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34 ways to have the staycation of a lifetime in London this weekend

Andy Parsons

Not got a holiday booked? There’s no need to enviously scroll through your mates’ poolside Instagrams. Let Susanna Huth, Matt Breen and Kate Lloyd take you on the capital staycation of a lifetime…

Have a happy hour

1. Polpo runs daily ‘spritz’ happy hours from 4pm to 6pm at all of its venues, during which Aperol and Campari spritzes cost just £5. Head to its Smithfield branch for the most Continental vibes.

2. The courtyard at Bar Story in Peckham is a great spot to top up your tan. They do two cocktails for £7 on weekdays, 6pm-7pm.

3. It wouldn’t be holiday time without a rum cocktail or two (or three). Rum Kitchen in Notting Hill has a happy hour menu packed with them every day, 5pm-7pm. Sober up with a jerk chicken burger while you’re there.

Take a day trip

4. If you take a trip on the 166 bus from West Croydon to Mayfield Lavender Farm during the summer, you’ll find vast fields in full purple bloom.

5. Venture into the murky depths of Chislehurst Caves in Bromley, a labyrinth of manmade tunnels used for chalk mining, smuggling and even gigs in the ’60s.

6. No self-respecting Londoner should pass up on an excursion to ancient Epping Forest at the eastern end of the Central Line. To be honest, after that journey, you’ll be grateful for the fresh air.

Hit the beach

 

7. There are basic beaches, and then there are London’s urban beaches. Take Brixton Beach, for example, a sandy rooftop spot that’s home to parties, street food and film screenings.

8. The Beach Bar at Bloomsbury’s The Montague on the Gardens should be your go-to if you like to sunbathe with a side of tropical drinks.

9. Want the real beach deal? Laze on the sandy shore of Ruislip Lido in Hillingdon and you’ll be able to cool off in the water and in the adjacent shady woodland.

 

Have a spa break

 

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10. Nothing takes you from stressed to #blessed like a luxe spa break, but you don’t have to head to the country (or spend a ton of money) to find one. Bethnal Green’s York Hall is super-affordable.

11. Porchester Spa near Hyde Park is a steamy Turkish-inspired oasis that features tiles from the 1920s.

12. For something more alternative, try floation therapy at The Floatworks in Vauxhall, London’s very own Dead Sea.

13. There’s also Banya No 1 in Shoreditch, London’s first authentic Russian spa, offering vodka shots and 10C plunge pools. The definition of ‘vacation’ is being swathed in hot wet leaves, right?

See the (alternative) sights

 

14. Don’t think a trip to a historic building involves a car journey to the countryside – there are plenty to visit within the M25. Sutton House is a beautiful Tudor manor house in Hackney of all places, with a few surprises, like a mural painted by a group of squatters in the ’80s.

15. The early nineteenth-century Brixton Windmill will transport you back to the days when SW2 was just fields and orchards.

16. Perhaps London’s most unusual architectural gem is the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir temple in Neasden: a huge marble-and-limestone edifice of traditional Hindu design, open to everyone throughout the year.

Be a culture vulture

 

17. If you want to play it smarter than the average tourist, be strategic and selective. Why jostle for space among the Van Goghs at the National Gallery when you can drool over the Dutch flower paintings in Room 17a in relative seclusion?

18. Why trek the length and breadth of the British Museum when the gorgeous Celtic jewellery in the Roman Britain section is worth a whole trip in itself?

19. Don’t forget that some of the nicest places to eat and drink in London can be found in our institutions: the V&A’s courtyard café, for example, is the perfect spot for a coffee in the sunshine.  


Be a tourist

 

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20. Walking tours must be one of the activities most under-subscribed by locals – which is a shame, because, beyond the Jack the Ripper nonsense, there’s a fair few cool ones, like Queer Tours of London, which delve into the city’s LGBT+ history.

21. Also touristy, City Cruise’s Sundowner trips give you the opportunity to enjoy the Thames at sunset.

22. And half a decade might have passed, but you can relive Olympic fever by taking a trip up the London ArcelorMittal Orbit in Stratford, and spiralling down Carsten Höller’s add-on slide – the world’s longest, at 178 metres.

Holiday camp it up

 

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23. Dagenham’s ‘Moby-Dick’-themed Moby Golf has a lagoon, eight-metre waterfall and an enormous model whale for extra lols as you work on your putting skills.

24. Over at Roof East in Stratford, you can indulge in some roller disco and reminisce about the heady days of the ’70s you never lived through.

25. Over at the lawn-club-themed rooftop spot Skylight at Tobacco Dock, you can play a game of croquet: the perfect summer pastime, since you can drink throughout.

Eat alfresco

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26. Eating alfresco at Barrafina on Drury Lane is extra-special, though, as you can chow down on some of London’s best tapas – from cuttlefish empanadas to salt-baked prawns – while chilling on its terrace.

27. Inhale salted butter caramel and flambéed pear crêpes in the garden of Clapton’s Le Merlin Crêperie.

28. If Brexit really does mean Brexit for you, then keep things traditional: get takeaway fish and chips and enjoy it on a park bench. We recommend Hook in Camden or Sutton & Sons in Stoke Newington. Don’t forget to wear a knotted hankie on your head, you true Brit, you.

Have an island adventure

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29. Eel Pie Island is a sleepy spot near Twickenham with a rock ’n’ roll past – in the ’60s it was the home of legendary rock venue the Eel Pie Island Hotel and was a mecca for hippies and music fans. Around the pretty boatyard there are dozens of artists’ studios, which open their doors for two weekends each summer. Eel Pie Island studios are open to visitors on Jun 24-25 and Jul 1-2.

30. Further downstream you can admire London’s most fancy-schmancy houseboats moored around Taggs Island near Hampton Court Palace (but it’s private, so resist going all pirate and stepping ashore).

Splash out

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31. Londoners have spent summer days cooling off at Parliament Hill Lido in Dartmouth Park since 1938. The retro pool’s probably the most beautiful in London, with a steel liner which gives the water a metallic shimmer.

32. Brockwell Lido in Herne Hill has an award-winning café, or you can splash around with the ducks at Hampstead Ponds.

33. If you’d rather stay on top of the water than plunge into it, spend an afternoon on a pedalo on Victoria Park’s boating lake.

34. Take a sailing lesson at Southbank Sailing Club and become captain of the Thames for a day. Ahoy!

Want more reasons to stay in London? Check out these 28 excellent things to do in London this week.

Need a break? Head to one of these brilliant beaches near London.

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