Summer in London: Events and Festivals

Every summer in London events fill up the calendar with a constant whirl of festivals, concerts, exhibitions and special events. Add some local color to your London vacation with a street festival, take advantage of special summer hours on exclusive events like the Buckingham Palace summer opening, or indulge in some great music and grown-up fun at the capital’s innumerable music festivals and pop-up parties.

Here’s what’s on this summer in London!

London Royal Events

Trooping the Colour

June 9, 2019

Summer in London events get royal in early June, when you can celebrate the Queen’s official birthday with all the trappings of royal pageantry: parades of officers in signature bearskin hats, cavalry horses and riders in gleaming ceremonial dress, stirring military music, yards and yards of bunting, and even a Royal Air Force flyover. It’s a 200-year-old tradition, and you can experience it for free… if you’re willing to wait for it.

Seats for the ceremonial events at Horse Guards Parade are hot commodities, so you’ll have to enter the online ballot when it opens in January for your chance at next summer’s event. You can also book tickets to the official rehearsal events, the Major General’s Review and the Colonel’s Review, if you’re going to be in London the last week of May and want a taste of the action. Plus, on the Wednesday and Thursday before Trooping the Color, Horse Guards Parade hosts the Household Division’s Beating Retreat, which includes military bands (including the cavalry’s band, playing horseback) and fireworks.

No seat? No problem. To watch the procession from Horse Guards Parade to Buckingham Palace, arrive along The Mall early — crowds begin to gather as early as 8 AM for the midday events. We’ve got some great ideas at our London Pinterest page on how to get the best views of Trooping the Color!

Buckingham Palace State Rooms Summer Opening

July 21 – September 30, 2018

Summer brings a rare chance to go inside Buckingham Palace. Photo: Shutterstock

Summer brings a rare chance to go inside Buckingham Palace. Photo: Shutterstock

The annual summer opening of Buckingham Palace is reason enough for many to plan their vacation around summer in London. As the workplace and London residence of Queen Elizabeth II, it’s one of the few working royal palaces left in the world and most tourists will never get closer than the ornate gates out front. But each year 19 state rooms are opened for summer visitors, featuring the kinds of gilt and marble splendor you’d expect of royalty. From a truly magnificent bronze staircase to the grand Throne Room, priceless artwork by Rembrant and Vermeer to Sevres porcelain, and more than 350 clocks and watches scattered throughout the palace rooms, the Buckingham Palace tour is a truly unique experience.

Get a sneak peek with this 360-degree tour video from The Royal Family:

London Carnivals & Fairs

Food: Taste of London

June 13-17, 2019 (Regent’s Park) / November 15 -18, 2018 (Tobacco Dock)

This twice-annual food festival sees its massive main event each June in Regent’s Park, one of London’s lovely Royal Parks. The best of London dining shows up with small plates of their signature dishes, giving you the opportunity to taste your way through the city’s vibrant culinary scene. Plus, you’ll find world-class chefs putting on demonstrations, shop a gourmet food market and even find classes, complimentary tastings and more. If your idea of a fabulous summer day in the city involves good food in a beautiful park setting, Taste of London is the festival for you.

Arts: Greenwich & Docklands International Festival

June 22-July 7, 2018

Free theatre, dance performances on the waterfront, whimsical night parades: this annual performing arts festival brings more than 130 performances of all kinds to Royal Greenwich, Docklands and Tower Hamlets. Different events are showcased daily, meaning you might catch some fun on your way to Greenwich’s Royal Observatory, the Cutty Sark or one of the other attractions in the area. On June 30th, 2018 look for dancing performances throughout Canary Wharf, in a free day of shows called Dancing City.

Culture: Notting Hill Carnival

August 26 -27, 2018

A Caribbean carnival in London's streets. Photo: Flickr/Angel Ganev. (CC BY 2.0)

A Caribbean carnival in London’s streets. Photo: Flickr/Angel Ganev. (CC BY 2.0)

A Caribbean festival in London? Of course! Celebrating the many cultures that coexist in London is one of the city’s great charms, and the Notting Hill Carnival is an August tradition dating back to the 1960s. We’re talking a massive party in the streets over the August Bank Holiday long weekend, with days of island-flavored music, delicious Caribbean spices wafting through the air, and all-day festivities leading up to the main parade on Monday. That’s when the classic costumes of Carnival, with sequins flashing and feathers flying, will truly take center stage.

The Notting Hill Carnival parades through London. Photo: Flickr/Jay Bergeson (CC BY 2.0)

The Notting Hill Carnival parades through London. Photo: Flickr/Jay Bergeson (CC BY 2.0)

Should you go to Notting Hill Carnival? If you’ve always wanted to see the tropical colors and excitement of a Carnival parade, this is a unique opportunity to experience it in the heart of one of London’s central neighborhoods — close to tourist draws like Kensington and Hyde Park. Just be ready for crowds, spotty cell phone service, and rerouted Tube service. This is Europe’s largest street festival — expect something like two million people to attend — so be sure you’re comfortable with wall-to-wall humanity in the streets. Attend on Sunday morning for a slightly calmer vibe during the children’s parade, and to see the costume prize awards.

Check back as we update this post with more great summer in London events and festival ideas for your vacation itinerary! Plus, visit our Summer in London: Outdoor Theatre guide for the best in open-air performances all summer long.