May Day falls on the first Monday in May, and it’s been an extended bank holiday weekend across the UK since 1978. This bank holiday originally honoured worker’s rights and was a time for maypole dancing and other springtime traditions.
In London, it means a long weekend in (hopefully) lovely sunshine with the chance to relax, have fun and make the most of the vibrant arts, culture and food the capital is famous for. These are our tips on how to make the most of your May bank holiday in London.
Enjoy nature this spring
London’s royal parks are the perfect place for a picnic, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. But if you’re hunting for some of the best spring flower displays to enjoy while you lounge on your picnic blanket, eating strawberries, we recommend heading to Richmond Park’s Isabella Plantation.
The evergreen azaleas that line the water’s edge are a spectacular pink colour at this time of year. Spring brings new life to the London Wetland Centre, too, as water voles peek out of the river’s edge, bats come out of hibernation and adorable ducklings stay close to mum.
Another worthy contender for the perfect May bank holiday picnic spot is Kew Gardens. Stroll through the Japanese cherry blossoms, smell the bluebells in the Natural Area and see a rainbow of rhododendrons in Kew Gardens’ Dell.
Arts and culture
While schools, banks and a few shops may be shut on May Day bank holiday, London’s museums, galleries and theatres are most definitely open and often put on special bank holiday events. If the weather is unseasonably gloomy, London’s Natural History Museum and the Science Museum are neighbours, and you can easily fill a weekend exploring them.
If the sun is out, Greenwich is a great neighbourhood for May bank holiday events in London. See a miniature HMS Victory outside the National Maritime Museum, climb the Cutty Sark rigging and catch the red Time Ball rise and drop on Flamsteed House at the Royal Observatory. The Old Royal Naval College and beautiful Greenwich Park are also nearby.
If you’d rather some theatre, spring brings with it the start of Shakespeare’s Globe Summer Season where you can watch a classic play alfresco as a groundling in the replica Elizabethan theatre on the banks of the Thames.
Food and drink
London’s vibrant food markets and stalls fill the streets with delicious flavours over the May bank holiday weekend. Head to Pop Brixton for a colourful collection of converted shipping containers serving tasty delights from around the world and playing live music till late.
This bank holiday, shake off those winter blues and enjoy outdoor brunching. A contender for the prettiest May bank holiday brunch in London is Dalloway Terrace in Bloomsbury. Dine on delicious classic brunch dishes in its secluded and elegant garden terrace with a retractable roof. For riverside views and bottomless brunch in London this May bank holiday dine on the terrace at M Canary Wharf where, for a fixed price, you get two brunch courses and unlimited cocktails for 90 minutes.
Book early to avoid disappointment.
Buy those summer essentials and browse the shops, markets and malls this May bank holiday. Covent Garden offers plenty of independent shops and street performers for a mix of shopping fun and creative entertainment. Explore the maze of antiques shops, fashion boutiques and plenty of vinyl and books at Camden Lock Market and there are plenty of places to stop for a bite to eat. For vintage goods, head to Brick Lane. The market is usually open on May bank holiday and the area is brimming with shops selling vintage clothes, retro furniture and quirky curiosities.
Fill up on spring joy with a May bank holiday in London. With the city brimming with fun activities, it’s the perfect time to plan a long weekend visit. Come and stay in our central London hotels, The Clermont, Victoria or The Clermont, Charing Cross, and enjoy elegant accommodation with modern comforts.