London is a year-round destination, but that doesn’t mean we can all visit all year long. For many of us, there are constraints that determine when we will have time to visit London – and how far our London travel budget will stretch once we get there.
May is a great time to visit London, as it bridges the gap between spring and summer. Flowers are in bloom and the city turns a verdant green; you can still find deals on hotels and tours if you visit early in the month; and the weather is improving as the month goes on –but the summer crowds that descend once schools get out in the U.S. and Canada haven’t quite descended. I personally think May is one of the best months to visit London (along with April) for these reasons.
If you’re planning a trip to London in May, you might have a few questions: “what’s the weather really like,” “what should I pack,” and “what is there to do” chief among them. In this guide to visiting London in May, you’ll find answers to all of these questions and more. Read on and by the end, you’ll have all of your questions about spending May in London answered.
This post was originally published in April 2022, and was updated most recently in February 2023.
Table of Contents
May Sunrise & Sunset Times in London
One helpful piece of info when planning your trip is to have a sense of how long each day is; then you can plan as many activities as you have energy for, given the daylight hours and nighttime activities. Here’s a quick chart of sunrise and sunset times in London in May 2023:
|Sunrise||5:33 am||5:09 am||4:50 am|
|Sunset||8:23 pm||8:45 pm||9:06 pm|
If you love the idea of seeing sunrise or sunset during your London visit during May, I’ve also got guides for that:
The great part about visiting London in May is the long days – there’s plenty of sunlight as this part of the globe approaches the June solstice and the longest day of the year.
London May Weather & Temperature
Longer days generally mean similarly warm weather as summer is approaching; May is the first official month that one might consider summer in London –or at least the second half of the month.
Average high temperatures in London during May are about 65°F (18°) with nightly low averages around 51°F (15°C). This is obviously cooler at the beginning of the month, and warming as the month goes on. There are usually about 8 days of rain during the month –a definite improvement from previous months.
What to Pack for London in May
If you’re visiting London in May, you might be curious about what to pack. Given that over 25% of the month might be rainy and temperatures haven’t yet reached the hot dog days of summer, I recommend being conservative: pack for London’s spring weather (cool and potentially rainy) with a few items you can use if the weather is truly great.
- Be sure to bring an umbrella, in case the forecast isn’t favorable
- Rain boots also won’t go wrong, though you can probably opt for the shorter Chelsea-style boots instead of full-height Wellingtons
- Bring no more than 1-2 pairs of shorts or short skirts/dresses, otherwise, plan for longer layers like trousers and tea- or maxi-length skirts/dresses
- You won’t need more than a light jacket for cooler evenings; I like to pair mine with a hoodie or jumper in case the plane is cold on the flights to/from London
- Even if the forecast calls for rain, sunglasses are small enough to pack for sunny days
You can always check my list of London essentials too, so you don’t forget anything else you might need (no matter when you’re visiting).
7 Great Events in London in May 2023
Planning a trip to London in May and wondering about any special events happening during your trip? Here are a few events that have been confirmed for this coming year; they’ll help you finally commit to traveling dates if one catches your eye!
Early May Bank Holiday (May 1)
May kicks off in London with a Bank Holiday weekend – that is, the first Monday of the month is officially a holiday; in 2023, that happens to fall on May 1st… a perfect way to start the month. On this day, banks and other institutions may be closed, but it usually signals the beginning of Summer –and Londoners will flock outdoors if the weather’s cooperative.
If you find yourself visiting London early in May, keep an eye on the forecast; if the weather is good, consider buying a picnic hamper from Fortnum & Mason and making a day of it at one of London’s best parks. If not, double-check your plans to make sure whatever indoor activities you plan will be open; generally, London’s great museums like the British Museum and Natural History Museum will be open though hours may be shortened.
Eid Festival (April 29 – May 1)
Even if you don’t personally celebrate the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, everyone can appreciate the celebration that ends it: the Eid Festival, which takes over Trafalgar Square each year. This year, it’s expected to occur on April 22, the day called Eid ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan.
The 2023 details are yet to be announced, so check out their website or Insta for the latest news. one thing is sure, though, the Eid Festival will be marked with a community celebration and a chance to learn more about and experience Muslim culture.
The Coronation of King Charles III (May 6)
If you’ve begun planning a trip in early May 2023, you’ve probably seen the news: King Charles III will be coronated on May 6, and there’s another Bank Holiday planned on May 8 to celebrate this day. I’ve got a whole guide for planning a trip to attend the coronation if that sounds like a good time to you – it includes details on any events that have been announced for the coronation weekend.
Photo London at Somerset House (May 11-14)
If you love photography as an art form, be sure to plan your London trip to coincide with the Photo London exhibit at Somerset House. The entire four-day event is focused on photography, featuring exhibits from the U.K., U.S., Germany, Italy, Japan, and elsewhere around the world. There’s also an exhibit called Discovery which highlights new and emerging talent. This is a fascinating pop-up art experience for those who love visiting London for that.
Women’s FA Cup Finals (May 14)
Sports fans will want to mark the mid-month for planning a London itinerary too; while culture vultures will flock to Central London for Photo London, football fans can head to Wimbledon for the Women’s FA Cup Final in May 14th.
In 2022, Liverpool was the men’s champs of this highly-anticipated tournament, beating out local team Chelsea, while the women’s team from Chelsea beat out another UK team, Manchester City. All this to say –there’s a lot of energy surrounding the FA Cup Finals since the London teams generally do well and may likely end up in the finals.
Keep an eye on the FA website to secure tickets as the details and final competitors are confirmed.
Chelsea Flower Show (May 23-27)
London is a wonderfully green city, with more forested areas than most – but also plenty of gardens and parks which bloom throughout the spring and summer. To mark this transitory period between the cherry blossoms, magnolias, tulips, and daffodils of earlier months and the roses, hydrangeas, lilies, and irises of the hotter days, consider attending the Chelsea Flower Show during the final weekend of May.
Laying claim to the title of “world’s greatest flower show,” gardeners, horticulturalists, and even amateur botanists will be amazed by the blooms, gardens, and other works of art honoring them.
London History Day (May 31)
Finally, May wraps up with a day all about London herself. London History Day is marked by Historic England, and honors the resilience of this city that has lived many lives from Romans to Normans to Victorians to modern times.
If you’re in London on this day, why not celebrate the city’s history by doing the London Wall Walk?
10 Other Things to Do in London in May
In addition to the above events, there are a number of other great things to do in London during the month of May. Here are some general ideas to inspire you:
- Plan a picnic in London’s parks.
- Enjoy outdoor terrace dining at one of London’s best spots like Claridge’s Bar Terrace or Jones Family Kitchen.
- Grab cocktails at one of London’s many great rooftop bars like Radio Rooftop or Aviary Rooftop
- Sip pints outside in the sun at one of London’s many historic pubs
- Stroll along the Southbank under the sun.
- Eat and shop your way across London’s markets like Borough and Spitalfields to find your favorite one.
- Head to East London and explore the works of the American painter Alice Neel. The exhibition, Alice Neel: Hot Off The Griddle, is at the Barbican and closes on May 21. (Tickets required)
- Similarly, don’t miss the opportunity to see Peter Doig’s exhibition at The Courtauld Gallery. This is the first time in ages that the famous painter is showing his works in London. (Tickets required)
- Splurge on bottomless brunch –a new London tradition – one weekend during your visit; there are literally dozens of offerings all month long, like Jamaican brunch, Asian street food, and Spanish tapas.
- Rent a boat to explore a new part of London in a different way; GoBoat offers boat rentals in Paddington, Kingston-upon-Thames, and Canary Wharf start from £89 for 1 hour (Reservations required)
As you can see, there are plenty of great things to do in London in May which are unique to this late spring/early summer month. Have any other questions about visiting London in May? Let me know in the comments, or join the conversation in my London Travel Tips Facebook community.