With the temperatures finally starting to rise in London and spring at last looking like it may be on the way, visitors to the UK capital can look forward to the city opening up with a plethora of outdoor events to enjoy – and more still that are based indoors should one or two of those spring evenings prove chilly. So what highlights should you consider if you’re planning a trip to London in May? Here are some suggestions…
Museums at night
(11-14 May; various locations)
A mid-week event rolling out across at least 30 venues in the capital, ‘Museum at Nights’ will see major museums, historic properties and churches keep their doors open until well after dark. Now in its eighth year, this successful programme is actually a nationwide festival, but as it boasts so many magnificent cultural attractions, London truly is the best destination in which to enjoy its open-till-late greatness. This year you’ll get the chance to explore art, history and heritage, discover new exhibitions, listen to experts givetalks and presentations, watch performances, experience torch-lit tours and enjoy live music in historic surroundings. Not all venues and activities are free(some are ticketed), but among the highlights are‘Queer Late’ at the Horniman Museum and Gardens (12 May), ‘Animated Minds’ at Bethlem Museum of the Mind (12 May) and ‘Banknotes and Bullion’ at the Bank of England Museum (13 May).
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
(13 May-17 September; Inner Circle, Westminster NW1 4NU)
A firm fixture of London’s spring and summer seasons right in the heart of the city, you’ll find the utterly charming Open Air Theatre tucked away in the glorious environs of Regent’s Park in the Baker Street/ St. John’s Wood area of the capital. Truly, if it’s a fine, warm afternoon or evening and you’re in the mood for high quality outdoor the sping, there’s nothing to beat two or three hours spent here, supping a gin and tonic or whatever’s your choice tipple.
Each and every year, the theatre mounts a season of Shakespeare, comedy, drama and musicals performed on the stage between the park’s luscious green trees (this year includes The Bard’s Henry V, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar and an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice). It’s important to bear in mind, though, that the auditorium and stage are completely uncovered, so if it rains you’ll get wet. Taking waterproofs then is advised – but not umbrellas; remember there’s likely to be someone behind you whose view you’d block opening a brolly!
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show
(24-28 May; Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea SW3 4SR)
The gardening world’s equivalent of Paris Fashion Week, this much-loved attraction – one of the major London May events – sees the grounds of Chelsea’s Royal Hospital transformed every year into show gardens, inspirational horticultural plots and vibrantly colourful displays. Attended by more than 150,000 people, it’s definitely something to book up early for to avoid disappointment – tickets tend to sell out faster than you can say Alan Titchmarsh. Not least because, year-on-year,it becomes an ever increasingly important showcase for emerging gardening trends. It also features outlets selling garden goodies and outdoor products, as well as experts offering green-fingered advice. No question, the Chelsea Flower Show is a suitably stylish and exclusive event should you plan to enjoy a trip of rich experience while staying at one of London’s finest luxury hotels for families.
FA Cup Final
(21 May; Wembley Stadium, Olympic Way, WembleyHA9 0WS)
The oldest and longest-running football – or, if you prefer, soccer – competition in the world, the FA Cup first took place in the 1871-72 season, with just 15 clubs participating. By the second half of the 20th Century, however its size, prestige and recognition had grown considerably, to become (save the World Cup Final) the most watched football match anywhere in the world; a claim it can no doubt still make, even in today’s footy-saturated times. What makes it such a unique event, though, isn’t just its size (763 teams entered last year), but its breadth; it’s a ‘pure’ knockout tournament, in that any club taking part can be drawn against another, irrespective of their size and wealth; in short, there’s no seeding at all.
And this May, as traditionally has always been the case, the competition’s final will be played at London’s Wembley Stadium. Be sure that if you’re lucky enough to get your mitts on tickets for the event, you could well be in for a treat; with two from five top sides (London’s Crystal Palace, Liverpool’s Everton, Watford and London’s West Ham United or Manchester United) set to feature, it could well provide a moment of English football history. And if you can’t get tickets but are going to be in town when it takes place, then why not still experience the match in public?
Because you’re spoilt for choice for locations to watch it with others in London. If you fancy doing it in an old-school British manner, drinking a pint or two with the football, then soak up the atmosphere in a traditional English pub or in one of London’s dedicated sports bars. Alternatively, if you can’t imagine doing something less enjoyable than that, then here’s a tip: hit the shops. They might well be quieter for the match’s 90 minutes – or even two hours if it goes to extra-time and/ or a penalty shoot-out!