There’s little doubt in my mind that summer is the greatest season to be in London – for the past few years I have avoided booking trips in the summer months, in favour of staying in the city and taking advantage of everything it has to offer when the sun is shining (although it can be argued that summer can hit at any point really between May and September). It may be a cliché, but Londoners love to talk about the weather, and never is this truer than when faced with the prospect of a weekend where the forecast is for sunshine and the temperature looks like it might get above 20°C. However, whilst the appearance of the sun has a palpable effect on the mood of even the most miserable Londoner, that doesn’t mean that everything is rosy just because the sun’s out; there are some pitfalls best avoided to prevent turning the most beautiful day into a sweaty hellscape. I’ve outlined a few of my personal do’s and don’ts for when the sun decides to make an appearance in the capital:
Don’t take the tube.
Now obviously, this isn’t always going to be an option, and there will be some times when you need to hop on the tube to get you to your destination. That being said, if you can spare the time, I would encourage you to get out and walk! The tube is a sweaty mess at the best of times, but in the summer it can truly be unbearable. Walking around the city not only means you get to avoid this experience, but it’s amazing the things you’ll see and discover by staying above ground. It’s easy to forget why there are so many tourists flocking to London every day when you are constantly rattling between point to point with only the armpit of the stranger next to you for a view, but when you walk around and casually stroll past Big Ben, or the Tower of London, you can remember, and appreciate, how truly beautiful this city is. With the added benefits of saving money, plus walking being one of the best forms of exercise you can do, there really is no downside to making a little extra time to enjoy your journeys.
Do avoid central London at the weekend.
Central London is great, and has some wonderful places to visit, but when the heat of summer hits, this is not the time to visit these places. London is so vast, and Oxford Street and Covent Garden aren’t going anywhere, so avoid the crowds in these areas and head outwards! Areas like Hampstead or Greenwich are so beautiful, and whilst they aren’t going to be completely free of tourists, there’s enough space to stretch your legs in these parts without feeling like you’re constantly bumping into everyone around you.
Do take some days leave just to stay in London.
Taking a day or two of your annual leave to stay and explore in London in the sunshine is one of the best uses of your time. If you can afford the leave, you can take advantage of being able to amble around the city without the company of every other person in London doing the same. This is the time to venture central if you must – you’ll have a much better chance at experiencing (and enjoying) some of the tourist attractions of London (think London Eye, South Bank Centre, The Shard) without horrendous queues and being elbowed every two minutes. Plus, the satisfaction of getting out and about in the city is heightened by knowing everyone you know is stuck in their office whilst you soak up the sunshine.
Do find a pub with a decent beer garden.
Some Londoners may have a balcony if lucky, but a flat or house with a garden is somewhat mythical for most of us. For those of us lacking outdoor space, the pub beer garden is the closest we are going to get. For me, this idea goes hand in hand with avoiding central London, given that at the smallest ray of sunshine, every pub with a whiff of outdoor space is packed to the hilt. Have an explore around your area for somewhere that has the right vibe for you, and don’t settle with the first pub you find! Some of the best (and most peaceful) pub gardens are off the beaten track – you will find Londoners reluctant to divulge their own best kept secrets, but a general rule of thumb is to avoid the closest pub to any tube or station. You will be rewarded for venturing further.
Do take advantage of the parks.
One of my favourite things about London is the sheer amount of green outdoor space, even in the middle of the city. There are so many parks to choose from, from Richmond, to Regents Park, to Hampstead Heath to Victoria Park and so many more. Again, if you’re not lucky enough to have a decent amount of outdoor space at your disposal at home, the park should become your second home in the summer (along with the pub). Invest in a coolbox, a picnic rug and a few disposable BBQs (but make sure to check if your park permits these!) and you have the perfect recipe for a lazy (and economical) afternoon in the sunshine. Just make sure you pack your suncream – you don’t want to be that person who is lobster red after the first sight of the sun.
Don’t take the sun for granted.
Let’s be honest, sunny days are few and far between in London. I know there can sometimes be some eye rolling that everyone is cracking out their shorts when it’s “only April”, but who knows how long the sun is going to stick around for? I say that if the weather is good, seize the day with both hands and get out there – when it’s bucketing it down in July you’ll be glad you got your dose of vitamin D while you could.
So there are a few hints and tips for not only surviving, but enjoying, the heat in London. There are of course a million other activities and places to explore, but for this Londoner, as long as there is sunshine and Aperol Spritz, that’s all that’s needed for summer perfection.