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Alex Merz

Urban beaches in London

Whether you think they're inner city nirvanas or glorified sandpits, urban beaches are back for 2021 – and we’ve rounded up the decent ones

By Katie McCabe
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Let’s be honest: urban beaches are in no way as good as real beaches. We’re not going to stand here and try and kid of you of that. There’s no sea to swim in. There’s very limited access to high-quality fish and chips. It’s very unlikely you can go surfing at one.

That being said... It’s 2021, a year in which such simple pleasures as getting a haircut or going to the pub have become spine-tinglingly thrilling. On that scale urban beaches rank as extremely good fun. They have sand, they have cocktails, they often have beach parties and they sometimes (when we’re lucky) get a bit of sun. We’re not going to turn our noses up at any of that right now.

Here we’ve rounded up the most decent ones in the city. If you fancy a swim instead then check out these dreamy London lidos and outdoor pools. And if you still aren’t convinced that a sandpit by the South Bank will give you those sweet holiday feels, here are some actual beaches near London you can head to. 

RECOMMENDED: Our guide to outdoor London.

London's best urban beaches

Ruislip Lido Beach

Attractions Rivers, lakes and ponds Ruislip

Do not be fooled by the ‘lido’ in this urban beach’s name. You cannot swim in this 60-acre lake in Hillingdon. Although there is a paddling area for lucky kids. (Fuck them, they get all the good stuff.) Adults can, however, relax on London’s most convincing man-made sandy shore. Or they can take a short stroll through the woodland around it. Which, to be fair, does sound quite nice.

Open now. 

Photograph: Fulham Beach
Photograph: Fulham Beach

Fulham Beach

Things to do pop-ups

‘Fulham doesn’t have a beach!’ we hear you cry. And you’re right, but since 2017, it’s had a very sandy patch of land known as Neverland. Its new iteration has taken the form of a ‘jungle beach paradise’. You can rent day beds, cabanas and beach huts, drop in for some beer pong, mini golf, shuffleboard and a yoga sesh, or – if that all sounds incredibly tame to you – you can live your best gap yah life at a full moon or Ibiza white party. Who needs actual holidays, eh? (We do – please let this unending hell finish soon so we can get on the next Easyjet to Spain.)

Open now. 

 

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Photograph: London Secret Garden
Photograph: London Secret Garden

London Secret Garden

Bars and pubs Kensington

You might have thought that plastic igloos were just for Christmas, but in Covid times they’ve made themselves at home all year round... even on the goddamn beach. You’ll find ’gloos, sun loungers, barbecued food and booze in the sandpit at Kens Bar (short for Kensington, not a man named Ken) and its one-acre garden. They’ve promised ‘beach games’. You’ve been warned. 

Opens April 29. 

 

The Beach Bar at The Montague

Bars and pubs Hotel bars Bloomsbury

Our mates The Montague are not ones to rest. In the winter the central London cocktail bar becomes a ski lodge fit for toffs with sunburned noses. Come spring though? Beach bar mode is ON. Expect day parties and cocktail-making classes amid palm trees, sand and an attractive Georgian townhouse. (There’s also a jet ski promised this year, but we’re not 100 percent sure how that will work.) 

Open now. 

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Brent Cross004.jpg
© Haris Artemis

The Beach Brent Cross

Shopping Electronics Hendon

If, for you, the best thing about the seaside is the pleasure beach then the massive urban sandy boy at Brent Cross Shopping Centre should be your go-to. (And, let's be honest, who doesn't love a quick whizz around New Look before a spot of sunbathing?) Organisers say they’ve had to change things up to fit in with social-distancing guidelines but insist there’ll still be the games, rides, splash zone and beachside snacks that have entertained many a Londoner for many a year.

Opens May 29. Fri-Sun in term time. Every day through the school holidays.

Photograph: Limin Beach Facebook
Photograph: Limin Beach Facebook

Limin’ Beach

The name of this South Bank hangout means ‘relaxing in good company’ in Trinbagonian, and that’s exactly the vibe it plans to bring to London this year. Organisers promise good music, great cocktails and really, really good food. Think: Trinidadian street treats like barbecue sweetcorn, masala chips and aloo pies as well as Caribbean classics like roti wraps and baked sea bass. Get us there now, please.

Open now. 

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