With the UK’s fickle weather patterns, it’s hard to sometimes predict when you might be able to toss away your umbrella and dash out to marvel at that strange yellow orb also known as the sun. And when it appears, it tends to send people into a state of mad panic as they scramble out in their tees, minis and shorts like ghosts of the netherworld. Cue forward to the evening and a flush of tomato red will be all the rage. But where do you go in London to make the most of this national sport? Here’s our top 5 quick-fire solutions:
1. Emergency Picnic
While most people are familiar with the likes of Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, Holland Park and Hampstead Heath, there are other great outdoor spots in the city just waiting for that picnic basket to make a landing. However, tubing or bussing across London on a hot day is the last thing you want to do, so here are our favourite bits of grassland in various corners of the capital.
On sunny weekends, London Fields in East London turns into an impromptu picnic carnival, and the nearby Broadway Market makes the trip doubly worthwhile. Bring your trunks and you can also take a dip in the Lido. Clissold Park in North London is another top favourite. We love its proximity to Stoke Newington’s Church Street, which is convenient for stocking up on Prosecco at Borough Wines and tempting yourself with the pricey (but too often irresistible) wares of Whole Foods. Ravenscourt Park in West London is another great neighbourhood park worth a visit and can easily be combined with our suggested Hammersmith riverside walk (see below). And although Richmond Park in South-West London isn’t exactly a hidden gem, it’s a gem all the same. Home to both red and fallow deer, the sheer size of the park lets you to forget you’re anywhere near a global capital as you lie on the blanket gazing at the clouds drifting by.
2. Escape to the Rooftops!
More often than not a hot sunny day equals thirst equals a pub, preferably with a garden. While the English pub culture excels at al fresco drinking (wander the city streets on a Friday after work and you’ll see), you’ll also discover numerous alternatives to traditional pub gardens and the kerbside tipple. Often hiding in plain sight, rooftop bars and gardens can be found across the city from the astounding urban parkland of Kensington Roof Gardens to Dalston Roof Park’s AstroTurf escapism. Other excellent choices include Notch right on Oxford Street or Frank’s on top of the Bussey building in South London’s trendy Peckham in case you prefer to view it from a distance (perfect at sunset!).
3. Southbank Calling
It may not be off the beaten path and it sure gets crowded but we LOVE the Southbank. With so many things on offer, you can literally arrive there first thing in the morning and lose yourself till the last tube back home. In summertime there are numerous events from Southbank Centre‘s annual Meltdown to Udderbelly, outdoor food festivals, impromptu street theatre and it has even played host to a faux seaside façade.
You can stop for Pimm’s o’clock at the Riverfront in BFI Southbank and watch as the booksellers tout their tomes at the Southbank Centre’s Book Market. The cavernous concrete pit next door is where you’ll find the Southbank Skatepark (perpetually under threat from developers with dollar signs for eyes) and for a respite from the hubbub you can climb up for a breather at The Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden.
4. Hammersmith Riverside Ramble
If you can’t face the crowds on the Southbank and the steel and concrete towers of East London’s riverside remind you of the pile of work waiting at the office, head west to Hammersmith. Possibly our favourite bit of Thames-side, there is a brilliant westbound loop walk starting at the iconic Hammersmith Bridge. You can follow the river past Furnivall Gardens and stop for a drink and some great grub at The Dove (check out their terrific riverside patio).
Post-lunch carry on west, past the Chiswick Eyot till you arrive at Barnes Bridge. Cross over to the south side and follow the river back east past the Leg of Mutton Nature Reserve till you find yourself again at the Hammersmith Bridge. There’s a neat local gastro pub called The Bridge nearby on Castelnau Road for some first aid rehydration. Other places in the vicinity that merit further investigation are the London Wetlands Centre and the Riverside Studios.
5. Amble along Regent’s Canal
An excellent way to see a more chilled side of London is to explore its canals. Regent’s Canal is the main artery that crosses London west to east. It starts at the Grand Union Canal in Maida Vale and runs to the Limehouse Basin where it meets the Thames. It’s easy to follow by foot or on a bike and there are numerous interesting spots to explore along the way (Regent’s Park, Camden, Broadway Market).
While the prettiest views on the canal tend to be on the western leg, we have a soft spot for the section running eastbound from Kingsland Road past the gorgeous Victoria Park all the way to the Limehouse Basin. Sure, it’s more rough around the edges but offers an intriguing alternative to the postcard views of Regent’s Park. At the far end the condos of Limehouse don’t exactly make for the most riveting of neighbourhoods, but the views over the river make up for this and Charles Dickens’ favourite pub The Grapes (now part-owned by no other than Sir Ian McKellen) is the perfect spot for an afternoon pint – particularly if you manage to snag a table in their bijou riverside patio.