Behind the Scenes at the Queen's Platinum Jubilee With London Mayor Sadiq Khan — Special Surprises Included

To celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's 70-year reign, London is throwing a four-day celebration like no other.

Aerial view of Tower Bridge and River Thames during sunset
Photo: Buchet/Courtesy of London & Partners

Every royal event is marked with grandeur, but to honor Queen Elizabeth II's 70th anniversary on the throne, the bar is being raised to an unprecedented level with a four-day celebration dubbed the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Central Weekend. The event, which will take place from June 2 through 6, will host celebrities, members of the royal family, and the Queen herself.

"The Queen's Platinum Jubilee is a never-before-seen event," London mayor Sadiq Khan told Travel + Leisure. "Her Majesty the Queen has lived a life of extraordinary service, devoting her time to representing her country and carrying out her duties with amazing grace and humility. Lots of business and supporters have come together to work on the plans for the Platinum Jubilee, and I am proud that London will be at the very heart of the event."

While the actual anniversary was back in February, since she succeeded the throne on Feb. 6, 1952, when her father King George VI passed away, this month was chosen as it's an "ideal time of year to visit London," said Khan. "The weather has warmed up and there are plenty of sunny days to enjoy exploring the city."

People and car along Greenwich High Street Buchet/Courtesy of London & Partners

The regal festivals kick off on Thursday, June 2, with the annual Trooping the Colour, which includes a lavish parade and the iconic annual appearance of the royal family on the Buckingham Palace balcony (Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, and Prince Andrew will not be in attendance) and military flypast. "We have seen scaled-down versions for the past two years with no public audience, but we are doing it bigger and better this year with more than 1,400 soldiers, 400 musicians, and 200 horses," said Khan. "The atmosphere is set to be incredible, and I can't wait to see this fantastic tradition return in full."

Also on deck for the weekend is the lighting of more than 1,500 Platinum Jubilee beacons — flames once used for communication that are now part of a celebratory tradition — throughout the U.K on Thursday. A Service of Thanksgiving will be held on Friday at St. Paul's Cathedral, while Saturday will feature the Derby at Epsom Downs with the Queen in attendance. Sunday will mark the Big Jubilee Lunch (60,000 celebratory meals hosted by individuals, from street parties to backyard barbecues) and Platinum Jubilee Pageant, led by the Gold State Coach. While the Queen herself won't be inside, a "fabulous surprise" has been promised.

But the highlight of the weekend will be Saturday night's Platinum Party at the Palace, a festival-like celebration with three stages. The event, which will air on the BBC, has the kind of lineup only the Queen herself could draw. Among the performers are Queen + Adam Lambert, Alicia Keys, Craig David, Duran Duran, Andrea Bocelli, and Hans Zimmer, as well as scheduled appearances from David Beckham, Julie Andrews, Sir David Attenborough, Stephen Fry, and Emma Raducanu, plus the reveal of a top-secret collaboration between Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lin-Manuel Miranda. The 2.5-hour show will be topped off with a performance from Diana Ross in her first live U.K. performance in 15 years.

"The finer details of the Platinum Party at the Palace are a closely guarded secret," said Khan. "But I can tell you that we are set to see some performances to remember."

Exterior facade of Buckingham Palace during sunset Reid/Courtesy of London & Partners

For the Brits, the weekend is such a big deal that it marks an official four-day weekend. After all, the Queen's influence has been intertwined in their culture for seven decades. "One of my first memories as a child was standing outside the estate where I grew up in Tooting...watching the Queen's Silver Jubilee procession go past in 1977," said Khan. "It was an incredible event with more than 10 million people taking part in street parties as part of the celebrations."

The occasion is a major part of his own family's history. "We have family photos of us eagerly waiting by the side of the road with our paper crowns on, wearing flares and waving our Union Jack flags — it was a great look," he said. "We were so excited to get a glimpse of the Queen and so proud to be British. Like millions of others around the country, our sense of patriotism was inherited from our parents. Even though they were not born here, they were so proud to be accepted by this country, to be Londoners, to raise their family here, and to have Her Majesty as their Queen."

He hopes this weekend will inspire those kind of memories. "The Platinum Jubilee is truly a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, and Her Majesty is the first monarch to reach this milestone," he said, adding that the "atmosphere and energy will be unlike anything else." "The fact that this comes on the heels of COVID-19 restrictions lifting means that there's a great deal of pent-up excitement, and London is ready to make this event one for the history books."

A red bus driving over Tower Bridge Pipe/Courtesy of London & Partners

For those who can't make it to London during the four-day weekend, he hopes they'll still consider coming during "this special Jubilee year," noting his Let's Do London campaign to bring visitors back to the capital city.

Other 2022 highlights, he said, include the Superbloom at the Tower of London, the 50th anniversary of Pride in London, Notting Hill Carnival, the UEFA Women's Euro championship at Wembley, tennis at Wimbledon, Adele, Elton John, and The Rolling Stones performing in Hyde Park, and Abba Voyage opening at a custom-built theater in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Royal fans will also love special exhibitions like "Life Through a Royal Lens" at Kensington Palace "to soak up some of the most iconic images ever taken of the royal family," said Khan.

But wherever in the world you are during the Platinum Jubilee weekend, he said it's about channeling the royal spirit: "If you can't make it to London during the Jubilee weekend, I'd recommend hosting your own street party at home and planning your vacation to London."

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