Get us in your inbox

Hampstead Heath Pond
Britta Jaschinski / Time Out

The best places in London to stay cool in the heatwave

Melting? Join the club. Don’t worry, though, there are chilly spots if you know where to find them

Chris Waywell
India Lawrence
Written by
Chris Waywell
India Lawrence

Whew. London’s really hot right now. Some might even say apocalyptically hot. We know Londoners love a good heatwave, using any excuse to out on flip-flops and make a beeline for the nearest pub garden, but this is the kind of weather where cramming in somewhere with loads of other people has rarely seemed less appealing.

Sure, there are great beer gardens, fancy rooftop bars and our dear old friend THE PARK, but are they actually cool? Not necessarily. Time to think laterally (without actually having to ask an assistant in Iceland if there’s a wifi password). 

Just chill out! 

Ice skating might be about staying on your feet, but you won’t mind slipping over too much at Queens Ice and Bowl in Bayswater, where the surface temperature is, of course, freezing all year round. Don’t be tempted to go bowling though, or you’ll immediately become a hot mess again.     

Find a very old building 

While there’s no definitive answer to the question of which is London’s chilliest building, older generally means colder. Unlike your flimsy newbuilds, these babies have metre-thick walls and great insulation. If you can face the Central line – officially the hottest on the tube – then go and tick St Paul’s Cathedral off your (ice) bucket list (you can get there on foot, too, obvs. Just make sure to stay hydrated.) The crypt, with its tombs of Wren, Nelson and Wellington should be blissfully cool. Likewise, the draughty Tower of London. The site of all those grisly executions might give you an icy frisson too, like a goose with very poor circulation walking over your grave. Or just wander around the City or Canary Wharf: all those glittering towers create some fierce down-draughts.  

Don’t forget about those big airy museums 

Bonus: London’s museums and galleries have to regulate their air temperature and humidity to conserve their exhibits. And who’s to say you shouldn’t be the accidental beneficiary of some true air-con artistry at say, Tate Britain or the Wallace Collection? In the summer months, these slightly quieter institutions are a better bet than the tourist traps – but still free-entry treasure troves. Book in advance, though.

Use that landscape 

Why not unleash your inner spelunker and take a wander around the famous Chislehurst Caves near Bromley for just £7? Even in high summer, you can sometimes see your breath as you navigate this endless labyrinth of Roman mines. After chills? Its website advises: ‘The Caves may not be suitable for those of a very nervous disposition, with claustrophobia or an acute fear of darkness or mannequins.’ You have been warned. Instead of baking your brain in a park, head to London’s shady woodlands. North London boasts Highgate and Queens Woods; south London has Sydenham Hill and Oxleas Woods.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by JoJo (@jojo_llewellyn)

Make today the day you *finally* swim in a London lake 

There’s no doubting the cool-factor of the lidos at Brockwell Park and London Fields. Consider also having a splash around in more open water, in the Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park, or the Hampstead Heath Ponds. Time to take the plunge! 

There’s also a spanking new outdoor swimming space in Canary Wharf.

The best lidos and outdoor swimming spots in London.

Popular on Time Out

    More on Summer

      You may also like
      You may also like