Answers from Our Experts (2)
We have eight national holidays – known as bank holidays – every year in the UK. Not all of them are accompanied by particular traditions or events but the following are all well worth planning a trip around.
Notting Hill Carnival
This raucous street festival takes place each year on the August bank holiday weekend, transforming the streets of West London into one huge party. The carnival parade – made up steel bands, extravagantly-clad dancers, floats and moving sound systems – begins at 9am on both days, finishing at around 7pm. Meanwhile static sound systems and live stages play hip-hop, funk, reggae, soul and much more. Go with an appetite and tuck into delicious Caribbean cuisine sold from stalls lining the route. Sunday, children's day, offers a more atmosphere, while those keen to party should go on Monday. August 25-26.
Christmas and New Year's Eve
The next public holidays after that aren't until Christmas and New Year, when we have December 25 and 26 off, as well as January 1. Most people spend Christmas Day itself at home with family and friends but many venture out for a stroll in the afternoon. Gorgeous parks like Hampstead Heath can get surprisingly crowded with locals attempting to walk off their festive overindulgence. December 26, or Boxing Day as it's known here, is when most shops begin their January sales. It's not uncommon for bargain hunters to arrive several hours before stores are due to open in a bid to nab the best deals. And though January 1 is the holiday, it's December 31 when you'll find Londoners celebrating the arrival of the new year. Pubs, bars and clubs host both ticketed and open access event, but the biggest party in the capital is along the banks of the Thames, where stupendous fireworks are let off at midnight to the delight of the thousands lining the riverside.
Next up is Easter, which means two bank holidays, one on Easter Friday and one on Easter Monday. Family events are the order of the day at this time of year, with egg hunts and other fun activities for kids taking place at venues all over the capital. Some venues to check out are the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the London Wetland Centre.
England only has eight regular public holidays (known locally as bank holidays) thoughout the year, which is the lowest in Europe and one of the lowest in the world. So when busy Londoners do get a rare day off from the office, they like to make sure its memorable.
Visit the capital city on any public holiday, whether New Year's Day, Easter Monday, May Day or Boxing Day, and you'll be sure to find a host of activities to occupy your time.
Here are three holiday events that are particularly entertaining:
Spring Bank Holiday (last weekend in May): The Big Picnic at Hampton Court
This wonderful Tudor palace – a favorite of King Henry VIII – is a wonderful place to visit all year round, but at Spring Bank Holiday it's particularly special. Come during the weekend to take part in a mass picnic on the Palace's East Front Gardens, complete with live music, food stalls, sports and games, historical storytelling and children's crafts.
Good Friday (April): The Easter Skate Eggstravaganza
Perfect for newcomers to the city, this annual three-hour skate takes participants past some of London's most famous visitor attrations. For those who aren't skate-savvy, there's also an Easter Bunny Stroll on the Sunday, taking in a similar route.
Late Summer Bank Holiday (last weekend in August): FrightFest
Always organized to make the most of the Monday off, FrightFest is an annual film festival with a primary focus on the horror genre. Hosted at The Empire, Leicester Square, and with late-night screenings of everything from early cinema scares to modern slasher movies, this is a holiday event guaranteed to get you jumping out of your skin.