What to do in London this November
The leaves have fallen, and there’s a chill in the air… We’re starting the run-up to Christmas, and London can be an exciting place to be around this time. If you’re studying in London and only here for a year or two, take some time to make the most of any November events in London in 2022 while you’re here.
St Andrew's Day
St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, and on the 30th of November, it’s St Andrew’s Day across the whole of the UK. This is the feast day of Andrew the Apostle and has been since 1320 when he officially became the patron saint when the country’s independence was declared with the signing of The Declaration of Arbroath. Today, however, it’s just a very Scottish day. You’ll find all things Scottish happening across the city. But the best way to celebrate, we think, is to spectate (or even take part) in the London Kilt Run. The run starts in Victoria Embankment Gardens from the Robert Burns statue. The run then goes up to Lambeth Bridge and down to Tower Bridge before returning back to the statue where it started. There will be vendors selling Scottish delicacies like haggis if you fancy trying it.
Guy Fawkes Night
Also known as Bonfire Night, the 5th of November commemorates the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament but didn’t succeed. It’s celebrated all across the UK with bonfires and fireworks. You’ll see London’s skies lit up with magical firework displays from some of the main parks. The biggest display is usually found at Alexandra Palace Park. It is a ticketed event, and tickets cost £16.50 this year. If you’re happy to pay for this, there are lots of vendors and interesting things in the venue. But, of course, you don’t need to pay to see the fireworks themselves, so you can watch for free if you’re close enough.
There’s also a huge bonfire lit in Battersea Park, where you can see the whole park illuminated by the flames. It is of course, accompanied by an impressive firework display too which is set off from the banks of the River Thames nearby. There are a couple of nights to choose from with this one – the 5th is for everyone and the 6th is a slightly earlier start so is more of a family affair.
There are a few city farms dotted around London. Spitalfields City Farm is one of the larger ones at 1.3 acres in size. It’s found in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and is easy to get to vis Brick Lane. It was originally a railway goods depot, then an allotment space. Over time, it expanded to home animals and is now a very productive city farm run by a charity. The charity relies on volunteers to keep the farm ticking over.
If you want to spend a bit of time outdoors this Autumn, a few hours in November volunteering at this city farm could be a lot of fun. There are pigs, donkeys, sheep, chickens, ducks and geese to keep you entertained. They all need daily care, and things can get a little messy. If you’re not too keen on the idea of being around the animals, you can choose to volunteer at the gardens instead. Spending a day at a city farm like the Spitalfields one is free, fun and good exercise. It’s also a good way to meet people. Plus, don’t forget that any volunteering you do is a worthwhile addition to your CV.
On the 24th of November, Thanksgiving is celebrated all over the US. But with London being such an international city, plenty of people, of course celebrate it here as well. A warm-up for Christmas, it’s an opportunity to treat yourself to a wintery feast. Lots of restaurants and pubs around London will be serving traditional Thanksgiving meals with Turkey and pumpkin pie. Or, if you’re trying to save the pennies, how about making your own pumpkin pie at home to celebrate Thanksgiving? There are plenty of pumpkins in the supermarkets and markets still. You can use the flesh and find a pumpkin pie recipe online to make your own. A Thanksgiving feast is something fairly low-cost that you can do at home with your flatmates. And don’t forget to remember what you’re thankful for.
If you fancy a taste of Thanksgiving but don’t want to go all out, you’ll find plenty of places around the city that have something on offer to celebrate the holiday. Crosstown Doughnuts for example, have a one-off pumpkin pie doughnut which is available mid-late November this year only – it’s dipped in pumpkin glaze and has a creamy pumpkin spice filling. What better way to give thanks.
Art & Music
Strange Clay: Ceramics in Contemporary Art can be found at the Hayward Gallery, which is part of the Southbank Centre. It’s on from late October to early January, so you have plenty of time to catch it. This is quite a unique exhibition, showing contemporary ceramics that are formed into anything from small abstract pieces to large-scale installations that represent fantastical creatures from other worlds. The artists on the bill are made up of 23 international ceramicists, including some you might have heard of like Grayson Perry and Emma Hart. It’s £15 for entry, but we think it’s well worth it – although it’s a little less with your student discount.
- Slovakian artist, Maria Bartuszova’s solo sculpture exhibition runs at the Tate Modern for the whole of November (and right until the middle of April). It brings together many of her sculptural works that have never been seen before in the UK. Her delicate nature-inspired sculptures are usually made of plaster, so when you enter the show, you are surrounded by the bright white abstract shapes that were made starting from the 60’s. As well as her hand casted plaster sculptures, Bartuszova’s own photographs of her work, all taken outdoors in nature, are also displayed. This exhibition costs £16 for standard entry.
- Hallyu! The Korean Wave will be on at the Victoria & Albert Museum all throughout November (and right up until the end of June). It explores the global impact of the dynamic and colourful popular culture of South Korea on music, cinema, beauty and fashion in the UK and all over the world. There’s everything from K-drama props and memorabilia to K-Pop costumes. This show invites visitors to delve into the phenomenon known as ‘hallyu’ which means ‘Korean Wave’. This wave started happening in the 90s, first moving across Asia but then ending up hitting all corners of the rest of the Western world.
- From the 11th of November until the 20th of November, the EFG London Jazz Festival is on. This jazz event has been running annually since 1992 and always showcases a huge range of varied jazz from the UK and around the world. There will be plenty of emerging stars on the list as well as some more widely known artists you may have heard of. And, this year celebrates its 30th anniversary. There are tonnes of events on as part of this festival and you can buy tickets for individual events. Some can be quite pricey, but some are completely free. It’s on at the Southbank Centre – so why not combine this with a visit to the ceramics show at the Hayward Gallery?
Free Things to do in London
- Winter Ice is on at Jubilee Park in the Canary Wharf area on Thursday 17th November until Saturday 19th November. You will find a frozen ice trail of 15 specially selected carved ice sculptures, each one carved into a different bird or animal, highlighting endangered species. You can also stand back and watch some of the sculptors working at huge ice blocks using chainsaws to create new, nature inspired ice sculptures. There is also the opportunity to have a go yourself in one of the 20 minute interactive workshops, which are completely free and you can have a go at making your own icy polar bear.
- On the 13th of November (11am-6pm), the people who organise the Hackney Flea Market host this separate event – The Big London Flea. It’s a vintage or antique lover’s dream with over 50 hand-picked traders offering their wares at the one-day event. This is North London’s largest flea market and it offers the hugest variety of items – so if you’re starting to think about your Christmas presents, this might be a good opportunity. This isn’t technically free entry, but at £1 for entry, it almost is.
Christmas lights: The city starts to light up in late October and throughout November to get ready for the Christmas period. Covent Garden Piazza is arguably the most Christmassy spot in London when the lights go up. A huge lit bauble is found at the centre and their light display is quite spectacular. And, when it gets a little closer to Christmas, there’s even a snow shower every day to get you in the festive spirit.
Carnaby Street’s Christmas lights can be pretty special too, lighting up the sky with fun tributes from everything to rock bands to outer space. It’s an eclectic mix and probably the most eccentric Christmas light display you’ll come across. This year happens to be its 25th anniversary year, so it might even be a special selection of lights that will be worth the trip.
Christmas markets: Christmas shopping isn’t just about getting all your presents sorted out. The Christmas markets that start to appear in November are worth a visit just to have a look. Mercato Metropolitano in Elephant & Castle will be hosting the Crafty Fox Christmas market on the 5th and 6th of November (as well as returning on the 3rd and 4th of December). There will be 100s of traders selling handmade gifts that are perfect for Christmas – like prints, laser-cut jewellery, hand-embroidered illustrations and ceramics.
There’s also Portobello’s famous stretch of antique stalls which is actually the largest antique market in the world. As well as the usual bric-a-brac and antiques on sale, coming up to Christmas time you will start to see stalls set up for Christmas decorations and stalls selling artisan edible gifts that are perfect for Christmas gifts, or for yourself.
Fulham Palace is a gorgeous Victorian building and every year they host a Christmas fair. This year there will be more than 60 stalls of foods, drink and gifts. As it gets a little closer to Christmas, you can enjoy carol singers too – what more do you need to feel Christmassy?
Ice skating: Ice skating seems to have become one of London’s favourite wintery pastimes, especially in the run up to Christmas. Come November, we start to see temporary ice rinks pop up everywhere. The National History Museum’s rink is picturesque and beautifully lit. Even shopping centres like Westfield have rinks ready to go for the Christmas season.