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RB alexandra palace fireworks 2015 web
Alexandra Palace Fireworks Festival 2015

By Rachel Beacher, Journalist

This weekend the UK will celebrate Guy Fawkes Night, the closest thing the Brits have to Swiss National Day or the Fourth of July.

The fireworks-themed festival commemorates the eleventh-hour capture of a gang of traitors who were attempting to blow up Parliament with 2,500kg of gunpowder. People today burn effigies of Guy Fawkes, the most famous of the group of Catholic plotters, because he was found hiding in the cellars of the House of Lords on 5 November, 1605. Each year there are thousands of public bonfires and fireworks displays held across the country – with the biggest and most breathtaking events in London, attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators.

Also known as Bonfire Night, the events are generally extremely family friendly, with children always expected. Tickets, usually free or inexpensive, are required for entry to most events, with the exceptions of Victoria Park and Blackheath. But the shows can be seen from miles around and there are even special viewing cruises along the Thames.

With the plunge of the pound since the UK's shock Brexit vote, it's a great time for people from mainland Europe to head to London for sightseeing and shopping.

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Battersea Park Fireworks 2015

Some of the biggest displays

Alexandra Palace Fireworks Festival
4 and 5 November
A laser show, bonfire, ice skating, a children's fun fair, street food, a beer festival and a Day of the Dead parade, all in the grounds of an impressive Victorian 'people's palace' in north London.

Battersea Park Fireworks
5 November
Usually attracting 50,000 people, this year the display near the banks of the river Thames will have the theme of musical legends.

Blackheath Fireworks
5 November
London's best-attended Bonfire Night celebration, drawing crowds of up to 100,000. It includes a funfair and refreshment stalls.

RB Battersea Park Fireworks 2015 use if you want 2 photos of battersea web
Battersea Park Fireworks 2015

Guy Fawkes Festival and Fireworks at the Royal Gunpowder Mills
5 and 6 November
Not strictly London but this historical centre in Essex offers educational value as well as fun by telling the story of the gunpowder plot.

Victoria Park Fireworks
6 November
With the theme of 350 years since the Great Fire of London, which destroyed 70,000 of the city's 80,000 homes.

If you can't make it for 5th November

The Lord Mayor's Show
12 November
There's nothing more unashamedly British than the river pageant and procession to welcome the new Lord Mayor of London. The ceremony ends with a huge fireworks show. Watching is free and unticketed, or for a view above the crowds you can buy a Grandstand seat – but hurry, these have nearly sold out.

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The Lord Mayor's Show 2015. Photograph by Clive Totman

London New Year's Eve Fireworks
31 December
The UK's largest annual fireworks display will take place at the Coca-Cola London Eye. You must have a ticket to be there.

How to get to London

Swiss International Air Lines, British Airways and Easyjet all run regular, low cost flights to London from Geneva Airport. Bear in mind that, while Swiss and BA fly to London City Airport, six miles from central London, or Heathrow, which is 15 minutes by train from Paddington station, Easyjet goes to Gatwick, from which it will take you about an hour to get to the inner city by train. Transport for London will help you get around  during your stay. Helpfully, the tube (the city's metro system) recently started running a 24 hour service on some lines, and this should be rolled out across central London by the end of the year.

How to celebrate here

For people living in Romandy and France, it is almost impossible to stage a home fireworks display at this time of year, unless you have stockpiled fireworks from 1 August. The legality of letting them off then depends on your canton (home fireworks are banned in Vaud, Jura and most of Valais, and require licensing and professional supervision in neighbouring France).

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The Guy, made by Penny Gremillion

So if you can't make it to the UK this weekend, your best option is to go to the party hosted by Jim's British Market in St Genis-Pouilly, France on Saturday night. The event kicks off from 6pm with the bonfire lit at 7.30pm. Up to 1,000 people are anticipated and admission is free of charge. For a chance to win a Christmas hamper from Jim's, try naming their Guy in a competition running on Butcher's Breakfast radio show, WRS, from 6.30am to 10am.

About the author

rachelbeacher web

Rachel Beacher is a British journalist who would be ready to backpack around the world tomorrow if she could find an easy way to carry two small and unruly children. She most enjoys travelling to places that are family-friendly, and easily accessible from Geneva. Before becoming an expat in Switzerland, Rachel was a writer and editor for UK newspapers and magazines. She moved to Lausanne in early 2013, speaks passable French, and has been writing travel articles for nearly 15 years.