I caught up with a friend this week, and she asked me a question that usually deserves a long-winded answer. “Any travels coming up?” she said. “Not really,” I admitted. “I usually try to stay in London in the summertime. There isn’t any place better to be.” A bold statement, I know! But for a nation known for its gray skies and perpetually impending drizzle, when the sunshine kisses our pale, almost translucent skin, the entire city lifts into a state that could almost be called, dare I say, optimistic?
I kid, of course. I love London so much that I moved back, intentionally, to enjoy its diversity, history, and endless discovery. But summertime London isn’t for the tourists. Summer is, for a portion of the forty million annual visitors, more likely, long lines and blocked views. I, personally, recommend visiting London in late September or October. Most of the tourists will have returned home, and London is usually blessed with a spot of late summer sunshine due to our special seat on the south coast.
Summer in London centers entirely around Londoners. There is a never-ending array of music festivals, theatre festivals, food festivals, gin festivals, wine weeks, park runs, horticultural shows, comedy festivals, sporting events, art fairs, and, by God, it will all happen outside! There may be a tented area or marquee if the weather happens to turn but don’t be surprised if no one ventures in. It’s summer, dammit! No Brit would dream of being so soft as to take cover should the heavens open. What’s a little rain in my Pimm’s or bitter shandy, anyway? All the better to keep hydrated! Besides, my wellies match my dress. Do try to keep calm and carry on and all that.
Because living in London is an endurance race. It is about carrying on. Every day the capital city’s citizen pile everything that they might need for the entire day – laptops, gym clothes, purses, water bottles, lunches – into backpacks and satchels to brave the tube and/or trains to join the caravan of commuters. The motto of the TFL should be “misery loves company,” and they know it! I suspect the reason the world thinks of Britain as being reserved and standoffish is that their only experience mingling with actual Brits is on the tube. The tube is a secret society with its own set of rules that, frankly, deserves its own article. The British, of course, embrace this reputation because, my god, they do love to take the piss – especially when it’s with the rest of the world. I adore that about them – once I was also in on the joke.
Summertime in London is about flowering trees and smog-induced sunsets and pints in a pub in West London after a long walk in the gardens of National Trust estates or castles. It’s about extended hours at national museums and silent discos in odd venues. It’s about pop-up restaurants, pop-up cinemas, and pop-up gallery/shop/coffee/etc. Summer in London is about trying new things and mixing it up whether it’s with new cultures, new openings, or new music. Summertime is when Londoners come out of their woolen shells to dance a cheeky dance and toast the fickle fireball in the sky. It’s our reward for keeping calm and carrying on.
BRITISH SUMMER TIME(BST) CHEEKY SHEET:
Talk like a local:
- Pimm’s – Pimm’s is the quintessential summertime drink.
- Bitter Shandy – A summertime man’s drink made with a type of lager beer called a(…wait for it…..)bitter topped up with lemonade. Lemonade in the UK is a fizzy drink like a Fresca (in the USA).
- Taking the piss – A often used phrase that can mean anything from the negative context of trying to take advantage of something to a more gentle application of teasing of a close Mate.
- Wellies – Knee – high, rubber boots, often made by the brand HUNTER, used for braving country walks, festivals, and the occasional port-a-loo. Mine are metallic silver, and they are AWESOME. I love my fleece lined windbreaker too because Summer in London is rarely actually hot!
Check out a couple of my favorite summertime events:
- Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre: https://openairtheatre.com – West End Production quality in a hidden amphitheater. It’s a fantastic night!
- Taste of London: https://london.tastefestivals.com – A who’s who of chef’s suppliers in an open-air setting
- Pergola: https://pergolalondon.com/pergola-paddington – Need a place to chill before you catch your train from Paddington? Grab some lunch at this rooftop pop-up food court (which is much nicer than it sounds) around the corner from the station.
- London Wine Week: https://drinkup.london/wineweek/ – Buy a bracelet, get the app, pick a neighborhood to explore one £5 flight of wine at a time
I have included a variety of London resource websites or top summer festivals. This is by design as each of these sites is a portal to additional, reliable information that is updated more often then I will ever be able to update the details of this article! This article is just the jumping off point for discovery! Enjoy!
Transport for London: https://tfl.gov.uk/
Travel Stats: https://www.visitbritain.org/
All kinds of festivals: https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/festivals-series
Food Festivals: http://www.londontown.com/London/London-Summer-Food-Festivals
Gin Festival: https://www.ginfestival.com/
Running & Races: https://www.runthrough.co.uk/
Chelsea Flower Show: https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show
Wembley Arena Events: https://www.ssearena.co.uk/events/all
British Comedy Guide: https://www.comedy.co.uk/live/festivals/
Art Fairs: https://www.standard.co.uk/go/london/arts/london-art-fair-2018-guide-from-affordable-to-frieze-and-the-other-the-best-of-whats-on-offer-a3734836.html
London Markets: https://secretldn.com/weekend-markets-london
National Trust: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/
Timeout London https://www.timeout.com/london
Visit London: https://www.visitlondon.com