50 brilliant things to do in London in summer

theater

Outdoor events

restaurant

Eating and drinking

activities

Sport and outdoor activities

londoneye

The best of London in the summer

During the summer months of June, July, and August, London is transformed into a whole new city. The rooftop bars open, the parks get packed with sunbathers, and you can eat, drink, and play outdoors all day, late into the evening. For visitors looking to enjoy these delights without spending a fortune, there are numerous cheap hotels in London that offer a comfortable and affordable stay.

So when it's hot in London and the thermometer starts rising, here are our top ways to chill out, relax, and make the most out of the warmer weather in 2023, all while staying in budget-friendly accommodation.

Outdoor events

1. See a play outdoors at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is a stalwart of the London summer season. Established in 1932, the theatre is set in leafy outdoor surrounds, and seeing a play here is a magical experience. Past successes have included Pride and Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird and Jesus Christ Superstar. Check the schedule and prepare to be wowed.

Don’t worry about packing snacks - the theatre has got you covered. There’s picnic hampers, covered dining and even afternoon tea to choose from.

2. See a street performance

Covent Garden's array of jugglers, musicians, acrobats and comedians perform live in the Piazza throughout the summer. For those looking to immerse themselves fully in this vibrant atmosphere, staying in one of the hotels in Covent Garden can be an excellent choice. T

o avoid the crowds, head up to the Punch and Judy pub, conveniently located near these hotels. You can then watch the performances from above with a drink in hand, enjoying the convenience and comfort of your nearby accommodation.

3. Watch a film on a rooftop

The Rooftop Film Club has venues in Peckham and Stratford and comes with comfy chairs, wireless headphones and blankets in case the air gets a little nippy. Alternatively, try Luna Cinema which has venues across London, including Wimbledon, Wandsworth, Clapham, Kew Gardens and even Kensington Palace and Westminster Abbey.

4. Listen to live jazz in the park

The Pavilion Café in Greenwich Park hosts evenings of live jazz every summer (June through August). This cafe is next to the Royal Observatory, and has a large garden with great views. Better yet, there's a licensed bar, as well as a barbecue and children's activities on offer.

5. Dance at gigs in the sunshine

British Summer Time Hyde Park has become a London summer institution, with global stars performing in front of huge crowds. In 2023, Guns n’ Roses, Blackpink, P!nk, Take That, Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band headline, with Gwen Stefani, Daryl Hall, The Script and Sugababes among those lining up as the support acts to these mini-one day festivals.

6. Enjoy the music at Somerset House

Few open air gigs have a backdrop to rival the Summer Series at Somerset House. Established artists and upcoming acts take the spotlight each night in the 18th century courtyard, which gives these series of gigs a more intimate feel. Tickets always sell out, so grab them early.

7. See a Shakespeare play at the Globe

In the open-air Globe Theatreyou'll experience Shakespeare's plays in the way they were first staged (April to October). Plays being performed this summer include As You Like It, The Tempest, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Comedy of Errors and more. The roof is open to the elements during the evening and you can opt to stand in the yard to make it as authentic as possible. 

8. Watch outdoor opera in Holland Park

Only staging performances in the summer, Opera Holland Park is under a canopy, but its location gives it an unstuffy feel. They usually show six operas of different levels, so experts and novices will find something that appeals.

9. Get into the carnival spirit

Every year the August Bank Holiday heralds the return of Notting Hill Carnival (27th to 28th August 2023). So if you like vibrant colours, Caribbean flavours and dancing, add London's biggest annual street party to your calendar.

10. Spend a summer day on the Southbank

Take a riverside walk, browse the book market or spend a balmy evening paddling in the fountains outside the Southbank Centre.

Two of London's biggest festivals – Underbelly and London Wonderground – have teamed up together this year for the Underbelly Festival, where fringe-type events include circus acts, cabaret and cutting-edge comedy. The festival grounds also include one of the city's longest outdoor bars along with street food stalls.

The Southbank Centre Market also runs every weekend during the warmer months, selling street food and farmers' market produce from the stalls.

11. See hidden gems at the Open House Festival

Though pushing the summer season (it’s held in September), it’s worth sticking around for the Open House Festival. This fascinating event gives members of the public the chance to explore a plethora of architectural gems - that usually hide behind closed doors or admission fees - from stunning museums to private homes. A sanctioned snoop around someone else’s house? Yes please.

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Eating and drinking

12. Take a trip to Trafalgar Square

Since it was part pedestrianised, Trafalgar Square has become the centrepoint for free open-air events in London (like the Eid festival as well as Pride in London). Even if nothing's on, you can still get a picture of The Fourth Plinth or listen to some live music in the square by the licensed street performers.

13. Fire up the barbie in a park (where it's allowed)

Many councils ban barbecuing in public to prevent scorched earth, so make sure you check before lighting up in a park or open space. You can enjoy a barbecue at Lincoln’s Inn Fields (Holborn) or Waterlow Park (Highgate). Wandsworth Park has metal barbecue stations set up, Burgess Park in Southwark also has purpose built ones - just bring charcoal.

14. Indulge in ice cream

Ice cream is an essential part of summer, wherever you are - and there are plenty of cool options in London. Whether you purchase a classic 99 from a musical ice-cream van, pick up a cone from a park café or visit a proper gelateria. Top places to stop for a scoop around the city include Marine Ices (Chalk Farm), Nardulli (Clapham Common) and Gelateria 3bis (Borough Market).

Don’t miss: For a truly decadent experience, visit The Parlour at Fortnum & Mason where you can build your own sundae from a choice of ice cream flavours and toppings.

15. Pick your own fruit

Head out to Cockfosters in Zone 5 and the rural retreat of Parkside Farm between June and October. They have 20 different fruits and vegetables to pick, including raspberries and sweetcorn. If you don't fancy any bending or crouching, they even have special table-top strawberries to pick.

16. Blue sky drinking on a rooftop bar

There are loads of amazing rooftop bars all over London. There's nothing like getting a bird's eye view of the city with a delicious cocktail in hand and watching the sunset. Check out our list of London's rooftop bars to find the best ones.

17. Settle into a beer garden

Alfresco drinking options are rife in London, if you know where to look. Head to a pub with a country garden feel like The Albion in N1, or head south and get the added bonus of riverside views at The Ship. We've put together a guide to 35 London beer gardens. 

If you've got your four-legged friend in tow - here's some dog friendly places in London to eat, drink and sleep at.

18. Try a pedal pub crawl

You and up to 11 others can take a Pedibus round some of London's landmarks, and drink while you cycle. It'll also stop off at a pre-arranged pub - we recommend the London Bridge route.

19. Drink on the deck of a floating bar

The Tattershall Castle is one of the Thames' permanently moored boats, and is long established as a place to go for an evening tipple near Embankment. It's just undergone a major refurbishment to be ready for the long summer nights.

20. Eat lunch outside

Escape your desk when the sun comes out and take your lunch to one of London's squares and gardens.

  • Postman's Park near St Pauls was originally a popular lunch spot for nearby postal workers, and is now home to the Watts memorial, commemorating those who have given their lives to save others.
  • Lincoln's Inn Fields in Holborn once held duels.  Nowadays, you're more likely to see picnicking lawyers in the largest square in London.
  • More centrally, Soho Square is tucked in behind Oxford Street.
  • Or get respite from Covent Garden and the Strand in Victoria Embankment Gardens.

21. Do fine dining outdoors

  • The River Cafe in Hammersmith has a Michelin star to go with the Mediterranean style outdoor terrace and food. (booking is advised).
  • Alternatively, both the Rooftop at the Boundary in Shoreditch and
  • Coq d'Argent offer outdoor fine dining roof-top style

22. Have street food for dinner

London's street food scene really comes alive during the summer, with vans, caravans and food bikes congregating together for night-time residencies.

Street Feast has weekend nocturnal food festivals across London, with Dalston Yard and the Model Market at Lewisham two of its larger venues.

Elsewherechicken wings continue to be popular and the annual London Wing Fest pits the best against each other.

Foodie guide: Where to eat in London

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Sport and outdoor activities

23. Anyone for tennis?

In smaller parks, you can play tennis for free on a first come, first served basis; at the bigger parks you might have to pay and / or book in advance.

The Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre hosted the 2012 Wheelchair Tennis, and has six outdoor courts which can be booked. Greenwich Park have also had their six hard courts. You'll also find courts in local parks like Hackney Downs - check the local council websites for details.

24. Saddle up and go for a horse ride

You can go horse riding in Richmond Park and Hyde Park, with all levels catered for, so don't worry if you've never been before.

25. Go for a swim in Hampstead Heath 

North London’s beloved green lung packs a wonderful variety of bucolic scenery into its eight hundred acres. At the southern end of Hampstead Heath are the rolling pastures of Parliament Hill; the panorama across London’s skyline from its top is protected by law. On either side of the hill you’ll find numerous ponds, three of which – one for women, one for men, one mixed – are reserved for swimming. There’s nothing quite like the exhilaration of a cold dip. Don’t miss: The mixed pond is only open in summer, but the women’s and men’s ponds stay open year-round.

26. Paddle up the Thames

Kayaking London run both day and night paddling experiences, which is a novel way to see London Bridge and the Houses of Parliament from the water. If the river isn't your thing, visit some of London's more sheltered areas, like Shadwell Basin or Surrey Docks, where you can hire canoes and kayaks.

27. Try a spot of sailing

28. Have a game of ping pong

The English Ping Pong Association has a list of outdoor table locations should you fancy an impromptu game with your mates.

29. Play a round of (mini) golf

  • Visit Putt In The Park for an outdoor round of mini golf in London. Based in Wandsworth Park it also has a licensed cafe so you can celebrate your score with a beer at the end (you can get a head start with their 360 tour).
  • Alexandra Palace also has a ten hole pitch and putt if you want to try something a bit more expansive.

30. Get fit for free

Hot weather doesn't make the gym very appealing, but you can still keep in shape for the summer at one of London's outdoor gyms.

Fitness trainers Muddy Plimsolls have put together a map of the outdoor gym locations, along with some tips on how to get the most out of the equipment. Primrose Hill also has a Trim Trail to try.

31. Swing around in an adventure park

If you have a head for heights, book a trip to Go Ape in Trent Park. They have zip wires, Tarzan swings and high ropes to negotiate, all in the tree tops of this country park in Zone 5.

32. Mess about on the water

Always popular with the summer dating crowd, you can hire rowing boats or pedalos at Hyde Park, Regent's Park, Battersea Park, Finsbury Park, Victoria Park and Dulwich Park.

Ally Pally even has boats shaped like dragons, swans or cars if you want to unleash your inner child.

33. Become a chess grandmaster

Taking a hint from New York's parks, you can find game of outdoor chess in London now, too. Springfield Park in Hackney has three outdoor chessboards to bring out your Grünfeld Defence.

34. Take to two wheels... or four

Cyclists won’t have to look far for things to do in London in summer, but pedaling along the Thames - London’s great waterway - is sure to be a real highlight. Take a spin on two wheels, heading west to Richmond, or even as far as Hampton Court Palace. Don’t miss a stop off at this marvellous palace, once home to Henry VIII.

You can also spontaneously cycle round the City. You cycle past sights like the Bank of England and St Paul's Cathedral. The majority of the Royal Parks have cycle routes, and you can pick up maps to help you navigate, or hire bikes if you don't have one.

For more wheely good fun, London has plenty of skate parks - perfect for upping your street cred by showing off your best tricks. And if you don't know your heelflip from your hard flip, no problem. Adrenaline Hub offer lessons from semi-pro skaters in several parks around the city.

35. Take a summer stroll along the Thames Path

You can walk as far as the Thames Barrier to the east, but make sure you don't walk too far to the west - the Thames path is 184 miles long and reaches the Cotswolds. We've also put together a list of 35 of the best riverside pubs - should you wish to stop off along the way.

36. Swap ten pin bowling for the real thing

Relax as you play a game of proper bowls on a summers evening. There is a good list of bowling greens for you to try, with Finsbury Square long being popular with city types.

Best of summertime London

37. Buy fresh summer seasonal produce

Head to one of London's markets and buy the best of the summer fruit and vegetables. Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries (summer fruits) are best bought now, and green beans and peas are fresh from the fields.

38. Spend a lazy day at the park

For an urban city, London is blessed with a huge amount of parks, gardens and open spaces - so if it's hot, grab a picnic and the suntan lotion and see them in their full glory.

39. Cruise for a while

Bag a spot on the top deck of one of London's river boats and relax with the wind in your hair . You can pick the main cruises up from Westminster Pier, Tower Bridge and Greenwich.

40. Float down the canal on a barge

Camden, Islington and Little Venice can all be discovered on a canal cruise.

  • Hidden Depths will take you along Regent's Canal and through Islington Tunnel, one of the oldest in Britain. They also hold special events during the summer.
  • The London Waterbus Company even has a special gate to let you into London Zoo and cruise past some of the animal enclosures.
  • If you want to stay on dry land, the canal towpaths make for a romantic and scenic walk.

41. Wander Kew Gardens and smell the roses

Established in 1759, sustainability and conservation are king at Kew, where gorgeous flowers come in all shapes and sizes. There’s always something to see, whatever the season, but to get the most out of a visit, come in summer, bring a picnic and stay for the day.

From the end of spring to the start of autumn, you can enjoy England's national flower. At Kew Gardens you'll find one of the finest rose gardens in London before taking a stroll under their fragrant Rose Pergola.

42. Meet the animals on the farm

  • Charity and community-run Mudchute Farm on the Isle of Dogs is a taste of countryside in the middle of Docklands. This inner city working farm has stables, with horses and ponies, and has more than 100 different animals, along with some British rare breeds (nb. the animals go to bed around 4pm)
  • Hackney City Farm is a little smaller, but still has pigs, donkeys, goats and rabbits among other furry friends to meet.

43. Discover London Wetland Centre

The London suburbs are the last place you’d expect to find one of Europe’s most important ecological areas. Over two hundred species of birds call this unlikely spot home, including lapwing, sparrowhawk, redshank, teal and even the elusive bittern. A day out at the London Wetland Centre, created from the old Thames Water reservoir, offers Londoners the chance to experience wildlife unparalleled in a major capital. Spend the day bird spotting and see if you can catch sight of Sand Martins, which migrate here during the warm season. Don’t miss: It’s not all about the birds - there’s a family of otters too!

44. Sleep under the stars (sort of)

If you fancy pitching a tent for the night, Crystal Palace Caravan Club Site has the most accessible pitches for getting into the centre of the capital.

45. Camp out while you queue

The Wimbledon Queue has become a summer rite of passage for tennis fans.Tickets are released on a first come, first served basis so you can join the hardy souls braving the night under canvas in the hope of seeing Andy Murray win another match. Alternatively, you could go on a tour of the All England Tennis Club and see what it's like to walk onto Centre Court yourself.

46. Find a "beach"

As London isn't near the coast, Camden Beach at the Roundhouse might be the next best thing. Brixton Beach is also back with music, events and somewhere to chill this year. Technically the Thames has a small beach near Tower Bridge and up until the 1940s families would play there (you can still see it at low tide). Ruislip Lido in Hillingdon has possibly the closest thing to a beach, with a sandy area next to the lake.

47. Cool down... with ice

If by random chance London happens to be hit by a heatwave, the ICEBAR London will soon have your temperature dropping. Also, Alexandra Palace offers ice skating all year round, so if you have a hankering for some winter sports, take a turn round the rink.

48. Go on a summer safari at London Zoo

Every year ZSL London Zoo hosts Lates, where you can wander round the zoo in the evening and see the animals as the sun sets. There's usually a different theme, but you can expect tours, music, talks and plenty of refreshments.

49. Find out the city's secrets on a walking tour

Take a walking tour and discover more about what the people, pubs and places of London's past got up to during the holidays.

50. Sneak a peak at where the King lives

You may have seen Buckingham Palace from the outside, but did you know you can get tickets to peruse the inside of the palace every summer? The world's most famous palace opens its doors for 10 weeks for the Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace. Visitors can explore the magnifient State Rooms, the Royal Mews and The Queen's Gallery.

London travel guide: everything you need to plan your next trip

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