As a global capital for business and tourism, London is busy year-round. People from different parts of the world each have their own favorite seasons, keeping the flow of visitors steady and prices relatively high.
Most overseas travelers favor the summer months because of school vacations and warmer weather. The spring sees fewer visitors overall, but Japanese tourists come during their traditional April and May vacations. Winter is the least popular time, due to cold temperatures and heavy rain, except in December when U.K. visitors pour into London for school holidays and the Christmas shopping and theater seasons. December, July, and August are the busiest months of the year, while January is ideal for those looking to save a little extra cash.
- high season: December, May to mid-September
- low season: January to February
- shoulder season: mid-September to November, March to April
London's climate is deceiving. It's among the mildest in England, but dampness, especially in winter and spring, can make it seem much colder than it is. Summers are moderate with average temperatures of about 64 degrees. The warmest weather is likely to occur in July and August, with the past few years seeing occasional scorchers of over 86 degrees. Spring and autumn temperatures fall between 52 to 59 degrees, while winter temperatures average between 36 and 43 degrees. Although snow is rare and the temperature rarely drops below freezing, overnight frosts can create hazardous black ice on the damp winter roads. At any time of year, cloudy weather and rain are possible.
The city gets fairly busy during school half-terms (breaks halfway though a semester) and major holidays, with the Christmas shopping season being particularly hectic. From mid-November until after the January sales, Oxford Street, Regent Street, and the Underground Stations near them are virtually impassable. Traffic is heavy then too, making buses slow.
Several of London's traditional ceremonial events fill the streets with crowds, including the Lord Mayor's Show, the State Opening of Parliament, the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and at Horse Guard's Parade, and the Trooping of the Colour for the Queen's Birthday. Dates and times for these and other events are listed on London's What's On calendar.
The main tourist attractions—the museums and historic sites—are busiest during July, August, and school vacations, but because London has so many of them, long waits are usually not a problem.
Some visitor attractions close for New Year's Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, and Christmas Day. Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) and May Day (May 1 or the first Monday in May) are celebrated as legal holidays, so banks, some attractions, and shops will be closed. In addition, there are several bank holidays in spring and summer when attractions and shops will be closed.
When to Save
If you are willing to put up with cold, wet weather and lower-priced hotel rooms, you can benefit from special deals from mid-January through mid-March. During that time of year, it's also worth trying to negotiate a discount directly from your hotel. Being flexible about your area of choice and dates of travel is one way to save money. Another is to schedule a weekend visit, when hotels offer lower rates.
Restaurant discount promotions usually appear in the London newspapers in February. The big, biannual department store sales take place during the first half of January and most of July when very substantial bargains can be found, particularly on designer clothes and consumer electronics.
When to Book
Transatlantic and other long-haul visitors should book flights and hotel rooms as far in advance as possible, preferably six to eight weeks. Travelers from Europe, however, may find last-minute deals on low-cost carriers. Also, recent increases in the number of available budget rooms have made last-minute hotel bargains easier to find. More than transportation, hotel pricing is likely to be influenced by major events taking place nearby. It's a good idea to check a London events calendar such as What's On before booking. You may be able to save by choosing a less busy area.
Information provided by Visit London.