London is a vibrant centre of cultural excitement and its multicultural background combined with its status as the capital of England means that its calendar of events is pretty packed with festivals, extravaganzas and more celebrations than you can count. There are plenty of excuses to hit the streets in 2015 – why not take a look at what’s on offer below and book a hotel in London for your favourite? After all, you don’t want to have to leave the excitement early just because you need to get back home. That would really put a dampener on things, since no one likes to party with one eye on the clock.
Chinese New Year
February 2015 will see China usher in the Year of the Goat, saying goodbye (or zài jiàn) to the Year of the Horse. If you can’t be in Beijing or Shanghai for the festivities, London is your best bet, with the city’s extensive Chinatown coming alive. While the actual equivalent of our December 31st is February 19th, the majority of the festivities will take place on the 22nd when a huge parade featuring dragon dancers, drumming and other Eastern performance arts takes to the streets. What’s more, everyone then heads down to Trafalgar Square to indulge in a huge party where you can sample delicious eatables such as dumplings and duck pancakes. If you have a particular restaurant in Chinatown that you like to frequent, it might be advisable to book a table in advance.
The Chelsea Flower Show
May sees the arrival of the Chelsea Flower Show, held across the 11-acre grounds of Chelsea Hospital on an annual basis. This five-day botanical extravaganza is sponsored by the Royal Horticulture Society and showcases such an extraordinary array of flowers, trees, vegetables, herbs and other flora from 550 horticulturists from around the globe. Just don’t mention gnomes – they’ve proven so devilishly controversial that they’ve been banned from most events.
Trooping the Colour
As well as getting a really nice house to live in and all her laundry done for her, the Queen also gets two (count them! TWO!) birthdays a year. Life just isn’t fair, is it? There is a logical reason for holding the official celebrations in June though – the weather is so much better, and if you’re going to have a huge parade you might as well do it when the sun is shining. This special ceremony sees the procession move from Buckingham Palace down the Mall and back again starting at 10am, with a flyover by the Royal Air Force at 1pm. Hint: see if you can guess which of the British troops do not wear hats but instead pile up their natural hair to make those impressive black hats. (Trick question – the Palace troops are actually hand picked by the Queen herself for the lusciousness of their locks).
London’s LGBT community comes out in force with a huge parade made up of hundreds of different groups of people. Rainbow flags aplenty will be waved as they march through Soho, Piccadilly and Tottenham Court Road on their way to Trafalgar Square. It’s a celebration of the city’s culture of acceptance and tolerance, with everyone enjoying a spectacular party sat side by side and usually enjoying a cheeky tipple. Retreat to Soho with the rest of the community and party the night away in G-A-Y and Heaven. Pride takes place on June 27th in 2015.
South Kensington is the place to be as the Royal Albert Hall plays host to the largest celebration of classical music in the world. While Beethoven, Wagner, Bruckner and Chopin are old favourites, the festivities have been breaking out into alternative genres over the years, with nights dedicated to film scores, musicals and even Doctor Who taking pride of place over the past few years. Although classical music concerts have a reputation for being outrageously expensive, the Proms was originally set up by Robert Newman with the intention of allowing the masses to enjoy the style. Almost 120 years later, prices remain low, with visitors able to obtain access to any of the concerts between July and September for just £5.
Notting Hill Carnival
The weekend of August sees the early 19th-century Caribbean-inspired street festival liven up the streets of London once again. Originally set up in 1964 to give Afro-Caribbean communities a way to celebrate their cultures and traditions, it has developed into an annual extravaganza that sees costumed participants march through to the sound of steel drums and live bands. You can count on smelling the aroma of traditional Caribbean food – jerk chicken, fried plantains and curried rice and peas – just waiting to be consumed. For those travelling with family, one day is always far more child-friendly than the other, so choose carefully!
The Thames Festival
This celebration has undergone a number of name changes over the past few years, and since we’re still in January, it’s difficult to know what it might be called come September. Regular fixtures include a floating art fair, opportunities to see short films, choir performances and fireworks, there is plenty to do during this river-focused event. Definite highlights, however, include the two boat races – 340 boats from skiffs to Chinese dragon boats that embark on the 21-mile Great River Race, while 40-foot steel barges amble along in a separate event billed as the river’s slowest race. This festival takes place in September as the city’s residents seek to take advantage of the last rays of sunshine before the cold sets in.
Remember, remember the fifth of November. London certainly does, and the weeks leading up to and after this date are marked with firework celebrations across the capital. Snacking on sticky toffee apples and fire-roasted potatoes, visitors to these extraordinary events can ride on carousels at funfairs and indulge in similar activities before the pyrotechnics start. The best of the fireworks can usually be seen at Blackheath or over the Thames as part of the Lord Mayor’s Show, which happens at around the same time of year as Bonfire Night. Which brings us neatly to…
The Lord Mayor’s Show
Fans of Boris Johnson’s antics will be disappointed to learn that this isn’t an entire festival dedicated to men dangling on zip wires or “playing wiff waff” (no, us neither). This celebration actually focuses on the Lord Mayor of London’s Square Mile, now considered an important financial centre since that’s where the Bank of England can be found. Every year, a new Lord Mayor of the area is elected and this is his inauguration ceremony, and if they share one thing in common, it is a sense of extravagance that would make Elton John say “Steady on, that’s a bit much.” Visitors to the Lord Mayor’s show can therefore expect a huge parade with horses and soldiers bedecked with feathers (the horses, not the soldiers), street performers, a glittering golden coach with the Lord Mayor sat inside on velvet pillows and the aforementioned pyrotechnics. We wish we got that level of fanfare just for getting a new job.