Summer sees London's parks filled with flowers, people and events © Kamira / Shutterstock
London hosts a dizzying array of summer events – many of them free – that perfectly reflect the city’s many faces. For a quintessentially English affair, you can’t do better than Wimbledon (2–15 July), with world-class tennis, strawberries and cream, fruit-laden Pimm's and a good dose of queuing. Later in the summer, from 9-13 August, Lords cricket ground sees England take on India in the second Test.
In August, the Notting Hill Carnival (27–28 August) celebrates Afro-Caribbean culture with flamboyant processions, food stands and a string of superb sound systems.
Summer soundtracks and outdoor cinema
Music festivals to look out for this year include 51st State Festival (4 August) and South West Four (25-26 August). Or you can tempt fate and attend an outdoor movie screening – Somerset House has the most central and impressive setting for films al fresco, but plenty of other options exist including The Luna Cinema which pops up at venues across London.
With thousands of acres of lush parks, city farms, overgrown cemeteries and leafy squares, London is far greener than most expect. On the city's western edge, Richmond Park’s wild expanse is a great place to see free-roaming deer, while at nearby Kew Gardens, the world-renowned botanical collection, weekends this summer see an amazing acrobatic show in the rafters of the recently reopened Temperate House. A bracing dip with the ducks in Hampstead Heath’s ponds is an exhilarating summer must-do; follow it up by climbing Parliament Hill for one of the city’s best panoramas. Further south, in stately Regent’s Park, you’ll find beautifully manicured rose gardens and a magical outdoor theatre whose productions this year include Peter Pan, The Turn of the Screw and As You Like It.
Visit the Olympic Park
London's newest large park is the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, opened in 2014. As royally appointed as the name suggests, the area at the heart of London’s 2012 Olympics boasts waterways, playgrounds, cafes and sculpted grassland, adorned by stunning artwork, top sporting facilities and a multicoloured riot of wildflowers. Zip up the ArcelorMittal Orbit for views across the 257-acre site and beyond, and then whizz down the coiling 178m slide to the bottom.
Take to the Thames
Enjoy some culture and the chance to cool off at the Royal Festival Hall © Doug McKinlay / Lonely Planet
The Thames, London’s iconic artery, really comes alive in the summer months. To appreciate its highlights, spend a day strolling the Thames Path, from Battersea to the impressive Thames Barrier in the east. Or for a more compact saunter, meander along the South Bank, enjoying picture-postcard views of the city’s skyline and passing some of the most famous sights.
One of these, the roofless Globe, comes into its own in the summer, with spectacular outdoor performances. You can also catch some quality events at Southbank Centre’s Underbelly Festival (6 April–30 September) which combines the popular Udderbelly and London Wonderground festivals of previous years. Nearby the unpredictable fountains outside the Royal Festival Hall are a fun way to cool off. September’s Totally Thames festival is a packed month-long series of events including fireworks, regattas, races, art and archaeology.
Fill up al fresco
Summer is the ideal time to track down some of the capital’s best street food. KERB pops up in a number of locations around town, including the Gherkin, Camden Market and King's Cross. A tantalizing parade of food stalls line pretty Exmouth Market (Friday-Sunday) in north London, and in warm weather its excellent selection of restaurants fling open their doors and crowd the cobbled street with sociable diners. Brixton Village in south London is another top spot to find eclectic and inventive eateries with a raft of outdoor seating. Street Feast (open every weekend through the summer) makes a tasty start to a night out and can be found in Shoreditch, Canada Water and Lewisham.
Drinking in the sun
On warm summer evenings drinkers crowd into pub gardens and spill onto pavements as packed as rush-hour tubes. Perfect places for a sundowner include the leafy gardens of north London’s Edinboro Castle, Garden Gate and the Spaniard’s Inn, or, south of the river, the Avalon in Clapham. For brews with views, head to rooftop bars Queen Elizabeth Roof Garden, Franks and the Queen of Hoxton.
Roam along Regent’s Canal
To escape the crowds and see an altogether more local side to the city, head to Regent’s Canal, which winds its way through north London. Hop on a barge or cycle from Little Venice to Camden Town, grab a coffee at the Towpath cafe and then head further east to the shops and stalls of Broadway Market, the green expanse of Victoria Park and finally Hackney Wick’s Crate Brewery, which serves freshly brewed ale and crispy pizzas with a canalside seat.
This article was first published in June 2014 and updated by Will Jones in July 2018.