Explore London safely this summer
As London opens up again, there’s a sense of celebration. After months of lockdown, summer in the city has resumed, with pints in sunny beer gardens and picnics in the royal parks. Although spirits are high, safety precautions are still very much in place – not least some very British socially distanced queuing.
Across town, cafés and restaurants have reopened with new alfresco tables, or launched crowd-pleasing offshoots to weather the pandemic. Cult addresses like Jikoni now offer takeaways, and almost anything can be delivered, from Honey & Co’s sabich sandwiches to bacon naan kits from Dishoom.
With fewer tourists and locals about, the city’s rhythm feels more relaxed, while new bike lanes and road closures have made space for pedestrians and cyclists. After a morning at Borough Market, test the new, car-free route to Shoreditch; it’s under ten minutes on a pay-as-you-go bike, even at a sedate pace.
It’s a unique time to tick off the biggest sights and landmarks, minus the usual crowds, from the Tower of London to St Paul’s. It’s the same story at usually thronged galleries and museums – now pleasantly peaceful, thanks to timed entry slots and restricted visitor numbers.
For a stress-free city break in London this summer, it pays to be a little prepared. We’ve picked eight must-try addresses for a safe, fun-packed getaway – whether you’re dreaming of a Thameside stroll or dinner at summer’s coolest pop-up.
8 spots to enjoy London safely this summer
For superior picnic supplies: Borough Market8 Southwark Street, SE1 1TL
With a cap on customer numbers, Borough’s far calmer these days. There may be a short wait to enter, in a carefully managed queue. It’s worth it for a crowd-free browse of its stalls and upscale supplies, from plump doughnuts and heirloom veg to handsome wheels of cheese. For hot takeaways, check out the Borough Market Kitchen, trading Thursday to Saturday, or head to Mei Mei for Singaporean street food and sweet, frothy teh tarik.
For a moment of calm: Hyde ParkHyde Park, W2 2UH
Hyde Park spans 350 leafy acres, so even on sunny days you’ll find a tranquil corner. Its kiosks and eateries are open again (some takeaway only), while the Lido Café and Bar’s terrace has front-row views of the Serpentine lake. Mornings in the park are quietest, so swing by for breakfast: tarragon-laced poached eggs, or a vibrant acai bowl. Alternatively, plan a picnic on the lawns, or linger in the rose garden for a sweet-scented date.
For a caffeine hit: Redemption RoastersUnit 109, Lower Stable Street, N1C 4AQ
Set among the cafés and boutiques of Coal Drops Yard, this likeable coffee joint’s handy for St Pancras International station. It’s stepped up safety and cleaning measures, as well as introducing an app so you can order contact-free. Pick-up your drinks (the iced latte’s a standout, made with single-origin beans) and sip it sitting on the grass at nearby Gasholder Park.
For a riverside ramble: Petersham NurseriesChurch Lane, Off Petersham Road, Surrey, TW10 7AB
Richmond makes for a bucolic day out, with its deer park and quaint, cobbled lanes. From here, it’s an easy stroll along the Thames to Petersham Nurseries, where well-heeled locals browse the mossy statues and old-fashioned roses. Its upscale café is set in the greenhouse, amid the ferns and foxgloves – now with fewer tables and a set price menu. Settle in for a leisurely lunch, starting with courgette-flower fritti and a cool glass of rosé.
For art appreciation (without the crowds): Tate ModernBankside, SE1 9TG
Like the city’s other major museums, Tate Modern has reopened with some changes. All visitors need to pre-book a timed slot online and follow one of three one-way routes winding their way through the collections. A cap on numbers means it’s uncharacteristically quiet, so take your time pondering Matisse’s Snail or Ed Ruscha’s enigmatic slogans. It’s just as orderly inside the blockbuster exhibitions. Don’t miss the Warhol retrospective, now running until mid-November.
For leisurely boutique-browsing: Covent GardenThe Market Building, WC2E 8RF
With a swathe of daytime traffic bans, Covent Garden’s cobbled streets are refreshingly relaxed. This area’s forte? Quintessential British brands and beauty boutiques, like Miller Harris’ calm, fragrance-filled store. Stop for a spritz as you explore the Market Building’s one-way arcades. On nearby Floral Street, admire Alex Monroe’s nature-inspired jewellery, then drop by cult Danish label GANNI, newly installed at no. 15.
For alfresco feasting: Brat at Climpson’s ArchArch 374, Helmsley Place, E8 3SB
With fewer tables at his East London eatery, Michelin-star chef Tomos Parry has launched summer’s hottest side hustle. Until September, Brat’s in residence at a railway arch by London Fields, with generously spaced alfresco tables and an awning, just in case of rain. The blackboard menu features wood-fired flatbreads and greens with home made ricotta – though the must-try’s the whole turbot, with smoked potatoes on the side.
Five more must-tries
• For superior sourdough pizzas and flat-peach negronis, grab an ASAP Pizza to go
• For Renaissance masterpieces, book a ticket for Titian at the National Gallery
• For a trip down the Thames, commandeer your own boat with GoBoat
• For contact-free rooftop cocktails, reserve a spot at the Bussey Rooftop Bar
• For socially distanced street food and micro-brew, head to Mercato Metropolitano
Don’t forget to pack face masks or coverings. They’re mandatory for over-11s on public transport, Uber rides, some taxis, and in shops and supermarkets
- Some Tube stations are closed, so check Transport For London’s website before your journey. For Covent Garden, use Leicester Square or Holborn stations instead.
- Official advice is to stay two metres apart from other people, or at least one metre where that’s not possible
- Contactless payments by smartphone or card are encouraged, so don’t expect to pay in cash. The limit is now £45 per transaction
- You’ll find new safety measures in place in shops and supermarkets, from hand sanitisers and protective screens to one-way and socially distanced queuing systems. Look out for signage and floor markers
- At restaurants and cafés, tables are at least a metre apart, sometimes on new terraces or pavement seating areas. With restrictions on numbers, it’s best to book ahead; you’ll be asked for contact details, for the government’s track and trace scheme
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Image credits: © Paul Grover; © Paul Grover; © Thom Hobbs; © The Royal Parks; © Matt Organ; © Petersham Nurseries; © Andrew Dunkley; © Covent Garden London; © Brat; © Getty; © Shutterstock; © Getty