground lines don’t have air – which you may think “oh it’s underground, it will be cooler.’ Wrong. The equipment and sheer mass of people turn the Tubes into a moving oven. It gets ridiculously hot down there. So hot we often paid a lot extra to ride in cabs – which themselves don’t have air conditioning!

The highest temperatures we experienced while there, by American standards, were not that hot. Mid 80’s Fahrenheit with little humidity. However, since pretty much no where has air conditioning, you NEVER cool off unless you stay completely still. You spend the entire day sweating (and chafing in my case) before it starts to cool off at night.

Which is rather nice – after the oven of the day, it usually cools down to the mid-50’s, creating a cool, fall like breeze that’s a joy. We experienced no rain on our trip, which was quite unusual for London in July.

Weather aside – July is also the most expensive time to go to London. It’s the busy tourist season and not just with American tourists – with Tourists from all over the world. Airfares cost more, hotels cost more, everything costs more.

On top of that – everything is REALLY crowded.

One of our favorite things to do in London is go to the Portobello Road market, unfortunately due to the movie Notting Hill, that’s also what every other tourist in London wants to do. This is fine in November or March when crowds are small. In July you can’t even walk down the street – let alone browse through any of the market stalls. We got so frustrated we hailed the first cab we saw and legged it to the London Transport Museum (which, I might add is very NICELY air conditioned).

There’s also another unique thing about London that’s not in all the guidebooks. Look at the globe. England is located much further north than the United States. As a consequence of this – the days in London are much longer in the summer. On the surface, this sounds rather nice. Except the sun is shining brightly well before 5am and doesn’t set until almost 10pm. This does not help jetlag when you’re body thinks it’s much later than it actually is.

So, to settle the question once and for all: When is the best time to go to London?

Avoid London in June, July and August.

Every other time of the year will be fine weather wise and way more affordable and less crowded. I particularly like going in November – the fall lasts longer in England and the weather is nice and cool but not too cold. I also really like going in March. The weather is pretty much the same as November except spring is starting and the daffodils are in bloom.

We’ve also visited London in December and while it did rain occasionally, the weather was actually very pleasant. London at Christmas time is magical and we would definitely do it again. Snow in London is rare but the temperatures hovered int he high 40’s (fahrenheit).

Many may disagree with me. What’s your favorite time of the year to travel to London?

Author: jonathan

Jonathan is a consummate Anglophile who launched Anglotopia.net in 2007 to channel his passion for Britain. Londontopia is its sister publication dedicated to everything London.

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52 COMMENTS

  1. How tragic. This has made me seriously reconsider my efforts to study abroad in London this summer. I am going to great lengths to afford the trip, and it sounds like it might not be worth it. Then again, I am not sure when I would ever have the time or money to go…

    • As long as you’re prepared for the heat – you’ll be fine. This post was geared towards Tourists – if you have the chance to Study Abroad – take it! One of my biggest regrets in college was not doing a study abroad.

    • I second Jonathan. I had an internship in the north of England when I was in college. At times, the heat was horrible–unbearable, really–but I wouldn’t have changed a thing. It was probably one of the best times I’ve ever had.

  2. I am going this June – the other times I have gone to London have been in April/May. Love it then.
    This go around the plan is to go to Wimbledon also – thus the delay.

  3. I was thinking of visiting in late September early October. This is a once in a lifetime photo vactaion. I would like to walk the lanes of Cotwolds or Dartmoor. How long does it stay green in those areas?

    There are a lot of sold out hotels, but I haven’t found any reason why? Any inside scoop?

    Thanks for the article great insight!

    • Should still be pretty green during those times. England’s Autumn lasts longer than North America’s – there’s still leaves on the trees in November.

      Good luck!

    • We’ve been twice in September (5 wks total), and almost no rain either time. Cotswolds were still beautifully green, as was Dartmoor. Bring an extra sweater – the high tors on Dartmoor can be quite chilly & windy at times!

  4. i love december … i love the crisp air, the threat of snow (and if you are out of the city itself, you may get your wish!). the food tastes heartier when it’s nippy outside, the fireplaces in boutique hotels burn warmly. yes, i love december in britain.

  5. My sister and I went to London for the first time this past July. We had an absolute blast getting lost and exploring the city. What an amazing city London is! We did manage to get out of London a couple of days and explore other towns but both of us much preferred the vibrancy of London.

    Since we are from Arizona and are used to hot summers (110-118 F) we found the weather very pleasant in July. Our hotel room didn’t have air conditioning but we did have a fan and left the window open for the fresh air at night.

    We can’t wait to return and explore the city some more.

  6. It’s also the school holidays in late July and all through August, so London will be more crowded with families.

  7. I lived in England as a child and still visit there frequently as I have relatives in London, Yorkshire and The Lakes. I have also gone in every season and love it anytime of the year. However, I do agree with the author about the heat of the summer. Even though their heat is not as hot as places in the US, it still feels so much hotter because of the inability to escape it. The lack of air conditioning is the worst and the Tube is unbearable, never mind if there is a delay on a line.

    Having said that, I really prefer going the spring. The flowers in bloom are to die for and you get some really nice spells. I have often been there for a two or three week stretch and managed to avoid any heavy rain. March and April seem to be the best time for me, and I love getting those lower airfares. February was also not bad and you really do avoid the longer tourist lines.

    Then there’s Christmas…It’s so much fun to go at Christmas with all the decorations and hustle and bustle. If you time it just right, you can fly just before the airfares go up for the holiday season and return just after it’s over. And I’m always amazed at how green everything stays through the winter season.

    My final bit of advice is to just go. Go anytime. If you’re able to plan for the best time, do it. Otherwise, don’t worry about it and go when you can. You’ll never regret it.

  8. Well.My take is skewed. I do not always stay in London. I Love Moving around the Townes and Villages.
    Since 87 or was it 88? 1987-88? I made many Mates. And Fate Had me train, school in The UK also.
    So I have been on hand in Terrible months.Great Months etc.
    What The Island Taught me was Never mind the elements. Tary on in spite of. As a young Soldier Back in the USA heck rain snow Cool blustry Daze would not change my mood. I was shaped by Folks who live Thru Real hell. The Blitz ww2 etc. I Found My Inner spirit really was in kin to whom I met there. So. Like all Here and Jonathon. I made a Self Pact to live there. As I write I am here about 35-40% of the time. Far from the 1005 I laid out as my plan 10yrs ago. I shall Meet that goal. Thanks for the BEST SITE on the web. Sir J.

  9. Jonathan I would have to agree with you about June , July & August but I was there in May 2010 for a wedding which was fabulous but it was 83 fahrenheit the day of the wedding at the Mandarin Oriental and the makeup was running off the faces of the female guests. And that was MAY!
    I was there in February 1986, the coldest February in 40 years and IT WAS COLD. But I loved it anyway. I love March, November & September (for the BBC Proms). I loved April last year for the Wedding but the crowds were of course abnormal then because of that. I love the early dark evenings in November when you can sit in a pub with
    an ale before a roaring fire or in a bookstore with a cup of coffee and a good book. Let’s face it I love London anytime . Dr. Johnson doesn’t have to worry about me. I will never be tired of London or life. Now if I could just figure out how to afford to live there…

  10. A friend and I went to London during the month of May several years ago. Fantastic weather! The flowers were still in bloom, too. I am planning another trip for 2014 and thinking about September this time. But, yeah, I would say May is a great time to go!

  11. My daughter and I will be going to London this November around Thanksgiving time. Any suggestions for sightseeing at this time of the year. She’s been before, but I’ve only been to Scotland in April when it was quite cold. But, that’s Scotland’s weather most anytime. I’m concerned that many of the lovely gardens and grand homes will not be open at that time of the year.

  12. Late April to early June is probably best, although you are taking a risk with the weather. September and early October can be great too, and if you’re prepared to be indoors a lot, early December is fun with all the pre-Christmas stuff.

    I’d disagree with March and November being similar weather – November is too drearily dreich, it’s easily my least favourite time of year in the UK. At least weather in March tends to be a bit more positively one thing or the other.

  13. I was born and raised in London until age 21 when I went to seek my fortune (and adventure) in New York. My husband and I visit Europe every other year and we have gone any and every season. The Plan is if the weather is nice we do all the outdoorsy stuff, visit gardens, palaces, castles, etc. if it’s rainy or cold we visit museums, art galleries, theatres, shops, restaurants, etc. We never have enough time to do it all. We always take a small folding umbrella and usually when we do, it never seems to rain!

  14. I can’t remember how long I have wanted to go, I collect anything British and have quiet a collection. I am hoping to go this September so my family and I can tour Buckingham Palace, do those tickets sell out quickly?

    • Hi Dawn,

      Am not too sure abt how their ticketing way for the past years.

      But happend that this year Sep is my first trip to London and for the tour of Buckingham Palace, tickets is only open to London Pass holder.

      So if u intend to visit, u will need to get the London Pass first in order to purchase the Palace ticket.

      Below is the link.
      http://buckinghampalace.londonpass.com/index.html

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Joy 😉

  15. I went to England last fall (late Oct – thru early. Nov) and stayed in Kent for the first week and London the second week. Perfect, both places – sunny, dreary, cool, cold – whatever!! It was England!!! But, my daughter and I want to go this summer – just to experience the opposite season. You’re making me kinda re-think my trip and I don’t like that!! It’s our only time due to school schedules! I’m from the Deep South – surely the heat cannot be any worse!!

    By the way–LOVE all Of your sites, and someday, SOMEWAY, I will live in England!!!

  16. I went in October and loved the weather! Cold at night but perfect during the day. It only rained one time in the 11 days that I stayed there. I didn’t mind it. We just got our umbrellas and walked over to St. Pauls Cathedral and had a lovely afternoon.

  17. I’m going in late September / early October, so it should be nice. Last time, I went in July, but I was a kid then. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get back!

  18. We want to see the roses in bloom. How early could we go and see them in full bloom? We’ve been in the Spring and seen daffodils and the rhododendron and native azaleas in the Lake District – beautiful.

  19. I am going in Mid September for my 1st trip to London after waiting for almost 10 years to make it happened… Am so looking forward to it. 😉

  20. I think September is the best month. There are lots of local festivals going on. ITunes Festival at the Roundhouse. The crowds have died down a bit….you’re not completely off the hook….if all you do is go and ride large wheels and visit museums you may find yourself running into a lot of school kids—School is back in session come September.

    I thought September was great. First week was HOT! Plan a day in Brighton…plan a ride on the Regents Canal from Camden to Maida Vale. Do lots of shopping indoors or plan a picnic in Primrose Hill.

    On the colder days or rainy days—just always wear layers with the knowledge that some of them will be held the majority of the day—and never forget your umbrella!

    Get out there are start adventuring—there is never a bad time for London!

  21. If you want to avoid crowds, be sure to check when the school breaks are. A couple of years ago, I went to London at the end of October and that turned out to be autumn break. Many attractions I wanted to go to during that week had lines 1-3 blocks long. We’re talking an hour wait or more. I had a kid with me, so we just skipped those attractions and were relieved to get out of London at the end of the week. It was the worst week I’ve spent there.

  22. We just spent 10 days in London in May. The weather was delightful! We are already planning to go back next year at the same time.

  23. You are “spot on”, Jonathan! I TOTALLY agree. I personally prefer a more overcast look to the sky with a bit of chill, in true Sherlock Holmes murder mystery style (or maybe I’m just sick of the humidity in the Midwest in the summer). Either way, you are completely right about everything being cheaper and less crowded and generally more pleasant! You, of course, forgot to mention with the Tube transforming into an oven means lots of pleasant body odors. Gag! And, someone please explain to me why British buses don’t have an off switch for heating, despite the season.

    • don’t get me started about our buses, they are green houses on wheels, the Brits, especially those under 30 are wimps when it comes to temperatures of 50 f and under so buses and buidlings are ridiculously over heated, and with climate change the country is much milder than it was when I grew up in the 60s and 70s when we just put on a coat, the worst thing about buses in the UK is the heat and you open a window and some annoying person moans about the draft. I hate public transport.

  24. I’ve been in March, July, October and November and I loved it in July despite the crowds and all. I love the sales in July as well. October’s weather was nice, not too cold or wet and March and November, there was some snow ( follow lees by really nice weather the next day). If I had to pick my favorite time of the year to be in London, it would be July hands down. I’d like to try Christmas too…maybe I need to plan it for this year!

  25. We went in late December to mid-January this last Christmas. As expected the weather was rather chilly, but a lot milder than I had expected (and apparently milder than the English expected too). The down-side was that the days were quite short, and it got dark early. The up-side was that wherever we went, there were NO QUEUES! It was great! We went to Westminster Abbey and Hampton Court and had space to linger without being pushed out or crowded by others. Unfortunately a few places we wanted to see were closed for the winter, so we’ll just have to come again in the spring.

  26. Thanks for the info! I wanted to take my husband over for his birthday in March….looks like a good choice!

  27. I agree about the Summer months! I’ve visited London each year, since 1976, sometimes twice a year. Tried to pick a different month on each vacation and I think I can say I’ve covered all twelve months (on different occasions). My favourites are June (because of Trooping the Colour and the chance to see the Royals), October/November and December. Can’t add anything that you haven’t mentioned yet. I love the crisp Autumn temps and I also love the magical Christmas decorations in December. I guess it all depends on what people are aiming for. Drinking coffee on Trafalgar Square or in one of the parks is definitely better in June, but the Christmas lights are spectacular too. Decisions, decisions 🙂

  28. I love London any time of year! I have been in March, May, July and September. Every trip has been amazing. I feel the best time was spring and autum. each time I have gone something memorable has been going on. The royal wedding 1981, 50 year celebration of VE Day, the Olympics and last year for the 60th celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. This city knows how to celebrate! just go, you will never be disappointed as London has so much to offer. I am planning my next trip across the pond and dream of fabulous London every day!

  29. I have been to London in late April, early May – lovely flowers, and not a drop of rain; early October – beautiful weather and no rain, but disappointed that none of the leaves had changed color yet, early September for a brief visit – hot but not unbearable, late June many, many years ago beautiful and loved the long, long days. Worst weather was March, 2013 – freezing! I guess it was the coldest March ever. Lots of sun but still cold, cold, cold. I live in New England and so I had adequate clothing but it certainly cut in to the outdoor activities. Thank goodness for hot chocolate. I just returned from a trip to London, Yorkshire and Wales and the weather was warm but quite damp – guess I used up my weather karma for no rain on my other trips. December is definitely on my list of times I would like to visit. It’s always a good time no matter what. I’ve been there enough times now that I don’t worry about crowds too much – I enjoy seeing a lot of the less touristy places, anyways.

  30. I have been there twice in September and twice in early June. Both had benefits, longer days in June, great for sightseeing and early starts. In September prices were better and not very crowded. Weather was pleasant at both times. Would like my next visit in either May or September. I miss everything about England, I wish I could afford to live there!

  31. November is our favorite. No crowds. A health dose of grey and mist/drizzle (I’m from Seattle…I love it!) A great time for a ghost tour with London Walks. Guy Fawkes Night. The Veteran Car Rally from London to Brighton (think pre-1905 automobiles!)

  32. I have lived in London 8 years and from my experience, I always recommend going during Spring, late March/April/May, trying to avoid the school’s Easter break and the May ‘half-term’ break (usually the last week) as everything gets more expensive.
    September is also nice, but without the amazing flowers.
    Weather wise, it’s always a lottery. Some years the spring is nicer than the summer, others it’s the opposite.
    Christmas season is nice but if you can only afford one visit, I wouldn’t choose winter. Cheers!

  33. I haven’t read all the comments, but the only problem with London in the winter months, is there are fewer daylight hours. Which is okay if you want to visit the pub and the clubs, but for outdoor sightseeing your hours are rather limited. And some of the tourist places have shorter hours, or are only open on the weekends.

  34. Last 2 weeks in August. If you go in December it is dark early and a lot of the attractions are closed for winter. I do love London Xmas, it is magical.

  35. Never go in summer, it’s crowded, filthy, flies and litter. I lived there and in the hot summers of the late and 90s it was so humid at night we slept in the garden. Honestly spring or autumn is best.

  36. I was just there in May. It was crowded but we steered clear of the tourist spots as we’ve been to London a few times. True about the air con, so if you go in summer, make sure the hotel has it. Ours didn’t but we kept a window open & the hotel gave us a fan.

  37. I made my 16th trip this past February 2014. The flooding and storms were unbelievable with so much damage to homes and the countryside. My room overlooked the Thames across from the Eye and Jubilee Gardens and I have many photos of the river and the skyline at all times of the night and day and in all kinds of weather with the river (which is a tidal river) roiling and lashing against the walls. So dramatic. It was cold, rainy and dark early, of course. However, I loved it anyway. Saw Duchess Kate arriving in style at the National Portrait Gallery (Liz Hurley too!). Went to a candlelight concert at St. Martin In The Fields, ate in pubs where they had fires and generally did more indoor things; The Museum of London, the Borough Market (fabulous), the Shard, the long tour of Westminster Abbey where I lingered for hours enjoying every inch of its incredible history. I also attended several Evensong services there and at St. Paul’s and was invited at both places by a verger to sit in the quire!. I have been there in February, March, April, May September, October and November (for the very moving Armistice Day ceremony at the Cenotaph with all the Royal family). I have however never been there in June for Trooping The Colour or The Garter Ceremony at Windsor Castle so that is my goal for the next trip. I tend to avoid the Tube most of the time (except to come in from Heathrow on the Piccadilly Line) and love the buses. I know all my favorite bus numbers by now. The new Boris buses are quite fancy and hi-tech! Last thing: The Ceremony of the Keys where they lock up the Tower of London each night for the past 700 plus years is a great nighttime thing to do. Just write in advance to the Tower and request a ticket (it was free when I did it) and arrive at dark. It’s quite a different and unique thing to do. Being inside the Tower late at night when it is deathly quiet and mysterious is awesome. You can feel all the history surrounding you in a very intense way!

  38. I went to London on June (because I wanted to spend my birthday there) and the 2 places that were REALLY crowded for me were Harrods and Oxford Street…

  39. Never go to Oxford Street or Harrods on a Saturday! Harrods is quite pleasant on a weekday evening or at least it was when I rented a mews around the corner and ran in there for special groceries every evening.

  40. Well I’ve been to London twice in July, both times the second week of July. Last year, it was very hot and my hotel didn’t have A/C (I didn’t think to check ahead of time). I went to Hever Castle and about died of the heat but because I was so excited about being there it was still fine overall. This year, I made sure my hotel had A/C and though it wasn’t anywhere near as hot, it made a big difference in overall comfort. I went to Hampton Court and it wasn’t crowded at all. There was a line for Westminster Abbey, but it moved fairly quickly. And I loved the long days of daylight. I also liked being among the crowds of people. I would like to visit London in a different season, March or April sounds like a good time to go.

  41. While stationed in Europe, we drove to England in the summers of 91-93 – long time past but still recall weather being nice (& driving so much easier!). We did a fair amount of camping one year with occasional stays in hotel – sinuses could only take so much ‘fresh air’! =) We went to London in February once – weather was cool & damp but we enjoyed walking through the city, getting ‘lost’ while exploring. In April,1999, to UK & Ireland – good temps with a bit of rain. In Oct/Nov, 2001, a bit more rain. The last trip in Sept/Oct, 2012, was in one of the wettest years recorded – I think there were maybe 6 days of sunshine, out of our 3 wks. there. Airfares & hotel/transportation costs in general are better in fall – spring; summer seems to be noticeably higher. Husband has been determined to travel by train next trip & avoid the hassle of driving – decision still to be decided! =) Love those ‘oops – wrong way!’ excursions – How likely is it we would have found an interesting little town called Much Wenlock??

  42. London between Christmas and New Year is excellent if you love museums and galleries. The major ones are all open, but it’s almost spookily quiet as many Londoners are out of town or sales shopping. Don’t bother with the sales – save your sanity!

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