4 Seasons, 1 City: The Best Time to Visit London

London is one of those cities that’s popular year-round. So popular, in fact, that more than 15 million tourists from around the globe visit London every year. Arriving in London without having previously book a hotel is not a wise idea. If you plan to visit between April and mid-October, making hotel reservations in advance is essential. Although you can find agencies in London that can help you find a hotel or a B&B in peak season, you never know quite what you’re getting or where it will be, and you will lose some of your precious travel time making arrangements. That's why I recommend Expedia when you come to search for your accommodation in London.

London weather is what you might call “changeable” and predicting what the weather will be like in any given season is difficult. England is an island, after all, and the sea surrounding it, as well as its northerly location, determine its weather patterns. In general, however, the climate is fairly mild year-round, rarely dipping below freezing or rising above 27°C (80°F), at least for extended periods. London can be drizzly, muggy, dry and hot, or clammy. It can also be glorious, with clear skies and gentle breezes, or bone-chillingly cold. Some days you get a bit of everything: rain, spots of sun, drizzle, clear skies, and more rain. But whatever the weather, whatever the season, London is well worth seeing. I will tell what’s happening in London, season by season, so that you can pick the best time to go for you.

Snowdrops at the Temple of Aeolus, Kew Gardens

London in Spring

London is at its green, blooming best in April and May. Here are some of the highlights of the season. The great London parks and gardens and the surrounding countryside are at their peak of lushness. The Chelsea Flower Show is the quintessential spring event. Airfares are lower than in summer. The sky stays light well into the evening. During the half-term school holidays in late February and for three weeks around Easter, visitors pour into London. As a result, the major attractions have longer lines (queues in Britspeak), and you may have a harder time finding a hotel room. The weather is always unpredictable. Public transportation is reduced during holiday periods. Many museums, stores, and restaurants close on Good Friday, Easter, and Easter Monday (the day after Easter).

London Eye @ Summer

London in Summer

Notoriously chilly London becomes irresistible under the sun. Many tourists flock to London throughout the summer to enjoy the fine weather, but that same weather can turn into rain or a fine, gray drizzle in July and August. The crowds descend in summer for several reasons. Everyone moves outdoors at the slightest hint of good weather, and London buzzes with alfresco theaters, concerts, and festivals. The evenings are deliciously long and often cool, even if the day has been hot. The evening stays light until 10 p.m. or even later. But keep in mind: If you believe the weather statistics, July and August are the months of highest rainfall in London, so skies can stay gray and cloudy. 

Occasional summer heat waves can drive the mercury toward 30°C, 35°C, and 40°C (the 80s, 90s, and 100s in Fahrenheit), making July and August hot and muggy. Many businesses and budget-class hotels don’t have air-conditioning. Aggravated by London’s soot, plus gas and diesel fumes, a hot spell can lead to excessive air pollution. Most overseas visitors (30 percent of travelers) converge on the city from July to September. Lines for major attractions can be interminably long. Airfare sales are rare and tickets are the most expensive during the summer peak. Centrally located hotels are more difficult to come by, and their high-season rates apply. Even for a short city break in London booking your hotel in advance is essential during this time of year.

London Autumn reflections

London in Autumn

The golden glow of autumn casts a lovely spell over London. The air is crisp, and the sun gives old stone buildings and church spires a mellow patina. Fall is my favorite time of the year to be in London, and I can think of only one disadvantage to counteract the many advantages. After mid-September, fewer tourists are around, so the city feels less crowded and you encounter more Londoners than visitors. With the drop in tourism, hotel rates and airfares may go down as well. London’s cultural calendar springs to life. Although you may experience rain at this time of year, you’re just as likely to encounter what Americans call an “Indian summer,” a late stretch of warm weather and clear skies. One thing to look out for: Like every season in England, autumn can bring rain.

London - Winter Walk

London in Winter

Londoners love to be cozy, and there’s no better time for coziness than winter. Although most overseas visitors to London arrive during the warmer months, the number of visitors from within the United Kingdom is highest between January and March. What do they know that you should know? Consider the points that make winter wonderful. London in winter is a bargain. London’s off-season is November 1 to December 12 and December 25 to March 14. Winter off-season rates for airfares and hotels can sometimes be astonishingly low — airline package deals don’t get any cheaper. At these times, hotel prices can drop by as much as 20 percent. If you arrive after the Christmas holidays, you can also take advantage of London’s famous post-Christmas sales. Although the winter winds may blow, nothing in London stops — in fact, everything gets busier. The arts — theater, opera, concerts, and gallery shows — are in full swing. London develops a lovely buzz during the Christmas season: The stores are decorated, lights are lit, carols are sung, special holiday pantomimes are performed, and the giant Norwegian spruce goes up in Trafalgar Square.

Photos via Flickr Creative Commons