On May 6, 2023, the world will bear witness to the historic coronation of King Charles III.
So, dust down the deck chairs, marinate some chicken in curried yogurt and untangle the bunting … it’s time for a royal party done right.
Here’s everything you need to know about watching King Charles III’s coronation procession in London — and how to get there if you’re brave enough to face the crowds.
When and where is the coronation?
The service will take place at London’s Westminster Abbey on May 6, with the day’s events scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. EST (11 a.m. British Summer Time). It will be the first time in more than a century that a coronation occurs on a weekend.
King Charles III and his wife Camilla, the queen consort, will arrive at Westminster Abbey after a pomp-packed procession from Buckingham Palace, known as the King’s Procession.
When is the bank holiday?
There are usually two public holidays in May: the Early May Bank Holiday on May 1 and the Spring Bank Holiday on May 29. However, a third has been bestowed upon Britain this year to mark the coronation. It will be on May 8, the Monday after the coronation.
What route will the procession take?
Shortly before the service begins, Charles and Camilla will climb into the Diamond Jubilee State Coach at Buckingham Palace to begin the 1.3-mile trip to Westminster Abbey. The coach is an enclosed, horse-drawn carriage that was made to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s 80th birthday.
Drawn by six horses, the coach will travel along The Mall through Admiralty Arch and into Trafalgar Square. At the square’s towering Nelson’s Column monument, the procession will travel right onto Whitehall.
As the coach moves down Whitehall, it will pass the historic Horse Guards building, where the changing of the guard takes place each day, and the Palace of Whitehall, where Britain’s first King Charles (Charles I) was beheaded for treason in 1649. The parade will continue along Whitehall past Downing Street, the working home of Britain’s prime minister, and the Cenotaph, London’s most significant war memorial. At that point, it will enter Parliament Square, passing the giant statue of Winston Churchill on the right and the Houses of Parliament on the left.
After snaking around Parliament Square, the coach will travel past the Broad Sanctuary as it makes its way to Westminster Abbey, where every Royal coronation has taken place since 1066. The coronation ceremony is expected to take about an hour.
Once the ceremony wraps, the newly crowned king and queen will take to the 260-year-old Gold State Coach for the return journey. This is called the Coronation Procession and is larger than the first one, with more pomp, pageantry and other royal family members in tow.
Upon their arrival at Buckingham Palace, the family will greet hundreds of thousands of well-wishers from the building’s famous balcony, at which point there will be a large-formation flyover by the Royal Air Force. The flyover will reportedly include the Red Arrows (the RAF’s aerobatic team) and Spitfires (British combat aircraft that have been in use since before World War II).
Where are the best places to watch it?
The first thing to know, if it weren’t immediately obvious, is that the streets lining the route are going to be very busy. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over Britain (and the world) are expected to descend on London for the festivities. Many of them are expecting to catch a glimpse of the procession on its 1.3-mile route.
If you are one of them, you will need to arrive early. Many onlookers will likely camp out overnight along the route in a bid to snag the best vantage points. Before the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in 2022, visitors reportedly camped out 48 hours before the event to secure their spot.
If you’re brave enough to take on the crowds, Buckingham Palace is a good place to start. That’s where you can view the new king, queen and other members of the royal family on the palace balcony for the Royal Air Force flyover.
The Mall is also always popular during such events. You may struggle to get much of a view of the procession from the adjoining St James’s Park. However, several large screens will likely be in place for viewing the event.
Elsewhere, you could plant yourself at Trafalgar Square. However, anyone planning to climb the famous Landseer Lions that guard Nelson’s Column for a better view should bear in mind that doing so is frowned upon by police nowadays. It could leave you facing a couple of hours of detention if caught.
Otherwise, Whitehall would be a good spot but is expected to become impassable in the buildup due to its narrow pavements. Additionally, you could try Parliament Square or even just outside Westminster Abbey.
What are the best Tube stations for getting near the procession?
The closest London Underground stations along the route are:
- St James’s Park (District and Circle lines).
- Green Park (Piccadilly, Victoria and Jubilee lines).
- Charing Cross (Bakerloo and Northern lines).
- Westminster (Circle, District and Jubilee lines).
During last summer’s Platinum Jubilee weekend, there were limited opening times and some closures on the stations listed above. However, Transport for London has said that there are no planned closures across its network on the day of the coronation.
What else can you do in the area on coronation day?
London is expected to come alive with festivity over the whole weekend, with thousands of locally organized street parties taking place across Britain. Wherever you’ll be, keep an eye out the day before for any tables and bunting appearing in streets, parks and community spaces — two sure signs a royal party is in the works.
Below are a few events to consider.
Mayfair’s Coronation Garden Party
Among the largest parties is Mayfair’s Coronation Garden Party in the London borough’s Grosvenor Square. There’ll be a big screen to watch the royal shenanigans, as well as food and drink stalls, immersive floral installations, live music and special offers in the nearby shops, bars and cafes.
The Crown Jewels Garden in Covent Garden
The historic tourist hot spot is hosting a quintessentially British pop-up called The Crown Jewels Garden at the East Piazza. The coronation ceremony will be shown live on big screens before a schedule of live music and entertainment, including piano singalongs, alongside its offer of “the best of British beer, cider and gin.”
Coronation Big Lunch
On Sunday, May 7, a Coronation Big Lunch will take place across the country, at which neighbors and communities are invited to share food and fun together.
The Big Help Out
On Monday, May 8, everyone is invited to take part in The Big Help Out, which encourages people to volunteer and join the work being undertaken to support their local areas.
Ring for the King
For those who can’t (or don’t want to) make the mayhem of inner London on coronation day, stick an ear in the air a little after midday for the music of the church. There are about 6,000 sets of bells across the British Isles, totaling nearly 38,000 bells. Ahead of the event, the Church of England sent out a call to arms for bell ringers across the country to unite in ringing their bells at the end of the coronation.
What about the coronation concert?
A coronation concert will take place at Windsor Castle the Sunday following the coronation (May 7). It will feature Take That, Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Andrea Bocelli, plus performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Opera Chorus, the Royal Ballet and an official coronation choir made up of choir groups from across the United Kingdom, including refugee choirs, National Health Supporters choirs, LGBTQ+ singing groups and deaf singing choirs.
Several thousand tickets were available to the public via ballot, which has now closed. So, if you haven’t already secured your tickets, you are too late.
However, major U.S. news networks, like ABC, CNN and others, will cover the ceremony. If you’re in the U.S. and want to watch the BBC, you can sign up for BritBox. If you don’t have cable, you can watch online with services like Hulu + Live TV.
It will be very busy around the designated route. If you are visiting London and plan to try and catch a glimpse of the procession, get there early. Even if you’re not interested in the procession, it could be worth heading to central London to soak up the party atmosphere. There are lots of other festivities taking place in pubs, parks and streets.
Staying home? Set your alarm for 6 a.m. EST on coronation day so you can watch it from your couch with a nice cup of tea.