Spring in London means long strolls along the Thames, leisurely al fresco brunches, and cherry blossoms everywhere. As the days are getting longer and the evenings brighter, the city comes into its own. Pub gardens and rooftop bars buzz with energy, and the many parks and green spaces fill up with families enjoying the sunshine. If you happen to be in London for St Patrick's day, there's fun galore to be had around Trafalgar Square. And by the time Easter comes round, there are egg hunts for the little ones, and Easter Sunday lunches and Good Friday services for the grown-ups.
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Head to Hackney where, on weekends, this hip eatery rustles up Mediterranean-style breakfasts. Served with spinach, chili butter, yoghurt and sage, the poached eggs deliver a wholesome spicy kick. There are plenty of kid-friendly options, too, such as granola with pomegranate and pistachio. Come early to avoid crowds: this is a beloved address of the brunch set.
A hop and a skip from Morito, this charming urban farm is a hit with young Londoners. Alongside pigs, horses and goats, pay your respects to Larry the donkey, a star of London’s Easter parades. Fellow farm residents also include several rabbits and laying hens; you can buy the latter’s eggs in the shop. Take a break afterwards in the café, whose locavore-themed menu spans juices, milkshakes and potent cappuccinos.
For an easy Easter egg hunt in an unforgettable setting, head to this Victorian town hall in the East End. The listed building now houses an arts centre and Michelin-starred restaurant The Clove Club. Every year, thousands of chocolates are hidden away in the nooks and crannies of the impressive building. As they make their way around, kids will also be treated to games, performances and creative workshops.
After a stroll through Bloomsbury, head to Covent Garden to sample Rococo’s unique creations. Behind an old-school façade, the artisanal chocolatier offers high-end London-made confectionary. The milk chocolate and salted caramel “seagull eggs”, presented in an egg carton, are a hit with all ages. While you’re there, indulge in their rich, smooth hot chocolate.
This contemporary Clerkenwell gastropub specialises in Sunday roasts – an unmissable weekend ritual in London. The warm-yet-chic venue’s sublime Beef Wellington is its calling card, but the roast lamb is also popular, especially at Easter. Both come with hearty helpings of Yorkshire pudding, seasonal vegetables and perfect roast potatoes. It’s best to book in advance.
There’s no better way to end the day than a visit to Gelupo in Soho. This ice-cream parlour is a year-round favourite with sweet-toothed sophisticates thanks to its creative flavours, which change daily and reflect the seasons. At Easter, chef-patron Jacob Kenedy draws inspiration from the gourmet traditions of Italy and the UK. Last year, his take on a hot cross bun (featuring raisins, cinnamon and lemon) was a hit with regulars.
Every year, 17 March marks St Patrick’s Day – a high-spirited celebration of Ireland’s patron saint. This tradition has been embraced all over the world, and nowhere more so than London. For the Irish community, it’s a chance to get together and reconnect with their culture, but everyone’s welcome to join the party.
Organised by the mayor of London, the city’s festivities centre on Trafalgar Square. This year, the main event’s on Sunday 13 March. More than 125,000 revellers are expected, drawn by the promise of free gigs and good times, along with an obligatory pint or two of Guinness. If you’d rather avoid the crowds on ‘Paddy’s Day’, there are plenty of other options. In Islington, Homeboy is a cosy hideaway known for its Irish stew and punchy whiskey cocktails. Hoxton’s Howl at the Moon is another good bet, with traditional folk-music sessions on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.
Wherever you head, wear something green: it’s Ireland’s signature colour. Complete your ensemble with a natty leprechaun top hat, supposedly worn by the Emerald Isle’s mischievous resident elves.
The procession sets off from Hyde Park Corner at noon, then makes its way along Piccadilly and Whitehall to Trafalgar Square. It’s a colourful assembly of dancers, musicians and extravagant floats, representing different Irish counties. Sports clubs and brass bands – some from as far afield as the US – add to the cheerful melee, along with costumed stilt-walkers, performers and excited kids.
Nearest tube stations: Hyde Park Corner, Piccadilly Circus or Charing Cross
Trafalgar Square’s the best place to get a taste for the ‘craic’ – the Irish term for a rollicking good time. It hosts the free St Patrick’s Day Festival, spanning street-food stands, craft workshops and dance performances. Well-known Irish bands also take to the stage. Don’t miss the céilí, which rounds things off with riotous reels and jigs.
Close to Piccadilly Circus, the labyrinthine Waxy O’Connor’s spreads over six floors. Amid church-like stained glass, sample some Irish beers – including sustaining pints of Guinness. The St Patrick’s celebrations last five days, with live music every evening and Irish dancing on Sunday 15 March, and the following Tuesday. Free tastings for whiskey enthusiasts are also in the works.
Address: 14-16 Rupert Street, W1D 6DD
Serving Guinness is an art form. Tilted to 45 degrees, the glass should be filled three-quarters. Next comes the wait, the most crucial part of the process. Officially, it takes 119.5 seconds for the bubbles to rise, forming a velvety foam. Finally, the barman tops up the pint by pushing on the tap for a smoother texture. The head should rise just above the glass and be dense enough to draw a shamrock on.