Jun 2015
Summer in the City: Top 5 Things to Do in London

London summers may be short, but the city offers plenty to see and do to fill up a few hours or an entire week in Britain’s capital. Visit London in the summertime and discover the following warm-weather attractions.

1. Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square by: S Pakhrin (CC)

Though you can certainly visit Trafalgar Square any time of the year, summer makes this city landmark all the more attractive. Just north of Charing Cross, the square marks the center of the city and features the famous monument to Lord Horatio Nelson, whose distinguished service in the Napoleonic Wars earned him the reputation of one of the country’s most heroic historical figures. During the warmer months the popular square offers everything from film screenings and dance demonstrations to community gatherings and political events. A number of statues and sculptures permanently decorate the square, with one plinth left intentionally empty in order to host regular art exhibits. Check it out on a warm summer’s evening, and don’t forget to bring your camera.

2. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

The Palm House, Kew Gardens, London by: Jim Linwood (CC)
One of the most iconic garden complexes in all of Europe, the immense Royal Botanic Gardens Kew boast one of the largest collections of living plants in the world. Begun in 1759, the gardens now spread over a vast 120 hectares (300 acres) and include the world’s most comprehensive collection of orchids. Rightfully recognized as a World Heritage Site, the gardens can easily take an entire day to explore. Add this site to your London itinerary to discover over 30,000 kinds of plants, including many rare and exotic specimens. If you feel pressed for time, take a guided tour of the highlights, which include the world’s largest ornamental glasshouse and a 17th-century pagoda designed by architect William Chambers.

3. Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery by: monkeywing (CC)
A standout among London’s famous “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries created in Victorian times, Highgate Cemetery remains known both for the people buried there as well as for its status as a protected nature reserve. The grounds serve as a final resting place for illustrious figures like Beryl Bainbridge and George Eliot. Split into two distinct parts, the cemetery covers over 20 hectares (50 acres) of atmospheric lanes and lavishly decorated Victorian crypts. The eastern side’s biggest attraction is the grave of Karl Marx, while the wilder western section offers a labyrinth of winding footpaths and ivy-clad tombstones accessible by guided tour only.

4. Hampstead Heath

Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath by: Laura Nolte (CC)
Situated in north-central London, Hampstead Heath offers a staggering 320 hectares (790 acres) of public green spaces ideal for summertime recreational activities. Add the park to your London trip planner to take advantage of its swimming pools, children’s playgrounds, and extensive trails for cross-country running. Boasting the highest point in London, this giant park affords panoramic views of the city’s skyline from multiple lookouts. Be sure to tour the stately 17th-century Kenwood House, featuring a restored interior filled with important artwork. If you get tired of walking and sightseeing, grab a cup of tea and some cake at the park’s tearoom.

5. Regent’s Park

Regent’s Park by: Paul Robertson (CC)
Once the favored hunting grounds of Henry VIII, the verdant Regent’s Park is now one of the most popular fine-weather spots for relaxation in London. Bordered by paved walking and cycling routes, the landscaped park was the brainchild of architect John Nash, who initially planned to use the area to build lavish palaces for the city’s wealthy aristocrats. The plan never quite came to fruition, but the park still contains many architectural gems, including numerous villas and terraces dotting the shores of an artificial ornamental lake. Bring a blanket and some light snacks for a picnic near the water, or head to the London Zoo, arguably the park’s biggest attraction.

A City of Scorching Summer Attractions

London boasts some of the world best galleries and museums, fine attractions for visiting on typically cold and rainy English days. But for an entertaining London holiday in the warmer months, be sure to include some of the city’s outstanding summer attractions, offering a heap of outdoor activities guaranteed to surprise and delight visitors of all ages.