Get set for a taste of both the historic and the modern with flights and vacations in London. Take a history lesson while you tour the Tower of London, or get the lay of the land with a ride on the London Eye. With so much to see and do, there’s plenty for everyone in London.
Home to well known landmarks, designer shopping, and a vibrant arts and theatre community, it’s no wonder so many choose to spend their vacations in London. And with flights from British Airways, you’ll arrive in England in style. With daily flights to London from 20 US cities, it is never out of reach.
London’s festival scene is as eclectic and diverse as the British capital itself, with something for all tastes. This summer Lovebox is the festival with the big names. Head over to Victoria Park on the 15 and 16 July to see Major Lazer, LCD Soundsystem and Jungle do their thing. Alternatively, for the more dance-inclined, South West Four at Clapham Common will provide all the beats you could want. The Chemical Brothers, Rudimental and Dizzee Rascal vie for your attention, among many more over the bank holiday weekend – 27 and 28 August.
Find out what's on in London this July
The summer hits London in July, bringing the sun and even more music events – like the annual Citadel day festival. Brand new shows debut in the West End, including the kid-friendly Gruffalo musical. Plus conventions galore, a wonderful flower show and the biggest cycling event in the country – what more could you ask for?
Starting the month with a British art icon, visit the Royal Academy of Arts to see David Hockney RA: 82 Portraits and 1 Still Life starting on 2 July. In this fantastic new body of work, Hockney has rediscovered his love for portraiture and painted various subjects over the past two years living in Los Angeles.
A kids’ favourite starts at the Lyric Theatre on 6 July, in a musical version of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s family classic The Gruffalo. Performed by Tall Stories, this is a brilliant telling of this timeless story, with laughter, a few scares and great music to guide you along the way.
All those with green fingers should venture to Hampton Court Palace, where the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is in full bloom from 5 to 10 July. With stunning floral arrangements, delicious artisanal food and some celebrity gardeners giving talks, this is not to be missed.
The 11th annual Wireless Festival takes place at its new-ish home of Finsbury Park from 8 to 10 July. With some of the biggest names in electronic dance music and hip hop gracing the stage, this is definitely one to see. Calvin Harris leads up the Friday line-up, while Chase & Status are Saturday’s headliner, so book tickets now.
Returning from a galaxy far, far away to London’s ExCeL London Exhibition Centre, the Star WarsCelebration Europe takes place from 15 to 17 July. Fans of the epic saga will revel in the success of the latest film, The Force Awakens, and get a sneak preview glimpse of the upcoming Rogue One. There is also an impressive cosplay competition and a few celeb speakers to enjoy.
Head down to Victoria Park in Hackney on Sunday 17 June for a wonderful one-day festival. Citadel brings a chilled out atmosphere to East London for a day of music, games and comedy, and Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós head up the live music.
Lewis Carroll’s influential and imitable fantasy Alice in Wonderland has been given the opera treatment by composer Will Todd. Now in its fourth year, Opera Holland Park brings this strange tale to life at Holland Park on 28 and 29 July, one for all the family.
And finally, Prudential Ride London sees thousands of cyclists takes to the road in an annual bike festival. This closed-road event is one of a kind in the UK and both professionals and amateurs alike can enjoy the events on 30 and 31 July. Those not cycling can get a taste of the action watching from the side-lines.
Find out what's on in London this August
With summer in full swing London adds a delightful medley of outdoor events to the mix, which include outdoor film screenings and an eclectic display of live music. Foodie gatherings and beer festivals invite you to sample and celebrate local produce, while the Bank Holiday brings three days of fun to the capital.
For the second year running, the popular 51st State Festival will be returning to Trent Park on 6 August. This one day dance festival, which specialises in US house music, brings together new acts and dance legends for an unforgettable music event – set in one of North London’s most stunning parks.
Or enjoy a civilised weekend which celebrates music, arts and nature at Caught by the River Thames on 6 and 7 August. This new festival unites bands, brewers, authors and artists for two days of diverse and inspirational activities, held in the verdant grounds of Fulham Palace.
Between 9 and 13 August, the Great British Beer Festival will bring more than 900 real ales, ciders, perries and foreign beers to the Olympia exhibition centre. Traditional pub games and live music add to the atmosphere, while the wide variety of food stalls offer everything from pub grub to innovative street cooking.
Or for craft beer, street food and live music head to Bethnal Green gas works for the London Craft Beer Festival from 12 to 14 August. With 60 world-class brewers uniting under one roof, you’ll have the opportunity to sample UK-brewed creations and dine on beer-inspired, locally sourced cuisine, whilst enjoying big music acts.
London’s parks, rooftops and open spaces provide plenty of opportunity to enjoy outdoor cinema throughout August. London’s favourite open-air film festival Film4 Summer Screen, held in the spectacular setting of Somerset House, ends on 17 August. Watch your favourite movie under the stars in a stunning courtyard setting. Choose from a variety of films, all showing on a state-of-the-art screen with full surround sound.
Celebrate the 30th anniversary of Top Gun at Regents Park Open Air Theatre on 21 August. Enjoy this 80s classic, and its iconic soundtrack, on the big screen. Soak up the surrounds of the impressive auditorium and its beautiful park setting…summer in the city doesn’t get much better than this.
Enjoy a unique weekend of music, food and family fun at The Big Feastival coming to the The Cotwolds on 26 to 28 August. Set on Blur bassist Alex James’ idyllic farm, he and TV chef Jamie Oliver have created an exciting fusion of live music and foodie favourites, with a huge helping of family fun on the side – in the form of vintage funfair attractions and animal encounters.
Don’t miss the excitement of the Notting Hill Carnival, which takes place over the Bank Holiday weekend on 28 and 29 August. The overwhelming sights, sounds and smells are at the very heart of this colourful celebration - with two days of festivities including live music, traditional cuisine and a flamboyant parade that is not to be missed.
Don’t miss the Foodies Festival Alexandra Palace, which takes place over the Bank Holiday weekend and ends on 29 August. The culinary elite come together for this food-themed event, as celebrity chefs and familiar MasterChef faces cook up a storm. Enjoy flavours from around the world and creations by expert mixologists, or pick up tasty products from the Artisan Producers Market. Cookery classes for children and live music make this a great day for everyone.
Alternatively head to the stunning setting of Hampton Court Palace for the BBC Good Food Festival, which also finishes on 29 August, after three days of fun over the long weekend. Discover a great selection of artisan producers, an unbeatable line up of cooks and chefs, fantastic live entertainment and fun for all the family.
Find out what's on in London this September
Autumn may be here, but don’t go into hibernation just yet… London still has plenty of amazing al fresco offerings to inspire you. From festivals on the banks of the Thames to flower shows and the BBC Proms in the Park – the spirit of summer lives on in September.
Cinephiles won’t want to miss the UK’s largest independent film competition, Portobello Film Festival from 1 to 16 September. This progressive festival provides a platform for new independent film-making talent, showcasing work across a series of categories. What’s more, it’s free… At Westbourne Studios in Notting Hill.
Also throughout September – Totally Thames celebrates London’s iconic river with a month of water-themed fun. Last year’s festival attracted over two million visitors, with its full programme of waterfront arts festivals, walks, talks, boat cruises, water sports and more.
Marvel at myriad displays of floral finery when the London Flower Show unites gardening experts and enthusiasts from around the world, from 8 to 11 September. Stroll around stunning show gardens, admire installations and enjoy live entertainment, all within the stately grounds of Osterley Park in West London.
Then it’s Union Jacks at the ready for musical spectacular Proms in the Park on Saturday 10 September. Pack a picnic and settle down to enjoy this wonderful open-air concert in the lush surrounds of Hyde Park. Featuring a special performance by the cast of magnificent West End musical Matilda.
There will be monkey business a-plenty, when the Great Gorilla Run sees TV’s Bill Oddie and hundreds of other gorilla costume-clad runners pounding the streets of London on Saturday 17 September. Cheer on the participants as they dash past iconic city landmarks in what promises to be an unforgettable spectacle.
Celebrating the capital’s position at the forefront of global design, The London Design Festival will see hundreds of jaw-dropping installations arrive in the city from 17 to 25 September. The transformation of Trafalgar Square into a crazy golf course is among the exciting plans for this year’s festival.
Dates for the diary of any fashionista are 22 to 25 September – when London Fashion Weekend takes over the catwalks of the capital. Hurry to grab your tickets if you don’t want to miss out on those coveted fashion show seats, talks from leading designers and designer-shopping bargains.
Or for a taste of quintessential London – make your way to Guildhall on Sunday 25 September for the Pearly Kings and Queens Harvest Festival. This time-honoured event sees the city’s Pearly royalty don their finest button-clad garments and put on traditional entertainment, before parading to St Mary-le-Bow Church.
London neighbourhood guide
If you’re planning a trip to London, one of the most important considerations you’ll make is where to stay. London is like a city of villages, each providing a different city break experience. Our hotels in London are spread across many of London's neighbourhoods. For entertainment there’s no better place than the West End. Westminster is at the heart of politics and royalty. Or stay around Tower Bridge and soak up quintessential London and the ‘city life’.
Bloomsbury has attracted writers and liberal thinkers for centuries. Streets lined with Victorian architecture and beautiful garden squares contribute to its distinctive village feel. Our bestselling hotel in this area is 3* Royal National – it’s basic but, as a comfortable base in a great location, it is ideal. Alternatively, the 4* Doubletree by Hilton London West End is a stylish contemporary hotel in a beautiful Edwardian block, just off Russell Square. King's Cross St Pancras is one of London’s most newly regenerated areas and an exciting place to be. Here you’ll find The British Museum, The British Library and the much underrated Charles Dickens’ Museum. Fantastic transport links provide easy access around London, and across the UK, with Eurostar serving London's high-speed rail link with Paris, Brussels and continental Europe too.
This central London neighbourhood is a magnet for shopping enthusiasts. Department stores, including Selfridges and Liberty, nestle alongside fantastic high street shops on Oxford Street and Regent Street. While premium designer brands surround Old and New Bond Street. We recommend staying at either the Art Deco 4* Amba Hotel Marble Arch or the majestic 4* Cumberland, both offering a perfect base for the avid shopper – the Cumberland’s reception boasts one of London’s most exciting art galleries too.
At the heart of London’s monarchy and politics, and a favourite for locals and visitors alike, this area is brimming with culture and enviable views of iconic landmarks. Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace are to name but a few. Enjoy the best of London from the 4* The Grosvenor, which is perfectly located next to London Victoria Station, the arrival point for trains from London Gatwick Airport.
Known as the leafy neighbourhoods of London, Paddington is bordered by Hyde Park and fashionable Notting Hill is characterised by its distinctive green squares. A haven for antiques, second hand books and the weekly Portobello Road Market. 4* Hilton London Paddington is a popular choice, adjacent to Paddington train station – providing easy access to Heathrow Airport, and only three blocks from the shopping district along Oxford Street.
One of the most beautiful areas of London and alive with history and the arts, Kensington is surrounded by stunning Georgian and Edwardian architecture. The 4* Rembrandt is a firm favourite in this area – perfectly located adjacent to the Victoria and Albert Museum. You could also visit the Natural History Museum and the brilliant Science Museum while you’re here. For those looking for a luxury stay, try 5* The Ampersand Hotel, a stunning boutique with a superb tea rooms. Just around the corner, Earl’s Court is a lively area offering a true taste of London lifestyle, with plenty of pubs to frequent, including the superb speakeasy Evans and Peel Detective Agency.
Our finest luxury hotels and London’s Michelin starred restaurants gravitate towards the most exclusive addresses in London. Enjoy award-winning afternoon tea, browse designer shops on Bond Street and admire the affluent houses in Berkley Square. The 5* Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel is a quintessential Park Lane hotel, providing the biggest of all hotel rooms in London. Another such residence, 5* The Park Lane, is set within an iconic Art Deco building and was fully refurbished in 2016.
This exclusive royal neighbourhood is a great place to shop for designer or vintage pieces. Knightsbridge is the home of Harrods, the world famous department store and The Royal Albert Hall. You’ll find the grandiose 5* Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park sitting opposite the park, where Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner restaurant offers a history of British gastronomy. Nearby Chelsea is famous for the King’s Road, with its fashionable roots from the 60s, still has a bohemian vibe. Contemporary art enthusiasts should make sure to visit the Saatchi Gallery, just off Sloane Square.
From musicals to dramas, comedies to tragedies, London’s Theatreland provides the best in entertainment. The lively areas of Covent Garden and Leicester Square are bursting with bars, restaurants and talented street performers who vie for your attention. 5* Waldorf Hilton enjoys an enviable location at the top of the Strand, perfect if you want to be right in the heart of the action. Whilst in the area, have a look at the London Transport Museum’s quirky collection of historic trams, buses and trains throughout the decades.
The year-round festival atmosphere on the Southbank makes this one of the most vibrant areas in London. Browse galleries in the South Bank Arts Centre and play your part in the outdoor art installations. Spectate at the skateboard-friendly underpass and enjoy the views from the EDF London Eye – this pedestrian-friendly area along the River Thames is a cultural delight. We recommend the 4* Park Plaza Westminster Bridge for both its location on the river and its unbeatable views of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament across the Thames.
London's Financial District beautifully showcases this city’s historical past. Iconic landmarks, like the Tower of London, the magnificent Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral dominate London’s skyline. You’ll also find some of the city’s best indoor markets in the area, with Old Spitalfield’s Market, Leadenhall Market and Petticoat Lane Market all within walking distance. The brutalist architecture of the Barbican Centre is a sight to see, and is the largest multi-arts venue in Europe – so they’ll be something interesting on too. We recommend staying at the 4* Crowne Plaza London The City St Pauls, a stylish hotel within walking distance of St Paul’s.
Shining like a beacon on the south bank of the Thames, the Shard’s iridescent glow towers above London Bridge and Borough Market’s sizzling gourmet food stalls. Close by, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre wows the crowds followed by the Tate Modern, including its brand new wing showcasing further flung international talent. To see London from above, a trip to the viewing platform of the Shard comes highly recommended, but you will have to book. The 5* Hilton London Bankside offers contemporary style at the heart of this hip area, including the fantastic restaurant at the OXBO Bankside.
Conveniently located within 20 minutes from London City Airport – East London offers a great alternative to central London, especially if you’re looking for a cheap hotel. Stratford is home to the Olympic Park, at the centre of the London 2012 Olympic Games, and Westfield – the largest urban shopping centre in Europe. Canary Wharf and the London Docklands can also rival the West End, with glam bars, restaurants and the O2 Arena putting on the world’s most popular live events. The 4* DoubleTree by Hilton London Docklands Riverside enjoys a unique location, with fabulous views over the Thames and Canary Wharf and excellent facilities including an indoor swimming pool and health club.
London: An insiders guide
London: An insiders guide
Author and resident Saska Graville unearths off-the-radar places to eat, sleep and shop.