The Best Things to Do in London in August, the Month of Festivals
London in August is festivals, festivals, festivals. But which one is right for you?
Ah, summer in the city. The perfect chance to make the most of London's al fresco dining spots, rooftops bars and its best parks and gardens…weather dependent, of course. Speaking of London's parks whilst on the topic of things to do in London in August, a lot of them play host to world-renowned festivals throughout the month. From techno to classical and everything in between, here's our guide to the best festivals to enjoy.
Notting Hill Carnival
Known as Europe’s biggest street festival, the Notting Hill Carnival occurs over the August bank holiday weekend. Over a million people show up to partake in the bustling multi-day event that celebrates London’s Caribbean communities and their cultures. It began in August 1966 when Rhaune Laslett organized a street party for the neighborhood children as well as to promote cultural unity. When Russell Henderson’s steel band trio went on a walkabout during the party, it turned into a carnival procession and most of the community joined in. As the years went on, more and more steel bands participated but eventually racial tensions forced the original organizers to hang up their coats. The mantle was passed onto other community members and in 1973, Leslie Palmer found the necessary funding to make the event what it is today.
The Sunday of the event is 'Family Day. It’s just as vivid and buzzing as the main day but a bit quieter and more child friendly when in London with kids. Monday is when the main parade takes place. The parade starts on Great Western Road, through Chepstow Road and Westbourne Grove, and then finally down Ladbroke Grove. Other festivities include live music, dancing, and food.
It’s important to note that because this is such a famous event, you’ll want to arrive early to get a comfortable spot. Transportation to and from that area gets disrupted because of all the moving parts so check the TfL website for updates and to plan ahead.
South West Four Festival
Common’s annual summer dance festival, South West Four, also takes place over the bank holiday weekend. You’ll hear a variety of music genres over the loud and action-packed two days but the main players here are EDM, electro, and techno music. If that's your thing, catch your favorite DJ here or see a rising star make their debut. On Saturday, the grounds are open from 11:30 am to 11 pm and on Sunday from 11:30 am to 10:30 pm. There’s no entry to event an hour before closing. You can purchase single day tickets for the Saturday or Sunday or if you want to go to both days, save money and buy a weekend ticket instead. (Only people who are 18 years old and over are allowed into the event so in addition to your wellies, bring a valid form of ID.)
Fans of classical music will love BBC Proms, which makes for a slightly different atmosphere to the festival mentioned above. Held every summer at the Royal Albert Hall, the classical music festival occurs over an eight week period and is one of our favourite things to do in London in August here at Plum Guide. It’s called ‘Proms’ because it’s short for promenade concerts, which are informal, inexpensive concerts. If you go to one of them, you’d be called a ‘prommer.’ It was was founded in 1895 by Robert Newman and Henry Woods. Newman was famous for organizing musical events and wanted the general public to be able to enjoy them too. Newman was given financial backing for the Proms by George Cathcart, a doctor, whose sole condition was that Woods be the conductor. Newman approached Woods with the idea and it gained traction from there.
The Proms are broadcasted live on on Radio 3, and the website will have the broadcast recordings available for 30 days. BBC Two has a program called Proms Extra, which showcases different artists, interviews, and behind the scenes. Ticket prices vary by seating area. Under 18s only have to pay half price, no matter what seat they’re in, the lucky things (despite the fact that you'll be paying). The Proms website has full details on prices and they’re available to purchase through there. However, there are a number of free events too.
51st State Festival
The 51st State Festival is held at Trent Park, a country house estate in Cockfosters. It showcases house music, which is what you’d hear spilling out from club sound systems these days. (Each to their own, we say.) Dance, electronic, soul, disco, it’ll all be here. If you need sustenance to keep your body energized and moving to the music, never fear, because they’ll be street food vendors ready nearby. There are a number of ticket options to choose from and some are released in stages. If you’re traveling with a group, you can purchase tickets at a discounted rate. Entry here is 18 and over with valid ID only.
Southbank Centre Festival of Love
Love is in the air around the Southbank Centre. The Festival of Love is an annual festival held over the summer – with an agenda including programmes of music, dance and art. Art installations are set up around the area and provide ample learning and photo opportunities. There are plenty of things going on outside as well as inside of the Southbank Centre. You can play basketball at a pop up basketball court or learn how spin turntables from a DJ. Most of it is free, with ticketed events specified on the website. Stay just across the river in one of our handpicked homes in Covent Garden to soak up the al fresco atmosphere that London so embraces in the summer.
Buckingham Palace Summer Opening
As the saying goes - while the cat’s away, the mice will play. If you’re festival-ed out (or were never even festival-ed in) then take advantage of the Royal Family being out on holiday by going on a tour inside of Buckingham Palace. It's normally closed to the public (it’s only open for during ten weeks in the summer) so it's one of the most unmissable things to do in London in August. The palace houses 775 rooms but the beautifully elegant 19 State Rooms, where the Queen and the rest of the Royal Family entertain guests, are what you’ll see on your tour. Some of the different things you’ll get to see are the Throne Room, the Ballroom, the White Drawing Room, and the Grand Staircase. Pictures aren’t allowed inside the State Rooms, so keep your eye on the prize and take a good, long look at everything you can. (Save the photos for your luxury Plum Guide home, we're sure they won't look too dissimilar.) Entry is available through specific time slots and you’ll need to buy your tickets online in advance. If you’re travelling in a family, discounts are available. (We'll leave it up to you as to whether or not that warrants bringing them along…)