Everything You Need to Experience in London This Fall
Fall: you either love it or you love it. As the weather cools down, the colors and cultural flair of London really begin to heat up. Whether you’re all about seeking respite from the cold in a cozy movie theater, warming yourself up the old fashioned way (with beer a la Oktoberfest), or crunching through fallen autumn leaves, there's a lot to get into as 2019 draws to a close. From food and film festivals to free events that flaunt the best of fall in the city, here are 15 events to fill your days.
The London Restaurant Festival has two components -- restaurant experiences, which involves more than 70 foodie events taking place across town, and festival menus, where 250-plus city restaurants offer special deals on virtually every kind of cuisine. The events are varied and involve everything from a Michelin-star-studded weekend with renowned chefs to one-night-only tasting menus at acclaimed restaurants. The official site categorizes the participating restaurants in terms of London Legends, Talk of the Town, Restaurants With a View, and more, which comes in handy for indecisive folks (or anyone trying to give something new a spin).
Cost: Tickets range in price, and are selling quickly
From groundbreaking directorial debuts to offbeat, Cannes-recognized performances, the London Film Festival offers an opportunity to feast your eyes on the cutting edge of what’s next in cinema. Check out the films on deck for this year’s fest here; along with the opening and closing galas, notable events include talks by Black Panther’s Michael B. Jordan and DJ nights at BFI Bar and Kitchen.
Cost: £10 (weekday matinees) to £20 (evening IMAX screenings)
Whether you want to catch Michael Buble, The Lumineers, or Rod Stewart, or the next up and coming star, Marriott Bonvoy is here to make sure their members do it in style. Using points, Marriott Bonvoy members can bid on two tickets inside a luxury suite at The O2, London’s number one music and entertainment venue. Marriott Bonvoy offers benefits and endless experiences at more than 7,000 hotels worldwide, so whether you’re into live music, Michelin-star restaurants, or box seats, you’re bound to find a perk that fits your lifestyle. Of course, they have you covered on where to stay after the concert, too.
Cost: Starting bid at 37,500 points. Auction terms apply.
Both Picasso and Boticelli have works on display at this year’s Frieze London in Regent’s Park, right alongside the brilliant work of up-and-coming artists, making this the weekend to get cultured. (Opt for the combined entry to Frieze Masters and Frieze London for a real mind-melding mix of the ages.) There are more than 1,000 artists and 160 galleries featured in this year's three-day art-stravaganza, so pick a time slot (those can be viewed here) and brush up on your art history skills.
Cost: One-day tickets to Frieze London or Frieze Masters are £38.70; combined tickets to both are £60
Consider this pre-Halloween practice: World Zombie Day London is an irreverent fundraising event to benefit City Harvest, a charity that seeks to diminish hunger and homelessness. At Zombie Day, the city’s finest undead will wander through central London leaving a trail of carnage good deeds in their wake, as participants are asked to donate non-perishable goods, make cash donations on-site, or donate during online registration. After 10 years of fundraising, organizers have announced that this year will be the event’s last, so darn your best zombie garb and get out there to do some good.
Cost: Free; £5 suggested donation
Clear your iPhone photo roll and get snap happy because nothing will get you in the mood for sweater weather quite like the incendiary trees that line Hyde Park in October. There are more than 170,000 trees (including over 250 varieties) spread out over the city’s eight royal parks -- and they all put on a show come fall. So, throw on your most autumnal scarf and beanie and set out on foot to explore them with a hot coffee in hand.
Fall is a gift that just keeps on giving when it comes to its rich produce game. From squash and apples to pumpkins and more, take full advantage of nature’s bounty thanks to local farmers who convene at the Broadway Saturday Market all month (remember your tote bags). There’s nothing quite like a crisp fall stroll through the stalls, and if the crowds get too much for you, you can always duck into one of the 70 shops, cafes, and restaurants that are in the area.
Pay Munich a visit without leaving city limits at an old warehouse in Docklands that has been converted to a new 32,000-square-foot beer hall. With three bars serving, steins and two stages of entertainment -- including live bands and traditional German Oompah music -- it’s sure to be one of the biggest Oktoberfest celebrations in town. So rustle up your lederhosen and dirndl and get your fill of bratwurst and beer.
Cost: Tickets start at £10
Time to live out the adult version of a field trip and sip bubbly with the fishes. Sealife London’s late tours are the perfect date for a cold rainy night in the city. Tickets include a complimentary glass of prosecco and a stroll alongside giant sea turtles, crocodiles, and more.
Cost: Tickets start at £29
Fandom reigns at London Comic Con. From workshops and free-to-play gaming to opportunities to meet some of the folks behind your favorite pop culture characters, there's no shortage of activities to get into at this colorful comic lovers’ haven. Special guests this year include Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Star Trek), Sophia Lillis (It), and many more.
Cost: General entry tickets are £17.50
Pick your kooky favorite and kick back -- o celebrate Halloween this year, Clapham Grand will be screening Hocus Pocus and The Rocky Horror Picture Show on their enormous 25-foot high-definition screen. Crowd participation is encouraged (this means costumes!) and the bar and food stalls provide all the fixings for movie snacks and drinks.
Cost: Tickets start at £9
Dating back to 1605, the timeless tradition of Bonfire Night, aka Guy Fawkes Day is observed in true fashion -- with massive fireworks displays -- at a number of locations throughout town. Fireworks at Alexandra Palace, Southwark, Blackheath, and Crystal Palace all offer excellent options for kicking back and watching the sky fill up with light with a drink in hand. The Southwark display is one of the more prominent celebrations (it's set alongside the Thames) and features live entertainment, food, and drink, but be sure to get your tickets early -- the event tends to sell out. (Ditto on Alexandra Palace.)
Cost: Adult tickets range from £9.50-£12.50
From Regents Street to Carnaby, the streets come alive as early as mid-November to usher in shoppers for the busy holiday season. Typically accompanied with festive entertainment such as carolers and holiday parties, it’s a truly iconic moment every year that you won’t want to miss. Marylebone’s Christmas Lights event is set for November 13, but most neighborhoods haven’t released their time tables yet, so keep checking their websites as the month draws closer.
Google image search “London in winter” and the scene at Somerset House is pretty much what pops up. Winter doesn’t get more iconic than its 40-foot Christmas tree, romantic twinkling lights, boozy hot chocolate, and a lap or five around Somerset House on skates. Plus, an all-night DJ skate will be taking place on December 7 -- the perfect opportunity for you to show off your moves… with grace, right?
Cost: Tickets start at £11
Introduce yourself to the wizarding world at this decidedly Christmas-y affair. A truly unique glimpse into the inner workings of the Harry Potter film sets, the winter edition of the wildly popular Warner Brothers studio tour sees Hogwarts fully decked out for the holidays. From the filmmaking snow to the flameless fireplaces, there’s a world going on behind the scenes and this tour sheds light on all the science behind it. Given the massive popularity of the books and movies, it should go without saying that you’ll want to book tickets in advance.
Cost: Adult tickets are £45
From the iconic Tunnel of Light to the singing Holly Bushes, Kew Gardens is one of the most beloved destinations for Christmas lights viewing in the city for good reason -- a stroll through the grounds is nothing short of sheer magic. This year's installation features a new route and design that includes a laser display in front of the Temperate House, trees dripping in changing lights, and much more. Enjoy mulled wine or hot chocolate as you walk the 2.6-kilometer twinkly walking trail, which takes approximately 75 minutes to get through, according to the Kew Gardens website.
Cost: Tickets start at £18
Every November, Hyde Park transforms into a whimsical fairy tale with bombastic live comedy, cirque performances, sledding, over 100 rides, and street food galore -- because there’s nothing like tapping into nostalgia to get in the holiday spirit. Entrance to the park is free, so even if you opt out of the (paid) attractions, you’ll definitely still take in some of the best people watching in the heart of London.
Cost: Free to enter, attraction prices vary