Fun Things to do in London in the Summer

Fun Things to Do in London in the Summer

Summer is the best season to be in London, even if it is the busiest. From late May until September, the British capital is at its best when the sun shines, picnickers fill Hyde Park, and great sporting events like Wimbledon mesmerize the city. 

Summer temperatures can be through the roof in London, especially when the capital is hit by a heatwave. When the heat cranks up – often, it can soar well into highs of 30°C – you’ll want to be sipping a pint in a rooftop bar or taking a dip in an open-air lido. 

With so many things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. That’s why we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in London in summer for you. Keep to these fun and seasonal London bucket list recommendations and there’s no doubt you’ll have an incredible time exploring the British capital in summer! 

Fun & Unique Things to do in London in the Summer

Get cultural at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

London During Summer: Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

With the sun shining and with the West End’s old venues stiflingly hot in summer, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is a breath of cooling air on the entertainment circuit. Occupying pride of place in one of central London’s most famous royal parks, this open-air theater has been wowing the crowds since it first opened in 1932.

The theater has a capacity of 1,304 spectators, and the season runs for 18 weeks in summer, from the first peekings of sunshine in May until the beginning of autumn in late September. This highly acclaimed theater venue hosts professional plays under open skies, including modern takes on Shakespeare, Roald Dahl musicals for the kids, and classic shows like “Fiddler on the Roof.” 


Watch the Changing of the Guard in the sunshine

Things to do in London During Summer: Changing of the Guard

The Changing of the Guard is one of the best London sightseeing attractions, and while it takes place all through the year, summer is the best time to experience the pomp and pageantry. 

In summer, the sun glints off silver swords and brass trumpets, as the King’s royal guard troop their way along The Mall from the barracks. The ceremony is one of London’s enduring traditions, and the crowds it attracts are awesome, no matter the day of the week. 

Get to St. James’ Park early in the summer months to grab a front-row spot on The Mall or outside the gates of Buckingham Palace, where the incoming procession takes over duties from their comrades on guard. 


Join the fun at Notting Hill Carnival

Places to Visit in London During Summer: Notting Hill Carnival

Even in the dreariest of weather, Notting Hill is a bastion of color and culture in the capital. In the summer, bright sunshine and soaring temperatures magnify that color exponentially, until the season culminates with the famed Notting Hill Carnival

Overtaking the streets of W10 and W11 on the last Bank Holiday weekend in August, Notting Hill Carnival is a celebration of London’s multicultural ethos. Similar in spirit to Caribbean Carnivals, you’ll find steel drum bands keeping the beat as floats and dancers parade through the streets. 

Notting Hill is overtaken by the scents of Afro-Caribbean cooking, as street stalls dish out spicy food and singers, dancers, and performers all bring London to life for the long weekend of partying. 


Peruse artwork at the Serpentine Gallery

London During Summer: Serpentine Gallery

Spanning the banks of the Serpentine, London’s famed freshwater lake, the Serpentine Gallery is best perused during summer. Dedicated to contemporary art, the Serpentine Gallery consists of two wings that are connected by a walkway across the lake itself. 

From June onwards, the Serpentine Gallery hosts temporary exhibitions that typically sprawl out across the grounds of Hyde Park. Check the events calendar because the Serpentine Gallery plays host to jazz concerts and music nights throughout summer, too. 


Watch Hollywood hits at an open-air cinema

Things to do in London During Summer: Open-Air Cinema

Leave the stuffy cinemas behind and embrace the silver screen in the great outdoors. In summer, outdoor cinemas are all the rage, and watching a big Hollywood hit at a pop-up venue is one of the best things to do in London.

The venues seem to change each season, but popular pop-up companies that put on a great show wherever they find space include Backyard Cinemas and Screen on the Canal

Typically, you’ll find a mix of new releases and classics shown, so check schedules ahead of your trip to see what interests you! 


Sink a few pints on a floating bar 

The River Thames and its canals and tributaries are glorious during a heatwave, and there’s no better way to spend a summer’s afternoon than on a floating bar. 

Head to Hackney Wick and you can hop aboard Barge East, an old Dutch transport barge that now serves beers and cocktails. Alfred Le Roy and The Milk Float are also on the River Lee in Hackney Wick, while Tamesis Dock is another Dutch barge that’s been given over to drinks in Vauxhall. 


Enjoy drinks with a view at a rooftop bar 

Places to Visit in London During Summer: Rooftop Bar

If the thought of sinking pints on a boat makes you nauseous, then look up instead, and book a table at one of London’s sky-high rooftop bars. 

As soon as the first rays of sunshine break through the lingering winter clouds, Londoners flock to rooftop bars across the capital, where you can enjoy great drinks with an even better view. 

The best view in the city is from the top of The Shard, London’s tallest building, but the Sky Garden – with its panoramic greenery – comes in a close second. 

For an alfresco rooftop experience, reserve a spot at the Queen of Hoxton, which turns into a rooftop nightclub after dark, or at the Dalston Roofpark, where you can sink pints and cocktails all day long. 


Explore the canals of Little Venice 

London During Summer: Little Venice

You don’t need to visit Italy to see Venetian-like canals, not when London has its very own Little Venice. Located along the banks of the Regent’s and Grand Union canals (where the two canals meet in central London), Little Venice is spectacular when the sun is shining! 

Take a stroll along the waterways, stopping at canalside pubs and browsing independent shops and quirky boutiques in this lovely area of the capital. If you like, you could even hire a canal boat for the day or book an Airbnb in a converted barge for the night.


Party like a king at Hampton Court Palace Festival

Dating back to the 16th century, Hampton Court Palace is one of the best sights in London. This was the famed home of King Henry VIII – and many of his unfortunate wives – and you can take a tour of the stately rooms before trying to conquer the outdoor maze. 

In June, you’ll also be able to experience the Hampton Court Palace Festival, when the grounds are thrown over to headline acts like Tom Jones and Paloma Faith for 10 consecutive nights of music. Enjoy a picnic hamper in the palace park, then prepare yourself for a top-tier performance fit for a king! 


Catch a match at the Wimbledon Championships

Things to do in London During Summer: Wimbledon Championships

For two weeks in July, the capital is transfixed by the drama of the Wimbledon Championships, as the best players in the world compete for coveted professional titles. This is the oldest tennis tournament in the world, with an exalted history dating back to 1877, and the event is seen as one of the most prestigious on the professional circuit. 

While tickets to see the greats at Centre Court are hard to come by, you can often score tickets on smaller courts throughout the tournament. If you’re not in luck, then head over to Henman Hill, where a festival-like atmosphere is fueled by jugs of Pimm’s and Strawberries and Cream, as tennis lovers watch the matches on a big outdoor screen. 


Go wild swimming 

Places to Visit in London During Summer: Wild Swimming

When summer temperatures breach the 30°C (86°F) mark – which they often do in London – you’ll be joining the crowds in search of a spot to cool down.

You don’t need to head to the coast, because London is surprisingly blessed with a large number of open-air lidos and wild swimming spots. The most famous is the Serpentine, which is open from late May to September, while Ruislip is home to a beach and a reservoir. 

Hampstead Heath Ponds in North London are always a favorite, while the Royal Docks are transformed into a swimming area in summer, and West Reservoir has some 23 acres of open-air water for you to explore. 


Picnic in Hyde Park 

London During Summer: Hyde Park

Nothing beats a picnic in the park when the sun is out in summer, and while it’s always going to be busy, my favorite spot is Hyde Park. A classic destination for London’s picnickers, you’ll see the grassy banks of the royal park swathed in blankets and hampers from June to September. 

Pack yourself some cucumber sandwiches, or maybe organize a charcuterie board, and enjoy the summer sun with a bottle of bubbly or a pitcher of Pimm’s!

There you have it! The best things to do in London in summer. What’s your favorite?


Author

  • Richard Collett

    Richard is an award-winning travel writer based in Southwest England who’s addicted to traveling off the beaten track. He’s traveled to 75 countries and counting in search of intriguing stories, unusual destinations, and cultural curiosities.

    Richard loves traveling the long way round over land and sea, and you’ll find him visiting quirky micronations and breakaway territories as often as he’s found lounging on a beach (which is a lot).

    When he’s not writing for BBC Travel, National Geographic, or Lonely Planet, you can find Richard writing for the Wandering Wheatleys or updating his off-beat travel blog, Travel Tramp.

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