Daytime in London is meant for trips around the London Eye, strolling along the River Thames, or touring around Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. But with autumn in full swing and winter just around the corner, the days will soon be getting shorter and the nights will be getting longer…which means there will be less time to do all the things you want to do in London during the daylight hours.
But if you’re only in London for a limited amount of time and you want to make the most out of your holiday, the last thing you and your teen(s) will want is to be stuck inside a hotel or Airbnb as soon as darkness falls – which could be as early as 5 p.m. during the winter season!
Not only that, some of London’s most popular landmarks and attractions like Madame Tussauds, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey close as early as between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. throughout the week, which means finding fun and interesting things to do during the evening hours in London might be a bit tricky – especially if you’re travelling with a teenager who doesn’t go to bed particularly early.
So to save your teens (and yourself!) the boredom of running out of things to do as soon as darkness falls on the English capital, here are some places and activities to keep in mind:
Go stargazing at the Hampstead Scientific Society (for free!)
Hampstead Heath may be nearly four miles outside of central London, but when it comes to the best places to gaze at the London skyline from afar, it’s pretty hard to beat the Heath; (it is the highest point in London, after all).
But unbeknownst to some, visitors can also do an entirely different type of gazing from Hampstead on Friday or Saturday nights in Hampstead Grove entirely for free, as this is when the Hampstead Scientific Society allows visitors to use its six-inch refractor telescope to gaze at different objects in outer space. There will also be members of staff at hand to point out other objects to look for through the telescope as well, such as Jupiter’s cloud belts, Saturn’s rings, the Moon’s craters and mountains, and even star clusters, galaxies and nebulae!
The free use of the telescopes is available from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights (only between mid-September or mid-April), which makes for a fun wintery or early spring activity for you and your kids to help escape the cold.
For more information on how to get to the Hampstead Scientific Society click here.
If you ran out of time during the day but still want to see London in all its glory during the late evening or early night-time hours, you could go on an evening walking tour to see the streets of London and its most famous attractions and landmarks lit up in the darkness.
If your teen isn’t easily scared by apparitions, you and your family could always go on a ghost tour to see some of the most haunted places in London (which are especially haunting at night). Also, if your teen won’t get nightmares from hearing about the world’s most infamous serial killer and how he once roamed the streets of Whitechapel, there’s also a free Jack The Ripper tour which leads tourists through the streets of East London every night at 8 p.m. too.
Head to the V&A Museum for their once-a-month “Friday Late” event
On the last Friday of every month (except during the months of May and December), the Victoria & Albert Museum hosts its popular Friday Late event which ranges from musical performances to expert talks, demonstrations, art exhibitions and much more.
Running from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., each event has a specific focus and topic which in the past has covered everything from food production and design, to art or even 80s music and fashion, so there’s bound to be something to strike your teen’s fancy if you’re lucky enough to be in London on the last Friday of the month.
The event is free to attend but only runs on a first-come, first-served basis, so because of its popularity you may want to head to the museum extra early just to secure a spot inside.
To find out more about what will be covered in the V&A Museum’s upcoming Friday Late events, click here.
Watch the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London
For the past 700 years, the staff at the Tower of London conduct a ceremony at exactly 9:53 p.m. every night for their traditional Ceremony of the Keys event, during which the Tower is “locked up” for the night until it opens the following day.
The ceremony is entirely free to attend, however if you want to see the exchanging of the keys with your very own eyes you will need to send an application letter at least two months prior (and tickets are extremely difficult to come by, for obvious reasons). If you aren’t lucky enough to snag some tickets for you and your family, you can still wander around the entire of Tower of London complex until as late as 5:30 p.m. during the winter, which makes for a truly eerie sight in the darkness.