From prosecco-fuelled picnics in the park to rooftop bars that buzz with honey-making bee hives, immersive cinema screenings and urban lidos, London serves up summer in style. Here’s our guide to celebrating the city when the sun shines…
Nothing signals the arrival of summer like the opening of Frank’s Café, a pop-up in a former multi-storey car park that returns to Peckham each year. Your view here is of south-east London’s tower blocks, stretching as far as the Shard and the London Eye – especially atmospheric at sunset, when Ray-Ban-wearing crowds gather to sink negronis.
Over in east London, you’ll find more vertiginous views at Skylight on the top of Wapping’s Tobacco Dock – a revived warehouse, that now hosts regular food and drink events, including the London Craft Beer Festival (9-11 August) and Meatopia (30 August-1 September).
Nearby Netil 360 is a popular hangout on the edge of London Fields, with food by Hackney Pizza and a bar stocked by Truman’s Brewery and the East London Liquor Company.
Finally, continue the buzz at Ham Yard Hotel in Soho, where resident bees produce honey that trickles down into the cocktail menu.
Oh we do like to be beside the seaside – even in the city. This summer, you can find bona fide sand on the shores of the Thames amid the benches, beach huts, daybeds and deckchairs of Neverland in Fulham. Gorge on halloumi burgers and lamb skewers from Jimmy Garcia’s celebrated BBQ Club pop-up (Friday–Sunday), as well as pizzas from a wood-fired oven. The tropical-themed bottomless brunch on Sundays brings piña coladas and frozen daiquiris, with sand sculpting, DJs and yoga sessions on other days.
A good alternative for families is Beach East in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, where next to the Aquatic Centre, you can find a thousand tonnes of sand and a giant paddling pool, plus the requisite beach bar for grown-ups.
Secret Cinema – a programme of immersive film screenings in hush-hush locations – throws on a programme of nostalgia-laden films each summer, including Back to the Future, Dirty Dancing and Footloose. In the preamble, you’ll be emailed character cues on how to dress and, once there, besuited actors help set the scene with live music and entertainment. The food stalls and bars at this big-budget event are also Oscar-worthy.
For more sedate viewing, board Time Out’s Thames-drifting barge for Movies on the River, where films might range from classics such as Some like It Hot to Grease and Notting Hill.
Pop-Up Screens also widens the booking window until later in the season, with secret screenings in a range of London parks until September, plus abundant food, drink and popcorn on sale during feelgood films such as La La Land and Top Gun.
For high-brow sorts, the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park is a seasonal staple, with productions of Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams and more. Romantic, alfresco performances go on whatever the weather, as do the picnics, where Londoners arrive, hamper in hand, to feast on champagne and strawberries ahead of showtime.
On hot days, locals suit up and seek out the nearest space to splash. Hampstead Heath Ponds is the natural option: beloved of wild swimmers year-round, but best suited to fair-weather bathers when the sun shines. The trio of plunge pools here includes a men’s pond, a ladies’ pond and a mixed pond in different bucolic enclaves, where kingfishers dart and willow trees grace the water. For a city-central option, there’s also the Serpentine in Hyde Park.
There are plenty of man-made pools, too, in the city’s lidos: public outdoor pools with a nostalgic sepia-tinged feel. One of the best is Brockwell Lido, surrounded by art deco architecture, with the Lido Cafe, that attracts south-east London’s creative crowd. Don’t miss the Lido Lates, for open-air swimming by moonlight, plus a wood-fired sauna, street food, cocktails and music.
Continue the party by exploring the rest of our London hotel collection…
Feature image is Pergola in Paddington.