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Summer in London: How to Spend It

Looking for things to do in London this summer? Here's how to spend those warmer days and longer nights in the city.


View from Primrose Hill, London

Hot. Humid. Horrendous. These words perfectly describe London in the height of summer. Well actually, on second thought, they sum up the miserable tube ride home, where like an absurd scene from Dante’s Inferno, the Central Line becomes a sweltering hotbox, filled to the brim with the grimaces of red-faced commuters. It is an intense and unhappy sight to say the least, causing you to wistfully dream of coconut trees and a sandy white beach…

Do not despair, though, because you're not a commuter, but rather someone staying in a wonderfully air-conditioned Plum Guide home, here to make the most of a relaxing summer trip. So, dear reader, to keep you from running off to the Caribbean, we’ve pulled a list of the best ideas for a summer in London...many of which are al fresco. (Thank us later.)

Discover an alternative way to travel

When it comes to commuting in London, the obvious answers are the Tube, a black cab or now, an Uber. And if you read our introductory paragraph, you'll want to avoid the Tube <s>as much as possible</s> completely. So, we dare you to do something different. You could walk the underground line, replacing flustered commuters with Magnolia trees and bustling streets. The alternative map calculates the walking distances between tube stations. If you're not one for walking, hop on a bike instead. Santander cycles, often referred to as 'Boris bikes' are also an affordable, fun and easy way to see the city. Not a fan of the on land modes of transport? Drift along the Thames with the Thames River bus service instead. You'll feel like you're sailing off the coast of a Greek island rather than heading through the middle of London. (Well, you won't, but it's as close as you're going to get.)

Embrace the great outdoors

It is summer in London after all, so it only makes sense that you should be spending as much time as possible outdoors in one of London's parks and gardens. With panoramic views and luscious green space, Primrose Hill is the perfect spot for a Sunday picnic. Fancy a dip? Swim in Hampstead Heath's ponds. Join happy topless Londoners frolicking about in the Heath’s ‘women-only’ pond. ‘Male-only’ and gender neutral pools are also waiting to be bathed in, however these ask for your swimming costumes to remain firmly on. Head to Holland Park for a stroll among the dahlias in the impressive Japanese-style Kyoto Gardens.

Hampstead heath ponds

Hampstead heath ponds

Head to one of London's many rooftops

Whether you're wanting an early(-ish) morning brunch, a sophisticated dinner or some late-night drinks, there are so many rooftops around London with great atmospheres and even greater views. If you're in Peckham, securing a majestic spot upon a multi-storey car park, Frank’s overlooks London’s iconic skyline and has a shocking pink staircase (which you will have seen on Instagram). Dinner at Pergola on the Roof is another fine choice and something a little more fancy. Go one step further with London in the Sky – you'll be eating gastronomic delights on a table that is suspended 100 feet above London.

Frank's Bar in London

Frank's Bar in London

Get your (open-air) culture fix

London has so much culture every which way you look, but come summertime, the city likes to show it off out in the open. Watch a performance at world-renowned Shakespeare's Globe (which is a cultural landmark in itself). Line ups from past years include King Lear and Romeo & Juliet so expect a show no matter when you go. Catch the Edinburgh Fringe – Londoners exclusively sneak a preview of the comics at Battersea Arts Centre. Established in 1932, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre is another popular choice when it comes to cultural al fresco activities to enjoy during a summer in London.

Have fun at a festival

From Notting Hill Carnival and Hyde Park's British Summer Time to Pride and Proms, London's festivals are a collective force to be reckoned with when it comes to summer and August in London is jam-packed full of musical and cultural events. At Notting Hill's annual event in celebration of Caribbean culture, expect the best jerk chicken you've ever tasted, plenty of Reggae dub and kaleidoscopic colours galore. Head over to Hyde Park where you'll find British Summer Time. The Killers, Phil Collins and Justin Bieber to name but a few. Expect a mixed bag of musicians at this event (but don't pretend you wouldn't sing along to Bieber as much as you would Phil Collins). Pride in London is another huge celebration of London's, as well as our global, LGBT+ community.

Get active (or watch some other sporty people)

Ok, so we're not expecting you to do anything too strenuous – you are on holiday and it is summer after all. We'll settle for a relaxing yet rejuvenating session of yoga instead. Dalston Rooftop Park offers the perfect chance to perfect your upward facing cat every Sunday. If you're definitely not wanting to do any excercise at all, grab a punnet of strawberries and order a glass jug of Pimms and make your way to Henman Hill. Expect large screens of tennis and large crowds of tennis enthusiasts...and you, a large fan of drinking champagne on holiday with little to no interest in tennis whatsoever.

Looking for somewhere to stay during your summer trip? Choose your favourite from our collection of homes in London. Our (very picky) home critics have scrutinously judged each and every one of them to make sure they're up to the standards we expect (and you deserve).

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