If you're in London during the last weekend in August, head to Notting Hill for two days of Caribbean-style partying! Organised for the first time in 1664, this carnival allowed locals to celebrate the culture and traditions of the Caribbean. During the years 1970-1980, this carnival was scene to many fights between young immigrants and police. Today, the Notting Hill Carnival is a place of celebration with parades in the streets full of dancers and samba schools along with calypso, soul, reggae, and hip-hop music. Again, it's at the end of August (it is actually a Sunday and a Monday, holidays for our English friends). Sunday is devoted to children and Monday is a parade for adults. The parades take place between 10 and 21:00. Look at the pictures, it will make you want to go! :)
Each year in London, as in all major cities, a Gay Pride parade takes place. After a parade through the city, a concert is held in Trafalgar Square, often featuring songs from musicals. A great atmosphere, and the chance to see the National Gallery like you've never seen it before!
During the Thames Festival the city is transformed! Concerts, parties, fashion shows and exhibitions are all options for Londoners and tourists looking for something different. At the end of the celebrations, there are fireworks like on the 4th of July in America. I recommend going down to one of the boats and having a drink with your friends while the festival takes place.
We went to see the fireworks they do every year on the banks of the Thames to celebrate the new year. It is an amazing experience, but there were a lot of people. We arrived around 11 pm, and waited a little over an hour, it was really cold! You can't move much or you will lose your place. In total, the fireworks last a little over 10 minutes, beginning at midnight exactly. This year, there were more than 50 tons of explosives! It was great, and you can see it on Youtube without feeling the cold! Everything is centered around the London Eye. At the same time, the buildings are illuminated, projecting videos saying Happy New Year, with a "countdown" that tells you when the new year arrives. A nice memory.
In London, as in many large cities, the Chinese community is an important one as is evident by the size of Chinatown. The Chinese New Year is celebrated in Trafalgar every year and there are concerts, exhibitions, Chinese cuisine and a parade. There are also fireworks but definitely bring a coat because it is cold in London in January!
On my last trip to London I was pleasantly surprised at the Remembrence Day celebrations in Westminster Abbey. It is a day for remembering the memory of all those who died in the various wars in which the country participated. The way to commemorate it is to wear a poppy on the lapel. It is held on 11 November and is sincerely overwhelming.
Street Feast is a weekly food festival held throughout summer at various locations around London. There are three or four different Street Feasts, but I went to the one in Dalston Yard. When I went, there were a dozen or so vendors set up selling everything from Buffalo wings slathered in hand-made sauce (they best wings I’ve ever had outside of the US) to Indian burritos (Indian food wrapped in a burrito was a revelation) to Korean barbecue (you can’t have a street food festival without it) to gourmet sliders. There are also two or three craft beer stands set up selling reasonably-priced pints. Dalton Street Feast gets packed early, so I’d suggest getting there rather early if you want to eat without having to suffer enormous lines. If you’re just going for the drinks and the atmosphere then…well…go whenever you feel like it.
It was held in an abandoned industrial space with a lot of the roof missing, but the nice part about that is that they could have some warming fires scattered around the event. Also, the space is divided in a couple of different areas, some with open flooring, and others with picnic tables. If you’re looking to escape the crowds, there’s a semi-hidden craft Gin bar in the back that offers a quiet, candle-lit respite from the hungry crowds out front.
Street Feast is held every Friday and Saturday from 5:00pm to midnight until the end of September. If you get there before 7:00pm it’s free, otherwise there’s a reasonable 3 pound cover charge. All in all, the food is good and the ambiance is unbeatable…it’s an unbeatable plan for a Friday night.