Summer is almost here, or at least it’s not too cold in London anymore come May, and it’s a great opportunity to get outdoors and to explore some of the capital’s best sights and most vibrant cultural events.
Londoners get two Bank Holidays in May, which they use to celebrate the onset of great weather and more of it to come, and you’ll find this is a month of festivities and outside entertainment. There are countless important sporting events held across the capital, from the FA Cup Finals to the start of the cricketing season, while theatre productions are performed in the great open air, and parks are absolutely resplendent in their May colours.
There’s a lot going on throughout May, so to help you to plan your visit to the big city here’s our complete guide to London in May.
- 1 The Weather in London in May
- 2 Festivals and Events
- 3 Things to See and Do
The Weather in London in May
London in May sees great weather, all things considered. Spring is well and truly moving into summer, and the days are getting longer and the nights shorter. The grey mist of winter has long been forgotten, and you’ll find parks full of colour and beer gardens spilling over into the streets as Londoners soak up the newly arrived sunshine.
Although the mornings and evening may be a little chilly and you’ll definitely want a jumper, you’ll start to see the locals out wearing just shorts and t-shirts and, inevitably, sporting some sunburn after a long weekend of sun. You might get the odd rainy day, though it’s not too often an occurrence to make it worth worrying about, but given the good weather you can expect London to be much busier in May than in previous months of the year.
Festivals and Events
London plays host to many great events through May, and it’s the perfect time of the year to get involved in the sunshine and to soak up some culture, and perhaps a few drinks too. From Bank Holiday weekends to flower shows and sporting events, here are our top picks for London in May.
May Bank Holidays
There are two Bank Holiday weekends in England in May, giving Londoners plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great weather and to take a break from work.
The first Monday of May sees the Early May Bank Holiday, which is the newest Bank Holiday to be introduced, primarily, it would seem, to give people the chance to bask in the early summer sunshine.
The second Bank Holiday is officially known as the spring Bank Holiday, and it falls on the last Monday of May.
Both long weekends, you’ll find plenty of cultural and sporting events being held across the capital. It’s a lively if busy time to visit London, and you’ll be able to join the locals in the parks and across the city enjoying their time off. If the sun’s out, the t-shirts and shorts will be too, alongside football games, barbecues and drinks.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a must-see event in London, and it’s held every May in the gardens of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea over five days towards the end of the month.
The Chelsea Flower Show is an exceptional display of botany run by the Royal Horticultural Society, and it offers flower enthusiasts from across the country the chance to compete for recognition and to win prizes for their work.
You’ll also find more unusual works of art – flower related of course – on display here, but just remember that it’s an incredibly popular event, so try to get tickets early. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock here over the five days of the event, and it’s popular enough to be televised by the BBC.
London History Day
31st May is the annual celebration of London History Day, a day that recognises the city’s rich history, and attempts to educate people on the intriguing past of the capital.
London has a long history that dates back to pre-Roman times. On this day, you’ll find events held in museums across the city, which offer an insight into the diverse development and growth of London into the sprawling metropolis you see today.
The 31st May was chosen as the date for this historical commemoration because this was the date that Big Ben, London’s iconic timekeeper, was first rung.
London Wine Week
If you’d prefer to enjoy a few drinks of the good stuff rather than learning about the city’s history, then never fear, because London hosts an entire week devoted to wine! Held in the middle of May, London Wine Week is the perfect place for wine connoisseurs to indulge their taste buds.
Venues across the capital host special events throughout the week, allowing you to join tasting sessions, sommelier classes and much more in some of the city’s best wine bars.
London Craft Week
London Craft Week is also held in May each year, and it offers visitors to the city the chance to not only learn more about the creative scene in the capital but to get hands-on classes for master craftsmen too.
Events are held across London, and you’ll be able to learn about such crafts as metal and glass working, ceramic designs and painting, to name just a few. It’s a great chance to learn new skills and to see the creative side behind often-overlooked yet talented craftspeople.
The Canalway Cavalcade is a wonderfully fun event that’s held on the waterways of Little Venice, a beautiful collection of canals that are found around Westminster. The festival takes place over the first May Bank Holiday weekend, ensuring that there are three packed days of events to enjoy.
You can learn more about the canals and the boats, the history and the enthusiasts that keep old traditions alive today through the long weekend. It’s colourful, fun and energetic, and you might just get to take to the water yourself.
Foodies Festival in Syon Park
The last Bank Holiday of the month sees food lovers descending upon Syon Park, a vast estate in west London, for a culinary experience like no other. For the long weekend, you can enjoy the biggest food festival in the country, as top chefs and experts give talks and demonstrations to crowds of people.
There will be plenty of quality food to try, alongside cooking workshops, live music and many other events too, all held in a wonderful, outdoor setting. You might even spot a few celebrity chefs mixing with the crowds at the Foodies Festival in Syon Park.
Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival
Perhaps the most unusual, yet strangely enthralling festival to be held in London in May, is the Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival. For decades, puppet fanatics have been coming to this unique event to celebrate all things puppet related, but in particular Punch and Judy.
The classic English puppet show has long entertained children and adults alike with an amusing simplicity that has carried it for centuries. Held on the 9th May each year, this wonderful festival is great fun for adults and children alike, and you can enjoy performances from puppet masters who have travelled here from across the country, and gain an insight into this sometimes peculiar pastime.
Things to See and Do
As well as an array of events to attend during May, there are plenty of great things to see and to do in London too throughout the month. Visit the city’s great many parks, enjoy walking tours in the fresh air, or attend some of the excellent outdoor theatre performances held in locations across London. Here are the best things to do in London in May.
London’s parks are quite simply excellent to visit in May, because with the sun out they are awash with people enjoying the great outdoors and escaping the city. There are many to visit, from small, hidden parks found deep within London to the larger royal parks in the suburbs.
Take a walk through verdant green spaces, jog or cycle along trails and pathways, and immerse yourself in London’s glorious nature.
Hyde Park is particularly busy on Bank Holidays, while you can head out of London’s centre to visit the beautiful Richmond Park, where you’ll find not only the flowers and trees blooming in the sunshine but the herds of deer out in the open, enjoying the start of summer too.
Walking tours of London are a must throughout May, as the weather lends itself particularly nicely to enjoying the sights of the city while strolling through the busy streets. There are lots to join, including tip-based walking tours led by enthusiastic guides, to Harry Potter or Jack the Ripper themed tours that will take you through unique parts of the city that would otherwise be hidden.
Enjoy the outdoors as you learn about London’s past, present and future, while seeing the best that the city has to offer on a walking tour.
Cruise the Thames
Take to the mighty River Thames during your trip to London in May, to explore the city’s great waterway on a boat cruise. There’s nothing better than sitting out on deck, enjoying the breeze as you leisurely travel past London’s most iconic sights.
There are many different cruises to choose from, including simple sightseeing or even commuting boats, to more extravagant dinner cruises that come complete with drinks and gourmet dining as you explore the River Thames.
FA Cup Final
One of the best sporting events to see in London in May is the classic FA Cup Final. This is the biggest cup final of the year, and it’s held at Wembley, the national football stadium, to packed out, raucous crowds, as two teams battle it out to be crowned winners in what is always a hard fought and compelling match.
The men’s FA Cup Final is always the most popular, but you can also watch the much-underrated women’s FA Cup Final too, which is also held at Wembley usually a week or so before the men’s game, to enjoy a match between the equally talented English women’s teams.
May is when the cricket season well and truly begins, as rain is limited and the sun is out. A great English pastime is enjoying a cricket match, and soaking in the atmosphere on weekends. Head to one of the iconic cricket stadiums such as Lords or The Oval to catch a world-class game while you are in London.
As a bonus for cricket fans, the ICC Cricket World Cup is held across England and Wales, starting at the end of May, with many of the matches being held in London including the opening games and ceremonies. You can expect packed stands at all the events!
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
May sees the opening of the excellent Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, with performances being held through May and well into the summer months.
This wonderful theatre makes use of the great weather to stage top quality events in Regent’s Park in London, as the organisers and actors put on not classics, but new and intriguing productions that you won’t find anywhere else in the city.
It’s a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoor air and to witness some brilliant plays at the same time.
Museum of the London Docklands
The often overlooked Museum of the London Docklands does, in fact, hold some fascinating exhibitions, and being free to enter it’s certainly worth a visit this May to peruse the intriguing and unique displays of local history held here.
As well as learning about the Docklands growth into one of the most powerful and rich trading areas in the British Empire, you can also learn about the slave trade, the Fire of London, and much more. Of particular interest is the Secret Rivers exhibition, which begins in May 2019, and offers a look into the city’s many hidden waterways and long lost rivers, proving that the Thames isn’t the only river to have shaped London’s history.
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