Hooray for Spring! The longer days, warmer weather and increasing number of blue skies are reason enough to celebrate but there’s also a lot going on in London this month.
Not only do we get three bank holidays this year (falling on 1 May, 8 May and 29 May) but it’s the Coronation of King Charles III (that second May bank holidays forms part of the Coronation celebrations).
May is one of the most colourful months in London; the cherry blossoms are in bloom for a little bit longer until the purple haze of wisteria takes over and a number of flower shows take place.
The big one is the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (May 23 – 27) and you do need tickets for this one (children under 5 years are not permitted). Non-ticketed floral displays happening this month include the free flower festival Chelsea Barracks Spring Fair (May 24 – 27), Chelsea in Bloom (May 22 – 27) themed, this year, around ‘Flowers on Film’, and Belgravia in Bloom (May 22 – 29).
Also in May is the Asian Film Festival and the London Craft Festival. There’s not a lot taking place at either of these events for kids but could be an option if you have older teens – or simply want to go yourself!
Whatever you’re interested in, there are plenty of things to do in London in May, read on to discover our top picks.
If you’re visiting London for the first time – or are planning to be a tourist in your own city – then add London’s most famous landmarks and popular attractions to your itinerary. Big Ben is no longer shrouded in scaffolding, the Changing of the Guard is once again a regular event and tours have resumed at the Houses of Parliament. The National Portrait Gallery reopens next month on 22 June.
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May 2023 events in London
The following are our pick of the best things to do in London in May, starting with the main event, the Coronation of King Charles III.
The King’s Coronation
There are lots of events taking place to help celebrate the official bestowing of the crown upon King Charles III. The actual Coronation will take place on Saturday 6 May, 2023 at Westminster Abbey. but the celebrations will continue for three days, which includes that bank holiday on Monday May 8.
If you’re going to be in London for the Coronation then here are some of the events to get excited about.
Note that all attractions and museums linked to the royals, such as Kensington Palace and the Queen’s Gallery, will be closed on the day of the coronation. Parts of Kew Gardens will close (the Great Pagoda and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage will be closed on 6 May). The one exception is Hampton Court Palace; the palace itself will be close but its gardens will remain open.
Watch the Royal Processions
Two processions will take place in central London on the day of the coronation itself. The King’s Procession sees Charles and Camilla travel from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey passing iconic London locations such as Trafalgar Square and St. James’ Park along the way.
When they leave the Abbey after the service they will be joined by other senior royals and make the return journey back to Buckingham Palace. This is called the Coronation Procession and will be followed by an appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
The route is just 1.3 miles long (the route for Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953 was 5 miles long) and will avoid large sections of the capital so expect plenty of people lining up along the route. If you don’t fancy the crowds then head to the Royal Parks where huge television screens will be in set up in Hyde Park, Green Park and St James’s Park for public viewing
You can see the official route here and decide where the best places are to watch the processions from.
Light Up the Nation
Landmarks around the country will be illuminated using projections, lasers and drones to celebrate the coronation. The event, called Light Up the Nation, will take place on Sunday 7 May as part of the Coronation Convert in Windsor.
The Coronation Exhibition at Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey are holding a series of events to celebrate the coronation (some have already sold out). You can, however, still visit the Coronation Exhibition and see illustrations and photographs relating to the coronation traditions.
Note that the Abbey will be closed between 25 April and 8 May in preparation for the coronation itself.
Travel in the Coronation Capsule
The London Eye has created a Coronation Capsule where you can pretend to have your very own coronation while taking a spin around. As well as stellar London views, this special capsule comes with a replica of the Coronation Chair and the Crown Jewels.
Tickets cost £60 per person and concludes a glass of champagne or soft drink plus fast-track boarding.
Head to a street party at Grovesnor Square
Grovesnor Square is being transformed into an Alice in Wonderland inspired garden in order to host a free garden party on 6 and 7 May with picnic benches, wine bars and live performances.
Party at Battersea Power Station
Battersea Power Station are hosting their own street party to mark the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla. Taking place on 6 and 7 May, visitors will be greeted with Union Jack-themed decorations, family-friendly activities and plenty of entertainment.
Watch the Coronation Concert
Taking place on the evening of Sunday 7 May is the coronation convert in the grounds of Windsor Castle. Headline acts include Take That, Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Andrea Bocelli. If you missed out on the ballot to attend the concert in person then you can watch it live on BBC One.
Enjoy a Coronation-themed River Cruise
Between Monday 17 April and Monday 8 May, City Cruises are running coronation-themed afternoon tea cruises with specially designed sweet treats and royal-themed activities for kids to enjoy as you sail along the River Thames.
Get into the Royal Spirt in Covent Garden
Covent Garden is one of our favourite places in London with kids anyway and this month it’s going to be even more exciting. A traditional British pub garden is being set up in the centre of the piazza and on the East Piazza is the Crown Jewels garden with live music and entertainment taking place.
Shopping fit for a King along Oxford Street
One of London’s most famous streets is getting is pulling out all the stops over the coronation weekend.
Many of the shops will be offering exclusive discounts and in-store events. There will be food and drink spots where you can pick up coronation-themed treats, there will be bunting galore and some of the bus shelters will even be wearing their own crowns.
Take a look at this map for more details.
The Coronation Bench Trail at the Tower of London
Visit the iconic and UNESCO World Heritage Site the Tower of London and take part in the Coronation Bench trail. See if you can find all 14 illustrated benches, specially designed by school children to celebrate the Coronation of King Charles III.
Coronation Celebrations at ZSL London Zoo
Celebrate the Kings and Queens of the animal kingdom over the coronation weekend from the Queen honeybee in Tiny Giants to the Lion King Bhanu in Land of the Lions at ZSL London Zoo.
There will be crafty crown making and face-painting taking place and all visitors will be given a pouch of wildflower seeds to take home and sow.
Ai Wei Wei’s Lego Sculpture at the Design Museum
One of the best things to do in London in May is at London’s Design Museum. Chinese artist Ai WeiWei has a major new show at that includes an enormous piece made entirely from LEGO.
Titled Water Lilies #1, the piece is a homage to Impressionist painter Claude Monet and is a reconstruction of his famous water lilies piece, constructed entirely from 650,000 LEGO bricks in 22 colours.
When: Until 30 July 2023
Where: The Design Museum
Price: £16.80/8.25 Adult/Child (Under 11s go free)
Animals Art, Science and Sound at the British Library
This fascinating new exhibition opened on 21 April at the British Library showcasing the art, science and sound recordings collected by explorers documenting the animal world.
Listen to the mournful song of the last living living Kauaʻi ʻōʻō, recorded in 1983 and declared extinct in 2000, read the first scientific description of a duck-billed platypus, once thought to be so bizarre it must be a hoax, and discover fun facts along the way. Did you know, for example, that the first photograph of a live giant squid was only published in 2005?
When: 21 April – 28 August, 2023
Price: £16/8 Adult / Child (Under 11s go free)
The Fans Strike Back
A must for any Star Wars fan is this new exhibition taking place in South Kensington. The Fans Strike Back – a Star Wars fan exhibition invites all Jedi Knights, Jedi Masters and Palawan to visit and marvel at the hundreds of collectibles on display. There’s also plenty of official merchandise plus plenty of interactive photo ops and VR experiences (over 14s only). May the Fourth be with you!
When: Opens 19 April – 18 June, 2023
Price: £20.50/13.50 Adult / Child (aged 4 – 12)
Where: 81 Old Brompton Road, SW7 3LD, London, SW7 3LD
Beyond the Streets at the Saatchi Gallery
This excellent exhibition closes on May 9 so make sure to visit before it’s gone. Beyond the Streets explores graffiti and street art, and the fundamental human need for public self-expression. Taking over all three floors of London’s iconic Saatchi Gallery, there are large-scale installations, original works and examples of the street art’s influence on fashion and film.
When: Closes 9 May
Price: £25/10 Adult/Child (6-16 years)
Where: The Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London, SW3 4RY
UNIQLO Tate Play Empower Make Studio
Taking place every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday is this fun chance for families to unleash their inner artists and get creative at the Tate Modern.
Be inspired by artists form the Tate’s collection and create your own activist artwork about a cause you care about. Learn how to use images and text together to create eye-catching messages, use printmaking to make a colourful banner or poster and reuse materials from around the Tate.
Expect to get messy so bring a change of clothes.
When: Wednesday 10.30am – 3pm (under 5s); Saturday and Sunday 10.30am – 6pm, all ages. Until 24 May
Where: Tate Modern; nearest tube London Bridge
Crown to Couture at Kensington Palace
The Crown to Couture exhibition opened on 5 April and is the largest ever staged at the Palace. On display are some 200 objects including Lady Gaga’s luminous green MTV Awards dress, the Thom Browne dress worn by Lizzo at the 2022 Met Gala and the world-famous Silver Tissue Gown worn at the court of Charles II.
It’s the perfect place to take fashion-forward older children and teens!
Don’t forget to enjoy Kensington Gardens while you’re there.
When: Until October 23
Price: Adult/Child £25.40/12.70 (Under 5’s go free)
Where: Kensington Palace
Titanosaur: Life as the Biggest Dinosaur
The Natural History Museum is a great place to visit with kids at any time (not to mention one of London’s top attractions) but this new exhibition is a must!
Titanosaur: Life as the Biggest Dinosaur explores the world of the magnificent titanosaur Patagotitan mayorum, one of the largest creatures to have ever walked the earth. Learn how he found food, kept cool and stayed safe on this journey from tiny egg to towering creature.
If you have time, pop next door to the Science Museum once you’ve finished stopping for lunch along the way.
Where: The Natural History Museum
When: Until January 2024
Family Events at the Southbank Centre
The Southbank Centre on London’s South Bank always has a good line up of family fun, this month they are hosting a number of events for kids and their parents.
For under-5’s there’s Rug Rhymes, a short session of nursery rhymes and poems (5 and 19 May), FUNharmonics is an interactive concert for families with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (13 May), and there’s a self-lead activity trail exploring the world’s languages that opens on 31 May.
When: Various dates, see website for details.
Where: The Southbank Centre
Price: See website for details
WOW! Said the Owl
This charming story book about a curious little owl who is determined to stay awake and see what daylight brings is bring brought to the Little Angel Theatre this month.
Brought to life through storytelling, puppetry and music, this is sure to delight children aged 2 – 5.
When: 19 May – 30 July
Where: Little Angel Theatre
Price: See website for details.
Re:Imagining Musicals at the V&A
It’s the last month to enjoy Re:Imagining Musicals, an excellent exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum that explores how some of the best-loved musicals of the West End have been adapted, revived, and retold from Miss Saigon to SIX the Musical.
While here, make sure to visit Hallyu! The Korean Wave, which celebrates the pop culture of South Korea and closes at the end of June.
When: Closes 4 June
Where: V&A Museum; nearest tube South Kensington
Cutty Sark Rig Climb Experience
This Rig Climb Experience opened at the Cutty Sark a year ago but now’s as good a time as any to enjoy this brilliant day out. For the first time since arriving in Greenwich in 1954, visitors are able to climb the famous masts of the Cutty Sark.
The Rig Climb Experience allows those brave visitors the chance to step up from the main deck onto the ship’s ratlines and climb up its shrouds, just as hundreds of sailors did during the Cutty Sark’s heyday at sea. Once at the top, climbers will experience a controlled descent from the rigging down to street level aside the ship.
Those who make it to the top will be rewarded with some of the best views in town looking out over St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge and The Shard.
Prices: Check website for details
Where: The Cutty Sark, Greenwich; Standard Rig Climb prices start from £41 for adults and £26 for children, Plus prices start from £51 for adults and £36 for children. These prices include general admission to Cutty Sark, meaning you can take part in the climb and explore the ship on the same day. Tickets also include all safety equipment and free storage of personal items.