Over the last year, London has been intermittently in the thrall of lockdowns and COVID restrictions. This has seen many industry closures and had a potent effect on the tourist and entertainment economies. With many international travellers still prohibited from visiting without a lockdown, the last year has seen London enjoyed by locals and UK nationals. Whilst hotels like the Montcalm Hotel in Shoreditch London has remained mostly open, many of its guests have been locals looking for a staycation or key workers needing a place to rest their heads during their assignments in the city.
Whilst May 17th sees many new sectors and businesses open to the public, there will still be many rules in place that mean the city won’t quite be back to normal until at least mid-June. As COVID infection rates shrink thanks to the rapid vaccination programme and nationwide efforts to remain COVID friendly on public transport, it’s still going to be at least 6 weeks before we return to some semblance of pre-pandemic normality. With restrictions eased nationwide to the extent that UK citizens can now plan London city breaks in the UK, this blog will explore the various ways that lockdown easing in May will change the way we enjoy the city and just some of the new activities that visitors to the city will be able to enjoy.
What Does Tourism In London Look Like Now?
As it stands, tourism in London has managed to carry on throughout the pandemic thanks to the many outdoor and publically accessible monuments, attractions and green spaces. Over the pandemic, entertainment-starved city visitors enjoyed walks and cycles around parks and nature reserves in lieu of shops, dining facilities and live entertainment. This was before lockdown measures were eased in April, and until May 17th, locals and visitors might feel like the city is in a strange grey area. For guests of last-minute hotel deals in London right now, the below is an outline of the springtime restrictions so that you’re clear on what you can and can’t do in the city.
Pubs and restaurants have now expanded from takeaway orders only to outdoor seating. This means that if you feel ready to brave the elements, you can enjoy seated dining and drinking. Keep in mind that pubs and restaurants may vary on their opening and closing times from before the pandemic, and you’ll have to make sure to sign up for contact tracing when arriving. On top of this, most pubs are either conducting table service or online orders through apps or the pub’s website.
Entertainment has not yet reemerged in its pre-pandemic form, which might be a disappointment for London visitors who have come for the West-End and thriving entertainment scene. That being said, there have been some modified types of performance still ongoing in London as lockdown measures have been eased up. These include street performances and “Shakespeare in the Park” style theatre events.
If exposing yourself to the elements doesn’t fit the bill for your viewing comfort, theatres such as the Royal Court and Soho Theatre have adapted their performances to suit the screen, meaning you can watch theatre recordings from the comfort of your home. These performances range from straight-up recordings to purpose-made, audience-interactive shows. Visit their websites for more information on streaming services that support their work and how you can buy tickets.
As it stands, visitors in the city are not permitted to meet up outdoors in groups of over 6 people. Whilst household mixing is permitted over the 2-house capacity that we were previously exposed to, visitors at bars, restaurants and parks risk hefty fines for breaching the rule of six and social distancing measures.
International Travel Rules
International travel is still prohibited unless completely necessary. You can still travel abroad for funerals and weddings, but not for domestic travel. Key workers who work overseas are also permitted to travel if their work can not be done online.
On the subject of work, London locals are still under order to work from home where possible.
What Is Opening On May 17th?
May 17th will see a dramatic change in experience for tourist holidays and guests at the best hotels for staycations in London. Whilst it won’t usher in a complete shedding of lockdown rules, May 17th marks another big step closer towards a restriction-free city.
From May 17th, indoor dining will be available for many restaurants and bars across the country. Whilst social distancing measures will still be enforced and online pre-booking preferred, this change will see a relative return to normal, one that outdoor seating drinkers and diners have well missed on account of the city’s temperamental weather during the early spring.
Cinemas are set to reopen with socially distanced screenings on May 17th. Due to the limited capacity being enforced, you might want to book ahead, but with so many films coming to the silver screen after their streaming releases, as well as a wide variety of new releases, there’ll no doubt be tonnes of options across London’s multiplex and independent cinema community.
As with cinemas, art galleries and museum exhibitions are reopening on May 17th, albeit with modified exhibits and tailored COVID friendly paths. London’s museum and gallery collection are one of the best in the world, and with many of the best in London having permanent exhibits that are free to visit, you might want to book in advance to guarantee entry.
Sports matches and seated events will be opening again with limited capacity, which again means planning well in advance is vital to avoid disappointment. London’s sporting culture is globally known, so matches at stadiums such as Highbury’s Arsenal Emirates and Wembley are selling tickets like wildfire.
Face Coverings On Public Transport
Public transport has been running throughout the pandemic, albeit with a limited-service that is supposed to only be used when absolutely necessary. Nowadays, the rules have relaxed somewhat just as long as guests wear face coverings in stations and on vehicles and make sure to use hand sanitiser when entering and leaving the station.