When the sun looks to break through – and sometimes achieves the feat – on these otherwise cold, wintry March days, it’s at least a reminder that spring’s on the way. And if you’re planning a trip to the UK capital this spring, then there’s a fine array of major London events to look forward to…
The Boat Race
(27 March; route: Putney to Mortlake on the River Thames, West London)
A traditional sporting event that may just be older than any other major one you care mention, the Oxford-Cambridge University Boat Race will take place this spring for the 160th time. Will it be the Dark Blues (winners on 79 occasions) or the Light Blues (winners on the other 81) to master the Thames, as the two elite rowing eights from the world-renowned universities fight it out to the finish once more? The race is due to start at 4.10pm, preceded by the women’s equivalent race (taking place for the 70th time) starting an hour earlier.
St. George’s Day
(23 April; Trafalgar Square, Westminster WC2N 5DN)
Despite calls every year to the contrary, England’s patron saint’s day isn’t usually that much of a celebration, let alone a public holiday, in the self-proclaimed green and pleasant land – not least its capital. All props then to the city’s authorities for holding The Mayor of London’s Feast of St. George in the most London-ish location possible, Trafalgar Square.
Taking place between 12noon and 6pm, themed activities, live music, family games, dance and storytelling will be the order of the day, while parents can watch celebrity chefs host live cookery shows then sample traditional English fare (of course) from food stalls. Meanwhile, as this 23 April is the 400th birthday of William Shakespeare, many of the events will be rightly dedicated to the Bard himself.
The London Marathon
(26 April; route: Blackheath to The Mall)
Now in its 35th year, the London Marathon seems to become more and more prominent among London spring events as each year’s race approaches. While lycra and trainers will be the norm, be sure a few hardy souls will burden themselves in fancy dress for (hopefully) the full 26-mile distance, all in the name of raising dosh for more than worthy charities. A very spectator-friendly event, as this blogger can attest, the Marathon’s great fun even if you’re not participating as a runner pounding the asphalt – cheering on those who are is a genuinely satisfying experience.
The London Coffee Festival
(7-10 April; Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane E1 6QR)
The kick-starter to the UK’s Official Coffee Week (yes, I know, given how much of the stuff we drink, do we really need one?), this festival is nonetheless an unmissable event for big coffee lovers and those employed in the industry. It’s set to feature more than 250 artisan coffee tastings, demonstrations and gourmet food stalls, involving world-class baristas, workshops, coffee-based cocktails, street food, art exhibitions and live music. And should you be staying at The Montcalm Brewery London City hotel, then it’s an ideal, very easy-to-reach event too.
Price: £14.50 (standard), £4.50 (children)
(30 April-2 May; Little Venice, Paddington, West London)
A hugely important event in the narrowboat-going calendar since its first edition in 1983, the Canalway Cavalcade is a major gathering for narrowboat owners and enthusiasts that always takes place on the May Day Bank Holiday weekend on the Grand Union and Regent’s Canals in West London’s picturesque Little Venice area. Organised each year by the Inland Waterways Association (IWA), it promises not just an array of boats and trade show stalls, but also the hopelessly traditionally English activity that’s Morris dancing, food stalls and – perhaps the biggest draw of all – areal-ale bar.
Covent Garden May Fayre and Puppet Festival
(8 May; The Actor’s Church, Bedford Street, Covent Garden WC2E 9ED)
Should you have young children and you’ll be with them in the capital in early May, then this is surely an unmissable event to delight the little – and maybe even the not so little – ones. Officially, it celebrates the anniversary of the first time that the city’s legendary 17th Century diarist Samuel Pepys recorded seeing a Punch and Judy-style show; really it’s a great excuse to stage Punch and Judy performances and for parents to share a slice of timeless – and childish – British culture with the kids of the 21st Century. With puppeteers traveling from all over the country to perform and participate, expect workshops and possibly even maypole dancing in addition to all the puppet business.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show
(24-28 May; Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea SW3 4SR)
In the elegant environs of Chelsea, the coming of high spring’s always heralded by the emergence of a gigantic white pavilion and marquees in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, and when it takes place this year, the world-famous flower show will be well into its second century of existence. As always, boasting incredible plants, TV-based gardening celebrities and a much loved decorous and pleasant vibe, it’s always a hugely popular event, so you’re well advised to book a ticket at least two months in advance – or even to go for the cheaper and easier option of an evening ticket.
Prices range from £28 (the cheapest evening ticket) to £70 (the most expensive all-day ticket)
Trooping the Colour
(11 June; Horse Guards, Whitehall SW1A 2AX)
The annual London event that marks Her Majesty The Queen’s birthday, it sees the monarch carry out a ceremony rich in military pomp and pageantry as she ‘inspects’ the troops (and the steeds) of her Household Cavalry division on the Horse Guards parade ground behind Whitehall and in front of St. James’s Park, right in the heart of Central London.