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RideLondon, cycling

Top 10 outdoor activities in London this summer

Staying inside just isn't an option when there's this lot on offer over summer

By Elizabeth Darke

Yes, British Summer Time has officially begun, and, despite no guaranteed sun, it's time for Londoners to step outside. Whilst the capital's museums still offer some of the world's best exhibitions (and are perfect respite from the inevitable summer rain), London's offering a whole heap of fantastic outdoor activities to take part in.

CHECK THIS OUT: 18 must-do things in London this summer

Outdoor events in London this summer

Kew Gardens Princess of Wales Conservatory

1. Spices at Kew

Things to do

This summer's events at Kew are themed around the spice trade – source of rumours, foundation of historic wealth and the starting point for great adventures. The focus of activities is plants that were at one time literally worth their weight in gold. Visitors will be ferried around the gardens in rickshaw-inspired contraptions to discover why saffron is the most expensive spice in the world and how turmeric is used to dye ceremonial robes. They'll be able to create their own spice and to learn about the medicinal power of cloves too. Spiced delicacies will also be available from street food vans around the gardens.

2. Wimbledon Tennis Championships

Things to do

Whether you're a legitimate tennis fan or just in it for the Pimm's and oh-so-toned players, Wimbledon Tennis Championships are once again upon us and it's time to get excited. From queueing for tickets to London's outdoor screenings, find all the info you need on this year's tournament in our guide to Wimbledon 2015.

Mon Jun 29–Sun Jul 12. Church Rd, SW19 5AE


3. RideLondon

Things to do Sport events

This weekend-long feast of cycling sees an eight mile loop of road around central London closed to regular traffic so that bike-enthusiasts can get a clear run at it. The Prudential RideLondon FreeCycle takes place on August 1 and enables cyclists of all ages and abilities to take a safe spin around town. It costs nothing to join in, but do register in advance on the RideLondon website. And on Sunday August 2, the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 will send thousands of amateur cyclists on a 100-mile route similar to that of the London 2012 Olympics' cycling races. Many participants are raising money for charity, so help to make their final metres along Pall Mall feel even more victorious by cheering them on.

Notting Hill Carnival 2013
© David Tett

4. Notting Hill Carnival guide


Europe’s biggest street festival, Notting Hill Carnival is a vivid spectacle representing London's multicultural past and present. Since 1964 the capital's Caribbean communities have celebrated their culture and traditions at this two-day festival of fantastic live music, which ranges from reggae to dub to salsa. The celebrations also include soca floats, steel bands, and a whole lot of jerk chicken and fried plantain.

Sun Aug 30–Mon Aug 31. Various Notting Hill locations, W11 1HT 

Flamingo Pier
Kristi Evan Photography

5. Flamingo Pier

Things to do Quirky events

One of the finest and most fun pop-up parties of last summer, Flamingo Pier is back for 2015, which is great news for anyone who likes their pop-ups with a big dose of tropical indulgence. The action takes place both inside Hackney Wick's Counter Cafe and on the venue's floating pontoon, as well as Counter's moored canalside boat. As before, there'll be DJs spinning deep disco and hip house soundtracks, street food, bespoke cocktails and craft beer, but for 2015 the Flamingo Pier crew have stepped things up: each night the party will be themed around a different exotic location.

6. Urban Ninja

Things to do

Inspired by the cult Japanese TV show 'Ninja Warrior' (ITV is currently showing the UK version), the Urban Ninja obstacle course sounds seriously hairy. With obstacles including the 'Insane Pipe Scrambler', the 'Monkey Press' and 'Core Crunch' it's not for the faint-hearted. The organisers reckon only 1 percent of competitors will actually finish and, frankly, although organiser Rob Maule promises 'no mud and no electric shocks, cold water or nasty surprises', to anyone who thinks taking the stairs constitutes a gruelling workout, it looks more like self-inflicted torture than a fun day out. Still, it takes all sorts and Londoners love a challenge.


7. Open Garden Squares Weekend

Things to do Walks and tours

This June, more than 200 gardens not ordinarily open to the public will unlock their gates for a weekend to take part in this annual event, held in association with the National Trust. Spanning 27 boroughs, the gardens take in all sorts of spaces, from traditional squares to roof terraces and allotments, as well as gardens belonging to historic buildings, schools, shops and cafes. There are 23 gardens taking part for the first time this year, including the churchyard of grade I-listed medieval church St Olave, the All Saints Vicarage Garden which was part of Fulham Palace until 1935 and The Arvon Road Allotments, which are terraced along the railway freight line near Finsbury Park. 

8. World Naked Bike Ride

Things to do Quirky events

This protest against oil dependency and the domination of car culture is also an unfettered celebration of the individuality of the human body. Many of the thousands of people expected to take part will opt to bike in the buff, though full nudity is optional; the dress code is 'as bare as you dare'. And if you, too, long to through caution and clothes to the wind but feel a bit bashful, you can always take something along that’s easy to put on when the procession gets held up by traffic, as it inevitably will.


9. Red Bull Soapbox Race

Things to do Quirky events

Ever watched 'Cool Runnings' and thought that flinging yourself down a hill in a colourful wagon looks like total fun? Find a team and get planning, because this is your chance to fulfil your need for speed in a real soapbox race in the hilly grounds of Alexandra Palace. Your application had better be creative – only 70 teams of the 1,000 who applied were chosen to compete at the last London event and designs included a VW Camper, a full bathroom suite and a giant Usain Bolt. If you'd rather not risk being a part of north London's most spectacular pile-up, keep an eye on the Red Bull Soapbox website; thousands of spectator tickets will be available nearer the event.

10. The Line


Walk The Line between the O2 and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to see sculptures from Damien Hirst, Martin Creed and Gary Hume. London's new sculpture trail will lead walkers along three miles of waterways including London's Royal Docks and along the River Lea. Born from a crowdfunding campaign, the project proposal raised over £140,000 in less than eight weeks to bring existing work out of warehouses and into the public eye. The ten works installed this year will be on loan to The Line for two years,  with new pieces introduced each year. Each work will be illuminated at night-time for late strollers to enjoy.

Looking for more outdoor fun?

A busy Greenwich Park on a summer's day.
© Alan Stanton

Outdoor London

Things to do

If you're gagging to explore the great outdoors, here's where to go to catch an open-air film, take a dip in a local lido or simply wander through one of London's many pretty parks.


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