For centuries, the London season has shaped the social lives of Britain’s elite. From the beautiful blooms on display at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and the highly anticipated Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, to Glyndebourne Opera and the BBC Proms, the origins of many season events can be found deep in the history books.
Don your evening attire and pick up a picnic hamper for the highlight event of the UK operatic calendar. Despite taking place out of town in rural Sussex, this internationally renowned opera festival is considered a prime London season affair and is still organised by the family that founded it back in 1934. Initially devoted to Mozart, Glyndebourne Opera now stages an eclectic variety of modern operas alongside many classic works.
More than 150,000 of the world’s horticultural cognoscenti descend on the blooming grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea each year to inspect the show gardens and dynamic floral displays at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. With competition entries drawing upon influences from literature, history and gastronomy, visitors are certain to pick up green-fingered tips and find out which flowers are in vogue this season.
Every year since 1769, the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition has provided an important platform for emerging and established artists. Displaying paintings, photography, architecture, film and everything in-between, this is the biggest open-submission contemporary exhibition in the world. A must-see for all of the capital’s creatives and the highlight gallery event of the London season.
Founded more than three hundred years ago by Queen Anne, Ascot is among the most iconic London season events. Of the 300,000 who make this annual pilgrimage, many come to worship (and criticise) the exotic millinery as well as to stake their bets on the world’s finest thoroughbreds.
An annual highlight of the international tennis calendar, little epitomises the British summer like Wimbledon’s top-class play, manicured lawns and occasional downpours – best enjoyed with a serving of strawberries and cream. A social occasion as well as a sporting one, eyes are drawn to the Royal Box and the baseline in equal measure.
With the gents wearing as many stripes as they can make clash, this undisputed king of regattas is a spectacle in more ways than one. The most enviable viewing platform for Henley Royal Regatta’s two hundred races is the Stewards’ Enclosure. Here, dresses above the knee are a strict no-no. Still, with membership requiring formal proposal by an existing member, hemlines are the least of your problems.
When the English are asked what summer means to them, many think of long, lazy days watching cricket and a blissful calm punctuated by the occasional catch. Lord's Cricket Ground, fondly known as the 'Home of Cricket', has been hosting matches since 1814. The sound of leather on willow, the genteel atmosphere and the picturesque backdrop of St. John's Wood make Lord's a coveted destination for those seeking a unique blend of sports, tradition and socialising during the London season.
Originally taking place in London’s pleasure gardens, these 'promenade concerts' got their name because audiences were allowed to stroll (as well as eat, drink and smoke) as the orchestra played. While the programme has expanded considerably since the 19th century to feature more than seventy concerts over eight weeks, the BBC Proms have retained their informal character, with many audience members still choosing to promenade in the Royal Albert Hall arena.
Set within 16,500 acres of lush West Sussex greenery on Viscount Cowdray’s vast estate, polo has been played at Cowdray Park Polo Club since 1910. Save perhaps for the Argentine Open, the Gold Cup is the sport’s most coveted prize. Previous years have been fraught with tension and the tournament’s high-goal target always produces a hot contest.
It is fashionable to forsake the crowds at Royal Ascot in favour of this West Sussex meeting, but the dates are far enough apart for the finest fillies to compete at both. With its six-furlong straight run and host to the esteemed Stewards’ Cup, 'Glorious' Goodwood is certainly deserving of its title.