London may not be a city renowned for its glorious sunshine, but with June in full swing, things are certainly heating up in the British capital. And if you do find yourself in London on a balmy day, there are plenty of outdoor activities to help you make the most of the refreshingly clement weather. Here are our picks for five open-air activities in London that are sure to help you appreciate the city in a new way.
Interact With Outdoor Animals
London Zoo is the world’s oldest scientific zoo – it celebrated its 175th anniversary this year – and today it houses a vast collection of 755 animal species (or more than 16,000 individuals), including everything from pygmy hippos to komodo dragons, squirrel monkeys to rockhopper penguins. With many of these species finding shelter in open-air enclosures, the zoo is an ideal place to take a stroll on a sunny day — especially since it has just opened a new Tiger Territory exhibit, home to endangered Sumatran tigers Jae Jae and Melati. Let the animals serve as your muse at a variety of art courses or engage in after-hours fun with late-night openings every Friday in June and July.
Indulge In Alfresco Dining
The Modern Pantry is an excellent restaurant and café in Clerkenwell that is housed in a rather spectacular Georgian building. But during breezy summer weather, it also offers 32 seats outside in the adjoining St. John’s Square. Away from the traffic and perfect for people-watching, it’s a lovely spot for taking in a lunch of Gloucester Old Spot pork belly with chorizo grits and apple relish. For an alfresco breakfast surrounded by nature, choose the wooden terrace at Inn the Park, or for an evening meal outside, climb to the rooftop of Boundary in Shoreditch for fine dining with even finer panoramas.
Enjoy Open Air Theatre
Set in the heart of Regent’s Park, the multi-award-winning Open Air Theatre puts on four productions every year (between May and September) under the stars. The steep, 1,240-seat auditorium is one of the largest in London, yet also feels oddly intimate, with a lively atmosphere unlike any other in the city. Visit now to enjoy a production of Pride and Prejudice, marking 200 years since the book’s publication (June 20 through July 20), or visit the theater at other times to see Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale (June 29 through July 20) and The Sound of Music (July 25 through September 7).
Perfect Your Backstroke
London is home to a plethora of lidos (open-air public swimming pools), and the most fun is to be had at Hampstead Heath. The Ladies’ and Men’s Ponds are the only life-guarded swimming facilities in the capital that are open every day of the year (including Christmas), and the area also boasts a Mixed Pond and the Parliament Hill Lido. The latter lido, which measures just less than 200 by 90 feet in size, offers magnificent views across the center of London. But be warned, the pool is uncovered and unheated, so only go on a hot day!
Stroll Through Natural Gardens
London is home to a vast array of beautiful public gardens (think Syon House and Park, Chelsea Physic Garden and Geffrye Museum Gardens). But the undeniable top dog is the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Created in 1759 and now comprising 300 acres of land, Kew is home to the world’s largest collection of living plants — both inside and out — including rare species such as the rainforest giant Berlinia korupensis and the world’s smallest water-lily Nymphaea thermarum (which was actually saved from extinction here). If the sun is shining, bypass the Temperate House and Waterlily House and instead spend your time wandering the gardens, from the sprawling Arboretum with its 14,000 trees, to the century-old Aquatic Garden.
Photos courtesy of Kew Gardens, London Zoo, Modern Pantry and David Jensen