Just as a general disclaimer: while this post is specifically focused on things to do in the summer in London, it actually includes tons of things to do year-round in London. While certain places I include in this post are only open in the summer (like Queen Mary’s Rose Garden), some spots are great year-round… And potentially are even better in the winter as they’re the perfect excuse to escape the cold (like shopping at Selfridges). Or they’re just soooooo festive for the holiday season (like Hay’s Gallery).
In the past year, I’ve visited London twice. Once for two weeks in December and then again for two weeks this past June. This most recent trip marked my fourth time in London and I love the city more and more with each visit.
What I’m Wearing:
Dress: Gal Meets Glam Collection (available in 3 colors!) | Sunglasses: LOFT
Earrings: Sugarfix by BaubleBar, c/o | Shoes: Melissa (on sale now!)
Actually, in the interest of complete transparency, I hated London the first time I went. Sure, that might’ve been because my parents forced me to read a Tale of Two Cities before the trip (and 7th-grade me didn’t care for Dickens). Or it might’ve been because it was in March and London is pretty dreary that time of year. But my trip to London left me feeling underwhelmed.
My second trip to London – for 5 days in the summer of 2015 – is the first time I even started to like London. And then last winter’s two-week-long adventure is when I finally started to fall in love with the city. A love which deepened during my trip in June. There are just so many things to do in the summer in London (slash year-round!). Plus, the restaurants are pretty friggin’ great (check back this Thursday for my post on my favorite restaurants in London!).
If you’re planning a trip to London in the summer, remember to pack comfortable shoes and breathable clothes. Much of the city doesn’t have air conditioning. Basically, make sure to bring a lot of layers as the weather is often unpredictable.
The Best Things to Do in the Summer in London
In the interest of organization (which y’all know I love to do), I’ve divided the best things to do in the summer in London into four segments: parks, markets, museums, and shopping. While you can enjoy just about all of these at any time in the year, obviously the parks and some of the markets are best in the summertime.
So if you’re visiting London this fall or this winter, don’t fret and keep reading – many of the activities included below will still be open. And potentially might be even better than they are in the summer!
Things to Do in the Summer in London: Parks
One of my favorite parks in London to meander through – no matter the time of year – is Hyde Park. Hyde Park abuts Kensington Gardens, so I lump the two together (plus Kensington Gardens used to be part of Hyde Park). In the summer, both parks are lush and full of people. Tourists and Londoners will boat along the Serpentine in Hyde Park or admire the gorgeous floral displays in Kensington Gardens. Plus, both parks are just begging for picnics. But, even with all of the blue skies and sunshine in the summer, I might prefer Hyde Park in the winter: come Christmastime, there’s a Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park (think: the State Fair of Texas but British and Christmas-themed).
If, instead, you find yourself meandering along the Thames and checking off must-see London sights and museums like Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Churchill War Rooms (highly recommend!), or even Buckingham Palace, take a few seconds to walk through St. James’s Park. It may be small, but it has some of the most gorgeous views of Buckingham Palace and of the London Eye. Basically: it’s super Instagram-able.
My final outdoorsy recommendation? Regent’s Park. My most recent trip was my first time to meander through this park. My friend Mollie and I were on a mission to find Queen Mary’s Rose Garden within the park… and in case the photos above didn’t make it abundantly clear: the gardens did not disappoint. Since summer is so short in London, the roses peak in early/mid June. Even by our visit in late June, we could tell that some of the roses were starting to die from the heat. BUT if you’ll be in London in June, I highly recommend visiting the rose gardens as they’re some of the most gorgeous gardens I’ve ever seen.
Things to Do in the Summer in London: Markets
Since we’re already on a floral theme, let’s start with my favorite flower market in London: Columbia Road Flower Market. Each and every Sunday, this East London street is filled to the brim with stalls selling various flowers. And I mean just about every type of flower under the sun. When my friend and I walked through the market in June, I spotted hydrangeas, sunflowers, stalks of lavender, peonies every color in the rainbow, and a bunch of flowers I had never seen before.
Just down the road from the Columbia Road Flower Market (walking distance), you can find Brick Lane Market. This market is a bit edgy (at least by comparison to the flower market). I loved scrolling through the vintage wares and the old records. And stopping every other second to smell (and often purchase) the food from different stands scattered throughout. Head’s up: this market is only open Saturdays and Sundays and it gets super packed by midday.
If “vintages wares” peaked your interest, you’ll love Portobello Road Market. Antiques are sold on this street in Notting Hill every Friday and Saturday. Even if you’re not into antiquing, there’s still plenty to do and see (and eat) in and around the market.
Last, but definitely not least, my favorite food market in London: Borough Market. I first visited this market back in 2015. Since then, I’ve made a point to pop into it on each and every trip to London. Why? To put it simply: this market has some of the best street food. Ever. Period. But it has more than prepared food: there are wine stalls, cheese stalls, and fresh produce throughout the market. It’s kind of like a farmers’ market x 1000. And I love it.
Things to Do in the Summer in London: Museums
I could spend weeks writing about the museums in London. Literally. Weeks. There are literally dozens of museums in London and I love so many of them. But in the interest of time, energy, my desire to go get food after finishing this post, and your desire to not read a 10,000 word essay, here are my favorite museums at a glance:
- Victoria & Albert Museum: the V&A is my favorite museum in London. I pop through at least once (and sometimes two or three times!) each trip to see their collections, both permanent and temporary. Last winter, I loved the temporary exhibits on Balenciaga through the ages and the history of Opera as an art form. While admission is free to the permanent collections, the temporary exhibitions do typically require a paid ticket. Pro tip: go early to the general collection to avoid the crowds, and then duck into the temporary exhibitions once it starts to get crowded.
- Natural History Museum: if you’re traveling with kiddos, pop across the street from the V&A to the Natural History Museum. Like the V&A, admission to the Natural History Museum is free. This Natural History Museum is pretty similar to just about any other Natural History Museum in terms of content… There’s a section on dinosaurs, there’s a section on space, etc. The big difference? The architecture. Just visit the museum and see for yourself: the soaring ceilings in the main entry are enough to take your breath away.
- British Museum: I love the British Museum. Honestly. The collections are unparalleled. In case you didn’t know: I’m a huge nerd when it comes to ancient history (and to Tudor era England, but more on that later). This museum is seriously unparalleled in terms of ancient artifacts. Room after room after room of pieces of history from throughout the Roman empire, ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, and even ancient artifacts from the Middle East and Asia. Again, this museum is free, though there can be a long line to enter (and it can get packed).
- Tower of London: after you take your *requisite* photo of Tower Bridge, pop over to the Tower of London. Unfortunately, this museum is pretty pricey to visit (about £20 per person), but it’s really well done and covers so much history pertaining to both the city of London and the British monarchy as a whole. I highly recommend visiting this museum if you are traveling with kids. Oh and PS: this is where the Crown Jewels are held. And you don’t want to miss those.
Things to Do in the Summer in London: Shopping
Last but certainly not least, top of my personal favorite / my wallet’s least favorite things to do in the summer in London: shopping. I love popping into Selfridges and Liberty London each and every trip. On my most recent trip, Mollie and I ate brunch in Aubaine in Selfridges (an Instagram-worthy must-visit!). And then, another day, my friend and I popped just around the corner to see the flower displays at Liberty London (checking out flower displays is one of my favorite things to do in the summer in London!). And then I may or may not have dragged him inside to browse the skincare collections.
Finally, no trip to London is complete in my book without a trip to Fortnum & Mason. This giant store dates back to when the United States was still a British colony. And pretty much the entire store is dedicated to the art of tea.
When in London, right?
Truly there’s so much great shopping in London, it’s hard to pick out just a few stores. You really can’t go wrong.