London, England's capital, is always a good place to take a trip, but it's an especially lovely area to visit in the fall season. As the summer crowds disperse and the leaves turn golden, the city's parks provide a colorful backdrop for autumnal strolls and cozy pubs serve comfort food in front of crackling fires. And the seasonal chill offers the perfect excuse to take shelter in some of London's world-class museums, galleries, annual film and food festivals, and other attractions.
Pick a park, any park. London may not seem leafy at first glance but it's home to eight royal parks that cover 5,000 acres and a number of major open spaces like Hampstead Heath and Clapham Common. Grab a coat, scarf, and hat and hunt for conkers—seeds from horse chestnut trees—among the crunchy leaves.
For spectacular fall colors, head to Hyde Park to walk among its more than 4,000 trees; Hampstead Heath to spot ancient oaks and maples; and Richmond Park to see the deer battle it out during rutting (breeding) season.
Explore some of London's top museums after dark during October's Museums at Night weekend, a bi-annual event that encourages attractions to throw open their doors to showcase their treasures in quirky ways. Highlights include spooky Halloween-themed tours, film screenings, and immersive workshops. Many of the venues are free to enter, but some of the special events may incur an additional fee.
Also, check out Emerge, a September festival at night taking place in museums, galleries, historic houses, visual arts venues, and more.
'Tis the season to take shelter in a cozy pub with a mulled wine or a pint of ale by a crackling fire. London is full of warm and welcoming pubs that really come into their own when the weather turns sour.
History fans should check out the Spaniards Inn at the edge of Hampstead Heath, a 16th-century pub where Charles Dickens and John Keats used to drink, and the Mayflower, a riverside drinking den the Pilgrims set off from to explore the New World. The Gun in Canary Wharf is home to cozy nooks and open fires, and the Ship Tavern in Holborn serves excellent roast dinners in its candle-lit dining room.
Traditionally served on a Sunday, the roast dinner is a British institution. This hearty dish is made up of roasted meat (usually beef, pork, chicken, or lamb) served with roasted vegetables (typically potatoes, carrots, and broccoli) alongside stuffing, savory Yorkshire puddings, and lashings of gravy. You'll find roast dinners on menus in pubs and restaurants across London—it's comfort food at its finest, especially after a long walk in a park. Top picks include Hawksmoor for its duck fat roast potatoes and bone marrow gravy, the Jugged Hare for its rotisserie-cooked game, and the Harwood Arms, London's first Michelin-starred pub.
Over several days in October, the London Film Festival entertains the masses by showing features created by over 900 international and British filmmakers from more than 75 countries. The festival has been going strong for more than 60 years and is known for its diversity, including feature films, short films from both established and new talent, and international and European premieres.
Explore London's Haunted Spots
Explore London's spooky side at Halloween with a visit to one of the city's many haunted houses, pubs, and theaters. Highlights include the almost 500 years old Sutton House and Breaker's Yard, a former house and school in Hackney where ghosts have been spotted roaming the oak-paneled rooms; Theatre Royal on Drury Lane for star-studded sightings (currently closed for renovation) and Highgate Cemetery where a 7-foot-tall vampire and a floating nun are said to haunt the gothic tombs.
The annual London Restaurant Festival is a month-long celebration of the city's excellent eateries. Over 250 restaurants take part in a series of more than 70 culinary events all of October, including kitchen tours, specially-designed tasting menus, restaurant-hopping trails, and chef-led workshops. Several restaurants offer great value meal deals throughout the month so it's an ideal time to take a bite out of London's dining scene.
See London's skies light up with fireworks in early November, better known throughout the U.K. as Bonfire Night. The date marks the foiled Gunpowder Plot of 1605 when Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament and assassinate the protestant King James I to replace him with a Catholic head of state.
At Bonfire Night events, you'll likely see effigies of Fawkes on top of bonfires, and you can try traditional food like toffee apples, parkin cake (gingerbread), treacle (molasses) toffee, and baked potatoes. Major London fireworks displays take place in Alexandra Palace, Battersea Park, and Southwark Park.
Worldwide Harry Potter fans of all ages can get an inside look at how the super popular films were made when taking a highly-rated walking tour at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London. Spend a nice fall day going behind the scenes and seeing a diversity of film sets, including the Gryffindor common room, Hagrid’s hut, the boys’ dormitory, and more.
Plus, the kids will love seeing the costumes and props as well as learning how special effects and animatronics brought such huge international success to the film series.
In the well-known Trafalgar Square in late October, check out Africa on the Square, in honor of Black History Month. You'll enjoy a taste of African music and dance from all over Africa, crafts, a market, and many food stalls. Children can enjoy the talent show for young artists and face painting as well as participate in free workshops in making mosaics and dyeing clothes in batik style.