There’s one certainty when it comes to the contrary British weather: if the sun’s out, the whole of London’s out, too. The capital comes alive during the summer, and there’s plenty to keep the crowds entertained.
Sidewalks spill over with alfresco diners and after-work drinkers, chatting animatedly over shared platters and chilled glasses of wine. Picnics are rolled out, open-air concerts and annual pop-ups take over the parks, and rooftop bars are abuzz with sunset cocktail-seekers.
Read on and you’ll see, there’s much to do during summer in the city.
Summer by the River
The largest free outdoor festival in London, stretching from London Bridge to Tower Bridge, takes on an English country garden theme this year.
Amid views of the Tower of London, Summer by the River will deliver a daily-themed program of entertainment, from yoga classes soundtracked by lively beats and a comedic re-creation of The Lion King, to a lineup of outdoor cinema and theatrical screenings, including one of Swan Lake from the Royal Opera House.
Interspersed with vibrant street performers and a selection of hot food, this alfresco festival promises to keep all the senses satiated from June 1 to September 2.
Taste of London
From June 13 through 17, a section of Regent’s Park will sizzle with the scents of 40 of London’s best restaurants as the annual foodie fest returns. This popular event is a great way to tick off several top establishments in one hit, as each one serves up small-plate tasters of its signature dishes to pick and choose from as you please.
Highlights to look forward to this year include The Shard’s Chinese restaurant Hutong, popular Anglo-Indian Soho spot Kricket, Portuguese eatery Bar Douro and vegan sensation Club Mexicana.
To quench your thirst, Johnnie Walker will run masterclasses in its Whisky Room. There will be craft beer at the House of Hops. Also, Laurent-Perrier will host champagne- and food-pairing sessions at the Laurent-Perrier Club House.
Summer Pleasure Garden
For one night only (July 21), the Royal Academy of Arts will be transformed into a Pleasure Garden. Harking from England’s Georgian era when these “gardens” were created as spaces for Londoners to escape the humdrum of city life, the RA’s reconceived event will entertain with art installations, an illuminated garden with a misted teahouse, a gin grotto, creative drawing sessions, a cabaret and a ball.
The event is part of the RA’s Summer Exhibition program, which runs until August 19. This year marks the academy’s 250th anniversary, so in celebration of the milestone, more than 1,200 pieces of art will be displayed across the campus and throughout London’s West End.
A summertime staple in the capital, this world-renowned tennis tournament annually draws a crowd — 473, 372 people attended Wimbledon last year, consuming nearly 75,000 pounds of strawberries and more than 2,600 gallons of the obligatory accompaniment, dairy cream. No other event epitomizes the British summer quite so well.
Taking place this year from July 2 through 15, the tournament is the highlight of the season, so most tickets are already sold out. Forgot to enter the ballot for your seats back in December? No matter. A limited number are released daily on a first-come, first-served basis. So, if you’re prepared to queue from the crack of dawn, you could bag yourself a seat in Centre Court.
Alternatively, you can sleep in and pop over instead to Forbes Travel Guide Recommended 11 Cadogan Gardens for a quintessentially British brunch at its newly opened Hans’ Bar & Grill before making the five-minute trek to Duke of York Square, where the Wimbledon semis and finals will show on a massive outdoor screen.
Barbecue Beside the Thames
Gather some friends and head to The BBQ Club for a one-of-a-kind meal you won’t want to miss. This 54-seat, open-air eatery on the South Bank is perfect for a summer evening, when you can watch the boats go by and the sun dip down over the Thames while tucking into a six-course tasting menu.
In this interactive dining experience, the garnishes are prepared for you, while the rest of the cooking is in your table’s hands. Each group of six is seated beside a Big Green Egg grill, so you can char your meat, fish and vegetables to your personal taste. Grab a seat while you can — this pop-up spot is only open for lunch and dinner through September.
For a more casual bite (and one that doesn’t need a booking), visit the downstairs walk-up BBQ Bar, where you can pick up a glass of Pimm’s and one of the grilled dishes (charred monkfish with tarragon mayonnaise, perhaps?) to go.
Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House
Take advantage of the balmy evenings with a movie at the pop-up outdoor cinema at Somerset House. Following the theme of “Dreams, fantasies, nocturnes and reveries,” this year’s eclectic lineup includes classic and contemporary films such as Labyrinth, Inception, Call Me By Your Name and Blue Velvet that will play between August 9 and 22.
The evenings kick off with a DJ, and you can fill up on food and drink from the surrounding stalls before settling in for the main event.
Family Fun in Hyde Park
Few things on the seasonal calendar will deliver a better time for your group than this. Hyde Park’s British Summer Time Open House will entertain the masses with an aerial circus (complete with workshops), an outdoor cinema, live music, hip-hop bingo, Wimbledon tennis screenings, a family theater, street food stalls and plenty more from July 9 through 12. Pack a picnic blanket and make a day of it.
When you’re ready to relax after a long day of outdoor excitement, make your way to Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel. Situated just steps from the park, this Forbes Travel Guide Recommended stay boasts 494 contemporary accommodations, each featuring a sleek marble bathtub stocked with Aromatherapy Associates products — the antidote to all of the fun in the sun.