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November 2, 2021

What Makes Autumn in London the Best Time to Visit

Autumn in London mixes roast chestnuts with falling leaves and fireworks. Here's where to find the best leaves during fall in London along with all the best things to see and do.

See also our itinerary for 72 hours in London here and this review of the Athenaeum for a great autumnal place to stay. 

The best of London in autumn
UK - England - London - Autumn in London - city of London arcade

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. 

UK - England - London - Mayfair

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.


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. 

UK - England - London - Autumn in London - Halloween Treats

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:

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

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 autumn 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. 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, 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.

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 and Diana Memorial Playground.

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 Garden, for a different taste of greenery in London.

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. 

UK - England - London - Autumn in London - city of London in autumn

Festivals and Events in the Fall in London

UK - England - London - Autumn in London - city of London street scene

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. 

UK - England - London is always a good idea

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.

UK - England - London - The Athenaeum front door welcome

Where to Stay in London in Autumn

London has every kind of accommodation option imaginable. But one place that's perfect for autumn in London is The Athenaeum near Green Park, a member of the Pride of Britain Hotels Collection.

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.

UK - England - London - The Athenaeum Vertical Garden Exterior shots-2

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. 

UK - England - London - The Athenaeum Vertical Garden Exterior shots-1

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. 


Location

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.  

UK - England - London - Abigail King at Athenaeum

The Vibe

"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.

UK - England - Athenaeum Mayfair London hotel

The Rooms

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!

UK - England - London - Autumn in London - view from the Lounge at the Athenaeum


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.


Transport

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. 

UK - England - London - Athenaeum Fruit Display

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. 

Accessibility

Family friendly interconnecting rooms are available and two rooms have adapted bathrooms for guests with disabilities. 

Notes

No turn-down service or pillow menu as standard.

UK - England - Athenaeum London Chess Set-1

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.

Pride of Britain Hotel Collection 2021

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 & Residencesa 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).

The best of London in autumn

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