The ultimate summer guide to London
When over 10% of the UK population lives in London, you can be absolutely sure that this creative capital city knows how to keep its residents (and visitors!) happy during the summer months.
From mouth-watering street food and open-air gigs that transform public parks into cheerful festival grounds, to peaceful and scenic lakes that welcome freshwater swimmers, summer in London has something for everyone.
1. Festival fix
If there’s one thing we know for sure, Londoners love a summer festival. When the sun shines, it feels as though everyone in the city heads to one of their beloved green spaces. Iconic public parks like Hyde Park, Victoria Park, Finsbury Park, and Crystal Palace Park, and even historic houses like Hampton Court Palace and Somerset House, set the stage for incredible weekends of live music. With something on every weekend between June and September, you could explore every genre of music and tour loads of different parts of London simply by attending as many as you can.
2. Foodie heaven
London is a city where you can have truly incredible and innovative dining experiences without even setting foot in a restaurant. Exploring the many bustling markets is a brilliant way to eat your way through the summer; from quick snacks and hot bites to full meals, you could sample cuisines from all around the world without ever leaving one street. Get lost in Camden Market during the day and, as night falls, head to Brixton to spend the evening soaking up the vibrant street-food-but-in-shipping-containers vibe. Be warned: the tantalizing smells coming from each vendor make it very hard to choose your next meal.
3. Craving culture
London is almost overflowing with museums and, with world-class art galleries rubbing shoulders with science, military, fashion, and natural history museums, there’s an awe-inspiring gallery for everyone. Plus, the summer months in England still have some rainy days, so knowing where you can spend a few hours sheltering from the weather and exploring the exhibitions is always useful. With so many to choose from (you could spend a lifetime museum-hopping), a National Art Pass helps keep your tours budget-friendly. It offers free or cheap entry into a range of London’s biggest and smallest museums, including Tate Modern, V&A, Natural History Museum, National Gallery and British Museum.
4. Take a dip
What better way to keep cool on a hot day than to head for the water? The city is home to several open-air, unheated public swimming pools, known as Lidos. Some were built in the 1930s and are still surrounded by pretty changing rooms with brightly-painted wooden doors. Head to Brockwell Lido or Tooting Bec Lido in South London, and Parliament Hill Lido in North London. If you’re keen to experience a wilder swimming adventure, then dive into one of the city’s beautiful swimming lakes, surrounded by woodland and green parks. Part of the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park is open for summer swims, Beckenham Place Park has a historic swimming lake, and Hampstead Heath has popular swimming ponds for ladies, for men, and for mixed swimming groups.
5. Socialize at South Bank
Right in the heart of the city, South Bank district sits alongside the River Thames and is one of London’s best-known hubs for arts and culture. Here you’ll find year-round attractions like the London Eye, Southbank Centre and National Theatre, but South Bank lives up to its bright and lively reputation best during the summer. You’ll find concerts and gigs, art exhibitions, live theater performances, open-air DJ sets and fairground rides. For food and refreshment, the area’s brilliant cafés, bars and restaurants are joined by an impressive range of street food trucks and market stalls dishing out creative gastronomic treats. Catch the tube or train to Waterloo to find yourself in South Bank, or cross the river from Embankment tube station.
6. Exercise Like a Londoner
Taking the tube (the city’s underground train network) might be the classic way to get around town, but you can’t do much sightseeing if you’re traveling below all of the landmarks. If you’re keen to see more of London and get some exercise while you explore, then look for one of the city’s rental bikes. ‘Boris Bikes’, as they are affectionately known, can be found on almost every street, and can be returned to any other bike point in the city. Cycling not enough of a workout for you? Join Londoners in their latest health and wellbeing obsession; parkrun. Check where your nearest weekly parkrun is held and turn up on a Saturday morning to take part in a free, community five kilometer run (or jog, or walk), with lots of other friendly faces.