Oh, hello, old friends.
You really went without your local pub for 15 weeks. But that’s not all. London’s restaurants and bars, its cafés, theatres and cinemas, museums and galleries, lidos, pools and gyms have all been shut. Oh, and you couldn’t get a decent haircut (legally). That’s all now changing again.
To help you get back out there and support your favourite venues and institutions (or just to get that much-needed haircut!), below you’ll find a list of what is open or is planned to open up in London.
Not ready to venture out of the house? (That’s totally understandable, tbh!) Check out our Time In section, which is filled with great ways to bring some London culture into your home as well as lots of ideas for how you can support London’s best bars, restaurants, theatres, galleries, music venues, cinemas and more as they tentatively reopen or plot their return.
Pubs and bars
You might have had a crisp, cool pint in your hand already this summer. Thanks to the ingenuity of the sacred institution that is the Great London Boozer, takeaway pints became a verified ‘thing’ in lockdown. While the new tradition remains a cracking way to support many London pubs unable to bounce back – and is great for pepping up those commonplace park meet-ups in semi-lockdown – it’s just not the same as a trip to your local.
Here’s a list of our favourite London pubs that have announced their return. It’s still limited due to the fact that social distancing makes a thing like running a pub while looking after your punters, quite frankly, a minefield. A more likely scenario this summer will be drinking at venues with ample outdoor space. So check out our updated lists of all the rooftop bars and beer gardens that have confirmed they’re reopening as lockdown eases.
Note that reservations are, for the most part, the new standard. And that if you haven’t pre-booked, you’ll be asked to supply contact details for your whole party on arrival. Expect to see staff in protective gear and face masks, hand sanitiser stations and increased cleaning systems in place. And don’t make a beeline for the bar: all venues will be operating table service in the New Normal.
Diners will be facing similar restrictions to drinkers. But, oh, man, will it be worth it. Here’s a bit of info on what it’ll be like for guests returning to restaurants. Since reservations are – in most cases – essential, organised foodies have already mobbed the booking systems for London’s most-loved restaurants. Nonetheless, here’s a list of our favourites that announced their reopening early on and are now taking bookings. If you can’t get a table immediately, be patient!
On the serious plus side, some of the most hyped London restaurants that previously refused to take bookings are now playing the reservations game – so you can finally pre-book a table at the likes of Dishoom and Gloria.
Cafés are back in the game, too. Many of the best have been as innovative as the pubs, quickly mobilising for takeaway coffees to help keep London moving through its toughest time in recent history (how do you think Time Out has kept typing all this time?). But now you can actually visit some of our best-loved cafés and coffee shops that are reopening.
And again, you can do it in the safety of the great outdoors. There are a heap of London restaurants with ample outdoor space, as well as a few clever ones adding new terraces and gardens for the summer. Check out this list of restaurants great for alfresco dining and also read up on Soho’s pedestrianisation, making space for outdoor dining this summer.
Museums and art galleries
Some of the smaller art galleries found a neat little loophole that allowed them to reopen in June when retail got the green light. But now the big dogs are joining in.
A cultural outing is already possible to The National Gallery, the Barbican, Whitechapel Gallery and the Royal Academy, with the Tates returning on Monday July 27. Check out all the opening dates for London’s biggest art galleries here. And August will see many of the major museums back in business, including the mighty Kensington triumvirate of the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the V&A.
Expect pre-booked tickets with timed entries, one-way systems around the galleries and the recommended use of face coverings throughout.
Never been so desperate for a short back and sides? You can now have a professional polish your lockdown locks, as hair salons and barbershops return to life. You’ll need an appointment – even from your friendly barber – and expect to be tended to by staff wearing visors. It’ll be far from the relaxing trips of yore: don’t expect a magazine to flick through or a glass of fizz to guzzle while you unwind – and staff will keep the usual patter to a minimum to ensure the process is as speedy as possible.
Here’s a list of top London salons that have confirmed they are reopening.
Nail bars and beauty parlours
If you’re not so much worried about your hair as those Freddie Krueger talons, you’re in luck. Nail bars and beauty parlours are back in business again. Like hair salons, expect to wait outside and see plenty of PPE and social distancing going on. Facial treatments are still off the cards, mind you. Oh, and you’ll probably find a lot of them will be booked up, so a little more patience might be required in the short term.
Pools, lidos and gyms
Many of London’s amazing outdoor pools and lidos are already open again, albeit subject to a booking frenzy. Indoor pools, leisure centres and gyms are allowed to reopen from Saturday July 25. They will – wait for it – NOT BE THE SAME. Pools will see reduced numbers of lanes to preserve social distancing, with swimmers encouraged to turn up ‘beach ready’ – showered and with their swimwear on under their clothes to keep changing-room time to a minimum. Hopping around trying to towel sand off your foot is optional. Gyms will be similar: reduced class numbers, and customers encouraged to shower and change at home. Still sounds more attractive than most UK beaches currently.
The good news is that cinemas have reopened. At least, some of them have. Kinda.
Why ‘kinda’? Well, the plan for reopening hinged on having some big new movies to help draw moviegoers back through the door – ‘Tenet’ and ‘Mulan’, specifically. Both of those have now been removed from the release schedule and the picture is cloudier. As things stand, cinemagoers will find a mix of old classics and cult favourites, plus some smaller but no less worthy or watchable new releases.
The major multiplex chains have either reopened already or plan to at the end of July. Curzon and Everyman are staggering their returns, cinema by cinema, but London’s smaller indies will be staying shuttered until the end of the summer at the earliest.
What’s it like at the cinema? Time Out has been – twice, so far – and can zealously vouch for the experience. Pick ’n’ mix is in shorter supply in these safety-first climes, but social-distancing measures bring a feeling of safety without overwhelming that trusty sense of escapism. Masks aren’t compulsory, but are widely welcomed.
Theatres (and bowling alleys, ice rinks and casinos)
Outdoor theatres, including the one in Regent’s Park, are already rehearsing for their big comeback. The future for indoor venues has been looking a lot less starry. Then, in an announcement on July 17, Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed that conventional theatre venues could reopen as soon as August 1. How that is going to work for spaces remains to be seen and is contingent upon pilot schemes to adequately socially distance audiences, but it’s encouraging news for an industry crippled by the outbreak. If your tastes are more middlebrow, bowling alleys, ice rinks and casinos could potentially reopen at the same time.
That’s not all...
Places of worship, outdoor gyms, hotels, libraries and those other places of worship: theme parks... you’ll find plenty more aspects of your life from the Before Times reopening now.
Reunited, and it feels... SO GOOD.
Stay up to date with the latest news on London ‘unlocking’ here.
But wait... what does it all mean for clubs?