In summer, the capital is sprinkled with water features to refresh Londoners from every angle. Pack a picnic and a spare set of clothes and get set to cool down near (or in!) these heat-quenching jets.
Located in Kensington Gardens near the ever-popular Diana Playground, the fountain takes the form of a shallow stone ring of trickling water that's perfect for paddling. For more a more adventurous dip, there's also the children's section in the Serpentine Lido.
This impressive courtyard offers a lovely escape from the bustle of King's Cross, and its expanse of playful fountains are just the thing for a hot day. Designed by the Fountain Workshop (who created the watery wonders at More London, the Victoria and Albert Museum and Coram’s Fields), no less than 1,080 fountains create the drama in fashionable Granary Square. With spurts choreographed to erupt at different heights, children love to play chase across the area as the jets shoot ever higher, before it all goes momentarily quiet – then the fountains begin to bubble all over again.
Approaching these fountains near The Scoop amphitheatre from London Bridge, you can follow a stream laid into the pavement, which dogs and small children are drawn to in equal measure. The fountains themselves are formed of 200 spouting jets with views of City Hall and Tower Bridge in the background.
Somerset House's imposing snowy-white neoclassical architecture provides salubrious majesty, while the 55 fountains in the Edmond J Safra Fountain Court provide mischief. With water jets sprouting in an orchestrated sequence, from teasing trickles to magnificent sky-high spurts, the fun is trying to predict what will happen next. Daredevils love to dart in and out, dodging the spray, but it’s usually only a matter of time before they’re caught out! The fountains are in situ from spring to autumn and are turned off during courtyard events such as the Summer Screen film series, so check the website or call to make sure they’re on before you set out.
Designed for maximum impact with 195 choreographed jets in a ribbon formation, Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park fountains are irresistible to kids and adults alike. They rise in unpredictable sequences for hours of splashy fun. Find them near the Aquatics Centre and the ArcellorMittal Orbit, two minutes from Beach East with its sand, paddling pool, fairground rides, bars and beach volleyball: it’s London-on-Sea!
The V&A's Italianate courtyard is home to a beautiful lake fringed with water jets. The oval shaped central water feature is surrounded by shallow steps which are perfect for little feet, and fragrant lemon trees fringe the garden lending an extra sensory dimension to the elegant space.
The Hub Playground, on the east side of the park, is equipped with a fantastically designed fountain featuring gently undulating hills, water jets and giant slides. It's open during the summer months, see the Tower Hamlets Council site for times. There's more water play in the V&A Playground on the west side of the park near Grove Road, which has toddler-friendly water pumps and a sandpit.
The Barbican Centre, a vast concrete estate of 2,000 flats and a leading arts complex, is a prime example of brutalist architecture, softened a little by time and rectangular ponds of friendly resident ducks. The lakeside terrace and adjoining café are good spots to take a rest from visiting the art gallery, cinema, theatre, concert hall or library within the complex.
Not content with their impressively vast area, Battersea Park's fountains also put on a water jet show. Gaze and be mesmerised by the main display (daily 10am-6pm) and the additional Crystal display (10am-5pm, on the hour every hour for 10 minutes), and enjoy the cooling spray that comes off them if you position yourself in just the right downwind spot. Ah, refreshing!
Rising spectacularly from the central lake is the Tiffany Fountain, which has a purpose as well as making a good photo point – it areates the water to benefit the resident wildlife. The lake is home to numerous species of wildfowl, including pelicans that have been kept here since the 17th century. The pelicans are fed between 2.30pm and 3pm daily, though they have been known to supplement their diet at other times of the day with the occasional pigeon.
This big spray gun is the focal point in Victoria Park's boating lake, across from the pretty pagoda. The resident ducks and geese seem to enjoy the shower, and if you take out a pedalo you'll need to be careful to avoid a splashing. See our guide to London boat hire