April is a month full of colour, festivals and lots to see and do in London. After the harsh winters in the UK, people welcome the spring weather and the parks and streets of the English capital are bursting with life. The fourth month of the year also coincides with some of the most important events and festivals, such as Easter and the festivities of the patron saint of England, St George's Day.
Sport also takes centre stage. April is the month chosen for two of the biggest sporting events of the year: the London Marathon and the historic Oxford versus Cambridge regatta. In addition, I propose a magnificent climbing plan.
The arrival of good weather also opens up the possibility of doing activities that would be unfeasible in the cold and rainy winter. For example, enjoying the famous and traditional five o'clock tea on a terrace or sailing along the Thames on one of its dinner cruises. If you want to know what to do and see in London in April, here are the best options.
1. Sail the waters of the Thames
You can see London in a thousand ways but one of the most relaxing and interesting is a cruise on the Thames. The warm weather in April makes it an ideal month to see some of London's sights while cruising the waters.
Cruises of this type are usually taken from Westminster Pier next to Big Ben and there are two lines available, the blue and the pink. The blue line is longer, lasting 1 hour, and you can see Big Ben, the London Eye, St Paul's Cathedral and pass under the Tower of London Bridge amongst other sights.
The pink one is only half an hour and condenses the most important sights. You can combine both routes with an unlimited River Pass which allows you to do both routes as many times as you like in one day. Prices for Thames cruises range from 8 euros to around 20 euros
Cruises have open-air lounges for clear days and air-conditioned lounges for colder days, plus toilets and some even have an on-board cafe to enjoy the views with your favourite drink.
2. Climb to the top at London's Up at The O2
Another plan to welcome the good weather in London is to venture on a climb to the top of the O2, a stadium that hosts shows and sporting events. Yes, as you read, with the help of a guide-assistant and full safety equipment you can climb up to the dome of this legendary building.
After an hour and a half of climbing up the facade, you will reach a height of 52 metres and at the top of the O2, you will be able to enjoy some of the most impressive views of the British capital. The panoramic views of Greenwich Park or the Olympic Park will make for some spectacular photos.
3. Experience Easter at first hand with live theatre in Trafalgar Square
Easter is one of the most important celebrations in most Western countries and England is no exception. This week is one of the biggest festive periods of the year in London and Londoners take to the streets. Although it is essentially the same as in Spain, there are some differences.
For example, during Holy Week in London there is no Holy Thursday, but instead there is Easter Monday, a tradition that is not celebrated in Spain. Both Good Friday and Easter Monday are working holidays in the city.
There are endless activities during this week, the most outstanding of which is the re-enactment of the Passion of Christ in Trafalgar Square. Every Good Friday there is an open-air performance in which actors and volunteers re-enact the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is a free show that lasts half an hour and is repeated twice at 12:00 and 15:15.
Another attraction is the traditional Easter dances. In several places in London there are performances of Morris dancing, a traditional medieval dance that is very typical of this week's festivities and in which elements such as swords, bells and sticks are used during the choreography. Gastronomy also has a special place in the celebrations. Special dishes such as Hot Cross Buns and Simnel cake, a fruit and marzipan tart, are made.
4. Search for Easter eggs
Although part of Easter week, the traditional Easter egg hunt deserves a separate mention. It is an activity that will be especially enjoyed by those travelling to London with children. Tradition has it that on Easter Sunday, Easter eggs are prepared and decorated and then hidden away for children to find on Easter Monday. Numerous activities are organised around this, which are highly recommended if you are travelling with children.
It is very typical in London to give chocolate eggs as gifts during Easter week, so London bakeries sell chocolate eggs in a thousand different shapes and decorations. In Spain we don't have such a deep-rooted tradition, so discovering and enjoying it in London is a highly recommendable experience.
5. Taste the tradition with the five o'clock tea
Is there anything more British than tea at five o'clock? Probably not. If you want to become a real Londoner, a trip to London is a must if you want to taste tea with cakes and pastries. April is a special month for this. With the arrival of spring, the typical tea rooms move to the terraces and it is a luxury to savour the tradition with the good weather. In London there are endless places to have tea, but here are some of the most emblematic ones:
One of the institutions par excellence when it comes to five o'clocktea. Such is its fame that you have to book weeks in advance and there are daily shifts at 11:30, 13:30, 15:30, 17:30 and 19:30. You can choose between enjoying tea and sweets in the elegant lounge or on the spectacular terrace. Be warned, however, that the Ritz London is not exactly cheap, about 75 pounds per person, which at the exchange rate is more than 80 euros, and you are required to be well dressed.
Fortnum and Mason
A mid-priced option is the Fortnum and Mason department store. Located on Piccadilly Street, there are several tea shops inside. The most recommended is Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon on the fourth floor. As well as tasting tea, there are also shops where you can buy products related to this tradition. It is said that these stores are the ones that supplied tea to the Queen of England.
Bea's of Bloomsbury
If you want to go cheap, the Bea's of Bloomsbury chain has shops all over London. Nicely decorated and with a wide variety of teas and accompaniments, it is one of the best value for money options in London. Of course in London there are thousands of other alternatives to enjoy the tradition of five o'clock tea to suit all budgets and tastes.
6. Enjoy St George's Day festivities
On 23 April England celebrates the feast day in honour of its patron saint, St George. A figure with more legend than history but of great importance to the English. According to myth, St George was a knight whose fame was achieved by freeing a princess from a dragon. Legend or myth, the truth is that St George existed and somehow inspired the English to such an extent that they made him their patron saint.
In connection with the patron saint's day in London they organise a big celebration in his honour. Every 23 April, Trafalgar Square is decked out in red and white for the flag of England and hosts numerous free activities, food stalls and music. All with a medieval theme in honour of St Gorge's Day.
7. Celebrate Book Day in honour of Shakespeare
23 April is also Book Day, and is celebrated in part because it is the date of the death of one of the most important English authors in history, William Shakespeare. For this reason, literature-related activities are also organised in Trafalgar Square and in bookshops all over London.
If the stalls set up in Trafalgar Square are not enough for you, you can visit some of the most important bookshops in London. I recommend Daunt Books, an old bookshop dating back to 1912, which in addition to its valuable collection is notable for its architecture and decoration. It is located near Baker Street station, less than 10 minutes walk away. Here's an article on the London Underground to help you get around the city's main transport system.
8. Take part in or cheer on the London Marathon
As I mentioned before, April is the month chosen for two of the biggest sporting events of the year in the English capital. One of them is the London Marathon. It has been held since 1981 and forms part of the World Marathon Majors, the competition that brings together the six major marathons in the world along with New York, Chicago, Boston, Berlin and Tokyo.
Every year around 40,000 runners take part in the marathon in an attempt to complete the 42 kilometres. The race passes some of London's most iconic landmarks such as the Tower of London, the London Eye, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. The finish line is located on The Mall next to St. James's Palace.
If you are a prepared athlete you can't miss the event and if not, you can always come along to cheer on the participants and enjoy the joint activities organised by the sponsors. It is worth remembering that the proceeds from the London Marathon go to charity.
9. Experience the historic Oxford vs. Cambridge race
The other big sporting event in April is the historic Oxford versus Cambridge regatta. One of the oldest sporting events in the world, the most important rowing competition and one of the most historic rivalries in the history of the sport. The race pits the rowing teams of Oxford and Cambridge universities against each other on the waters of the Thames. It runs between two London boroughs of Montlake and Putney for 6779 metres and more than 250,000 people crowd the banks of the river to watch the race.
It's usually held in early April and if you happen to be in London, you've got to get down to the Thames. There are many spots on both sides of the river to watch the race, but some of the best are: Putney Bridge, Putney Wharf and Bishop's Park to watch the start of the race, Craven Cottage, Fulham FC Stadium and Hammersmith Bridge in the middle reaches, and Chiswick Bridge to watch the finish.
10. Museum route for cloudy days
Even in April Rain tends to show up in London more often than we'd like. For those days when you don't feel like being outdoors, visiting London's museums is always a good idea. Most of them are free and there are museums in London to suit all interests.
The British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the National Gallery, Madame Tussauds wax museum. They are all among the best museums in the world in their respective fields. Visiting them all in one day is almost impossible if you want to enjoy them well. If you have to choose, my recommendation is to prioritise the British Museum or the Natural History Museum if you go with children. Both are two sure-fire hits.
London weather in April
Spring in London and the temperatures are much more pleasant than in the winter months. However, London is still a city where the cold and rain never really go away. Temperatures tend to average between 12 and 16 degrees Celsius with highs in the upper 20s. Lows are still cold, averaging between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius, but in April it's harder to get close to 0 degrees Celsius.
Rain is always present, as it should be in London, but it's less frequent. It rains more or less 50% of the days in April. But you have to look at the glass half full and that means dry and clear days for almost half of the month. In addition, the days get longer and sunset doesn't arrive until 19:30 in the evening or 20:30 at the end of the month.
Don't forget to pack warm clothes in your suitcase, preferably waterproof, but leave room for short sleeves. And don't forget your umbrella, as rain can come at any time in London.
London in April
Although the peak season doesn't arrive until summer, April is one of the busiest months for tourists in London. This is due, as you might have guessed, to Easter. Hotel prices go up, as do entrance fees to some of London's major sights. However, the good weather and the number of activities that April brings compensates for the increased crowds and the higher prices.
If you want to visit London in April, you'll be right, but I recommend planning well in advance to get the best deals and avoid running out of hotel rooms.