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.
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?