Not all of us have the time to jet off to a different location and spend the summer holidays hopping from one destination to another, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun in good old London either. In fact, London is one of the most visited cities of all times and there’s probably a thousand people out there who would swap places with you in a heartbeat.
But what is there to do? Some of you might whine; I have already spent the last year(s) in this place and explored everything I could. If you are actually asking this, then you really don’t understand the magic of summer. Summer is a time for rooftop cinemas, boat parties on canals, festivals and markets – and in order to truly convince you, I have compiled a list of the best of the best to look out for:
1) Rooftop cinema
A surprising large number of pop up cinemas surface during the summer months, and among them rooftop cinemas are the most magical kind. With a big silver screen, a scatter of deck chairs or bean bags, London evening sun at several storey high darkening, it’s a movie experience like no others. You can catch a rooftop movie at Shoreditch with the Golden Bee Cinema, or across various venues with Press Play or Roof Top Film Club. Movies range from cult phenomenon like Fight Club to recent hits like The Grand Budapest Hotel and tickets usually ballpark around 15.
Alternatively, you can watch movies with non-rooftop pop up cinemas such as The Big Cinema Club for as little as 5 with drinks and popcorns.
Golden Bee Cinema: http://www.goldenbee.co.uk/roof-top-cinema/
Press Play: http://www.wepressplay.co.uk/
Rooftop film club: http://www.rooftopfilmclub.com/
2) The Royal Parks of London
While London is known as a metropolis, its royal parks actually cover a whopping 1978 hectares of ground. Made up of 8 parks, the reason why they are called royal is because they used to be hunting grounds of the royal family but now opened to the public. It is worth noting that Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and St James Part form an almost unbroken stretch of green space together and Regents Park is only a few blocks north of the northeast tip of Hyde Park. Most of you have probably been to a few on the list, so why not complete the set during the summer?
With only 16 hectares of ground, Green Park is the smallest of the Royal Parks. It lies between Hyde Park and St James Park and do not offer much in terms of attractions. It sits beside the busy transport station of the same name and border Buckingham Palace on its south with the A4 running across it on one side.
St James Park
Stretching all the way along with the Mall, this beautiful park covers 23 hectares with a small lake called St James’s Park Lake. The blue bridge spanning across the lake offers an excellent view of the Buckingham Palace and Westminster. This is by far the most central park with the Horse Guards’ parade and 10 Downing Street on the other end, and Trafalgar’s Square just a stone throws away.
The largest park in London, though only the fourth largest in the Royal Parks, it covers 142 hectares west of Green Park. It is divided in two by its lake, the Serpetine and the Long Water and the former is an excellent boating place in the summer. It is famous for its Speaker’s Corner on the northeast corner where any lawful public speaking can be conducted, as well as the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial and the Holocaust memorial, both near the Serpentine.
Often confused as part of Hyde Park, the Kensington Garden is on the other side of the W. Carriage Drive and locked at night. It covers 111 hectares, and is home to the Serpentine Gallery, the Albert Memorial, the Round Pond, Italian Gardens, Kensington Palace and the Diana Memorial Playground.
North of Baker street and spanning over 166 hectares, the beautiful Regents Park contains Regent’s University London and the London Zoo reside. This open parkland has a wide range of garden, a personal favourite being their rose garden, a picturesque lake, many sports grounds and even an open air theatre. It is also dotted with villas with an inner and outer ring road that take you around all the main attractions.
With 445 hectares, Bushy Park is the second largest of royal parks and immediately north of the Hampton Court Palace. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with abundant wildlife and fishing ponds.
The largest of all royal parks, Richmond Park boasts 955 hectares and was created by Charles I in the 17th Century as a deer park. It is a national nature reserve and includes many buildings of historic interest such as the White Lodge (a former royal residence). The best way to get around the park is by cycling.
A former hunting ground turns green space, Greenwich park is part of Greenwich’s World Heritage side and cover 74 hectares. It offers a spectacular view towards Canary Wharf from its hills, its main attraction is the Royal Observatory where you can walk across the Greenwich Meridian.
For more information on the parks: https://www.royalparks.org.uk/
3) Markets, Markets and markets
London has no shortage of markets, and if I were to list them all we would probably end up being here all day. So I will only present a small selection of my absolutely favourite here:
Made famous by the movie Notting Hill (starring Julia Roberts), Portobello on a Saturday is the place to be. Mostly focus on antiques and vintages, it’s worth bearing in mind that while the south end is more picturesque, the less tourist catered part is towards the Ladbroke Groove Underground Station. There are also no shortage of food vendors and quirky restaurants in the area for those who don’t want to stand and eat.
Best time to go: Saturday 9:00 – 19:00
Nearest stations: Ladbrooke Grove, Notting Hill underground
Lined with Indian restaurants and fabric shops, the true Brick Lane Sunday Upmarket does not start until near the Truman Brewery. Featuring a scattering of smaller markets, you have not one, not two, but three food areas bursting with international cuisines waiting for you to sample. After you have satisfied your hunger, there is a maze of vintage shops and antique vendors around the area for you to browse, not to mention the street stores lining the main road. The area is also home to famous vintage shops such as Beyond Retro and Spitalfield markets is only a stone throw away.
Best time to go: Sunday 9:00 – 17:00
Nearest station: Best to walk there from Liverpool street (10 minutes)
Columbia Road Flower Market
A ten minutes’ walk from Brick Lane, Columbia Road Flower Market now attracts an international crowd. From peonies to carnations, you can find all sorts of flowers and potted plants selling in this market. Despite the positively cloistering crowd, it might be worth going at the end of the day so you can grab some cheap flowers to brighten up your summer.
Opening times: 8:00 – 3:00 (ish)
Address: Columbia Road, London, E2 7RG
Camden Lock Market
Having expanded in recent years, this historical market originated as a stable market. Open every day of the week – there are a plethora of food vendors and charming artist selling their cuisine and crafts. In addition to that are some fine book stores on the underground level and of course, vintage shops. Not to be missed is the futuristic Cyberdog store, photographic opportunity with the horse statues and the beautiful raised terrace of Camden Proud at the northern tip.
Opening times: 10:00 – 18:00
Nearest station: Camden Town
4) Pop ups
The pop up scene has become increasingly popular in London, mostly in regard to food. While not exactly the cheapest around the world, there’s no question that London pop up scene has one of the wildest imaginations. I would try to cover some, but I know I won’t even get close.
Immersive Theaters London
The kind of pop up that send your heart into a wild frenzy, immersive theatres are the new way to experience the world of theatrics. Allowing you to take part in the drama itself, you get to be chased by the bad guy and make deals with the heroines, or if you fancy, get chased by zombies. London is home to several so I would pull up a list, bear in mind that these are not the cheapest indulgent.
The Nantucket Beach Club Rooftop Pop-up Bars
Nantucket is a little known island in Massachusetts and this summer Hilton Hotel Tower Hill is bringing the charm of the East Coast to the London rooftop. Serving cocktails and cuisine inspired by Nantucket, there’s nowhere else better suited for you to unwind in the evening with a Surfside Punch on the side (unless you go to the island yourself).
Open: 1⁄5 – 30⁄9 from Tuesday to Saturday 15:00 – 22:00.
Address: Skylounge at Double Tree by Hilton Hotel Tower Hill
Dalston’s Efes ‘Putts’ up plonk’s crazy golf course
Let’s be honest, who doesn’t like mini golf? It’s quaint, it’s cute and most of all, it’s the best ice breaker if you are on a date but fun for all ages and occasion. Only available on Wednesday and Thursday night, don’t miss a chance to challenge your friends with this 9-hole crazy golf course with a twist of Aztec. Think volcanoes and totem pole – so what are you waiting for?
Open: Wednesday 18:00 to 0:00, Thursday 14:00 – 1:00.
Address: Dalston’s Efes Snooker Club, 17B Stoke Newington Road, N16 8BH