Travel 4 minutes 11 June 2024

London in the Summer: 10 Things to See and Do

What better time of year to explore the capital? Discover our list of Inspector-approved activities for enjoying the warmer weather.

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” John Steinbeck’s oft-used quote seems particularly apposite for London. We spend far too many months of the year inside or underground so, when the mercury rises and the rain stays away, we all need to get outside and make the most of the warmer weather and the longer days. Here are a few Michelin Inspector approved ideas for what to do in London this summer, from leisurely brunches on stunning terraces to taking to the water, be that in it or on it.

1. Going Green

Gardens, parks, woods, forests, commons and heaths – about 20% of London is public green space, so summer is the time to really explore. You can go horse riding in Richmond Park (then for lunch at Michelin-Starred Dysart Petersham); discover the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park; get some green-finger inspiration at Kew Gardens; fly a kite on Primrose Hill; and play football in Victoria Park or rounders in Regent’s Park. If you have a dog to walk then try Parliament Hill, before having lunch at the dog-friendly Bull & Last. If a picnic is more your style, then get along to Brockwell Park or Chelsea Physic Garden, which was established in 1673 by the Apothecaries to grow medicinal plants.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond upon Thames (©tupungato/iStock)
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond upon Thames (©tupungato/iStock)

2. In and On the Water

Summer is the time to take to the water. That could mean a swim in the ponds on Hampstead Heath or in one of the many lidos in the city; try London Fields followed by a visit to Pophams – bakery by day, Italian restaurant by night. For those who prefer a more sedentary aquatic experience, there’s nothing to beat taking a boat down the Thames – even hardened Londoners need reminding now and then of the famous landmarks along the way from Westminster Pier to Greenwich. And nothing is more romantic than a pedalo in Hyde Park; afterwards try lunch at Ognisko – a discreet Polish restaurant in a lovely townhouse.

Pedalos on Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park, Westminster (©IR_Stone/iStock)
Pedalos on Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park, Westminster (©IR_Stone/iStock)

3. Outside Culture

Just because the sun is shining, it doesn’t mean you can’t nourish your soul with more than just vitamin D. Opera in Holland Park is a delight, especially with an early dinner or a pre-matinée lunch at Michelin-Starred Kitchen W8 – try the pigeon before your Puccini. Shakespeare's Globe, which opened in 1997 and is an approximation of the original Globe and virtually on the same site, gives visitors a chance to witness his plays in the way The Bard intended. Afterwards, head down to Rambutan for a Sri Lankan feast. Regent's Park Open Air Theatre’s 18-week season includes everything from family shows to Shakespeare; but come prepared because Britain’s oldest outdoor theatre offers no shelter from the elements.

Shakespeare's Globe, South Bank, Southwark (©coward_lion/iStock)
Shakespeare's Globe, South Bank, Southwark (©coward_lion/iStock)

4. Anyone for Tennis?

For many, Wimbledon fortnight is the very definition of summer in the city. Two weeks of fantastic tennis, strawberries and cream, glasses of Pimm’s and a forlorn longing for British success. Committed tennis fans unsuccessful in the ticket ballot can try their luck by queueing for the daily tickets. For the rest of us, watch it on the telly, take notes and then try out your backhand on a local public tennis court. Play on Clapham Common and the winner can buy lunch at Upstairs (at Trinity); at Paddington Rec you can replenish the batteries with dinner at Bib Gourmand awarded Kateh; and if playing in Ravenscourt Park it’s a short walk to Silver Birch for lunch.

Upstairs (at Trinity), Clapham (©Stefan Johnson)
Upstairs (at Trinity), Clapham (©Stefan Johnson)

5. Walk the Walk

No one ever really knows London. Yes, we all think we’re familiar with our own little corner of the capital and we can proudly get around without having to resort to a Tube map, but when it comes to learning about its history and why it became the city it is today then consider a walking tour. You can choose to explore Soho (and for that you should tie it in with lunch at The French House); or discover the City of London (with a meal at Brigadiers); some are themed about fictional characters like James Bond, Harry Potter or Sherlock Holmes (be sure to stop off at the Royal China Club on Baker Street), while others have a musical theme, like The Beatles.

Intersection of Baker Street and Park Road, Marylebone (©krblokhin/iStock)
Intersection of Baker Street and Park Road, Marylebone (©krblokhin/iStock)

6. The Summer Exhibition

Not an outdoor activity, but one that’s been a feature of summer in the city and has been held every year at The Royal Academy since 1769 without exception. Anyone can submit work to the judging committee, which inevitably results in some sniffy reviews for the final selection from the overlooked or underappreciated. Open from mid-June to mid-August, it offers a wonderful collection of artwork, most of which is available to buy – if you get in early enough. Breakfast or lunch at The Wolseley, virtually opposite, or 45 Jermyn St., at the back of Fortnum & Mason, will ensure you make a fine day of it.

Courtyard of the Royal Academy, Southwark, During The Summer Exhibition (©coldsnowstorm/iStock)
Courtyard of the Royal Academy, Southwark, During The Summer Exhibition (©coldsnowstorm/iStock)

7. Brunch on a Terrace

Rising relatively early at a weekend is an unseemly, irksome prospect in winter when it’s cold and dark outside. But summer is easier, especially when your curtains aren’t that thick and your open window is amplifying the traffic noise outside. Meeting friends for brunch will remind you why you live in the big city and when your chosen restaurant has a summer terrace, the day’s got even better – and that’s before you’ve ordered your first Bloody Mary. At Chiltern Firehouse you can surround yourself with good-looking people; Dovetale has a very smart and comfortable terrace; Bellanger in Islington offers a French-inspired brunch; while good value Bib Gourmand Kudu in Peckham has a cute little outdoor space.

Dovetale, Mayfair
Dovetale, Mayfair

8. A View from the Top

Vistas are vastly superior in summer, thanks to the greater likelihood of clear days and bright skies. As London is largely flat, any hill will prove a good spot for views. Primrose Hill is always worth the climb to the top, as is Parliament Hill, Greenwich Park Observatory or Alexandra Palace Park. There are no end of man-made alternatives like The London Eye, The Sky Garden, The Garden Museum Tower, The Garden At 120, Horizon 22 and The Shard, along with restaurants like Decimo and Michelin-Starred City Social.

Primrose Hill, Camden (©VictorHuang/iStock)
Primrose Hill, Camden (©VictorHuang/iStock)

9. Market Day

Nothing beats trawling through markets on a summer’s day – whether for clothes, food or general 'tat' – and London has plenty to offer in this regard. Old Spitalfields Market is covered, ready for any unexpected summer showers, and Bib Gourmand St John Bread and Wine is close by. Saturday is the day for Portobello Road, although crowds there will make walking pace snail-like, so you can always duck into Straker’s for a welcome bite. Friday is a good day for Borough Market, but if it gets too much, then dive into El Pastor for some Mexican flavours. On Sundays, you can choose between Brick Lane or Columbia Road Flower Market or, for the perpetually kohl-eyed, there’s always Camden Market.

Columbia Road Flower Market, Bethnal Green (©oversnap/iStock)
Columbia Road Flower Market, Bethnal Green (©oversnap/iStock)

10. On Your Bike

When it comes to hiring a bike for a few hours, there's an abundance of choice, with several companies after your business. Granted, London is no Amsterdam which it comes to cycling, but it’s getting better every year and there are some fantastic routes to explore. Whether it’s along the Thames or simply around a park, it’s a great way of getting to know the city, so pull on your lycra and start practising around the Outer Circle in Regent’s Park along with all the other amateur enthusiasts. If your motivation quickly wanes, then glide down to nearby Marylebone Village and spend your time in a restaurant instead – the choice is considerable, from Orrery to Michelin-Starred Trishna, Cavita to Zoilo. For a trip further afield make straight for Richmond Park, where you'll instantly feel at one with nature.

Regent's Park, Westminster & Camden (©iStock)
Regent's Park, Westminster & Camden (©iStock)

Hero image : IR_Stone/iStock

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