Wondering what to do in London this summer? Summer in London is more than just swarms of tourists and sweaty tube rides. When the sun shines and the temperatures warm up, the capital really comes alive. Rooftop bars overflow, bottles of rosé are opened in the park, and Londoners flock to their favorite beer gardens. Not without complaining about the (not so) sweltering heat, of course!
This is our list of the best things to do in London during the summer. Many of these can be done year round, and many can be done each summer, but we’ve thrown in a few summer 2019-specific events, as well. Pair this list with our Great British Summer Bucket List and you’re in for the best summer ever!
Enjoy a picnic in the park
London’s parks are the place to be in the summer, and there’s no better way to enjoy a day in the sun than with a picnic in the park.
If you’re visiting London, we recommend a picnic in St. James’ Park. With views of Buckingham Palace and the London Eye, St. James’ Park is one of my favorite spots in London. I think I could stand on the bridge in the center for hours each day and be at peace with the world. Put together a picnic basket, grab a blanket, and pick a spot in the shade as the day comes to a close. We recommend the nearby M&S for ready to eat picnic food!
There are plenty of other parks in London if you’re looking for something quieter or a bit more local. Our locals are Clapham Common and Brockwell Park. We also love Hampstead Heath and Richmond Park for feeling like we’ve escaped the city. Depending on where you’re staying, there’s likely a perfect park nearby!
Spend the entire day in a pub’s beer garden
There is nothing better than a summer day spent in the garden of your favorite pub with friends. With pitchers of Pimm’s flowing and hearty pub food to accompany them, there is literally no reason to leave. Most pubs move TVs outside for the summer, as well, so you do not have to miss any sport. Sit in the sun or opt for the shade – just make sure you pick a spot you are ready to sit in all day! Some of our favorite summer pubs include The Avalon (Clapham South), The Windmill (Clapham), The Ship (Wandsworth) and The Anchor (Southwark).
Indulge at London’s outdoor food markets
Duke of York Square’s Saturday market is open year round and is one of our favorite food markets in London. In part, this is because of it’s small size, which makes it easy to try everything. Also, they serve champagne and cocktails. And above all, there is the incredible duck confit sandwiches – the best sandwich in Chelsea, as they like to say! Mix up your Saturday shopping day with a quick visit to this market. In the summer, they usually have other events going on as well, or you could make a quick trip to Saatchi Gallery.
If you’re looking for something more central, we also love Maltby Street Market. It’s one of our favorite spots on our London Bridge Food Tour!
Walk along the Thames
Walking along the river in London gives you plenty to see and do. There are museums, pubs, tourist attractions, and some incredible architecture! Westminster and London Bridge are both great starting points – just pick a direction and start walking. If you want to feel like you’ve escaped from the city, start in Richmond and wander alongside the Thames towards Mortlake. You’ll be transported to a different world – and there are plenty of pubs to stop at along the way.
Try one of London’s many summer pop-ups
It seems that, when summer rolls around, buildings suddenly have restaurants on their rooftops. I don’t know when they get built, or why they are not there all year, but know that they appear in the summer. From pop up roof restaurants (like at John Lewis) to rooftop parties (like Brixton Beach Boulevard), there is so much to do in London above street level.
Ride bikes in Hyde Park
Boris bikes, Barclay bikes, Santander bikes – whatever you want to call them, these things are actually really cool They’re rather heavy and hard to get going (if you haven’t been on a bike in a while!) but it’s a cool alternative for a sunny day. Pick them up at any docking station and ride around Hyde Park, or venture into Notting Hill. Alternatively, choose a different area – it’s great exercise, a great way to discover new things, and a lot of fun!
Take a boat to Greenwich
When I studied abroad, we were forced to take the Greenwich boat tour as our “welcome” tour. However, it’s not a bad thing to be forced into (except ours was in January!). It’s fun to see London by water, and Greenwich is a lovely area. Head that way on the boat, wander around, pop into a pub for a pint, and then jump on the DLR back. It’s an easy day away!
Bask in the sun at Brighton Beach
A warm summers day calls for a day trip to Brighton. It is such a fun and easy day trip from London. Better yet? You end up at the beach! Go bask in the sun or have a picnic or just wander for hours.
Plan a day in the park with all of your friends
There’s nothing better than getting all of your friends together, grabbing some snacks and drinks, and going to the park. London’s green spaces become absolutely packed in the summer with groups. Some play sports, some barbecue, and some just sit there with some corner shop drinks. The atmosphere in the park is usually great, and it’s a fun (and cheap) weekend activity with friends.
Attend a festival
There are food festivals, cocktail festivals, music festivals, and more in London each summer. There are small festivals and big festivals. One day festivals and week long festivals. London and it’s surrounding areas turn into festival grounds all summer long! I swear everywhere you look there is something else going on. Find one that matches your style, buy a ticket (if required) and go!
2019 London Summer Festivals
- Taste of London: 19-23 June, Regent’s Park [Food]
- BBC Proms: July-September, Royal Albert Hall [Music]
- British Summer Time: 5-14 July, Hyde Park [Music]
- Somerset House Summer Series: 11-21 July, Somerset House [Music]
- London Wing Fest: August, Location TBA [Food]
- Great British Beer Festival: 6-10 August, Olympia London [Beer]
- South West Four: 24-25 August, Clapham Common [Music]
- Notting Hill Carnival: 24-26 August, Notting Hill [Street Party]
- Meatopia: 30 Aug-1 Sep, Tobacco Dock [Food]
- London Brunch Festival: 30 Aug-1 Sept, Old Truman Brewery [Food]
And, of course, there are other major festivals throughout the UK. Glastonbury takes place and the end of June and if you’re lucky to score tickets, you’ll see the likes of The Killers, Foo Fighters, and The Who. Or, if you want to head North, it’s much easier to visit Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, where you can take in theatre, comedy, music, and more. If you’re heading to Edinburgh this summer, our friends at Eternal Arrival have published a great list of free things to do in Edinburgh. Most can be done year round, but why not take advantage of the sun?
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11 thoughts on “A Local’s Guide to What to do in London this Summer”
There are some great ideas here! I always love a picnic from Fortnums.
We recently bought a hamper from John Lewis to start putting together our own picnics, and are having too much fun with it. It comes with cutlery, wine glasses, and everything!
I haven’t heard of the Duke of York’s Square market, will have to check it out. I love Borough Market.
I’ve been in London on one of those rare summery days and I couldn’t believe how fast everyone stripped off to sun bake
It honestly becomes such a different place! We just don’t get enough quality time outside!
Great tips! I grew up not far from Brighton so I love it when people include it in travel lists!
It’s such a lovely place, it’s hard not to include it!
Seems like an easy place to enjoy a summer! I have never been but it’s on my list!!
Looks like an easy place to spend a summer, I have never been but it’s on my list!
Oh this brings back so many memories (and yet so much more I want to return to London to do!). I love festivals, pop up bars and generally just drinking in the sun in summer!
Become your own party planner. Host a day party under the sun and arrange a cocktail competition for you and your friends. May the most refreshing summer cocktail win! Cotton candy, magic castles, balloons and exhilarating roller coasters. Who doesn t love living in a fairytale if only for one day?