Summer sees London's parks filled with flowers, people and events © Kamira / Shutterstock
London hosts a dizzying array of summer sporting 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 (1-14 July), with world-class tennis, strawberries and cream, fruit-laden Pimm's and a good dose of queuing. With England and Wales hosting the Cricket World Cup this year (30 May-14 July), there will be plenty of matches occurring in the capital at Lords and The Oval, London’s two main cricket grounds. You might be a bit late to buy tickets now, but there will be great atmospheres in surrounding pubs showing the games.
Get the party started
In August, the Notting Hill Carnival (24-26 August) – Europe’s biggest street festival - 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: All Points East (24 May-2 June), only in its second year but already the best festival in East London; 51st State Festival (3 August); and South West Four (24 & 25 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. Check out this article for a full rundown of all the capital’s best cinematic experiences.
With thousands of acres of lush parks, city farms, overgrown cemeteries and leafy squares, London is far greener than most expect (47%, to be exact). On the city's western edge, Richmond Park’s wild expanse is a great place to see free-roaming deer, while nearby Kew Gardens, the world-renowned botanical collection, is once again putting on a variety of picnic concerts for its Kew the Music events. A bracing bathe 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 Hansel and Gretel, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Evita.
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 of Shakespeare plays, London’s most famous literary figure. You can also catch some quality events at Southbank Centre’s Underbelly Festival (5 April-29 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 – the kids will love them. 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, London Bridge and King's Cross. A tantalizing parade of food stalls line pretty Exmouth Market (Monday-Friday) 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, or for something covered check out the still fairly new Pop Brixton for the same. 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.