During the summer months of June, July and August, London is transformed into a whole new city. The rooftop bars open, the parks get packed with sunbathers, and you can eat, drink and play outdoors all day, late into the evening. So when it’s hot in London and the thermometer starts rising, here are our top ways to chill out, relax and make the most out of the warmer weather in 2019.
Get the sun cream at the ready, because summer in London is a real scorcher.
On a warm summer’s day, London is perhaps the greatest places on Earth; its luscious green parks and open spaces are buzzing with people relaxing and enjoying the sunshine, as are its beer gardens and riverside walkways.
Whether you want to catch an open-air film or a show at an outdoor theatre, dive into one of the city’s lidos or just relax with a pint on a roof top bar or on the banks of the Thames, there’s plenty to do during the summer in the capital.
Believe it or not, almost 50% of London is green space – that’s more than any other major city in the world – so wherever you are in the capital, you’re never far from an open park to escape and enjoy the summer sunshine. What’s more, spending the day exploring London’s many parks is absolutely free.
London has eight royal parks, which include Bushy Park, Green Park, Greenwich Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Regent’s Park, Richmond Park and St James’s Park.
At 1.5 miles long and about a mile wide, Hyde Park is one of the largest of the royal parks and is home to London’s oldest boating lake, the Serpentine, which you can explore from a rented rowing boat or pedalo, should you wish, while Green Park is famous for its alluring stripy deckchairs which dot areas of the triangle-shaped park.
St James’s Park was originally founded as a deer park for the royal occupants of St James’s Palace. Its central lake is home to numerous species of wildfowl including pelicans, which are fed daily between 2.30pm and 3pm, and from the bridge over the lake you can get great snaps of Buckingham Palace.
Regent’s Park, in north-west London, is one of the city’s most popular thanks to its variety of attractions making it a great day out in the summer months. You’ll often find food or music festivals on but, if not, the bandstands, beautiful rose gardens, tennis courts, ice-cream stands and eateries are more than enough to keep young and old entertained for hours.
Whether you want to catch an open-air film or a show at an outdoor theatre, dive into one of the city’s lidos or just relax with a pint on a roof top bar or on the banks of the Thames
London is also famous for its garden squares but not all are open to the public. For one weekend each June, however, more than 200 private gardens, spread across 27 of London’s boroughs unlock their gates – from traditional squares to roof terraces and allotments, as well as gardens belonging to historic buildings, such as All Saints Vicarage Garden, which was part of Fulham Palace until 1935.
When the sun gets a little too hot to handle, there’s nothing like an open-air dip to cool off. Many of the city’s parks have pools, ponds and lakes where you can go for a swim or paddle, such as the aforementioned Serpentine at Hyde Park, Pools on the Park at Richmond and the three swimming ponds on Hampstead Heath, two of which are open all year round.
Then, of course, there’s an abundance of lidos. At a generous 60 metres by 28 metres, the Grade II listed Parliament Hill Lido, at Dartmouth Park, is probably the biggest and is the only outdoor pool in the UK to have a stainless steel pool liner, giving the water a metallic shimmer.
Taking a dip isn’t the only way to cool off in summer; there’s nothing better than taking the edge off a sticky afternoon by quenching one’s thirst with a pint or two. There are literally hundreds of pubs with beer gardens dotted across central London – the most pleasant are perhaps those which line the River Thames, such as Anchor Bankside, situated next to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and Gordon Ramsay’s The Narrow at Limehouse.
However, look up and you’ll find an altogether different way to make the most of the sunshine. Rooftop bars are in abundance here try the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden on the South Bank, which was designed by Eden Project and features a wildflower meadow, mini allotments and a woodland garden.
In the north of the city, you’ll find a fantastic early evening suntrap (albeit small) at the Faltering Fullback, just down the road from Finsbury Park station. The owners of this ivy-clad pub didn’t let a small yard get the better of them and built upwards, creating lots of decked levels with plenty of seating.
You’ll often find food or music festivals on but, if not, the bandstands, beautiful rose gardens, tennis courts, ice-cream stands and eateries are more than enough to keep young and old entertained for hours
Down the road in Islington, the Canonbury used to be a regular haunt of local resident George Orwell while he lived at 27b Canonbury Square in the 1940s and is one of three pubs that provided him with inspiration for Moon Under Water, an essay on the criteria for the perfect London watering hole. Despite its history, however, it’s far from a period pub and its enormous walled garden has an outdoor bar and plenty of modern rattan sofas to lounge on.
Head south and Grand Union, on the border between Clapham and Brixton, has one of London’s biggest beer gardens, seating 300 people, and is renowned for its good value Sunday barbecues in summer. It wouldn’t be summer in London without a festival and the good thing about festivals in the city is that you don’t have to worry about camping if you don’t want to, as all are easily accessible by public transport.
Finsbury Park plays host to a number of festivals over the summer months, but only Wireless, which takes place every July, promises the biggest international chart-smashing acts. In recent years it’s ramped up its roster of rap, hip hop, and R&B acts, and upgraded the atmosphere with fairground rides and street food. It might not be Glastonbury but it’s as close as you’ll get within Zone 2 of the Underground network. Meanwhile, those who are into the dance scene should head to Lovebox at Victoria Park in South Hackney, which caters for the party monsters.
London’s most famous festival – and Europe’s biggest street festival – is the Notting Hill Carnival, which takes place each year over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Ever since 1964 the capital’s Caribbean communities have celebrated their culture and traditions during this two-day event, which comprises live music including reggae, dub, salsa and steel bands, a colourful parade to rival that of Rio’s Mardi Gras and a whole lot of jerk chicken and fried plantain.
So, whether you like to party until dawn or just want to chill in the sunshine, summer in the city is awesome!
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