If you’re new to the UK, you might be wondering what the Halloween celebrations are all about. Well, we celebrate Halloween on the 31st of October every year. It’s one of the main holidays in the calendar and is a fun way to celebrate everything Autumn and to bring in the winter months. It celebrates all things spooky – with many people dressing up in scary costumes or any costume at all. Kids will sometimes go Trick-or-Treating, where they knock on doors in residential areas to spook whoever answers the door or ask for a bribe of sweets. The celebrations aren’t just for the kids though – there are Halloween events in London for everyone to celebrate the day (and night). You might see carved pumpkins on doorsteps and fireworks in the night sky across the city.
Why do we celebrate Halloween in the first place?
Halloween originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). in the eighth century, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts and evil spirits.
Pope Gregory III designated the 1st of November as a time to honour all saints as this was seen to be the end of the summer months and the harvest and the beginning of the darker, shorter days. Soon, this ‘All Saints Day’ incorporated some of the traditions of the Samhain festival. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and then eventually Halloween. Over time, Halloween has evolved and become a day to indulge in all things spooky.
Celebrate the season with Halloween events in London
Fright Nights at Thorpe Park
Thorpe Park is a huge theme park just outside of London that is a great place to visit all year round. But at Halloween, they run these award-winning events through the month of October. This is one of our favourite Halloween events in London. There are actors who dress up to scare you as you make your way through the park between the rides. The rides themselves are worth the trip, but at these events, they just add that extra bit of drama that help make it a really memorable experience. The nights also feature scare mazes for you to get lost in and impressive shows are put on regularly throughout the evenings. Thorpe Park is even home to the world’s first horror movie-themed rollercoaster, SAW – The Ride.
You can reach the Thorpe Park resort using public transport from London. It will take you just over an hour to get there but a little longer to get back into the city if it’s late at night, so plan ahead to make sure you can get home again.
Fright Nights runs from 10 in the morning to 9pm, so you can make a whole day of it over half term. It will be running from the 30th of September to the 31st of October this year. By pre-booking, you can save yourself a lot of money. Prebooked tickets start at £39, but there are discounts for group bookings, so if you want to go with your flatmates or classmates as a larger group, you can save yourself some more.
Carve Your Own Pumpkin
Carving a pumpkin, or making a ‘jack-o-lantern’ (as it’s also known as) is probably one of the most recognised Halloween traditions here in the UK. You can have a go at any ability and carve anything you like. Opt for a traditional scary face or go for a pattern or something more abstract. Many people leave their carved pumpkins outside their front door to welcome Trick-or-Treaters, or just keep it inside. Placing a tealight inside will help give your accommodation that festive Autumnal glow.
You can choose to buy your pumpkin at a local market or supermarket if you like. Or, you can go pumpkin picking to choose your very own to carve. There are a few farms or pumpkin patches just outside of London where you can go to pick your own for a small cost. For example, Crockford Bridge Farm in Surrey has been running as a ‘Pick your own’ farm for over 15 years and the pumpkin fields are open to the public throughout October. There are also gourds and other Autumnal veggies to choose from. Just be aware that it gets busy around this time so you’ll need to book in advance to make sure you can pick your pumpkin there. And, don’t forget to bring your wellies.
There are lots of great ghost tours in London to choose from if you want to give yourself a fright. For example, the Royal Maritime Greenwich Ghost Tour. The tour runs on Saturday the 8th of October and 5 other Saturdays across October and the beginning of November and it meets just outside the entrance to Cutty Sark Tall Ship.
This tour takes you through one of London’s oldest neighbourhoods. You will uncover the dark history of Greenwich, from drunken soldiers to Royal Family members that dabbled with the occult. It’s something a little different and it won’t break the bank with tickets starting at around £15 per person.
Alternatively, there are loads of free guided and self-guided walking tours that you can find online that will take you around the city, to some of the most haunted or spooky locations. In most cases, you can just download an app or a PDF and follow it along in your own time – either follow on your phone or print out a PDF and take it with you. Have a look for a guided walking tour of Jack the Ripper’s various and many murder locations for example.
Halloween-themed crazy golf
Lots of places will be offering their normal services but with a Halloween theme, and Plonk Golf is doing just that. You can try out your putting skills on their outdoor crazy golf course over the Halloween weekend at their London Fields put in Hackney. There will be Halloween-themed drinks and snacks available from the bar for the putters, adding a bit of theatre to the activity. This themed mini golf will be running both day and night over the Halloween weekend and tickets start at £7.49 per person.
The London Dungeons
If you haven’t yet visited the London Dungeons, Halloween is the perfect time for it. It is a tourist attraction so there will be crowds, but it’s an incredibly unique attraction that takes you through a journey of storytelling that you will experience with all your senses. You are whisked through the dungeons by actors who bring London’s most horrifying stories back to life. If anything, it will give you a few laughs.
If you’re hoping to avoid spending too much money this Halloween, this mightn’t be the best option for you. Prices for the experience start at around £30 per person.
Something for art lovers
This option isn’t so Halloween-y, but this October, if you’re an art lover you are in luck as this huge art fair will be held in the very beautiful setting of Kensington Town Hall on Saturday the 22nd of October from 11am. Parallax is Europe’s largest art fair for independent artists and designers and has been running for the last 10 years in various locations across London.
There will be approximately 10,000 artworks displayed at this massive fair. There is also music and cinema on show too. And while we understand most students will just be browsing, if you happen to be in the market for purchasing something, prices are kept low at this fair as exhibitors aren’t charged much for their exhibiting space.
This event is completely free of charge to the general public, so if you want to avoid spending too much money over this Halloween period, this fair is a good way to spend a few hours – enjoy browsing some really interesting artwork.