Love sun? Fresh air? A drink in your hand and friends nearby? There’s nowhere better to find all these things than in London in the summer. While summer is also the busiest season to visit – and more expensive than other seasons like spring, fall, and winter – there’s a reason it’s so popular: great weather means there are almost limitless things to do in London in the summer and ways to pass each beautiful day.
I’ve been lucky to spend an entire summer in London, and visit several times during this peak season too. Trust me when I say there’s nothing like London on a sunny day: the whole city lights up both with the sunshine and the energy of everyone enjoying their time in it.
If you’re planning your London itinerary and know you’ll be there during the summer months of May through August, you might be curious what special experiences you can have by visiting at this time of year versus other seasons. In this post, you’ll discover those special summer experiences you can only have in London and how to have them during your trip.
1. Attend an Open Air Cinema or Theatre
Come summer, some of London’s iconic areas become outdoor movie theaters. You can find these “open-air cinemas” in numerous locations around the city. However, Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park, and trendy rooftops are some classic spots. They set up inflatable movie screens for people to enjoy classic movies.
2. Go Swimming in the Serpentine
Swimming is the summer activity par excellence, consecrating itself as a refreshing way to beat the heat. While summertime in London isn’t as ruthless as other destinations, temperatures rise enough to merit a dip.
Hyde Park is home to the Serpentine, a large manmade lake with a swimming section known as the Lido. There are also lovely cafés around and sun loungers to unwind while sunbathing.
3. Snag Tickets for the BBC Proms
If music is more your cup of tea, book your tickets for the BBC Proms. Held in the Royal Albert Hall, the BBC Proms is an eight-week classical music program. The world’s finest orchestras delight the audience with classical concertos, world music, and musicals.
BBC Prom offers affordable tickets for their shows. However, they tend to increase their prices when well-known artists perform.
4. Go Rooftop Bar-Hopping
Drinks and rooftops always sound like a perfect combo, but they do so even more during summer. London is brimming with rooftop bars, which explode during hot months.
You’ll find London rooftops in all sizes and shapes as the city’s dining scene is always renewing itself. Last but not least, drinking on a rooftop is an excellent excuse to soak in views of London from above. Believe me, London is a city whose skyline is worth seeing from every angle.
5. Have a Hyde Park Picnic
Having a picnic is a classic summer pastime in England. More often than not, London is grey, windy, and rainy. Its persistent lousy weather has led locals to try to absorb every single ray of sunshine when it’s available – which explains why they flood parks and practically every spot where the sun hits.
Londoners particularly love to bring their blankets and basket full of fruits and cheese to Hyde Park. Join them by bringing your own.
6. Stroll in London’s Other Parks
Don’t let the skyscrapers fool you. Green spaces are rife in London. The city has 3,000 parks spread over its boroughs, and summer is an ideal time to enjoy them. Here are a few you might consider for a stroll.
7. Green Park
They don’t call it Green Park for no reason. This extensive, soothing park is full of green scenery and a buzzing atmosphere. It has a wonderful collection of game fowls and a family of pink pelicans that are spectacular. Green Park is just next to Buckingham Palace, and there are many benches to sit and deckchairs to rent.
8. Hampstead Heath
Did someone say picnic with a view? Hampstead Heath is one of London’s vantage points, offering a stunning panorama of the London skyline. Sweeping views of Canary Wharf’s skyscrapers and the City of London are quite a delight here.
The heath is just four miles from Trafalgar Square, and you can also enjoy its swimming ponds, splash pools, pergola, and hill garden while there.
9. Kensington Gardens
Kensington Gardens were once the private gardens of Kensington Palace. It is a bit calmer than its neighbors, and you’ll see mostly locals jogging or strolling down the gardens. It also features cultural attractions, such as the statue of Peter Pan, Albert Memorial, and the Serpentine Art Gallery.
10. Regent’s Park
Another Royal Park, Regent’s Park, served as one of Henry’s hunting grounds. The park’s beauty is more than enough of a reason to visit. The natural splendor and gorgeous scenery provide a perfect place for travelers to take long walks or families to enjoy a fun day out. With all kinds of local wildlife roaming the grounds, there is plenty to see at Regent’s Park.
11. Richmond Park
Richmond Park is London’s largest Royal Park and is popular for its wildlife. It is home to 650 deer, which roam freely all over the place. There’s also such a variety of landscapes, with grasslands, woods, and lakes. You’ll also see rare birds and rabbits.
Most locals love coming to the park to escape London’s busy lifestyle. Best of all, it is a stone’s throw away from the heart of the City.
12. Russell Square
Need a place for a quick lunch break? Russell Square could be a good alternative. Russel Square is a nice and quiet area despite sitting in a busy area. It is a nice place to sit and watch people walk by, and squirrels play.
There is a lovely cafe in the area, with lots of outdoor seating. Also, the square’s side roads have beautiful townhouses, which you can explore afterward.
13. Catch the Changing of the Guard
When in London, you can’t miss the opportunity to witness The Changing of the Guard ceremony. A new group of soldiers (the New Guard) takes over the place of other soldiers (Old Guard) to protect Buckingham Palace. Wearing red coats and bearskin hats, the soldiers march in unison to the beat of solemn music. The ceremony lasts 45 minutes and takes place every day at 11 pm.
14. Attend Summertime Festivals & Events
One of the perks of visiting London in the summer is that you get the chance to attend their fantastic festivals. They come for all tastes: music, sports, gardening, you name it.
15. Chelsea Flower Show (May 24-28)
The Royal Horticultural Society host the Chelsea Flower Show every year. We’re talking about a festival where you can see gardening and landscaping at their best.
World-famous landscape designers put together the most beautiful gardens and flower beds. They also organize talks and presentations on the most diverse topics, from herbalism to garden conservation.
16. London Pride (June 2 – July 10)
Like most cities in the world, London celebrates the diversity of the LGBTQ communities. People from all walks of life fill the streets waving flags and wearing colorful outfits to match the occasion. There are plenty of performances and activities to partake in throughout the month, but the cherry on the cake is the Pride Parade in London. Here, around 300 floats and groups perform, sing, and dance through the streets of London.
17. Royal Ascot (June 14-18)
Take off your comfortable t-shirt, and put on that elegant dress or suit, for we’re about to attend one of London’s finest social events. Founded by Queen Anne in 1711, the Royal Ascot is an annual race meeting where British sports, class, and pomp converge most splendidly.
After opening day, which only royals and members can attend, you can purchase tickets to participate in the prestigious event. If you want to attend, please look at the strict dress code. I wasn’t lying when I said you need to flaunt your finest outfit.
18. Wimbledon (June 27 – July 10)
Not everything is about rugby or football. Britain has given birth to many sports and tournaments we love today. Like Wimbledon. The oldest tennis tournament in the world is more than just watching world-class players. It is an experience, with numerous events surrounding it.
You can enjoy a glass of Pimms during the stay and eat a decadent bowl of strawberries and cream, all while exchanging a few words with other posh attendees. Once again, clothes matter a lot for this event. Wimbledon has a strict dress code, so make sure and check that beforehand.
19. Notting Hill Carnival (August 28)
Nothing Hill Carnaval is already a staple event every summer in London. The colorful street festival celebrates Caribbean culture. It’s another opportunity to throw on your funkiest clothes and party among other foreigners and locals.
Most concerts and events concentrate on Trafalgar Square, and there’s a parade route through several neighborhoods in West London.
20. Browse London’s Best Markets
Markets are an essential component of London life. You’ll find one in every nook and cranny of the city. Each with their personality and style, these markets offer a breadth of products you will find nowhere else.
21. Brick Lane Markets
Brick Lane Market is famous for its diverse street food; Indian, mainly. It sits in the heart of East London’s Bangladeshi community, and here you’ll find the best curry houses in the whole city. There are also vintage clothing stalls and cute little shops selling jewelry and souvenirs.
22. Columbia Road Flower Market
London in the summer is all about color, foliage, and flowers. Just take a look at Columbia Road. The victorian street turns into a color spectacle, flowing over with stalls of stunning flowers and houseplants. The best part is that the storekeepers are friendly, open, and more than willing to share some tips with you on how to have green fingers for each specific plant.
23. Portobello Market
Portobello Market is one of London’s best-known markets. It is famous for its antiques. While you might not be thinking of bringing back home a bulky Victorian desk, you might be able to steal a few decor ideas. Antiques and furniture aren’t the only bargains here. Lovers of fashion, food, books, and vinyl records will find many unique items.
Have enough ideas for how to soak up that sun during London’s glorious summers? If you have any questions about how to spend summer in London, let me know in the comments!