The best time of year to be in London is the summer. Locals longingly reminisce about how noticeably the atmosphere changes. People are friendlier, spend more time with loved ones in the parks after work and make the most of the often too brief sunshine. But, as we all know, it’s a big and expensive city and there is a lot to do here! So, I have narrowed down my favourite inexpensive ways to spend a summers day in London to 21 activities which I think everyone will love. If you have any unusual recommendations for inexpensive ways to spend a summers day in London, let me know in the comments! I am always looking for new places to explore in my home town.
EXPLORE AND EAT AT LONDON’S BEST MARKETS
BOROUGH MARKET – For the foodies amongst us, Borough Market is as good as it gets. Home to food stalls from all over the world, the market is open to the public from 10am. Monday to Saturday, it’s the perfect place to grab lunch. You can also spend time exploring, eating all the free samples and experiencing the buzz of one of London’s oldest markets.
COLOMBIA ROAD FLOWER MARKET – One of my favourite places in East London, Colombia road flower market runs every Sunday in the centre of Shoreditch and is absolutely buzzing! It draws in a seriously trendy crowd, creating a great vibe. The flowers are beautiful too of course and it’s a great place to get cheap indoor house plants! Combine wandering around the market for a morning with lunch in one of the countless restaurants nearby and you have yourself a relaxing summers day.
CAMDEN MARKET – 100% worth braving the crowds for, Camden Market is my favourite place to spend a day when I fancy mindlessly walking, browsing and people watching! Even though I’ve been hundreds of times, I always discover something new. The variety of food available in the market is amazing too so make sure to arrive hungry.
– What I ate in Camden Market Last Weekend
RUPERT STREET FOOD MARKET – You know how much I love a food market but the one on Rupert Street, Soho is my favourite for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s super central which means you can combine food with another activity like shopping on Oxford Street. Secondly, on Saturdays the market is entirely vegan! I have discovered some of my favourite vegan food companies at this market and go back as much as possible all in the name of research!
– The Ultimate Vegan Guide to London
OR WHY NOT RELAX OUTDOORS
THROW A BBQ IN BURGESS PARK – Very few parks in London allow the use of barbecues let alone have purpose build barbecues and stands for disposable ones. In Burgess Park they’re stood around the lake making for a very picturesque BBQ experience. You can also BBQ in all green open spaces in the borough is Islington as long as you are respectful of the area.
RELAX IN A BEER GARDEN – With a group of friends, sitting in the sun drinking beer and eating German food couldn’t be more relaxing. There are hundreds of beer gardens dotted across London to choose from so get exploring, find your favourite and settle in for the summer!
WATCH A MOVIE IN AN OPEN AIR CINEMA – London is dotted with open-air cinemas, my favourite being the Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch and Bussey Building in Peckham. Both are owned by Roof Top Film Club and show classic movies as well as new releases. You get wireless headphone to make sure sound quality is top and the cutest deckchairs to sit in which makes the whole experience feel even more summery. You can also get drinks, snacks and various other foods at their roof top bars and food stalls.
HAVE A PICNIC IN REGENTS PARK – If you are easy to please like me, a picnic is the perfect inexpensive way to spend a summers day in London. And Regents park is the best place for it. You can chill under a tree in the shade or explore the gardens dotted around the park. Take a book and frisbee to keep yourself occupied. If you get a board you can take a stroll up Primrose Hill enjoying the view over the city.
ESCAPE THE HEAT IN A MUSEUM – I could write an entire post on London’s museums. My favourites include the V&A, the British Museum and The Natural History Museum. You could easily spend a whole day in one of these. The V&A is particularly nice in the summer due to the outdoor eating area in the centre of the building. They all have permanent and temporary exhibitions throughout the year so find out what’s on before going. If you like art museums, The Tate Modern on Bankside is an amazing place to visit. The building is incredible and they have a bar with one of the best views over the river in London.
DO A FREE WALKING TOUR – I’m talking about Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and all the other amazing historical landmarks in London. Be a tourist for the day and learn a little about the city you’re in! You can find plenty of free walking tour companies and their start times online. They do expect a little donation at the end but it is up to you what you give. There are also themed tours such as the Harry Potter free walking tour which if you are a fan, could be a good alternative!
GET A LITTLE ACTIVE
CYCLE THE TAMSIN TRAIL – A long cycle is one of my favourite inexpensive ways to spend a summers day in London. Sun-blocked to the max of course! And the Tamsin Trail in Richmond Park is one of the prettiest routes in London. You really feel like you’ve left the city and pollution behind you, just enjoying the beautiful scenery. Remember to stop and see the deer along the way.
SWIMMING IN THE PONDS – The Hampstead Heath Ponds are the largest freshwater lakes in London which you can swim in. There are three main ponds, one for men, one for women and one mixed. It seems a little old fashioned I know, but the ponds have been enjoyed by Londoners for hundreds of years. There really isn’t a better way to escape the heat of the city.
EXPLORE THE CITY
EXPLORE THE BACK STREETS OF SOHO – So much to discover! Soho is an apologetically weird and wonderful area of London. In the sunshine exploring the little winding streets can’t be topped.
ADMIRE THE STREET ART IN SHOREDITCH – Shoreditch is by far the best area in London for street art. Banksy pops up left, right and centre along with lots of other lesser known but equally as talented artists. You can find the locations for the most impressive pieces online and visit them yourself. Or you can do a street art walking. Either way, this is a great way to spend a day in the sunshine.
GET A PICTURE A LA THE BEATLES ON ABBEY ROAD – What a classic tourist activity in London. Although, not one I have ever actually done! But as free things to do in London go, this has to be one of the coolest (and most Instagram-able!). Abbey road is easy to get to but make sure to avoid peak times because it’ll be busy!
FESTIVALS, CARNIVALS AND PARTIES!
PARTY AT A DAY FESTIVAL – Guaranteed you’ll be able to find a festival of some description every weekend over the summer in London. Be it for food, music or art. The price of tickets can vary massively but often smaller festivals are free. Summer by The River and Regent Street Summer Street festival are both great free options. If you are happy to spend a little more check out Lovebox, Wireless and All Points East.
EXPERIENCE NOTTING HILL CARNIVAL – A must for anyone visiting London over the August bank holiday. Notting Hill Carnival is a brilliant day out. Plan your trip in advance as there are different activities over the weekend suited to different people! The parade is amazing as is the live music and street food available.
GET A DRINK ON A ROOFTOP BAR – There are plenty of options when it comes to rooftop bars in London. Frank’s Café in Peckham is a summer only rooftop bar and by far my favourite. It’s sat on top of a multi-storey carpark and has a very chilled out, trendy vibe. It attracts Londoners from far and wide! There is also the Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch which has a great rooftop bar. Shoreditch is a good area
THEMED DAYS OUT
VISIT KEW GARDENS – Kew Gardens isn’t the cheapest option on this list. If you book online an adult ticket costs £16.50 and is 100% worth the money. The glasshouses are beautiful all year round while the outside grounds come to life in the summer.
– A Day in London’s Royal Botanical Kew Gardens
WANDER AROUND HIGHGATE CEMETERY – Slightly unusual to suggest a walk around a cemetery? But you have to visit Highgate Cemetery at least once. It’s the resting place of many famous people including Karl Marx and Henry Moore. As well as being an incredibly peaceful, green area of London.
WATCH THE TENNIS AT WIMBLEDON – Another slightly more expensive option on this list, ground admission tickets cost £25. But with these you can explore the tennis grounds and watch centre court on the big screen from Henman Hill. You can also get onto some of the smaller courts to watch some games in person. Make sure to get there early for a good spot on the hill because it gets pretty packed. Also remember to pack a bottle or two plus some strawberries for an authentic experience!