King Charles’ coronation has been on the horizon since Queen Elizabeth sadly passed away in September last year, who reigned for a whopping 70 years and 214 days. Three days of patriotic festivities will take place around the city to commemorate this momentous occasion, starting on 6th of May. Here’s our guide to everything you need to know about visiting London during the Coronation. Get your flags at the ready.
Image Courtesy of The Royal Family (📸 Hugo Burnand)
So, what actually is the Coronation?
First things first, what exactly is a coronation? To put it bluntly, it’s when a monarch is crowned King or Queen while someone places a crown on their head. It’s a symbolic ceremony that has remained pretty much the same for around a thousand years. It’ll be conducted by the ArchBishop of Canterbury, who will present King Charles (sitting on King Edward’s chair dating back to 1296) with an assortment of royal ceremonial objects in front of, well, basically, the entire world. The crown will be physically placed on his head, and he’ll be handed things like the Crown Jewels – head to the Tower of London if you want to see the jewels for yourself).
The Coronation will take place in Westminster Abbey, which has been the regal setting for Coronations for the past 900 years. Once the crowning has taken place, a little later, the updated Royal Family will perch on Buckingham Palace’s famous balcony and wave to all of the well-wishers surrounding the palace.
It’ll be busy, but the city is built for it
Although plenty of people are expected to be in and around London over the Coronation weekend, the city is built for busyness, so it shouldn’t put you off visiting London during the Coronation. It’s expected to be chock-a-block with people looking to raise a glass and celebrate the new monarch, which means the vibes will be great, and heaps of activities will take place across the weekend.
The King and Queen Consort Camilla will travel to Westminster Abbey from Buckingham Palace, so there will be many people lining the streets between the two places in hopes of catching a glimpse of the new King and seeing the royal processions first-hand. Some will also wait by Victoria Memorial to see the Royals wave from the Buckingham Palace balcony after the ceremony.
Will public transport be disrupted during the Coronation?
We couldn’t write a guide to visiting London during the Coronation without including a chunky paragraph on London’s public transport, could we? Although Transport for London hasn’t made any announcements about disruption to public transportation over the weekend, there will likely be some hold-ups. Although public transport will be running, it’s best to leave yourself ample time to get to and from your destination, and if you can, travel by foot as much as possible.
Last year’s jubilee celebrations came with closures and disruptions at certain stations across the city, including Hyde Park Corner, St James’s Park, Green Park, Charing Cross and Westminster. There will likely be a similar situation at the Coronation this year.
If you’re travelling by car or coach, you’ll probably face some hold-ups with traffic. However, there’s no reason to cancel your trip, as the city is well-built for such events, and procedures and structures will be in place to help deal with it. Again, make sure you leave yourself enough time to get from A to B and travel by train or foot if possible.
If you have plans outside of the Coronation activities, keep in mind that events may be delayed or rescheduled, so keep a close eye on your plans to ensure everything is going ahead as it should.
And if you need to get somewhere important like the airport, consider scheduling a pre-booked taxi to ensure you don’t get into trouble trying to call an Uber.
Image Courtesy of The Royal Family
What to expect when visiting London during the Coronation
Westminster Abbey is right at the beating heart of the action, as it’s been Britain’s coronation site since William the Conqueror was crowned king in 1066. The ceremony commences on Saturday 6th May, when King Charles III will begin the procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey. It won’t be available for the public to see in person, but it can be viewed on big screens around central London, such as at Mayfair’s Coronation Garden Party. You’ll find big screens with deck chairs for watching the ceremony, food and drink stalls and plenty of patriotic energy. The best bit? It’s free to attend.
If you’re hoping to watch the procession first-hand, secure a spot along the procession route between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. You can also wait at Victoria Memorial to see the Royals wave from the Buckingham Palace balcony at the end of the ceremony.
On Sunday, 7th May, everyone is encouraged to participate in The Coronation Big Lunch, where neighbours and communities are asked to rally together to socialise and share food. That could mean attending a full-blown street party or simply enjoying a cup of tea with a neighbour. To find out which street parties are happening near you, all you need to do is head to the government’s interactive map of coronation events and type in the postcode of the area you’re hoping to find one in/near.
That evening, there will also be a Coronation Concert staged on the East Lawn of Windsor Castle, featuring a line-up of musical legends. Although the public ballot to attend has now closed, you can enjoy watching it on screens around the city since it’ll be broadcast across The BBC. There’s been no announcement so far regarding who’ll be gracing the stage regarding celeb artists, but you’ll see performances from The Coronation Choir, comprising singers from around the UK, including NHS choirs, refugees, LGBTQ+ and deaf signing choirs.
On Monday, 8th May, the country has also been treated to a bank holiday to mark the occasion in history, but instead of sitting back and relaxing, everyone will be encouraged to participate in ‘The Big Help Out’. This charitable initiative proposed by the new King and Queen asks everyone around the country to participate in local and national charity projects.
Image Courtesy of The Ritz
What else is happening around the city over the Coronation weekend?
To round off our guide to everything you need to know about visiting London during the Coronation, here are a handful of other events around the city that don’t involve standing outside Westminster Abbey hoping to catch a glimpse of the new King.
Pubs around the city have been permitted to extend their licensing hours, especially for this weekend to celebrate the new King. Check out our guide to gorgeous London pubs to decide which one you’d like to celebrate in.
You could keep it quintessentially British and go for afternoon tea at The Reubens at the Palace. They’re hosting a jubilant Coronation-themed afternoon tea to commemorate the occasion, where they’ll serve a selection of homemade cakes and sweet treats alongside dainty finger sandwiches and a variety of teas by PMD Tea – P.M.David Silva & Sons, who are renowned for serving some of the world’s most sought-after teas.
If you want to be extra fancy, head to The Ritz’s grand Coronation ball, which includes a champagne and canapé Reception, a five-course dinner with wine pairing, performances from The BBC Big Band and a dance floor entertained by the sound of a vintage swing band.
Next, have a read of our list of things to do in London on Coronation weekend (coming next week).