There is no other place like London in the summer. I may be a bit biased, living on the city outskirts, but when the sun is shining London is the place to be. So, here are the best things to do in London on those long hot summer days.
Dance the night away at a summer gig
An obvious one if you know me! There is nothing better than being out on a warm summer evening listening to great music. Whatever your musical tastes there will be a gig for you over the summer in London. The big ones are held in Hyde Park, Wembley Stadium or the London Stadium. So far this summer, Beyonce and Jay Z, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, The Rolling Stones and The Foo Fighters have all played the capital. Still to come is British Summer Time with Bruno Mars, Michael Buble and Eric Clapton among the headliners.
If festivals are more your thing then you are spoilt for choice, Wireless, Lovebox, SW4 and the new Kaleidoscope Music and Arts festival at Alexandra Palace are just a few of your options.
I’ve not been to any summer gigs in London yet this summer so you’ll have to make do with a photo from last year.
Take a stroll along the Thames
The River Thames, England’s longest river, flows along the heart of of London.
My favourite walk (and sometimes run) is to start at Tower Bridge and follow the river past Old Billingsgate, Blackfriars, along Victoria Embankment, past the Golden Jubilee Bridge and up to Big Ben (currently mostly covered up for refurbishment). This side of the river doesn’t get as crowded as the south side but still has plenty to enjoy. Don’t forget to look back at the City of London skyline and watch out for the joggers and cyclists!
If you are feeling particularly energetic you could do the return journey via the south side of the river. Cross Westminster Bridge, stopping for that photo with the London Eye in the background. Turn left, hugging the river bank, past the London Aquarium and the London Eye. Beware it can get very crowded here!
You might need a break after all the crowds so stop for refreshments on the Southbank or pop into the BFI or National Theatre. Keep an eye out for Gabriel’s Wharf, tucked away off the river bank, just before you reach the OXO Tower where you will find a unique mix of independent shops, bars and cafes.
Further along the river you’ll find the Bankside Gallery and The Tate Modern. Don’t forget to check out the cafe in the Tate Modern for views over the Thames. If you are not all cultured out by then you can check out a show at Shakespeare’s Globe, a replica of Elizabethan theatre.
The next stretch of the river will give you a feel for some of London’s history. Visit The Clink Museum, for tales about the medieval prison that was situated there. As you reach the end of Clink Street don’t forgot to look to your right (or left if you are doing this walk in reverse) to see the remains of Winchester Palace. The palace, once one of the largest buildings in medieval London, was destroyed by fire in 1814. Part of the wall of the Great Hall, including the decorative rose window on what was the left gable, is all that remains today.
Just round the corner is the Golden Hinde, a replica of the ship Sir Francis Drake captained around the globe between 1577 and 1580. I’ll own up and say despite having run past it many many times on my training runs I didn’t know you could actually go inside. However a quick google tells me it is open between 10am-6pm. I’ll definitely be popping in next time I run past!
If food and drink is your thing the final stretch of this walk is for you. Take a slight detour away from the river, past Southwark Cathedral, and you are in Borough Market. Tucked under the railway lines you’ll find the huge market caters for every taste so it’s definitely worth planning in a pit stop here.
Back on the river bank you’ll soon reach Hays Galleria, once the point where ships brought tea (amongst other things) into London. The small shopping complex houses a collection of shops, market stalls, bars, restaurants and cafes.
Before reaching Tower Bridge you’ll pass City Hall, home of the Mayor of London and the London Assembly and Potters Fields Park. The small park right next to Tower Bridge gives you the perfect opportunity to take a rest and enjoy the view!
Picnic in the Park
For a huge city, there is no shortage of green spaces and London has some of the most scenic parks in the world. Perfect to spend a lazy summer afternoon in…
In Central London you can choose from
- Hyde Park – right in the heart of London and probably one it’s best known parks. Here you can enjoy concerts and other events, take a dip in the Serpentine, visit the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain or just enjoy watching the world go by
- St James Park – the heart of royal London with Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, Horse Guards Parade and The Mall surrounding it. Don’t miss the flower beds at the Buckingham Palace end.
- Kensington Gardens – the home of Kensington Palace, the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Once part of Hyde Park, you can walk through from Hyde into Kensington Garden. Visit the Serpentine Galleries, the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial playground or the Albert Memorial
- Regents Park – Named after Prince Regent, here you can wander around tree lined paths and formal gardens. It also has many sports facilities including London’s latest outdoor sports area.
Further afield you’ll find…
- Richmond Park – watch out for the deer!
- Victoria Park – London’s oldest public park
- Greenwich Park – London’s oldest Royal Park with views across the City of London
- Hampstead Heath – the top of Parliament Hill is a great sport for views across London
- Clapham Common – triangle shaped park in south London with playgrounds a skate park and sporting facilities. Watch out for all the joggers too
- Battersea Park – on the banks of the River Thames this park includes a children’s zoo.
- Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – home of the London 2012 Olympics. The Aquatic Centre and Velodrome are now permanent sporting venues. The Olympic Stadium is now the London Stadium, home to West Ham United. During the summer you can watch athletics or attend a concert. You can also slide down the Orbit Tower, much better than taking the stairs!
TIP: Keep you eyes open as you wander round as there are lots of squares and hidden gardens dotted around London.
Have a drink with a view
From trendy rooftop bars to five star hotel cocktail bars there are many places you can watch the sun set over the city. Here are few of my favourites. Mostly city based (sorry) as there where I often am…
- Sky Garden – 37 floors above the City of London, the Sky Garden is London’s highest public gardens. There a couple of bars and restaurants up there. I usually head to the City Garden Bar as it’s tucked away and not quite so busy. However if you want to enjoy the buzz of the crowds and music (Thurs-Sat) then the Sky Pod Bar is for you. Booking is essential for this. They do occasionally let walk in’s up but if you don’t want to miss out it’s best to book.
- City Social – At the top of Tower 42, City Social is a bar and restaurant in the heart of the city.
- Madison – this bar at the top of One New Change by St Pauls Cathedral is bit of a hidden gem. Great cocktails and an outdoor space overlooking the Cathedral. They also have heaters for those nights that get a bit chilly. There can be bit of a queue for the lifts up on an evening (particularly Thursday and Friday’s) so try to avoid that after work rush.
- Harbour Bar & Terrace, Chelsea Harbour Hotel – sitting on the balcony over looking the marina and yachts it’s hard to believe you are in London.
So that is what I think are the best things to do in London in summer. I’d love to here what you think. Share your favourite things in the comments below.