London: A Visitor’s Guide
Have you seen our guidebook? Honest reviews of 200 London attractions with money-saving tips, opening times, prices and maps
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The annual Trooping of the Colour parade is British pomp and pageantry at its best, held to celebrate the Queen’s official birthday in June. You can watch it for free as it marches past Buckingham Palace and down The Mall, but the real spectacle takes place on Horse Guards Parade, where the Queen will take the salute from one of her Household regiments.
The Lord Mayor’s procession takes place in November, when the newly-elected Lord Mayor of London rides his coach from Mansion House to the Royal Courts of Justice and takes his oath of allegiance to the Queen. It is followed by a huge firework display. The event is more than 800 years old, making it one of the longest running pageants in the world.
The Notting Hill Carnival is Europe’s biggest street party, and takes place on August Bank Holiday weekend. More than a million people attend each year, to enjoy the parade of floats, live music, colourful costumes and Caribbean culture.
The State Opening of Parliament takes place every year, when the Queen rides her state coach down The Mall to Parliament Square. She then processes through the Houses of Parliament to the House of Lords, where she sits on the golden throne to read the government’s speech – containing their legislative plans for the coming year.
The annual Proms concert season attracts some of the best classical music conductors and orchestras in the world. It takes place between July and September in the Royal Albert Hall. The famous ‘Last Night’ draws tremendous crowds, as does its sister show in Hyde Park. It is traditionally a mixture of bombastic and flag-waving patriotic songs.
Trafalgar Square is home to the most famous Christmas tree in the country. It is donated to us every year by the Norwegians, as a thank you for the part we played in World War II. As the evenings draw near it plays host to a different Christmas carol choir every night, singing the shoppers home as they pass through Trafalgar Square. Check out Craig’s review of the ceremony.
For two weeks over June and July the entire nation holds its collected breath… will we have another British winner? Andy Murray finally went and won it in 2013, so we can finally relax and enjoy the world’s most famous tennis tournament, along with half a million spectators who attend the event every year.
Bonfire Night dates back to 1605, when James I decided to mark Guy Fawkes’ botched attempt blow up Parliament with an annual celebration, and we have been letting off fireworks and burning big bonfires ever since.
Don’t miss Chinese New Year in late January/early February. 300,000 people typically turn up for a parade which includes hug papier-mâché dragons dancing through the streets of Chinatown. Trafalgar Square is usually home to a large stage featuring Oriental dancers, acrobats and musicians.
Remembrance Day takes place in early November, when the Queen, together with leading politicians and members of the military, gather together to honour those who have died in the service of the country. A wreath laying ceremony takes place at the foot of the Cenotaph.
Still looking for ideas? Try our London events guide for plenty more things to do