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London in summer

If you are planning to travel to London in summer, take note of these 10 things you can do on vacation to have a great time!

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

8 min read

London in summer

View of the London Eye | ©Nikita Khandelwal

In a city like London in summer there are plenty of great things to do beyond seeing the typical tourist attractions of the city.

Excursions, music, open-air cinema, dancing, boat trips... and this is just a small preview of what you can do in London, the rest I'll tell you about below!

1. Discover the inside of Buckingham Palace

In the dining room of Buckingham Palace| ©Neil Thompson
In the dining room of Buckingham Palace| ©Neil Thompson

Most travelers who visit London usually have as a souvenir a photo with the facade of Buckingham Palace and the Queen's Guard in the background but every summer, when the palace gates open to the public, a lucky few can pass through them to see inside once Queen Elizabeth II has left on vacation.

In summer you can only see the inside of Buckingham Palace a few weeks a year (between late July and early September) so the demand is extremely high and tickets run out in the blink of an eye as there are so few opportunities.

If you would love to walk the halls of Buckingham Palace and do not want to miss this opportunity my advice is to book tickets online and well in advance to get them.

What will you see?

During the tour you will not see the private chambers of the Royal Family but you will see the "State Rooms", the rooms where the Queen receives her guests at official events and where she holds her public audiences. And it is absolutely spectacular!

I suggest you set aside a day of your summer vacation in London to do something typically "British" like visiting Buckingham Palace, watching the Changing of the Guard and having afternoon tea. In the post How to see the Changing of the Guard and Buckingham Palace I tell you all about this experience in detail.

Book a London Changing of the Guard Tour

2. Tour the center of London with a guided tour

Big Ben in London| ©Oleg Magni
Big Ben in London| ©Oleg Magni

Taking advantage of the good weather in London in summer, if you are one of those travelers who love to get lost in the streets of a city to explore it inch by inch, then I recommend you to take a guided tour of the center to discover all the nooks and secrets that are hidden in the heart of this beautiful city.

During the tour you will be accompanied by a guide who will tell you lots of stories and anecdotes about the city that you may not know and you can choose between a walking, bus or bike tour (this option is always more fun!) to explore the center of London and see monuments such as:

  • St. Paul's Cathedral
  • The Tower of London
  • Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Buckingham Palace
  • St. James's Park
  • Trafalgar Square
  • Covent Garden
  • Tower Bridge
  • And many more...

At the end of the guided tour of central London you will have learned a lot of new things, taken a lot of pictures for your social networks and, above all, you will have had a great time.

Book a secret tour of central London

3. Cruise the Thames on a dinner cruise

Enjoying Dinner on a Thames River Cruise| ©viator.com
Enjoying Dinner on a Thames River Cruise| ©viator.com

London's summer nights are wonderful. To experience a romantic and different evening during your stay, I recommend going to the riverside to enjoy a dinner boat cruise on the Thames.

It will be one of the most beautiful memories of your trip! An occasion to go out for dinner a little more dressed up and in a very original environment such as an elegant boat to celebrate something special.

In addition, during the crossing of the Thames you can watch from the deck the sunset and how the colored lights of the city gradually turn on while sipping a glass of champagne.

The monuments along the river bed shine in a special way and look even more spectacular than during the day. It's a magical moment! Oh, and don't worry about how much a Thames cruise costs because many are affordable.

Book a Thames cruise

4. Enjoy the best outdoor cinema

At the Luna Drive-in Winter Cinema| ©The Luna Cinema
At the Luna Drive-in Winter Cinema| ©The Luna Cinema

When the weather is nice, Londoners take advantage of every moment to have fun doing outdoor activities. And summer nights are perfect for watching a movie under the stars and eating popcorn, don't you think?

  • The Luna Cinema (July and August): Hold cinema sessions at various locations in London and screen movies for all tastes: romantic comedies, musicals, blokbusters and more.
  • Film4 Summer at Somerset House (August): The inner square of Somerset House becomes an "open-air cinema" screening first-run films and classics - sometimes there are special guests at the screenings!
  • More London Free Festival (September): In the open-air amphitheater The Scoop next to Tower Bridge you can enjoy the best classics and blockbusters of cinema for free.

5. See the summer solstice at Stonehenge

Enjoying the Solstice| ©Stonehenge Stone Circle
Enjoying the Solstice| ©Stonehenge Stone Circle

Take advantage of your vacation in London to take a trip to the outskirts of the city and see such amazing sites as Stonehenge, the most famous prehistoric monument in Europe.

This time of the year is the perfect time to visit it because during the summer solstice Stonehenge is visited by groups of Druids and a very unique audience to practice magical rituals in which they celebrate the union between the Earth and the Sun. It is a very curious event!

Although you can visit this megalith on your own, taking into account how difficult it is to get there by public transport and the distance it is from London (130 kilometers), the option I recommend is to take an organized bus tour with a guide to Stonehenge.

But be sure to book your tickets online and as far in advance as possible to ensure your place, because for special occasions like the summer solstice they sell out very quickly. In the post Excursions to Stonehenge from London I tell you in more detail all about this exciting adventure.

Book a tour to Stonehenge

6. Watch the sunset on a rooftop in London

At The Culpeper's Roftop| ©Kate C
At The Culpeper's Roftop| ©Kate C

After an intense day of sightseeing, walking and hiking you're going to need to take a break and in summer that's extremely important when the heat is on.

The rooftops of London are small oases in the heights where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the streets of London to take a break and a refreshing drink while watching the sunset with the skyline of the British capital on the horizon. Sounds like a great plan, doesn't it?

Many of the rooftops in the city only open their doors during the summer season, so before going to one of them I advise you to take a look at the websites of these places to make sure they are not closed.

Some of the coolest rooftops in London are:

  • The Culpeper (Whitechapel): 40 Commercial St, London E1 6LP, United Kingdom.
  • The Vista Bar (Trafalgar Square): 2 Spring Gardens Trafalgar Square London SW1A 2T
  • Golden Bee (Shoreditch): Singer St, London EC1V 9DD, United Kingdom
  • Aviary (Shoreditch): 22-25 Finsbury Square, London, EC2A 1DX

7. Experience the magic of West End musicals

The Tina Tuner Musical in the West End| ©Broadway
The Tina Tuner Musical in the West End| ©Broadway

In addition to the cinema, another of the shows you can enjoy in London in summer are the musicals of the West End.

You may not be too passionate about theater but I assure you that its impressive staging and vibrant musical numbers will get, for a few hours, immerse you in a fantasy world that will leave you speechless.

Living the magic of the West End musicals in London is definitely one of the indispensable experiences you have to live there during your stay. Especially if you are traveling with your family, the kids will have a great time with all the music, colors and lights on stage!

If you plan to include a musical in your plans for London, I advise you to buy tickets online and as far in advance as possible before traveling because there are performances with a very high demand, the West End theaters tend to fill up very quickly and the box offices hang the "Sold Out" sign right away.

Buy tickets for London musicals

8. Have a picnic in St. James's Park

Picnic in St James's Park| ©Wellington Roger
Picnic in St James's Park| ©Wellington Roger

Central, cozy and intimate. These are the adjectives that best define St. James's Park, the oldest of the Royal Parks of the city and located very close to Buckingham Palace.

It is a wonderful place to have a picnic during a sunny day in London because its vegetation is very well kept and the views next to the artificial lake are beautiful. In addition, it is not one of the most popular parks in the capital so there are usually no large bustling crowds that interrupt the bucolic and country atmosphere that James's Park has.

You can lie on the soft grass and listen to the birds singing or read a book while soaking up the sun. Plus, if you're traveling to London as a family, the kids will love having some free time to play, run and jump.

9. Get your boots on at Taste Of London food festival

At the Taste food festival in London| ©Gary Bembridge
At the Taste food festival in London| ©Gary Bembridge

During the month of June is celebrated in Regent's Park the gastronomic festival Taste Of London Festival, which brings together the most prestigious chefs of the city to surprise with their culinary proposals to lovers of good food.

The event is not free but paying the entrance fee is worth it as it will give you the opportunity to taste many of the dishes offered at the food stalls gathered there, which belong to very famous restaurants such as "Burger&Lobster", "Bao", "Lina Stores" or "Sagardi", among many others. In addition, you will be able to see how they prepare the food, attend workshops, wine tastings and even buy some food products as souvenirs.

Attending the Taste Of London Festival during the summer vacations will be like going straight to paradise for a foodie! And if you are hungry for more, you can always take a food tour through the streets of London where you will discover little culinary gems that will make your trip to the British capital even more enjoyable.

Book a food tour of London

10. Dance at Notting Hill Carnival

Enjoying the Nothing Hill Carnivals| ©David Sedlecký
Enjoying the Nothing Hill Carnivals| ©David Sedlecký

Caribbean rhythms take the streets of Notting Hill neighborhood to celebrate a great carnival the last weekend of August that reminds somehow to the famous carnivals of Rio de Janeiro or Tenerife. If you feel like partying... this is your moment!

This festival celebrates Caribbean culture in style with an impressive parade of floats and dancers dressed in feathers and sequins dancing to the best music of the Caribbean.

Follow the floats as they make their way through Notting Hill while you groove to the exotic tunes that liven up the parade, or linger somewhere for some Jamaican jerk chicken and a few beers - you'll have a great time and take some fabulous photos full of color and good vibes!