Firework displays in London occur at various times during the year, as well as for special occasions and events such as the opening of the London Eye and the 2012 Olympics.
But it is the holidays—especially the Bonfire Night events in London that see the most popular and most widespread explosions of light and color in the sky. Bonfire Night displays in London and everywhere else in England and the rest of the UK began early in the seventeenth century. It celebrates the November 5, 1605 failure of the Gunpowder Plot, a plot by Catholic conspirators to blow up the Houses of Parliament. One of the chief conspirators, Guy Fawkes, was captured shortly after the plot failed. He was tortured mercilessly before being hanged, drawn, and quartered. Ever since, the day has been celebrated at Guy Fawkes Day, and is a piece of London history that every school child knows. Most Guy Fawkes firework displays in London occur on the Saturday night closest to November 5, though there are many on the actual night and several occur on consecutive nights during the weekend.
Bonfire Night events in London occur in a number of venues throughout the city, as they do across Great Britain in England, Scotland, and Wales, and even in former colonies such as Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Bonfires are lit in school quadrangles, on village greens, in bucolic country pastures, and fireworks explode on the beaches of coastal towns. Often traveling carnivals with rides and games come to town. You will find Bonfire Night displays in London in numerous city parks, often accompanied by carnival rides and other entertainment. Several parks are used in all areas of the city, from Central London and Westminster to Greenwich and all four regional districts. These events are generally free to attend.
There are also Bonfire Night events in London at several castles and palaces. These generally have an admission fee to access the grounds of the historic landmark. These include firework displays in London at Hampton Court Palace in South London and Alexandra Palace in North London.
There are two premier events for Bonfire Night displays in London—the fireworks at the famous London Eye and the Lord Mayors Show. The Lord Mayors Show was a fireworks spectacle and parade that first took place in 1215 when the Lord Mayor of the city was formally presented to the Sovereign for approval. The procession traditionally traveled from The City (now considered Central London) to Westminster. Today it travels from Mansion House to St Pauls Cathedral, and includes several thousand participants, carriages, marching bands, and floats, with precision military aircraft teams flying overhead in a commemoration of Armistice Day (November 11). The celebrations end with a display of fireworks set off from a Thames River barge near the Millennium Footbridge.
The London Eye celebrations occur on Bonfire Night as well as on New Year's Eve, and are some of the most spectacular in the world. The viewing areas (all free) have limited capacity, and close as soon as they fill up. So you need to plan your visit accordingly. The prime areas are along the Victoria Embankment between Waterloo and Westminster Bridge, including on the bridges themselves, across the Thames from the giant Ferris wheel, which closes mid-afternoon for the festivities.