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10 London Stay-cation Ideas For The Summer

10 London Stay-cation Ideas For The Summer

Picture of Joey Leskin
Updated: 31 October 2016
Fancy a summer break but don’t want to leave the big city? Here are 10 perfect ways to go on that dream holiday, without going beyond the confines of the M25.
Camden Beach| Courtesy Stuart Leech
Camden Beach| Courtesy Stuart Leech

Soak up the Sun at Camden Rooftop Beach

Back for another year, the city beach on the rooftop of the Roundhouse is a lot cleaner than the banks of the River Thames and has a lot more to do. Lounge around on the sand sipping pina colada’s, take in the views, and if the heat gets too much you can head inside for table football and more.

The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8EH, 0300 678 9222

5pm-11pm Mon-Tue, 12pm-11pm Wed-Sun, until 23 Aug; Free

JW3 Beach Opening | © Blake Ezra
JW3 Beach Opening | © Blake Ezra

Build Sand Castles at JW3 City Beach

It is always the aim of the savvy holidaymaker to find that spot on the beach that is slightly less busy. For those a little bit more suburban, try the urban beach that has been created in the outdoor space of the impressive JW3 complex near West Hampstead on Finchley Road. It rivals that of the Roundhouse in both size and scope, whilst promising to give you enough space to lay down your towel without fear of overlapping. With a programme of activities including a live ukulele music evening, a vegetarian festival and a sandcastle building competition, the daily food and drink come with a Middle Eastern twist. Try the Arak cocktails if you dare.

341-351 Finchley Road London NW3 6ET, 020 7433 8988

9am-10.30pm Sun-Thu, 9am-5pm Fri, Closed Sat, until 31 Aug; Free

Regent's Canal | © Garry Knight/Wikicommons
Regent’s Canal | © Garry Knight/Wikicommons

Take a Stroll Along Regent’s Canal

London is not often associated with serene nature and calm bodies of water, but if you want to feel like you have really got away from the hustle and bustle for the summer, head to Regent’s Canal, especially the stretch east of Broadway Market. As the canal path winds north-eastwards along the edge of Victoria Park, the calmness of the water coupled with fewer joggers and cyclists will allow you to feel as if you have headed to central Europe for a warm weekend retreat.

Nearest stations: Cambridge Heath and Hackney Wick


London Fields Lido | © Peter Smith/Wikicommons
London Fields Lido | © Peter Smith/Wikicommons

Sunbathe Beside The Outdoor Swimming Pools

Yes, these do exist in London, and yes, some are even heated and open all year round. To properly lay your towel out, as if you’re having a package holiday hotel experience, before doing a few lengths, head to London Fields Lido, Park Road Pools in Crouch End, or Brockwell Lido in Dulwich (all complete with lifeguards and changing rooms). For those who want something with a little more luxury, splash out at Oasis,central London’s secret pool surrounded by the city, as if you were in Manhattan for a lavish city break.

London Fields Lido: London Fields West Side, Hackney, E8 3EU; 020 7254 9038, 6.30am-9pm daily (until 6pm Fri); £4.80

Park Road Pools: Park Road, Crouch End, N8 8JN; 7am-7pm daily; 020 8341 3567, £5.60; May-Oct only.

Brockwell Lido: Brockwell Park, Dulwich Road, SE24 0PA; 020 7274 3088, 7.30am-9.30pm daily; £5.95

Oasis: 32, Endell Street, Covent Garden, WC2H 9AG; 020 7831 1804, 6.30am-10pm mon-fri, 9.30am-6pm sat-sun; £5.30

Mixed Bathing Pond Hampstead Heath | © Stephen McKay
Mixed Bathing Pond Hampstead Heath | © Stephen McKay

Take a Plunge in a Lake

Despite not technically being real lakes, London has a small set of bodies of freshwater that might suit those more inclined to jump into a secluded lake than stretch out on their towel on the edge of a poolside. If you want to experience London’s largest freshwater pool (with no sight of the city, of course) then the large Tooting Bec Lido should be your choice. For a very organic experience, join the crowds splashing about at Hampstead Heath ponds for less than £3– muddy feet guaranteed. Finally, to discover London’s newest addition, before the crowds, head to the new pond at Kings Cross – with a capacity of only 170, you’ll have to mark your territory early.

Tooting Bec Lido: Tooting Bec Road, SW16 1RU; 020 8871 7198, 6am-7:45pm daily until 31 Aug; 6am-5pm through Sept; £6

Hampstead Heath Ponds: Middle of Hampstead Heath; 020 7485 3873, 7am-6.30pm daily; £2

Kings Cross Pond: 20 Canal Reach (entrance on Tapper walk N1C 4BE; 0203 818 6500, 6:30am-7pm daily until 25 July; £6.50; Booking required

Strawberry Picking in the Sunshine

Parkside Farm in Hadley Wood (right on the city’s periphery) is your ticket to the fields, groves and vineyards of Italy, Greece and France, but with a British twist on the fare being grown. Head there on a sunny day and while away a few hours strolling around the huge and plentiful farm, all the while helping yourself to various types of berries, strawberries, and for those who want to buck the trend, a bit of Swiss chard. Add a pot of cream from their in-house dairy and you have yourself a picnic of continental proportions.

Parkside Farm, Hadley Road, Enfield EN2 8LA; 020 8367 2035, 9am – 5.30pm daily, closed Mondays; Free to enter, pay for what you pick

Beach East | © Beach East
Beach East | © Beach East

Play Petanque at Beach East

Offering the biggest of London’s city beaches, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has shipped in one thousand tonnes of sand to recreate something between the French Riviera and the Rio Copacabana. In the shadow of the Olympic Stadium, you can recreate 2012 with the Olympic sport of beach volleyball on one of their two courts. If that feels too strenuous then simply try your hand at the slightly-less-Olympic sport of petanque, with a tournament that runs all summer.

Olympic Park, Stratford Waterfront; 0800 072 2110, 10am-10pm daily until 31 Aug; Free

Take a Guided Tour

There’s nothing like a guided tour to feel like you have done something cultural on your holiday, aside from getting a tan of course. Assuming you don’t want to only see and learn about parts of the city you already know, something a little deeper is needed in London, and this writer, in fact, moonlights as an analytical tour guide for the city. Take your pick from London’s alternative past and quirky present, modern architecture or street art scene, and feel like you have got your fix of summer holiday culture.

Contact for tour information.

Smoke With The Locals on Edgware Road

Head to the Marble Arch end of Edgware Road and feel like you have stepped through a portal, straight into the heart of the Middle East. Take your pick of the hundreds of shishas or nargile, bars dotted along the main road and off the side streets and grab a water pipe full of fruity, fragrant tobacco. Indulge in some meze, drink some very sweet tea and challenge a local to a game of backgammon. All for prices far lower than its central London location would suggest, and you have yourself an exotic holiday experience.

Nearest tubes: Marble Arch and Edgware Road

Catch a Flight From the Sky Garden

20 Fenchurch Street, more commonly known as the Walkie Talkie, has a free Sky Garden at the top. Why is this like going on summer holiday? Because the Sky Garden resembles a 160-metre high airport terminal. Short of announcing flights boarding, the cavernous and impressive hall has the exact feel, and even smell, of a departure lounge. Wandering around the Sky Garden will have you wondering where the nearest Boots is and anxiously checking your watch to ensure you don’t miss the boarding queue. An easy way to feel like you are heading on summer holiday whilst in the heart of the city.

20 Fenchurch Street, EC3M; 0333 772 0020, 10am-6pm daily; Free; Booking required

By Joey Leskin