Every November, London gets chillier, the locals start preparing for Christmas, and the city transforms into its most sparkly form. The Christmas lights get switched on, fireworks illuminate the night sky, and winter markets open. There’s also a jazz festival to get excited about, featuring iconic musicians and new, emerging artists. Here’s our guide to the top things to do in London in November.
(WA = Wheelchair Accessible)
Watch London’s Christmas lights get switched on
First up on our list of the top things to do in London in November is the Christmas lights switch-on. Nothing signifies that Christmas is around the corner more than when London’s streets are illuminated by the sparkle of thousands of festive lights. Oxford Street’s dangling stars are back for another year, all 5,000 of them, and they’ll be glowing from 2nd November. This year, there’s a spotlight on sustainability with reduced operating hours combined with LED lights that will use less energy than last year. Regent Street and St. James’s lights will switch on from 9th November, and Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square and Carnaby Street are all still TBC, but usually switch on around mid-November.
Image courtesy of Alexandra Palace
See the sky light up on Guy Fawkes Night
Bonfire Night in the capital is always wildly entertaining. It’s undoubtedly one of the top things to do in London in November, and there are many places to celebrate it around the city. Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Bonfire Night, is an evening of festivities honouring a failed assassination attempt in 1605. A man named Guy Fawkes and a group of radical English Catholics tried to blow up the House of Lords with gunpowder and assassinate King James I. However, the conspirators were stopped before the assassination took place and they were all executed. Not long after, people around Britain started to celebrate the failed assassination by burning statues of Guy Fawkes, burning bonfires and setting off fireworks.
Some of the biggest Guy Fawkes celebrations take place at Alexandra Palace, where you can expect a blazing bonfire, a huge German bier festival with a tribute act to Elvis Presley, live DJs, an ice rink, cinema screenings and incredible firework displays. Battersea Park also hosts south London’s biggest fireworks display and a spectacular bonfire, while Byron Park in Harrow is hosting an all-day event featuring a fun fair, food and drink stalls and a magnificent fireworks display in the evening.
5th November 2023
Celebrate Diwali across the city
On 11th November, people all over the world will come together in celebration of Diwali. This religious festival is the ultimate festival of light and a time to unite to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness and the joys of life. There are many ways to celebrate this festival in London, one being at Diwali on the Square in Trafalgar Square on 29th October, a celebration including a line-up of live music, workshops, food, drink, arts and crafts and dancing.
Diwali on the Square | WA | Trafalgar Square | 29th October 2023
Image courtesy of Winter Wonderland
Wander around London’s Christmas markets
Nothing gets you into the festive spirit more than wandering around London’s Christmas markets, where mulled wine, mince pies and twinkly lights come by the hundreds. The renowned Winter Wonderland will be open from 18th November and is London’s biggest Christmas market filled with german-inspired winter markets, gift stalls, fairground rides, beer tents and street food stalls. It does however get very crowded so you could instead visit the markets on the South Bank, in Leicester Square or at Selfridges Christmas Market on the Mews at the rear of the shop, which all typically open in early November.
Image courtesy of The London Jazz Festival
Listen to live Jazz at The London Jazz Festival
The London Jazz Festival is back again. Two thousand artists, composers, and ensembles will come together in more than 60 venues around the city to bless our ears with inspirational jazz. From established musicians to up-and-coming artists, this festival is the ultimate place to embrace all things jazz and experience well-known and new talent around like-minded people. Expect performances from icons like Mulatu Astatke and Norah Jones.
The London Jazz Festival | WA | Southbank | 10th – 19th November 2023
Image courtesy of Somerset House
Head to Somerset House for a spot of ice skating
One of the top things to do in London in November is skating on any of the ice rinks that pop up across the city, one of our favourites being at Somerset House. The neoclassical courtyard transforms into an ice skating haven, decked out with a whopping 40ft Christmas tree adorned with twinkling Moët & Chandon decorations. Glide to the music before refuelling with a post-skate bite to eat at the gourmet Chalet Suisse restaurant, serving a menu of Alpine-inspired dishes like traditional cheese fondue with black truffle and roasted pork belly with slow-braised pig cheek, pancetta mash, sauerkraut and apple Schnapps jus. Book tickets in advance!
Somerset House | WA | Covent Garden | 15th November 2023 to 14th January 2024
Image courtesy of Kew Gardens
Follow the magical winter light trail through Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens’ magical winter light trail is set to illuminate the gardens once again, signalling that Christmas is just around the corner. Meander through light tunnels and watch dancing reflections on the lake as you journey through flickering flames. Independent street food vendors will be selling festive treats along the trail, and you’ll even have the chance to meet Father Christmas himself along the way.
Christmas at Kew | WA | Kew Gardens | Selected dates, 15th November 2023 – 7th January 2024
Image courtesy of Royal British Legion
Honour those who lost their lives in the war on Remembrance Day
Every November, the UK comes together for Remembrance Day, also known as Armistice Day, to honour those who gave their lives in war. This year’s events will take place at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, where members of the Royal Family will pay their respects alongside the Mayor of London, former Prime Ministers, Members of the Cabinet, Opposition party leaders and representatives of the Armed Forces. Every year, veterans also participate in a March Past, in which members of the public with relatives who served in the Armed Services can apply to take part in.
Remembrance Day | 12th November 2023
Image courtesy of Lord Mayor’s Show
Celebrate the Mayor at The Lord Mayor’s show
Lastly on our list of the top things to do in London in November is The Lord Mayor’s Show. This is the place to be if you want to embrace a slice of British history. The elaborate show dates back to the early 13th century, when King John I allowed the City of London (a subset of larger London) to elect its own mayor. He then stated that every newly-elected mayor would be required to come to Westminster to swear loyalty to the crown, which is how The Lord Mayor’s Show began more than 800 years ago. It takes place over a three-mile-long procession, winding through the city, starting at Mansion House and ending at the Royal Courts of Justice. You can expect an elaborate show including floats, more than two hundred horses and military bands.
Lord Mayor’s Show | WA | Westminster | 11th of November 2023