Fancy visiting London in the near future but concerned about booking a trip in January; in the depths of winter? Well, don’t be. Because the UK capital is an intoxicating and unforgettable place to come to whatever the time of year – and whatever the weather; sunny and warm, cold and icy or windy and rainy.
So, with those fears availed, what can you expect from your experience in the ‘Big Smoke’ – especially if you’re a first-time visitor – and, well, from the weather? And, indeed, what attractions and events should you look out for…?
The London experience
If you hail from elsewhere in Europe or North, Central or South America, you may not find culture and society in the UK – let alone London, which is a hugely multicultural city – that much of a ‘culture shock’, given what you’re used to back home. The United Kingdom (and, again, its capital, in particular) is a liberal and liberated place that’s largely tolerant of people from all sorts of backgrounds, where visitors can feel safe and transportation is of a high standard. More specifically, London is an always bold and vibrant, often brash, sometimes teeming and never not exciting and fast-moving metropolis. It’s also a lot friendlier than you may have heard; although British reserve remains in full force on the London Underground (Tube) – you have been warned!
Come January, the UK plunges properly into winter and, like it or not, it can get genuinely cold – temperatures often hover around freezing and snow’s a distinct possibility. That said, the highly changeable nature of British weather means that temperatures in this month can reach around 10°C and wind and rain, especially in recent years, have become common (some attribute the latter to climate change but who knows?). All the same, you’d be unwise not to pack for the worst weather, which means bringing on your trip a nice, snug coat; comfortable, hard-wearing, warm footwear; gloves, a scarf, a beanie hat and – don’t forget it! – an umbrella.
For sure, January’s the most winterly month you could choose to visit the UK capital but that doesn’t mean the events calendar London grinds to a halt; far from it, in fact – there’s still much to see and do. For instance, in addition to all the usual, free-to-enter major museums and galleries, you might want to give the following a try …
- London Art Fair (Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street N1 0QH/ 16th-20th January) – although it’s been going for more than three decades, London’s official ‘art fair’ sees no sign of slowing up, with its 100 galleries-plus of museum-standard paintings, sculptures, photography and ceramics (featuring pieces from both a century and just a few weeks ago) combined with curated sections filled with specific artworks and modern photography
- Courtauld Impressionists: From Manet to Cézanne (National Gallery, Trafalgar Square WC2N 5DN/ runs until 20th January) – an exhibition of major Impressionist paintings borrowed from the nearby (and, itself, highly revered) Courtauld Gallery, this showcase’ll cover the entire Impressionist era and will feature more than 40 masterpieces from around 1860 up to the early 20th Century, such as Cézanne’s ‘Card Players and Man with a Pipe’, Toulouse-Lautrec’s ‘Jane Avril in the Entrance to the Moulin Rouge’, Renoir’s ‘La Loge’, Manet’s ‘A Bar at the Folies-Bergère’ and Seurat’s ‘Young Woman Powdering Herself’
- Winter Lights (Canary Wharf E14 8RR/ 15th-26th January) – just a hop, skip and a jump away from Central London (and the likes of its Park Grand hotels) via a ride on the funky Docklands Light Railway (DLR), this annual festival of bright, bold illuminations is to be found in the heart of the stylish and dynamic financial district that’s Canary Wharf; get set for intriguing, fascinating installations created by a cornucopia of artists drawn from all over the world – just the thing to warm the heart and mind on a cold, dark but enlivening evening in the capital.