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The A-Z of summer in London

From ants and Frank’s to dips and zips, here’s the lowdown on the good, the bad and the weird things about summer in the city

By Isabelle Aron and Kate Lloyd

Come rain or shine, certain things are inevitable. There’s the good – slushy cocktails, day trips to the Kent seaside and wild swimming. Then there’s the bad – swarms of flying ants, massive queues for the lido and that Monday morning hangover after an impromptu Sunday sesh because, well, it’s 30C and what else are you going to do when it’s too hot to sleep? Still, we’ll take it all because there’s nothing quite like summer in London. See how many things you can tick off our definitive list. 

RECOMMENDED: Unmissable London events this summer


Natural History Museum
Photograph: pio3/


Museums Natural history South Kensington

Forget Flying Ant Day, summer is actually Flying Ant Season, which means there are loads of opportunities for our six-legged overlords to claim their crowns as rulers of the city. Get to know more about them at the Natural History Museum, whose collection includes 34 million insects and arachnids. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, and all that.

London Fields

Burnt sausages

Things to do

Maybe one person you know boasts a garden and a proper barbecue. Maybe you decide to lug a disposable one to Highbury Fields or Burgess Park (two of the few green spaces where you’re still allowed to cook alfresco). Either way, the result is the same: a skewed crisp-to-dip ratio and sausages that look like they’ve been charred in the fires of hell but are totally raw inside. Eat them anyway – it’s summer!


Culture in the sun

Things to do Festivals Tower Bridge

Rumour has it that in late summer, on very rare occasions, simply going for tinnies in the park starts to seem a bit... repetitive?! That’s where outdoor amphitheatre The Scoop comes in. It’s hosting performances of ‘Twelfth Night’ until September. Better Bard than bored, pals.

100 best bars and pubs in london, harp
© Jael Marschner

DPD (desperate pub dash)

Bars and pubs

The DPD happens when ‘34C and sunny’ suddenly turns into ‘14C and heavy showers’. Thankfully, there are plenty of pubs around the city to shelter in, like the much-loved Crooked Billet near Wimbledon Common or the cosy Spaniard’s Inn on the edge of Hampstead Heath.


Eating alfresco


From brand new Vinegar Yard in London Bridge to Pergola Olympia in Kensington, our city is awash with bougie street food markets, and in summer they become our second homes. If you’re not over-full of snacks you’ve bagged from four different vendors (pizza! dumplings! halloumi fries! tacos!) in under an hour, have you really eaten? Hardly.

Frank’s Cafe

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Peckham

If you could 3D print ‘London in summer’, what you’d get would be a replica of Frank’s Cafe at Bold Tendencies in Peckham. Why? Well, rooftop drinking + Instagram clickbait + sometimes queuing for a very long time to get in = everything Londoners do in the summer distilled into one.


Galleries with AC


There’s only one real way to keep cool when it’s hotter than the sun inside your flat (okay, it’s nudging 27C, whatever). It’s taking refuge in the refreshing climes of Tate Modern or the National Portrait Gallery – both of which have five-star shows on right now (‘Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life’ and Cindy Sherman). Tell yourself you’re there for the culture.

lavender field 1.jpg
Photograph: Mayfield Lavender

Holiday envy

Things to do Borough of Sutton

‘Who needs the Med when we’ve got  Hampstead Ponds?’ you said to yourself. That was before your Insta was flooded with your mates’ sunset snaps. Stop scrolling and head to the 25-acre Mayfield Lavender Farm, where you can pretend you’re in a field in Provence and avoid going anywhere near a pilots’ strike. Who’s the winner now?

Beckenham Place Park Swimming Lake
Photograph: Lewisham Council

Ill-advised wild swimming

Attractions Parks and gardens Beckenham

Londoners seemingly just can’t help but be lured by an unofficial wild swimming hole. Last year everyone flocked to that reed-filled river on Hackney Marshes, but this year there’s an actually legit new spot to make a splash. Beckenham Place Park has refilled its lost Georgian lake, which has proved so popular that it’s been temporarily shut down. It’s set to reopen for a late-summer heatwave (we hope).


Nightlife Clubs Hackney Wick

Previous summers have been soundtracked by R&B bangers, but these days jazz powers London’s best parties. It’s found spilling out with the crowds at Steam Down in Deptford. And for a few months each summer, Kingsland Road’s jazz-bar-cum-natural-wine-hotspot Brilliant Corners brings the party to pop-up Giant Steps in Hackney Wick.



Travel Getaways

Whitstable, Ramsgate, Deal… Visiting every seaside spot on the South Coast is the hip Londoner’s version of collecting Pokémon cards. Gotta catch
(a train to) them all. Our top tip? Head to Broadstairs and walk along the Viking Coastal Trail past the towering cliffs of Botany Bay to Margate.

Lunch hour


Eating lunch at your desk is particularly grim when it’s 20-plus degrees outside. Use your full lunchbreak to visit one of the city’s many ace food markets, including Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell, Berwick Street Market in Soho or Leather Lane near Farringdon. Wander, eat, pretend there are no urgent emails piling up in your inbox... Haha, you’re so relaxed!!!


Monday hangover

Restaurants American Portobello Road

It’s 9am on Monday, it’s 34C and you’re clutching a can of Fanta as you start to regret yesterday’s pub garden afternoon. The solution? Something salty and fatty. Your best bet? Eggslut, a Californian cult hit that opened on Notting Hill’s Portobello Road last week. Get a brioche bun filled with scrambled eggs and cheese and boss your nine-to-five.

Notting Hill Carnival
Notting Hill Carnival © mubus/Shutterstock

Notting Hill Carnival toilet search


Europe’s largest street party is a brilliant celebration of Caribbean culture. While 500 people attended the first event, it’s now probably both the biggest weekend in London and the biggest annual test of your bladder strength as you navigate a million other attendees to find a toilet. But we’ll be updating this map so you can see where the loos are. 


Queuing for the lido

Things to do Event spaces Manor House

What to do when you’re perpetually sweating? Hit the lido, of course! Unfortunately, the entire city has the same idea. If you want to skip the crowds head to lesser-known spot West Reservoir Centre, and take a dip on Monday and Thursday evenings and Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Riverside fun


Throughout the rest of the year, you have no interest in waterways. But once the sun’s out, you suddenly have an uncontrollable desire to be near liquid. Luckily, London delivers. Have dinner on rainbow-coloured canal boat Darcie & May Green in Paddington. Or head down the Thames with the London Kayak Company from Battersea to Greenwich. It’s time to get wet!


Slushy cocktails

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Old Street

If it’s 30C, an ice-cold beer isn’t going to stay ice-cold for long. That’s where the slushy cocktail comes in – combining the sugary mush you necked as a kid with grown-up booze. The Best Bar in London Tayer + Elementary has a selection of frozen bevs, but its Sex on the Beach will give you that holiday feeling.

Tube sweats

News Transport & Travel

Forget the temperature on the street, when it’s hot in London, the forecast you really need is for the Underground. Sadly, there’s no app for that but you can guarantee that it will be hot. Really hot. Like, ‘hotter than the legal limit for transporting cattle’ hot (that’s 30C, fyi). Skip your sticky commute in favour of walking and cycling. Did you know the Mayor of London publishes a guide to clean air routes? Start with that.


Urban beaches

Attractions Rivers, lakes and ponds Ruislip

So, you’ve decided you really want to feel the sand between the toes. Don’t opt for a faux beach outside a shopping centre. Head instead to Ruislip Lido, a pretty reservoir and beach in London.

Very hot nightclubs

Nightlife Canada Water

At some point during the summer you’ll think it’s a good idea to go to an airless, basement club and spend the evening sweating profusely. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Printworks’ summer line-up features the likes of  Helena Hauf,  hosted in a 119,200 sq ft warehouse that – if anything – can get a bit chilly.


Whippy, Mr

Restaurants Ice-cream parlours Goldhawk Road

Nothing quite beats the OG icy treat, a Mr Whippy. But wait! Trad ice-cream vans have been banned by Camden Council because their diesel engines contribute to air pollution. Luckily, Bears Ice Cream in west London has got a solution: electric bikes that cart soft serve around town. Long live the Whippy!

X-rated festival attire

Music Music festivals

Mesh cycling shorts, mesh crop tops, mesh suits… Anything goes at a day festival and we’re here for it. While Lovebox and Wireless might be long gone, there’s still events to dust off your neon co-ord for. Over the bank holiday weekend,
Todd Terje headlines One Day at the Disco, while Tinie Tempah and Idris Elba hit SW4. It’s going to get mesh-y.


Yoga on a rooftop

Restaurants St Paul’s

Wouldn’t it be cool to do the sun salutation under, you know, the actual sun? Try Summer Rooftop Yoga on the Madison Terrace by St Paul’s Cathedral every Wednesday at 8am. Even if you spend most of the class sleeping in child’s pose, your Instagram pictures will be popping. Book your spot speedily: classes only run until September.


Things to do Games and hobbies Lambeth

Finally, nothing says summer like strapping yourself into a harness and chucking yourself off a ledge. This August, London has a pop-up one (sturdier than it sounds).
Zip Now is the world’s biggest inner-city zipwire, running 225 metres in Archbishop’s Park. What better way to keep cool than whizzing through the sky at 50 kph?


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