Halloween is one of my favourite holidays. Growing up, it was so fun to pick a costume idea and run around the neighbourhood with the special witch trick-or-treating bag my mom made for me, checking out the spooky decorations and everyone’s costumes.
While it may be beginning to feel like Christmas here in the capital, Halloween in London is continuing to become a thing here. For expats, the holidays can definitely bring about homesickness, especially a holiday that is fairly American, like Halloween. If you’re wondering what Halloween in London is like – you’ve come to the right place!
What to Expect
If you love Halloween like me, the good news is you will get your Halloween fix here in London!
Many pubs will be decorated for Halloween and the staff usually dresses up during Halloween weekend and on Halloween day. You do see houses around the city spookified in honour of the holiday, especially in areas popular with expats.
Soho, in particular, has many stores and restaurants that decorate. Any High Street will have several stores with Halloween offerings and all of the major grocery stores will have displays with pumpkin carving kits, pumpkins, candy and costume props.
In the UK, Halloween costumes tend to be more scary or gory than what we think of when we dress up back home. They really embrace the creepy, undead element of Halloween. At the pub, expect to be served by a Dracula, with Jason coming by to clear your glasses. Very spooky, indeed.
That said, I did see a fair share of totally not-spooky, more typical Halloween costumes this past weekend. As it becomes more popular here, the costumes are becoming more varied.
Many of the high street shops offer costumes, as do charity shops. Amazon Prime or party stores are always great resources for something spooky as well. I have not seen any of the pop-up Halloween costume shops that are popular in the US here, so shopping online may be your best bet for your costume idea.
Any grocery store in London will have a Halloween candy display. It may not be the candy you are used to in the US, but they do have little bars for trick-or-treating and Marks & Spencer has a whole line of spooky treats (we enjoyed some Freaky Frogs the other week). And you can’t forget Haribo Scaremix, yum!
You can find candy corn in shops like Partridges, but it is highway robbery! I believe a fellow expat saw it on sale for £7.25 and it’s £6.99 at Partridges. That is almost $10 for a little bag! Ridiculous. Especially ridiculous to me, as I do not like candy corn, haha.
Trick-or-Treating is gaining popularity around London and we saw many trick-or-treaters out in our neighbourhood last year. We do live in an area with lots of expats, but according to other expats, the trend is catching on.
We don’t have kids, so we’re not experts on where to go trick-or-treating in London, but I do have access to recommendations from my fellow expats. The general impression is that if a home is somewhat decorated for Halloween (has a pumpkin outside) and has the lights on, then it’s a safe bet you can knock and say trick-or-treat.
Trick-or-Treating in London starts earlier than back home, as it will be quite dark plenty early (thanks, daylight savings). The expats recommend getting started by 5:30 pm/6 pm and expect to finish up around 7 pm. Last year, I saw kids out on my way home from work. By the time I returned home from the gym, trick-or-treating was finished.
Best neighbourhoods to trick-or-treat in London (according to the expats):
St Johns Wood
Carving pumpkins and even canned pumpkin can be found in London! Whole Foods Kensington is always a great resource for American staples and they set up a big Halloween display in store of pumpkins for carving.
The canned pumpkin is put out in time for Canadian Thanksgiving (the second Monday in October), so head over in early October to stock up for your autumnal needs.
Outside London, there are pick-your-own-pumpkin (and apples!) patches as well. The London Mum has a whole list of pumpkin patches near London on her blog.
Things To Do
There are many, many Halloween and spooky events all through London during October and Halloween. In a city with so much history dating back thousands of years, there is a lot to draw from in terms of hauntings and gore.
There are also many parties, from annual bashes hosted by expats (check out the Texas Exes annual party) to club nights all around the city (Stranger Things was a big theme this year). Time Out is always a great resource for finding something to do. Here’s their roundup of Halloween events for kids this year.
Halloween in London
While I am sad to miss my nephew’s first trick-or-treating experience, it is really neat to discover what Halloween in London is like. I’ll be bringing in these tasty treats for my coworkers today to celebrate and share a little bit of good old-fashioned American Halloween with them (they are learning to love American holidays with me in the office – I always bring in treats!).
To my fellow expats and everyone back home, happy, happy Halloween!!