EVENTS

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London is rich in free public events, including curious ceremonies dating back hundreds of years. Most events are annual, some are much more frequent.

OUR FAVOURITE free EVENTS

Boar's Head Ceremony. City of London. Each December City dignitaries process to the Mansion House carrying a large papier mache boar's head. Dates from 1343. More info.

Canary Wharf Winter Lights. More than 30 spectacular light installations by an international roster of artists. Second half of January each year. More info. 

Greenwich & Docklands International Festival. Over 200 intriguing free street performances, some highly acrobatic, by international artists. Two weeks in June & July. More info.

Grimaldi Memorial Service. Hackney. Join clowns in costume for a service in memory of the great clown Joseph Grimaldi. On first Sunday in February since 1946. More info.

Lord Mayor's Show. City of London. Arriving in a flotilla of ceremonial barges, the Lord Mayor processes to Westminster, followed by fireworks. Every November. More info. 

Lambeth Country Show. Lambeth. Country show with more than 150,000 visitors. Vegetable and flower competitions, sheep dog and owl displays. Every July. More info.  

London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. Westminster. More than 400 cars built before 1905 set off at sunrise from Hyde Park and attempt the drive to Brighton. Since 1896. More info. 

Lumiere London. An annual January nocturnal art exhibition of building illuminations and illuminated objects, at more than 50 locations across central London. Founded in 2017. Free to enjoy. More info.

New Year's Day Parade. A massive parade through central London. 10,000 participants include high school marching bands from the USA. Starts at noon at Ritz Hotel. More info. 

Open House London. The world's largest architecture festival, giving free public access to more than 800 buildings over one weekend in September. More info. 

Prudential Ride London. Westminster. Roads are closed in central London for an annual free 3-day cycling festival in late July. Organised by the Mayor of London. More info. 

Streatham Common Kite Day. Lambeth. Kite festival held on a Sunday in May. Aerobatic displays by expert kite flyers. And bring your own kite. More info.

Trooping of the Colour. Westminster. Fourteen hundred officers and men, with ten massed bands, march to celebrate the Queen's birthday. More info. 

V&A Friday Late. Free talks, performances and music from 6.30 pm to 10 pm on the last Friday of every month except May and December. More info. 

Waterloo Classics. Monthly classic car and motorcycle show and meet-up, with market stalls. Third Saturday of the month behind Waterloo Station. More info. 

West End Live. Westminster. Free open air performances in Trafalgar Square by the casts of leading West End musicals. Over two days in June. More info. 

LIST OF free EVENTS

ARTS

Barbican OpenFest. A free weekend of art exhibitions, film screenings, music, dance, open rehearsals, and workshops. Part of Culture Mile. More info.

Bedford Square Festival. Free talks, exhibitions and building visits over four days in July. Covers literature, history, and architecture. More info. 

Bloomsbury Festival. Established in 2006, Bloomsbury Festival is a creative event covering arts, culture and science. More than 60% of its events are free. More info. 

Canary Wharf Winter Lights. More than 30 spectacular light installations by an international roster of artists. Second half of January each year. More info.

Central St. Martin's Degree Shows. A May Art show covers fine art, and photography. A June Design Show covers ceramics, industrial design, drama, fashion, graphics, jewellery, and textiles. More info. 

Clerkenwell Design Week. Islington. A free design festival held in May each year since 2010. It offers street installations, talks, discussions, and open studios and workshops. More info. 

Crystal Palace Festival. Lewisham. A free music and arts festival held over one week in June, with the main event being on the Saturday. More info. 

Day of Dance, Trafalgar Square. Westminster. Westminster Morris Men are joined by teams of Morris Men from all over England for an afternoon of Morris Dancing. More info

Frieze Sculpture in Regent's Park. Westminster. An annual open-air show of contemporary sculpture, in the south east corner of Regent's Park. More info. 

Greenwich & Docklands International Festival. Over 200 intriguing free street performances, some highly acrobatic, by international artists. Two weeks in June & July. More info.

Grimaldi Memorial Service. Hackney. Join clowns in costume for a service in memory of the great clown Joseph Grimaldi. On first Sunday in February since 1946. More info.

Kingston School of Art Degree Show. Kingston upon Thames. A June show of the work of graduating students in fashion, graphic design, textiles, fine art, and photography. More info. 

London Craft Week. Celebrating craft and creativity across London each May. Half the events are free. Talks, demonstrations and makers' stories. More info. 

Lumiere London. An annual January nocturnal art exhibition of building illuminations and illuminated objects, at more than 50 locations across central London. Founded in 2017. Free to enjoy. More info.

Nashville Meets London. Lonon's largest free outdoor Country Music festival, held each July. It is held on the Canary Wharf Estate. More info. 

Open House London. The world's largest architecture festival, giving free public access to more than 800 buildings over one weekend in September. More info. 

Opera in Trafalgar Square. Westminster. Free open-air opera in Trafalgar Square from the Royal Opera House and BP Big Screen. 12th & 26th June, 12th July, 2018. More info. 

Royal College of Art Graduate Show. Kensington & Chelsea and Wandsworth. Showcasing the work of the graduates of the UK's leading postgraduate school of art and design. More info. 

Totally Thames. A festival running throughout September each year, which celebrates the River Thames with surprising, diverse, and accessible arts events. More info. 

V&A Friday Late. Free talks, performances and music from 6.30 pm to 10 pm on the last Friday of every month except May and December. Not to be missed. More info. 

Walthamstow Garden Party.  Barbican and Create London produce a free weekend of music, theatre, dance, circus, film, spoken word, crafts and family fun. More info.

West End Live. Westminster. Free open air performances in Trafalgar Square by the casts of leading West End musicals. Over two days in June. More info. 

CITY OF LONDON

Boar's Head Ceremony. City of London. Each December City dignitaries process to the Mansion House carrying a large papier mache boar's head. Dates from 1343. More info.

Butterworth Charity Distribution of Hot Cross Buns. City of London. Coins given to widows (if any) on Good Friday. Hymn, sermon, and hot cross buns for all. More info. 

Cart Marking Ceremony. City of London. Branding of vehicles by the Worshipful Company of Carmen. Annual ceremony in the courtyard of Guildhall, dating from 1665. More info.

Ceremony of the Keys, Tower of London. City of London. The locking up of the Tower of London (Halt! Who comes there?) which has taken place every night for 700 years. More info. 

Cosstermongers Harvest Festival. City of London. Pearly Kings and Queens process from Cheapside to the Guildhall yard. Annually on last Sunday in September. More info. 

Doggett's Coat & Badge Race. A September rowing race, run every year since 1715, between London Bridge and Chelsea. Starts at 4pm. More info. 

Festival of St.Cecilia. November combined service rotating between St.Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and Westminster Cathedral. More info.

Lord Mayor's Show. City of London. Arriving in a flotilla of ceremonial barges, the Lord Mayor processes to Westminster, followed by fireworks. Every November. More info. 

FIREWORKS

Blackheath Fireworks. Lewisham. Funfair and food and drink stalls alongside the main attraction. Free entry from midday. Fireworks at 8pm. SE3 0TY. More info.

Coram's Fields Fireworks. Camden. Free entry from 3.30pm, child friendly fireworks at 5pm. Fairground rides and food stalls. Raising money for Coram's Field charity. More info.

East Village E20 Fireworks. Newham. Theatre of light, with LED covered drummers, poi artists, jugglers and stilt walkers. Tickets free but must be booked. More info.

Victoria Park Fireworks. Tower Hamlets. Free fireworks display in east London's Victoria Park. Refreshments from 5.30pm. Fireworks, with music, at 7pm. More info. 

Wanstead Flats Fireworks. Newham. Backed by a live DJ. Thai, Indian and Caribbean food stalls. Free entry from 5.30pm, fireworks at 6.30pm. More info. 

Wembley Park Fireworks. Brent. A family friendly event with street performances and food stalls galore. Beside Wembley Stadium. Free entrance from 6pm. More info.  

GREEN SPACES

Azaleas in Isabella Plantation. This plantation within Richmond Park has a magnificent display of azaleas and rhododendrons, at their best in April and May. More info. 

Bluebells at Osterley Park. Hounslow. The grounds of Osterley Park have a fine display of bluebells. At their best in April. More info. 

Camelias at Chiswick House. Hounslow. A famous collection of camelias housed in a great glass house built in 1813. At best in March. More info.

Chestnut Sunday, Bushy Park. Richmond. Pony riding, arena displays, refreshments, a traditional Fairground Carousel and a concert band. Each May. More info. 

Crocuses in Cannizaro Park. Merton. Cannizaro Park, just west of Wimbledon Common, has a splendid display of crocuses. At their best in March. More info. 

Daffodils in Green Park. Westminster. Green Park has a magnificent show of around a million daffodil bulbs every spring. At their best in March. More info.  

Deer Rut in Richmond Park. Richmond. Stags clash antlers during the 'Deer Rut' breeding season in Richmond Park each October. More info. 

Wisteria at the Hill Garden Pergola. Camden. The wisteria is at its best in May in this secluded garden on the western side of Hampstead Heath. More info.

MILITARY CEREMONIES

Changing of the Guard. Westminster. Soldiers in ceremonial dress march from St.James's Palace to Buckingham Palace. Several times a week. More info. 

Inspection of the Household Cavalry. Westminster. Colourful inspection of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, annually in March. More info. 

Inspection of the Royal Horse Artillery. Greenwich. Annual inspection of the Royal Horse Artillery with musical drive and gun salute. Each year in April. More info. 

Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph. Westminster. 2 minute silence to commemorate the war dead, followed by laying of wreaths. More info.

Royal Birthday Gun Salutes. Fired by the King's Troop, Royal Artillery. Take place in Hyde Park, Green Park, or the Tower of London. At least eight a year. More info.

Trooping of the Colour. Westminster. Fourteen hundred officers and men, with ten massed bands, march to celebrate the Queen's birthday. More info. 

OTHER EVENTS

Ceremony of Quit Rents and Services. Westminster. Payment of two knives (one blunt, one sharp), 6 horeshoes and 61 nails as rent to the monarch. Since 1211. More info. 

Christmas in Trafalgar Square. Westminster. Beside a 60 foot Christmas tree, given by the people of Norway, there is daily carol singing and a ceremony blessing the crib. More info. 

Christmas Lights. Notable displays in Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Bond Street. Also in Covent Garden. The Shard churns out 2.1 million lumens from its top 20 floors. More info. 

Deptford Jack. Lewisham. A man inside a nine foot high mock tree parades each May Day through south London. He is accompanied by Morris Dancers. More info. 

Hanworth Classic. Richmond. A free day out for all the family in Bushy Park each June. Features cars of the forties and fifties, with jitterbug and jive dancing. More info. 

Horseman's Sunday. Westminster. A cavalcade on horseback (including the Vicar) gathers outside St. John's church, Hyde Park Crescent for a September blessing of the horses. More info. 

Lambeth Country Show. Lambeth. Country show with more than 150,000 visitors. Vegetable and flower competitions, sheep dog and owl displays. Every July. More info.  

London Marathon. Annual marathon race since 1981 run from Greenwich, via Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf to the Mall. Over 30,000 runners take part. More info. 

London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. Westminster. More than 400 cars built before 1905 set off at sunrise from Hyde Park and attempt the drive to Brighton. Since 1896. More info. 

Lord Chancellor's Breakfast. Westminster. To mark the start of the legal year each October robed judges process from Westminster Abbey to the Houses of Parliament for breakfast. More info. 

Marylebone Summer Fayre. Westminster. Family-friendly community street festival with music and food. Marylebone High Street closed to traffic. A Sunday in June. More info. 

New Year's Day Parade. A massive parade through central London. 10,000 participants include high school marching bands from the USA. Starts at noon at Ritz Hotel. More info. 

Notting Hill Carnival. Kensington & Chelsea. An enormous street festival. Music, floats, and dancers in spectacular costumes. Every August bank holiday. More info.

Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race. Wandsworth. Races (men's & women's) between rowing eights from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. More info. 

Parliamentary Pancake Race. Westminster. MPs and Peers put on a Shrove Tuesday fund raising pancake race in Victoria Tower Gardens, next to the Houses of Parliament. More info. 

Pride in London. Westminster. Annual parade and rally in the West End celebrating the LGBT+ community. More info. 

Prudential Ride London. Westminster. Roads are closed in central London for an annual free 3-day cycling festival in late July. Organised by the Mayor of London. More info. 

Red Hook Crit. Greenwich. Men's and women's brakeless fixed gear cycle races, held annually in London. Exciting to watch and accident-prone. More info.

Regent Street Motor Show. Westminster. Regent Street pedestrianised for a free motor show celebrating veteran, vintage, classic and modern cars. More info.

Regent Street Summer Streets. Westminster. Regent Street closed to traffic every Sunday throughout July. Food, drink and entertainment in a festival-like atmosphere. More info. 

Serpentine Christmas Day Swimming. Westminster. Every Christmas morning since 1864 brave swimmers have raced in the Serpentine for the Peter Pan Cup. More info. 

State Opening of Parliament. Westiminster. Queen processes from Buckingham Palace to Parliament to deliver a speech written by her Prime Minister. More info.

Streatham Common Kite Day. Lambeth. Kite festival held on a Sunday in May. Aerobatic displays by expert kite flyers. And bring your own kite. More info.

Swan Upping. Inspection of swans in the Thames by Royal Swan Uppers in scarlet and gold uniforms. Third week of July. More info.

Waterloo Classics. Lambeth. Casual classic car and motorcycle show and meet-up, with market stalls. Third Saturday of the month behind Waterloo Station. More info.