From prosecco-fuelled picnics in the parks to rooftop bars, outdoor cinemas 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 that returns each year to hipster-hood-of-the-moment Peckham. And what could be more hipster than hanging out on the rooftop of a former multi-storey car park? Your view here is of southeast London’s jumble of tower blocks, stretching as far as the Shard and the London Eye. It’s especially lovely at sunset, when Ray-Ban-adorned crowds gather to sink negronis, spritzes and other Italian-inspired cocktails, while munching on the latest low-’n’-slow trend in barbecue.
In east London, Skylight is a new addition to Wapping’s erstwhile-neglected Tobacco Dock – a brick-built, timber-beamed warehouse, that now hosts regular food and drink events, including the London Craft Beer Festival (3-5 August), Gin Festival (23-26 August) and Meatopia (31 August-2 September) this summer. Resident throughout the season is the crowning rooftop bar, where you can take part in games of croquet or pétanque, and gather for World Cup screenings.
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, plus its own rooftop dog – who’s on Instagram, obviously: #trestherooftopdog).
To really feel the buzz, head over to Ham Yard Hotel in Soho, where resident bees produce honey that trickles down into the cocktail menu, mixed with herbs, plants and flowers grown around the fourth-floor roof terrace.
If vertigo’s a problem, swing by Pergola – a two-level complex of ground-floor gardens and alfresco terraces surrounded by bars and street-food kiosks from the likes of D/F Mexico and Patty & Bun.
Oh we do like to be beside the seaside – so much so that we’ve started building them 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 traditional wood-fired oven. The tropical-themed bottomless brunch on Sundays brings piña coladas and frozen daiquiris aplenty, 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 – still has tickets available for its latest blockbuster showing this summer. Previous nostalgia-laden films have included Back to the Future, Dirty Dancing and Footloose, but next up, it’s the turns of the Montagues and Capulets with Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (8–19 August). In the preamble, you’ll be emailed character cues on how to dress and, once there, besuited actors will set the scene with live music and entertainment. The food stalls and bars at this big-budget event are also Oscar-worthy.
For a more sedate viewing experience, board Time Out’s Thames-drifting, cinema-toting barge for the Movies on the River season until 21 July. Films range from vintage 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. Abundant food, drink and popcorn will be 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’s As You Like It in July and less-cerebral events such as Dinosaur World Live until September. Romantic, alfresco performances go on whatever the weather, as do the picnics, as 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; it’s beloved of wild swimmers year-round, but best suited to fair-weather bathers when the sun shines. The trio of plunge pools here includes the men’s pond, ladies’ pond and mixed pond in different bucolic enclaves around the park, where kingfishers dart and willow trees tickle the water. For a city-central option, take the plunge at The Serpentine in Hyde Park.
There are plenty of man-made waterholes too – namely the city’s lidos: public outdoor swimming pools with a distinctly sepia-snapshot feel. One of the best is Brockwell Lido, a 50-metre affair surrounded by art deco architecture, with a contemporary Lido Cafe, that attracts south-east London’s cool crowd. Don’t miss the Lido Lates this summer, for open-air swimming by moonlight, plus a wood-fired sauna, street food, cocktails and music.
Featured image is Pergola in Paddington.