May Bank Holidays: Bank holiday on a budget

All good things come in threes. A stool with three legs, three little pigs, three acts in a play, The Three Musketeers, and of course, Rodney’s three-wheeler car in Only Fools and Horses. So when you’re presented with three bank holidays in May, what else can you do but make the most of it?

The great news is that you don’t need to blow your budget on expensive activities over the May Bank Holidays.

I have some great ideas that won’t cost you a penny (or at least not many pennies)! Whether you’re looking for ways to celebrate the coronation or avoid it altogether, there are so many things to do in London or slightly further afield that no one will feel left out or out of pocket.

Here are 12 events happening in London and Greater London now, right through to the beginning of June…

Tower Bridge - May Bank Holiday ideas
Photo by Charles Postiaux on Unsplash

1 – May Bank Holidays – Celebrate Life On The Water in Little Venice

Little Venice is a stretch of canal that runs triangularly between the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal and the Regent’s Canal through the Paddington Basin. The waterways are pretty, calm, and a gorgeous place to visit all year round. However, on the first bank holiday, 1st May, you can expect a coronation pageant to beat all pageants.

More than 100 boats will be moored along the Grand Union Canal’s section between Blomfield Road, Warwick Avenue, and Warwick Crescent for the Canalway Cavalcade. The boats will be decked out for the pageant. Visitors can enjoy plenty of British entertainment, such as Morris Dancers and a town crier. Additionally, there will be street food, a real ale tent, live music, activities for kids, and people selling all kinds of curiosities.

The good news is it’s free (unless you buy something). It is happening from 29th April for three days! Just make sure you’re wearing suitable footwear as any amount of messing about on the river can be a wet affair.

2 – Celebrate the End of Ramadan and Eid in Trafalgar Square

This Eid-al-Fitr festival, which marks the end of Ramadan’s fasting, will take over Trafalgar Square for a full day of entertainment and activities geared toward children. Street food vendors will provide food from countries including Somalia, India, Venezuela, and Pakistan. While live music and entertainment will occur on the main stage.

Free activities include a ‘Creative Art Zone’ with calligraphy, storytelling, acting workshops, face painting, and Mehndi kiosks.

3 – Watch the War of the Roses at Twickenham

Full disclosure: I will be at Twickenham watching the Englands Roses win the six nations (hopefully) at Twickenham on Saturday, 29th April; supporting our national women’s rugby team isn’t free, but it is exciting.

Anything at Twickenham RFU will be a fantastic day out. The tickets start at just £25 for adults, with free entry for under 16s. You can visit Twickenham Stadium at other times and go on a free tour of the ground. As long as there are no games scheduled, a volunteer will take you around, and you will get to see the changing rooms, the royal box, and all kinds of hidden treasures. It’s a great day out for kids as well.

4 – Royal High Fashion at Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace has been the home to many fashionable royals over the decades. Queen Victoria Grew up there, and Princess Di lived there. Princess Margaret made Kensington Palace her home, and latterly so did Megan Markel. Therefore it stands to reason that it’s a fashionable place.

The exhibition is called ‘Crown to Couture‘ and is a journey through fashionable history and how royal dressing has inspired fashion designers. Think along the lines of the catwalk meets Elizabeth I, with a nod to Alexander McQueen from his fashion designer and curator of this exhibition, Joseph Bennett.

You must buy a ticket to visit Kensington Palace but once you’re inside the exhibition is free.

5 – Watch the Coronation from Your Picnic Blanket

The extra bank holiday comes to us on 6th May courtesy of King Charles. You can watch the coronation in all its glory on giant screens throughout London’s royal parks. These include Hyde Park, St James Park, and Green Park. There will be plenty of refreshment stalls, too.

Bring your picnic blanket, a few snacks, and drinks, and enjoy the spectacle from the comfort of your grassy patch. Keep an eye on the government website to find out what is happening in each park over that weekend. You will get lucky with some free activities over this bank holiday weekend.

6 – Mayfair’s free Coronation Garden Party in Grosvenor Square

Sticking with a royal theme, and there’s nowhere more royal than Mayfair, why not visit Grosvenor Square? Activities are planned all over the middle bank holiday. There will be a modern jazz band and a screening of the coronation. Children will have many interactive activities to keep them busy. And with lots of food and drink vendors selling delicious offerings, you won’t go hungry or thirsty either.

It will be free to attend and will surely be a fantastic day out for the whole family and the best bit…..there will be Cavalier King Charles Spaniel cake – let’s hope it’s made out of chocolate and not dog food!

7 – Free Events at The Victoria and Albert Museum

Anyone who has read my musings knows I love a free exhibition or event at any of our free museums, and the V&A has not let us down. Over the May bank holidays, there’s a variety of happenings.

Kids can enjoy and be educated simultaneously with the Middle Eastern Marvels Backpack exhibition – it’s free and immersive; you’ll be led through activities to learn about Islamic art while also discovering how people used to live. It’s a vibrant exhibition that is a treat for the senses.

8 – Digital Tal-nori at the V&A

The V&A is completely geared up to get creative and keep kids occupied during the late spring bank holiday and half-term break. Digital Tal-nori is a free interactive exhibition where you can learn about traditional Korean games. You can even create your own video game and Tai-nori mask.

Get motivated and inspired by Hallyu! As you use your artistic talents to design a traditional Korean mask known as a Tal-nori or Tal. The class is an excellent way for teenagers to get into digital art inspired by K-Pop, and Korean TV.

9 – Visit a Botanical Garden in Enfield

London is not all central; it’s also about the fantastic free events happening in Greater London. I love Kew Gardens but adore Myddelton House Gardens in Enfield. Myddelton House is a forgotten treasure that needs to be discovered. Myddelton House is the former home of Edward Augustus Bowles, a distant relative of soon-to-be Queen Camila (by marriage). The great thing about this house and garden is the salvaged artefacts littered through the grounds. There are old bits of the original London Bridge and the historic Enfield town gate or cross, to name a few, which were all salvaged by Edward and erected in the garden for all to see for free!

10 – London’s Battersea Epic Viewing Experience @ Lift 109

Lift 109 is the latest way to view London from the air. Battersea Powers Station sat empty for 30 years, with various failed attempts to redevelop the site. Once the American Embassy arrived in 9 Elms, Battersea Power Station opened its doors to new ideas. However, it took another ten years for the viewing platform to arrive.

Lift 109 is not a free experience; it’s not cheap at £15.90 for adults and £11.50 for children, or a family ticket for £50.40 – lift 109 has taken so long in the planning that its owners had to charge this much to make it a commercial proposition – however, sometimes the best new things in life come at a cost.

So why not finish your bank holiday weekend with an iconic view of London from the Battersea Epic Viewing Platform? With this, you’ll get a real ‘bird’s eye’ view of London – possibly even better than a helicopter ride.

11 – Take the no 11 bus down the Kings Road

No visit to London is complete without a ride on the London bus. For just £1.75 per journey with a daily cap of £5.25, you can travel all over London on a bus and never pay more than £5.25.

The 11 bus travels from Fulham Broadway in South West London, past Craven Cottage (home to Fulham FC) before travelling up Kings Road (once home to Mary Quant’s shop, Bazaar) to Parliament Square. The bus then travels to Trafalgar Square, The Strand, passing The Courts of Justice, passing by the Aldwych and the Bank, and finishing its journey at Liverpool Street.

Don’t bother with the tourist bus. Sit on the top of the 11 bus, in the front seats, to see London differently.

12 – Food Festival at Borough Market this May Bank Holiday

Every weekend is a festival at Borough Market, SE1, but the bank holiday weekends are even more of a treat; from the early May bank holiday right through Coronation Weekend to the late bank holiday on 29th May, Borough Market celebrates all things food and drink.

Wander around all the food stalls collecting free picky bits and tasting treats, and when it’s time for lunch, visit the oldest pub in London – The George, Borough High Street. The George is a 17th-century coaching inn turned public house. If the weather is temperate, you can sit in the courtyard and enjoy the view of The Shard.

What’s more, if you need to use the loo, you can, because they are free.

London is full of cheap and free activities over the May bank holidays. Whether you want to try something family-friendly, like visiting a botanical garden in Enfield, or something more daring, like taking the bus down The Kings Road, there’s plenty of fun with your friends and family – no matter your budget.

So make the most of your free time on these three May bank holidays and explore the city. Happy Bank Holidays!