April is a fantastic time of the year to visit London, as the cold weather retreats and spring is beginning to bloom. You’ll find that April is when the city begins to shake from its slumber, as events and festivals are held across the capital, celebrating Easter, St George’s Day and the Queen’s ‘real’ birthday, amongst many more.
Although London starts to get much busier in April, particularly over any holiday periods, it’s still a more relaxed month to travel to the city, and you’ll find quiet parks resplendent in colour, and museums and galleries offering unique exhibitions without the crowds of summer yet descending upon them.
To help you to plan your trip to the British capital, here’s everything you need to know about London in April.
- 1 The Weather in London in April
- 2 Festivals and Events
- 3 Things to See and Do
The Weather in London in April
April means that spring is rolling on through London. Although you can’t expect it to be hot exactly – this is England, don’t forget! – you can expect pleasant temperatures, blue skies and colourful scenery throughout most of the month, with a few days of rain in between of course.
Temperatures will be great for walking through the city, while if the weather does take a turn for the worse, then you can always duck into a museum to escape the worst of it. Pack that raincoat or umbrella just in case, but for the most part you’ll be fine during the day with a jumper.
By the end of April, you can even expect temperatures to begin to rise into the 20s, as the city prepares itself for the onset of those long summer days, which are peeking around the corner.
Festivals and Events
April is a month that’s packed with festivities in London, and rightly so because the celebration of spring has long been a British tradition. As well as traditional religious holidays and the English national day though, you can also expect to find a wide variety of events that showcase the diversified cultures of the modern city, from Sikh festivals to pillow fights. Here are our top festivals and events to visit in London in April.
Although the exact date of Easter varies each year, more often than not it falls sometime in April. In 2019, Easter Sunday will be celebrated on 21st April. Although traditionally it’s an important religious festival commemorating the death of Jesus and his resurrection, English festivities over Easter weekend can be traced back much further to pre-Christian times, and these days, many of the celebrations have little religious affiliation.
If you are religious, then you’ll find plenty of church services over the weekend being held in London, including at famous cathedrals such as Westminster. If you aren’t religious, then you’ll also find plenty of fun Easter activities and events going on across the capital, including Easter egg hunts and endless chocolate eating. Of course, being a public holiday and a long one at that, you can expect pubs to be brimming with patrons too.
St George’s Day
St George’s Day is held on 23rd April each year, and it’s a celebration of the Patron Saint of England, St George. His iconic red cross on a white field was adopted as the nation’s flag, and although it used to be a religious celebration, these days it’s more of a national day.
St George’s Day is not a public holiday – unlike national days in many other countries – but you will still find the people of London painting red crosses on their faces, waving flags around and just generally celebrating Englishness, which will usually entail a trip to the pub for a few ales and a hearty meal.
Local communities across London will hold small-scale parades through their high streets, but for the big event, head on over to Trafalgar Square, as the Mayor of London hosts their annual Feast of St George. You can expect parades, music and plenty of market stalls selling traditional English food and drink.
Vaisakhi Sikh Festival
True to its multicultural makeup, London also plays host to many other unique cultural celebrations through April, including the wonderful Vaisakhi Sikh Festival. Held in April in Trafalgar Square, this is a traditional Sikh festival that celebrates the formation of the Khalsa in 1699, a group of warriors who sought to protect Sikhism from oppression.
The event also coincides with Sikh New Year, and you’ll find this to be an excellent way to get to know Sikh culture and history a little bit better. You’ll find music, performances, ceremonies and plenty of delicious food to try in Trafalgar Square.
London International Pillow Fight
The 7th April sees one of London’s more unusual events in full play, as hordes of people descend upon Allen Gardens in Shoreditch for the London International Pillow Fight. It’s a totally free event, and the goal is just to have a lot of fun and to let yourself go for a few hours of pillow swinging.
It’s become incredibly popular; the only requirement is that you bring your own soft, feathered pillow to the fight. Pyjamas are optional! All ages are welcome, but you’ll find it’s mostly adults trying to relive their childhood for the day.
The Queen’s ‘Real’ Birthday
Unusually, the Queen of England has two birthdays, her ‘real’ birthday and her ‘official’ birthday. Then again, she’s not your average citizen. While her official birthday isn’t until June, her real birthday falls on April 21st each year. She has two birthdays, in a tradition that dates back to 1748 when ruling monarch King George II used his regal powers to declare a second birthday for himself, because he wanted the weather to be better for the celebrations!
The official birthday of the Queen is perhaps the more ceremonial and celebrated, but on 21st April, head to Hyde Park or the Tower of London to watch salutes being fired off by artillery guns to commemorate the event.
The London Marathon
April provides the perfect weather conditions for the London Marathon – not too hot and not too cold. Although spots for runners are always sought after and limited, you can definitely find a place around the route to cheer on the participants for the day.
It’s always a lively affair as athletes and amateurs alike tackle the marathon course that winds its way through London’s most iconic sights. You’ll see people dressed up in wacky fancy dress, raising money for charity and persevering along the arduous course, and they will most definitely welcome any support from the crowds when the going gets tough.
Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race
The annual Boat Race between England’s oldest universities has been held since 1829 and sees the top teams from the two institutions battling it out over a 4.2-mile course along the River Thames.
The Boat Race has a rich tradition, and each year the banks of the course are lined with spectators stretching from Putney to Mortlake, on what’s known as the Championship Course.
The rowing race is the most anticipated of its kind in England and it’s never short of drama, with mutinies, protests and even sinkings having occurred throughout its long history. Of course, you’ll find much revelry throughout the day amongst the crowds.
Oxford Cambridge Goat Race
Taking place in rivalry to the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race, the Oxford Cambridge Goat Race has been held in Shoreditch for the last decade. This satirical event is hosted by Spitalfields City Farm, and sees two goats dressed in the coloured liveries of Oxford and Cambridge racing around the farm in a battle to be crowned winner.
It’s a silly alternative to the traditional Boat Race, but is attracting more and more attention and spectators each year.
Things to See and Do
As well as the exciting festivals and cultural events that are held in London throughout April, there are plenty more things to see and do in the capital too. From excellent temporary exhibitions in the world-famous museums and galleries of London to parks brimming with springtime colour, here are our top picks for April.
Walking Tours of London
With pleasant weather and a less than average chance of rain throughout April, this is the perfect time to join a walking tour of London’s best sights. As well as getting you into the beautiful fresh air of spring, you’ll be able to explore the city’s iconic sights and attractions with the help of a knowledgeable local guide.
There are plenty of walking tours out there, from free, tip-based tours to niche tours that explore the history of London or take you on the trail of infamous characters from the city’s past, such as Jack the Ripper. You can even join a Harry Potter walking tour if you’re a fan of Hogwarts and magic and would like to discover all the films’ shooting locations.
As well as hosting gun salutes on the Queen’s ‘real’ birthday, Hyde Park is a wonderful place to visit throughout April. Head to London’s most famous central park on a sunny day, after watching the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which is held just a short walk away at Buckingham Palace.
Enjoy the grassy pastures and the colourful flowers as you stroll through this veritable paradise within the city.
The Royal Mews
The Royal Mews is the traditional stables of the Royal Family, and is home to their rather luxurious carriages and fine horses, which you will see paraded during special occasions such as weddings and anniversaries.
It’s closed during state occasions of course when the carriages are in use, but from April onwards each year you can join free tours which are guided by the local Mews Wardens – you pay for entrance to the Royal Mews itself, but the tour is complimentary.
It’s a fascinating insight into a little-known branch of the Royal Services, and into the lavish and peculiar workings and lifestyle of the Royal Family.
April sees the end of the winter runs and the start of the summer performances at Shakespeare’s Globe, and fans of the English Bard won’t want to miss the chance to be first in line to watch plays from the country’s most famous writer.
The Globe is an authentic recreation of the historic playhouse constructed during Shakespeare’s era in the 1500s, and there’s really no better place to enjoy this excellent part of English culture than here.
The National Gallery
Found in Trafalgar Square, The National Gallery is London’s foremost art gallery. It’s worth a visit anytime of the year of course, being home to thousands of extraordinary paintings from across the world, but April always seems to be the time when interesting temporary exhibitions are opened up to the public, many of which are free to enter.
In April 2019, you can visit exhibitions dedicated to European artists such as Sorolla and Boilly; if you don’t know who they are, then this is the perfect time to learn about their work.
Van Gogh and Britain at The Tate
The Tate is another exceptional art gallery in London, and through April 2019 (and onwards) you’ll be able to visit the fascinating Van Gogh and Britain exhibition being held here.
The exhibition will showcase the work of Van Gogh, who spent many years in his youth living and painting in Britain. With many works of art collected here from across the world, this excellent display will explore the artist’s unique relationship with the United Kingdom.
Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition at the Design Museum
An alternative exhibition to visit for film lovers is Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition, which opens at the Design Museum in London at the end of April 2019. This intriguing cultural event will explore the great director’s work and life throughout the 20th century.
Kubrick is somewhat of a movie icon, having directed such pieces as Full Metal Jacket and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Much of his work was created in England, and at the Design Museum you’ll be introduced to his unique world of movie making.
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