Summer in London
Make the most of a Great British summer
The UK might not boast tropical climes, but summer in London can still be a scorcher. And when the sun comes out, the city doesn't waste a second of it. The first stop has to be a park. Pack a picnic, grab a frisbee and join the locals as they flock to green spaces to unwind in the sunshine. Then, as the sun starts to dip, hotfoot it to a rooftop bar to keep the party going.
If rain stops play, use our handy guide to where to eat to find a tasty spot to shelter. For more things to do in London this summer, check out our ten favourite tourist attractions, along with where to shop in London.
Best parks in London to explore
For an instant slice of London, just look around a park on a sunny day. All life is here – from dog-walkers, runners and football teams to tai chi classes, snoozing office workers and even a passing pony or two. London's an incredibly green city, so there are plenty of parks to choose from. Here are a few of our favourites though.
Perched on the edge of Camden Town and skirted to the north by the Regent's Canal, this prettily-landscaped park boasts elegant flowerbeds, alfresco cafés and four playgrounds.
Soak up the scenery with a boat trip around the meandering lake, then treat yourself to tea and cake at the Waterside Café.
St James's Park
Overlooked by Buckingham Palace, this is perhaps the most regal of all of London's Royal Parks.
After a quick stroll past the palace to give King Charles a wave, head into the park to watch the resident pelicans at feeding time and take a snap or two on the Blue Bridge.
Then, unpack your picnic or head to St James’s Café to grab a bite to eat or an ice cream.
Pretty Holland Park covers the former grounds of 17th-century Cope Castle – later Holland House.
While only one wing of the house remains, the front terrace has been preserved and is now a stage for open-air opera throughout the summer months.
The highlight though is the tranquil Kyoto Garden with its colourful foliage, tumbling waterfall and carefully placed zen garden boulders.
Perhaps the biggest draw of Kensington Gardens is the Diana Memorial Playground.
Let the kids loose on the Peter Pan-themed pirate ship, sensory trail and play sculptures, then swing by the Serpentine Galleries for a grown-up fix of contemporary art and architecture.
If you're a keen gardener yourself, be sure to stop at the allotment. Meander through the fruit and veg and pick up tips from the friendly volunteers who tend the neat, raised beds.
Covering a huge swathe of central London, Hyde Park offers a haven from the hustle and bustle.
The park also has a long history as a site of protest. On Sunday mornings, head to Speakers' Corner, where anyone is welcome to take the stand and share their views.
One of the world’s largest botanical treasure troves, these celebrated gardens are home to more than 50,000 species of plants from across the globe.
Step into a tropical paradise in the Temperate House, the largest Victorian glasshouse in the world, or explore the tranquil bamboo garden.
For a bird's-eye view, stroll the Treetop Walkway, a dizzying 18 metres above the ground, before heading back to sea level for tea and cake at the café.
Climbing up and away from the river's edge, the pretty park offers unbeatable views out over both, and on to the modern skyscrapers beyond.
At the top of the hill, check out the Royal Observatory and stand astride the Prime Meridian Line – one foot in the east, the other in the west.
Best rooftop bars and pubs in London
At the first sign of sunshine, Londoners make a beeline for the breezy bars high above the hustle and bustle. From posh cocktail dens with skyline views to converted car parks pouring craft brews, check out our favourite rooftop spots. And if the weather doesn't play ball, head inside at one of the best pubs in London.
7th-10th Floor, Car Park, 95A Rye Lane, SE15 4ST
The annual opening of Peckham’s hip car park bar is as much part of the London summer season as Chelsea Flower Show or Wimbledon.
By day, it's a sunny spot to tuck into brunch, but as the evening rolls round, Frank's hots up, hosting everything from live music to dance, readings and art installations. All accompanied by more-ish cocktails, including a pitch-perfect rum punch.
Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY
Step into one of the tower’s two glass elevators for some of the finest wraparound views in the City from this central London rooftop bar.
Brace yourself for some serious indulgence; both the fusion restaurant (Japanese-Brazilian-Peruvian) and outdoor terrace bar are unapologetically high-end – hence the ‘casual elegance’ dress code.
40 Commercial Street, E1 6LP
Escape Shoreditch’s frenetic pace at this verdant roof garden, perched above the Culpeper pub on Commercial Street.
It’s known for its imaginative summer workshops (which has included skyline sketching and an intro to medicinal herbs), while the rooftop greenhouse supplies ingredients for the modern British menu.
Sea Containers London, 20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD
Swish Sea Containers with its 1920s cruise liner vibes is home to an award-winning cocktail bar and an upmarket brunch spot, but the star of the show is the roof terrace overlooking the Thames.
On a warm evening, it's the perfect way to end a busy day exploring the city below. Grab a drink and watch the world (and the boats) go by.
Tobacco Dock – Pennington Street Entrance, E1W 2SF
If you find yourself out east on a sunny day, seek out Tobacco Dock. As the name suggests, it's a former tobacco warehouse, and the 1812 building has been beautifully revamped as a modern events space.
Head up to the roof for a drink with a view, to catch the footie on a big screen or get competitive with the indoor croquet courts, ping pong table or shuffle board.
Frequently asked questions about summer in London
London's biggest park is Richmond Park, which covers an area of 2,500 acres.
It's home to herds of deer and is a National Nature Reserve, London's largest Site of Special Scientific Interest and a European Special Area of Conservation.
London's at its laidback best during the summer. The parks fill with picnickers, pubs and cafés spill out onto sunny terraces and the long, light evenings allow extra time for exploring.