Autumn in London is one of the best times to visit England’s capital, as it mixes roast chestnuts with falling leaves and fireworks. Here’s where to find the best places to visit and the best things to do. And, yes, where to find those gorgeous autumn colours and leaves in London.
See also our itinerary for 72 hours in London here.
Your Guide to Autumn in London
Autumn in London marks one of my favourite seasons in the city. When the air is crisp and the sky a sharp blue, when the trees flutter leaves across the Mews, the Royal parks and the banks of the Thames, dripping with rubies and golden wreaths. When, let’s face it, the rain falls, cold and also sharp and London’s at its cosiest inside. Think roaring fires, roast dinners, hot chestnuts and even fireworks glittering across the sky.
Here’s my collection of the best things to do in autumn in London and where to find the best autumn leaves in London. Or, for my American friends: an introduction to fall in London.
Gorgeous Things to do and See During Autumn in London
1) EAT PIPING HOT ROAST CHESTNUTS ON THE STREET
Fresh roast chestnuts served piping hot on a cold day make autumn in London worth it. Don’t be led astray by the cheaper peanuts or out of season chestnuts. It’s only in autumn that the braziers fire up the real fresh things.
2) GET COSY IN A TRADITIONAL BRITISH PUB
Quite honestly, the whole country has been built around pubs. What can seem dingy in summer oozes with cosiness in autumn. And you may still get the stray afternoon where you can sit outside and watch the world go by.
3) WATCH THE FIREWORKS ON BONFIRE NIGHT
Remember, remember the 5th November for gunpowder, treason and plot? It’s strange to realise that one of the biggest festivals in autumn in London involves a backstory of gruesome torture, but that’s history for you. Rarely pretty.
In 1605, a plot to blow up parliament spectacularly failed and blame was laid at the door of one Guy Fawkes. Now, each year on 5th November, Brits, erm, celebrate this by burning guys on bonfires and throwing fireworks into the air.
If you forget the background, it’s a fun, family night out, complete with hot jacket potatoes and bonfire toffee.
And if you take a cruise along the River Thames, you’ll get to see the lights and fireworks reflected on the water.
4) Have a toffee apple
Super shiny red and ready to crack your teeth and tongue with their tough sweetness, toffee apples are a treat to be tried in autumn in London.
5) P-p-pick up a pumpkin
Halloween may be a quieter affair in the UK than it is in America, but you’ll still find beautiful pumpkin displays and spooky silliness all across the city.
Enjoy the artistry in the food displays at Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and the Burlington Arcade for an extra special treat.
6) Indulge in a traditional Sunday roast
Roast potatoes, roast pork, roast beef, roast chicken and stuffing, the works. Yes, a traditional British practice involves serving up a Thanksgiving style extravaganza every Sunday of the year. But what can seem like heavy fare in summer seems perfect as those autumnal shivers roll in.
Of course, this being London, you can find a roast dinner on any day of the week, you don’t have to wait for the traditional Sunday. Check out the Time Out guide to roast dinners in London here.
7) Take in an autumnal view of the city
City skylines can be fun but they’re even better when the auburn glow of autumn makes itself clear. I’d highly recommend the view from Primrose Hill, the Sky Garden, The Shard, the Emirates Cable Car and the views across Richmond Park.
If you’re staying in the Athenaeum (see below) don’t miss the spectacular view from the 10th floor lounge. It’s for hotel guests only, though, so don’t turn up uninvited.
8) Take shelter in the museums
If you do fall foul of that cold November rain, London has enough museums to keep you busy all week. And almost all of them are free.
My favourites include:
- The Natural History Museum, with its iconic blue whale skeleton hanging in the cathedral-like hall.
- The British Library, with original manuscripts from Shakespeare, Jane Austen and more.
- The London Transport Museum, a curious look at history and what it takes to run a modern, multimillion people city.
- The Crown Jewels – a must-see once in your lifetime. Held in the Tower of London, itself a marker of 1000 years of history.
- Hampton Court Palace – Tudor extravagance with great autumnal views.
9) Watch a West End Show
When the museums close, you can shelter from the elements by catching a show. From the West End classics like Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables to experimental new theatre, London can deliver. Find an overview of what’s on stage here.
10) Make the most of autumn events
Autumn in London arrives with all the energy and enthusiasm of a city that forgets that it’s thousands of years old. From music to fashion, art to history, check out this section on autumn events in London.
Where to find Autumn Leaves in London
Despite being such a large city, you will be amazed at how many great leafy spots you can find during the autumn months in London. Whether you want to go leaf-peeping New England style or simply grab that perfect London instagram shot, London will spoil you rotten with golden fall foliage.
That is, unless, it is dark and raining.
Bear in mind that the sun sets earlier and earlier as the season marches towards winter. Plan any leaf viewing or photo shoots in the morning or afternoon rather than in the evening. And always pack an umbrella.
In addition to these suggestions on where to find the best autumn leaves in London, it’s also a good idea to check out instagram in September and see which images are popping up!
RICHMOND PARK: WILD BUT FURTHER OUT
Richmond Park is London’s own oasis, one of its biggest green spaces out beyond the edges of Zone 6 on the London Underground. Deer roam the hills and the Royal Ballet School trains up the next generation.
To get to Richmond Park, take an overland train from London Waterloo to Richmond station.
KEW GARDENS: WORLDWIDE FAME
At the opposite end of the scale to the wilderness of Richmond, Kew Gardens is one of the largest and most diverse botanical gardens in the world.
To get to Kew Gardens, it’s around 30 minutes from Central London to Kew Bridge Station from London Waterloo.
One of the best ways to enjoy autumn in London is to stroll along the Treetop Walkway here and soak up the atmosphere.
HYDE PARK: SPEAKER’S CORNER & MUSEUM LAND
Hyde Park is a great family favourite, sitting between the Natural History and Science Museum and the shops of Oxford Street. The park itself also contains the Diana Memorial Fountain, Diana Memorial Playground and Kensington Palace. Plus, you can easily head into South Kensington for lunch afterwards.
For a picture perfect autumn in London moment, head into Kynance Mews at this time of year.
HOLLAND PARK: A TASTE OF JAPAN
In comparison to some of the other parks on this list about where to find great beauty spots in London in the fall, Holland Park is quite compact. It’s also easy to get to, just a short walk from High Street Kensington Tube. Look out for the Kyoto Gardens, for a different taste of greenery in London: stunning Japanese gardens.
GREEN PARK: GREAT IN AUTUMN, DESPITE THE NAME
Green Park lives close to Buckingham Palace and, despite the name, turns a delicious canary yellow and rusty gold in autumn.
Hampstead Heath spreads out over 320 hectares, yet still sits in London’s Zone 2, just a short journey from the centre. You’ll find woodland and meadows and great views of the cityscape.
The former hunting ground of Greenwich Park forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site around the Observatory in southeast London. Expect wide open grasslands, formal buildings and a view of the skyscraper City of London.
Regent’s Park brings a sense of the dramatic to its gardens and grassy landscapes with its open air theatre. It’s a great place for families with its numerous playgrounds and easy access to the London Zoo, the oldest scientific zoo in the world.
If you like your autumn leaves surrounded by waterways, then head to the area of Little Venice near Paddington. It’s the perfect place to soak up the autumn colours and one of the best spots to escape from the hustle and bustle of inner London.
Take a trip along the Regent’s Canal for a totally different side of London.
The treetops of Battersea Park look fabulous towards the end of October. It’s a great time to visit this 200 acre Victoria park built on reclaimed marshland very close to Chelsea.
Festivals and Events in the Fall in London
- Black History Month / Runs throughout October each year with events across the city.
- London Design Festival / Takes place in late September each year.
- BFI London Film Festival / The British Film Institute brings over 300 different films and shorts to screens each October.
- Africa Fashion Week / Europe’s largest fashion festival celebrating African and African inspired work. October.
- London Fashion Week / Early September chance to see what we’ll be wearing next.
- Thanksgiving / Not a UK holiday but London is a global city. Here’s where you can celebrate Thanksgiving in London.
- Lord Mayor’s Show / Pomp and history and a whole lot of fun as the whole City of London closes down to celebrate. (Note, this is the Square Mile not the whole of London.)
- Remembrance Day /A sober, serious look at the lives lost through warfare across the world. November 11th each year, marked by red poppies, ceremonies, silence and art exhibitions.
- Diwali in London/ Europe’s largest live outdoor Diwali Experience.
- London Restaurant Festival / Join tasting masterclasses and restaurant hopping tours in October.
- Open House London /Explore the architecture of the city as part of the worldwide festival in September.
- Totally Thames Festival / Art and culture along the banks of the Thames.
- London Jazz Festival / Let jazz fill up your November, from the Barbican to the Royal Albert Hall.
Practicalities about Autumn in London
When is autumn in London?
Autumn or fall in London starts in September as the sun fades away but really refers to October and November. September sees leaves with hints of yellow, ochre and gold, with redder hues appearing in October and November.
Bonfire Night takes place each year on 5th November and comes with fireworks, baked potatoes and, as the name might suggest, a whole load of bonfires.
What to wear in autumn in London
Layers! When the wind whips and bites in London, it does so with evil intent. Autumn in London can be cold, wet, grey and windy – but you can also find yourself with gorgeous sunny days, when the fair skinned might need some sunscreen.
Layers help you navigate this sartorial challenge. Pretty much anything goes in London, fashion-wise, but you’ll fit in more with dark trousers or jeans, leather boots or shoes and long sleeve shirts or T shirts, with a sweater or cardigan.
Make sure to pack a warm scarf, woolly hat, gloves and umbrella. If you don’t need them, great! If you do, well, you’ll be glad you have them.
Where to Stay in London in Autumn
Disclosure – I stayed at the Athenaeum as a guest of the Pride of Britain Hotel for review purposes. As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like. There’s simply no point otherwise.
The Athenaeum, Mayfair
Behind the golden doors, you’ll find five star luxury, a relaxing steam room and jacuzzi spa, afternoon tea and all the facilities you’d expect.
But what makes The Athenaeum the top pick for fall in London are the gardens. First up, the vertical garden, which rises for 10 storeys of greenery right in the heart of the city.
The second is the view of Green Park. Aptly named in summer, come autumn, the leaves do their thing and put on a show in resplendent orange and gold.
The Deluxe Room I stayed in had a bay window overlooking the park, so that you could almost imagine you were on a retreat out in the countryside.
Then, there’s the lounge up on the 10th floor. Here, hotel guests and hotel guests alone can look across the treetops of Green Park to the London Skyline beyond. Sunrise and sundown come at reasonable hours during autumn, making it easy to watch the sun light up London over coffee in the morning and blaze with beauty with a gin and tonic at sunset.
In London’s Mayfair, between Hyde Park and Green Park and snuggling up to Soho. The Athenaeum itself overlooks Green Park and is flanked by other high end hotels.
“Welcome home,” is the greeting as you walk through the door and that friendly, unpretentious atmosphere follows throughout. The decor is modern and classy, with Cool Britannia artwork and a masterful organisation of an open plan environment. Look out for the vertical garden and the Joanna Lumley “Ab-Fab” portrait in the lobby.
The Spa & Gym
Channelling some nordic, mountain charm with its wooden hot tub, sauna and steam room, this petite spa also offers massages, scrubs and a range of other therapies in its two treatment rooms. A spacious fitness centre is open 24 hours a day to help battle off jet lag with exercise. At this point in the pandemic, you need to book an appointment to avoid crowding, but that’s easily enough done.
As well as residences for long term stays, The Athenaeum offers Superior, Deluxe, Park View, Green Park Suite and Mayfair Suite categories.
Around a quarter of the rooms overlook the park and you’ll find small touches about loving London dotted about the room, from a message on your room key card to a bookmark on the desk.
The Athenaeum has undergone a refurb in many areas, but the black and white marble bathrooms missed this, bringing a slightly retro feel to the otherwise achingly modern property.
Rooms include a minibar, coffee machine and kettle along with bathrobes, slippers and an umbrella you can borrow. This isn’t just for autumn in London. Let’s face it, it’s a possibility for every single season!
The View from the View
One of the best features about staying at The Athenaeum, apart from the vertical garden, is the view. And The View. The guests-only lounge on the top floor offers a panoramic view across the treetops of Green Park to the London Eye and the gang, an amazing way to start and end the day. A range of drinks and snacks await, with an honesty book to keep track.
The Athenaeum is just five minutes walk from Green Park Tube in Zone 1 and 10 minutes from Fortnum & Mason and the Burlington Arcade. From there, you’re just a little further to Piccadilly Circus. And, of course, Green Park is right opposite.
Green Park station connects to the Jubilee, Victoria and Piccadilly lines and is an easy connection to almost any central London location.
Taxis are plentiful and London’s night buses run along Hyde Park, just a few minutes away, in case you miss the last Tube back.
Side note: soundproofing is excellent and you won’t be able to hear the traffic passing by.
Food and Drink
Blending into the open area of the lobby, Restaurant 116 serves breakfast, dinner and afternoon tea in a warm, casual atmosphere.
Breakfast, if included in the room rate, includes a choice of a cooked breakfast along with a lighter option, plus a hot drink and juice. The Athenaeum stays close to tradition with the Full English and Eggs Benedict, while also catering for hipster tastes with crushed avocado and harissa toast.
Dinner, not served on Sundays, brings seasonal menus under the care of Head Chef Ian Howard. Autumn menus include sweetcorn soup with chorizo, lemon sole and blueberry cheesecake. You can also request a full vegan tasting menu.
Family friendly interconnecting rooms are available and two rooms have adapted bathrooms for guests with disabilities.
No turn-down service or pillow menu as standard.
The hotel’s motto is #LookatLondonDifferently, from the champagne glasses to the view. I like it. And think it’s a great way to approach autumn in London.
About Pride of Britain Hotels
Searching for a memorable luxury or boutique hotel can be hard, but the Pride of Britain Hotels collection makes it easier. They have curated a wonderful collection of privately owned properties across our windswept island, narrowing down the search for a truly special place to stay.
Abi King was hosted by The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences, a member of the Pride of Britain Hotels collection. An overnight stay is from £428 per room per night (two sharing). Contact Pride of Britain Hotels on 0800 089 3929 (www.prideofbritainhotels.com).