Stereo-typically, London doesn’t have a very sunny reputation. But Londoners, take no offense as we mean that quite literally. If you’re planning for the ultimate summer holiday, you’re most likely going to think about fantastic the Tuscan valleys of Italy or of chilling by a local tavern in Santorini. Definitely not gloomy London. Yet, when the sun does come out and the season officially enters on ‘July 21,’ London takes on a less saturated tone. But that’s just what sunshine does. Suddenly, there are lots of parties to attend and plenty of places to be. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, you’ll find this list handy, even exciting. Here are our top recommendations for the best things to do in London in summer.
There’s a saying that summer in London doesn’t really start until July 21. You probably have zero idea what we’re talking about, and that’s probably because that’s an inside joke. July 21 is the specific day that the Buckingham Palace, the Brit-iest of all British doors, officially opens its staterooms for guests to visit. Just no chance of royal-spotting as they’re most likely vacationing in Scotland.
Still, that does not mean the summer season only begins in July. In fact, the weather already starts to warm up in May, though the official summer calendar doesn’t start until the 21st of June. Summer lasts (officially) until September 23.
London being London, you don’t get the sweltering heat the troubles Rome in summertime. On average, the highest temperature could reach up to 23°C around August. But that’s enough to bring out the picnic baskets, lay down the blankets and enjoy a great summer weather in the park.
A picnic is definitely a good start, and a signal for others to perhaps do the same before the British weather strikes again. But that’s just the laid-back part. Aside from park picnics, there are summer tours, music fests, and even quirky summer events you should look forward to. Here are our best bets.
Image Source: Evening Standard
One of the telltales of summer in London is the popping up of projectors, wide white screens, and some makeshift seats in parks, even in some inconspicuous venues. Summertime is open air cinema time and in London, there’s an onslaught of outdoor cinemas and rooftop film screenings.
The Nomad Cinema speaks for itself. Venues for each film are not fixed bu the one at the Brompton Cemetery is always expected. The classic Some Like It Hot (1959) will air at the Festival Gardens in St. Paul’s Cathedral on August 14, Black Panther (2018) will grace the screens on August 24 at the Victory Park in East Village and on the same venue the day after, Paddington 2 (2017) and The Greatest Showman (2017) will entertain the audience. Where is the Nomad? Check out their website for complete info about the shows.
For a more dramatic setting, head to the rooftops in Peckham, Shoreditch and Stratford for the Rooftop Cinema Club will be showing a great mix of cult classics and new releases. There’s a full bar at the venue so you can grab munches and the proverbial movie popcorn while watching the show/s for the night/s. Love Actually (2003) will air on August 3 at Bussey Building while the Roof East venue will see The Shape of Water (2017). Black Panther (2018) and Yellow Submarine: 50th Anniversary Reissue will be shown on August 4. The next day, Whitney (2018) along with cult classic Pulp Fiction (1994) will be shown. Click here for more info on the schedules.
This year, the Luna Cinema will air about 175 screenings all over UK, but in London, you’ll have Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) at Westminster Abbey, Dunkirk (2017) at Greenwich Park, and Jaws (1975) at the Brockwell Lido. See their complete schedule here.
From August 9 to 22, the cobbled courtyard of the Somerset House will be home to a giant cinema screen and the huge audience that gathers in the venue for the Film4 Summer Screen Open Air Cinema. The event opens with the 2017 drama film, The Wife on the premier night, and Inception (2010) on the following day. See the interesting mix of films to be shown from their website.
Image Source: Evening Standard
Theatre is big in London and there are certainly plenty of options for both children and adults. Much beloved to Londoners is the annual Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre which has been a summertime staple in the city. Every year, the theatre draws in a crowd of more than 140,000, speaking much about the quality of performances and the kind of entertainment they deliver to the London audience. This year, you will be graced with spectacular performances such as the Little Shop of Horrors which runs from the 3rd of August to the 15th of September and Dinosaur World Live from August 14 to September 9! The theatre runs from May to September.
From April 6 all the way to the 30th of September, the Underbelly Festival takes place where else than inside a giant upturned purple cow? Aptly named, the show features circus, comedy, cabaret, and kid’s shows and there are bars and food stall inside as well.
On the south bank of Thames, the National Theatre presents around 25 shows every year. There are three theaters, there’s also a learning center and you can even have a tour of the theater. You can also drop by the riverside bar and their bookshop. This year’s production includes Julie by Polly Stenham at Lyttelton Theatre (playing until September 8), Home, I’m Darling, by Laura Wade at the Dorfman Theatre, playing until September 5, and The Lehman Trilogy by Stefano Massini which will be shown at Lyttelton Theatre as well until October 20. See what's on from their website here.
From June 23 to September 8, Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore will be shown at Noël Coward Theatre featuring Aidan Turner, under the tutelage of the Michael Grandage Company.
And the last juicy bit in our theatrical productions list is the grand Shakespeare tale, Othello, which will be played in the Globe theatre until 13 October, to be directed by Claire van Kampen.
Image Source: Time Out
If there's one thing more to be excited about summer, it's the deluge of musical demigods that grace London. A lot of them are homegrown and many are foreign. You'd have a star-packed rap jam at the Wireless gig in Finsbury Park (July 6 to 8) feauturing J Cole and DJ Khaled. On the following day, you'd have Justin Timberlake playing his new album at the 02 Arena, and at Gunnersbury Park on July 13 and 14, a colorful mix of dance, hip hop, and R&B will be heard from Skepta and Childish Gambino. The California rap crew will star at the Koko on August 20 and 21 for their Brockhampton gig. Rock and party on! There’s no better way to celebrate the holidays than with booze, music, and some chill time. Raiding the gigs are some of the best things to do in London in summer.
Fulham Beach Club, London
Image Source: Banks Sadler
If you’re getting around with the kiddos, there’s no need to spoil the fun if you can find activities where you can both enjoy. Water activities are a favorite family bonding activity and summertime is the best time to seek fun spaces to splash and relax. Fortunately, seeking sand and sun in London is a no-sweat adventure with pop-up beaches bringing the beach scene to urban centers. The Fulham Beach Club, for instance, pops right next to the Thames. This sweet wasterside escape brings the best of London’s beach club paradise with a stylish decor and setup, two bars, plus music to chill and weekly events to attend to. There are also games such as shuffleboarding, ping pong, beer pong, and croquet! There’s a £5 entree fee, and the venue is open from Wednesday to Sunday.
The Hampstead Beach at JW3 promises a taste of Tel Aviv in this year’s theme. Admission is free!
Another anticipated beach setup scene happens from May 26 to September this year, next to the shopping center.
London’s Royal Dock’s beach will be open to the public from July 18 to September 2, replete with deck chairs, street food, pop-up classes, etc. Entrance is free and the venue is open from Monday to Sunday from 10 am to 6pm.
If you want the real thing but don’t want or have no time to get out of the city, the Ruislip Lido is the place to be. This nature escape has a 40-acre lake, a miniature railway that runs through 726 acres of nature reserve, surrounding the water, a beach, and even an adventure playground and a gym! Visit the Ruislip Lido website for more information.
Aside from water activities, London’s Kid’s Week has plenty of shows to keep your child and even you entertained. Children aged 5 to 16 years old are given free tickets to select West End shows, given they have an accompanying full-paying adult. Check out their website for more information about the incoming shows.
Totally Thames is another event to watch out for. This festival lasts for the whole month of September and involves exhibitions, art installations, talks, walks, quizzes, etc. The event is a tribute to the London river.
Dan Doherty's Royal Oak pub
Image Source: Hot Dinners
You don’t need to be a food blogger to seek out the best places to eat in the city. Fine dine, take yourself out to food stalls in parks, or explore London’s street food! One of the best ways to really get to know London - or any place at that - is through its gastronomic routes. And in London, there’s plenty to discover.
For a quintessential British menu, head out to The Royal Oak by masterchef Dan Doherty. Cora Pearl in Covent Garden at the 30th Henrietta St is definitely a treat. This new gastronomic hotspot is under the tenure of George Barson, the man behind the genius of A-list den Kitty Fischer’s.
Sumptuous delights of olives and cheeses can be found at 37 Deptford High Street in Isla Ray, and if you want Michelin-star Indian cooking, nothing like Kahani to offer you the best of the best. Gazelle is another love affair, giving you a modern dining experience using local ingredients. Gazelle is at 48 Albemarle Street.
Image Source: Fluid London
Whether you only want to spectate and witness the spectacle or engage in the fun yourself, there´s all sorts of sports fun you can find in London in summer.
July itself is practically sports month with the World Cup to hook the whole of the city on the 14th and 15th. During the same time, the Wimbledon screenings roll which you can witness with a beer or a cocktail in hand in some of the rooftop (or any regular) bars in the city. On the 28th and 29th, the Prudential Ridelondon is set to take place. This bike race constitutes a 100-mile and a 46-mile race, bringing over 100,000 cyclists to the streets.
In August, there’s the London Triathlon on the 4th and 5th. The swimming leg of the competition will be held at the docks of Excel while the running will be to Canning Town. Finally, the participants will battle with the cycling to Westminster.
If you fancy some excitement over the water, the Great River Race is something to look out for. Happening on the 8th of September, this event, also known as London’s River Marathon, is now on its 30th year, to say the least of good ole British tradition.
Frida Escobedo’s Serpentine Pavilion exhibition
Image Source: ArchDaily
The Royal Academy of Arts presents the most colorful summer exhibition “yet” this 2018 with Grayson Perry as they celebrate the 250th anniversary of “art made now.” The highlight of the exhibition is a Brexit-tinged gallery display. The exhibit runs until August 19.
Meanwhile, the Serpentine Galleries presents Frida Escobedo’s Serpentine Pavilion exhibition. The installation is an establishment of ceiling tiles with a shallow pool of water and mirrors that form a calm oasis in the center of the enclosure - a surreal, photogenic artistic experience you can enjoy until October 7.
An installation view by German-born artist Tomma Abts is also viewable at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery until September 9.
At the Barbican Art Gallery, the Dorothea Lange: Politics of Seeing is on show until the 2nd of September. The works displayed includes the Migrant Mother, the iconic photo that has come to be the most remembered imagery of The Great Depression in the US in the 1930s.
Image Source: Absolutely London
A summer festival wouldn’t be a summer festival without the music and you can count on London to give you a taste of the best this summer.
Teeming with local talent, Wireless kicks off at the hip-hop frenzied weekend in July 6 to 8. Hyde Park’s British Summer Time is a summer staple, featuring no less than Eric Clapton, The Cure, Michael Bublé, Paul Simon, and Bruno Mars, among the biggest stars to perform. That’s from the 6th to the 14th.
Think you got the heat on? Now here’s Boyzone, Steps. The Human League. Kew The Music will pump up the thumping music with a crazy nostalgic lineup on the 10th to the 15th.
Now, if you’re a fan of classical music, the BBC Proms is for you. Check their website for more information.
On July 13 to 14, head to Greensbury Park for the groovy Lovebox then to the psychedelic Citadel on the following day featuring Tame Impala.
The Heritage Live Concerts at Kentwood House breezes this year with its Hacienda Classical theme on July 15 to 24. And for a night of absolute fun and dancing, you have the South West Four at Clapham Common on August 25 and 26.
The Chap Olympiad
Image Source: The Telegraph
A long history could often lead to some questionable traditions. Think Running of the Bulls in Spain or the Tossing of Teeth in Greece. Maybe even the month-long Octoberfest in Germany. London is not an exception and it definitely has its share of long-held wacky customs, most of them you can witness in summer.
Enter the sprinting waiters in Soho during the Soho Waiter’s Race. On July 1, around 3 waiters compete for the most composed waiter on a sprint, perfect with a tray of drinks in hand. Whoever crosses the finish link with the drinks intact or at least that who knocks them last takes home the bacon - or maybe the tea.
Taking this quote from its own website, “Calling all tribes of originality, purveyors of flamboyancy and those who just refuse to dance to the faded tune of modern day society, Bourne & Hollingsworth and The Chap Magazine invite you to band together for Britain’s annual celebration of unconventionality.” Need I say more? London’s best dressed head to Bedford Square Gardens for the most eccentric event of the year. It’s fun to engage but it’s as much fun to spectate - an event never to miss! The Chap Olympiad takes place on July 14.
The Harvest Festival signals the end of summer (September 16) and London thanks the sun god in their most refined way. Replete with pearl-buttoned garments and a marching band, the Pearly Kings and Queens graces the Guildhall Yard for a well-celebrated conclusion to the season.
The Urban Zip Wire
Image Source: CNN Travel
There’s something for everyone. Some of the best things to do in London in summer includes:
Let not the British weather get in the way. If your desire is to have fun, you will have your fun, rain or shine.