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Top 5 Autumn Events in London

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It is often said that New York is the city that never sleeps, but London is just as busy, with a full calendar of festivals and events to suit every interest. The following events occur on a yearly basis from late September to early November (exact dates below are for the 2012 schedule).

1. Chocolate Week

Date: 8–14 October
Location: Throughout London

London chocolate shops and chocolatiers from across the world come together for one week to exhibit new creations and provide the public with free chocolate tastings. If your interests are more academic than indulgent, you can attend lectures and demonstrations by some of the world's top chocolatiers.

The highlight of chocolate week is Chocolate Unwrapped, which is a chocolate show centred on creative works of art and culinary concoctions. Chocolatiers show off their new recipes, artists construct elaborate chocolate sculptures, and visitors can sample chocolate selections from around the world.

Chocolate Unwrapped takes place at the London Film Museum, Covent Garden from 13–14 October.

2. Royal Horticultural Society Harvest Festival and Shades of Autumn Show

Date: 9–10 October, 23–24 October
Location: RHS Horticultural Halls, Westminster

Harvest Festival

The Harvest Festival is an opportunity for farmers and gardeners to display the best of their produce and compete for prizes. Visitors can purchase fruit and vegetables, sample local and exotic produce, and receive expert gardening advice.

Highlights of the festival include an apple tasting session and a giant pumpkin growing contest where participants compete for a top prize of £1000.

Opening times

9 October: 10am –9pm
10 October: 10am–5pm


Free for RHS members
£5 for the Festival
£8 for a return visit to the Shades of Autumn show

Trees changing colour around London. Photo by Erin Connelly.

Shades of Autumn

Shades of Autumn showcases autumnal plants from over 20 specialist nurseries across the UK. Highlights of the show include the ornamental plant exhibition and competition and the best of autumn photography display.

Opening Times

23 October: 10am–7pm
24 October: 10am–5pm


Free for RHS members
£5 for non-members (or free with a ticket purchased at the Harvest Festival)

3. Diwali, the Festival of Lights, at Trafalgar Square

Date: 28 October

Diwali is a religious festival celebrated by Hindu, Sikh, and Jain communities. The holiday is a celebration of the triumph of good over evil or light over darkness, which is symbolised by the many lanterns and candles displayed during the event. The holiday is a joyful occasion (i.e., love, peace, reconciliation, and newness of life are the main themes) and all comers are welcome to participate.

Diwali ceremonial candles. Photo by Ashish Kanitkar.

There are many ways to celebrate Diwali throughout London, but the largest event takes place in Trafalgar Square. To honour 'the festival of lights', the square is filled with light displays, candles, and floating lanterns. The festival includes traditional foods, music, dancing, and other cultural traditions.

The festival is an appealing substitute for families looking for a kid-friendly alternative to Halloween.

4. Merge Festival

Date: 19 September–21 October
Location: Bankside

The Merge Festival is a month-long celebratory exhibition of the performance arts, including outdoor theatre, film showings, live music, and art displays in various locations around Bankside.

Street artist imitating a statue on the Queen's Walk, Bankside. Photo by Erin Connelly.

Some notable activities include:

Bankside Transformed

Tour specially commissioned works of art in the abandoned and derelict buildings along Southwark Street and Borough Market.

Six Robots Named Paul (10–21 October)

Six robots sketch the portraits of visitors over a half hour sitting. The portraits will be displayed as part of a special exhibition.

Live Music

The Riverside Stage by the Millennium Bridge hosts a series of concerts by independent artists every weekend of the festival.

The Crucible - Where Scientists Meet Artists (11 October)

Scientists and artists from various disciplines meet for an evening of discussion, networking, and idea exchange at NEO Bankside. Numbers are limited to 50 scientists and 50 artists. See website to register interest.

5. Bonfire Night Fireworks

Autumn in London would not be complete without attending a bonfire and watching a fireworks display. Bonfire Night originated with Guy Fawkes' failed attempt to blow up Parliament and overthrow the government on 5 November, 1605. The shocked population burned Fawkes' effigy in bonfires and held large celebrations in the streets.

Traditional Bonfire. Photo by James Anderson.

Most bonfire night events are detached from their historical traditions now (e.g., burning effigies) and are instead a nice way to enjoy an autumnal evening with family and friends.

Fireworks on Bonfire Night. Photo by Ali (Wikimedia).

The following are a selection of local fireworks displays:

Barking Park Fireworks (3 November)

Along with the fireworks, the park provides a live music stage, carnival rides, games, and refreshments. There is an admission fee of £5.00 for adults and £1.00 for kids under 16.

Blackheath Fireworks (3 November)

This display is the largest of all the London displays and it's estimated that over 100,000 people attend. This event is free.

Wimbledon Park Fireworks (5 November)

The park provides 2 large bonfires, a funfair, refreshments, and music with a traditional British theme. There is an admission fee of £7.00 for adults and £5.00 for kids under 16.

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Why? Experience London's unique autumn festivals and celebrations.
When: Late September to Early November
Where: City-wide
Cost: Variable
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