Us city dwellers know too well, that much of our lives are spent indoors regardless of where our loyalties lie.
It’s a constant battle to remain positive during the 8 weeks the Brits call ‘summer’; forever gobbling handfuls of vitamin D tablets, gazing out the window longing for sun under this grey ceiling of cloud and an endless mass of buildings, and hoping one day you’ll get outside and play.
But when the sunshine comes out, it’s often a battle to find something to do outdoors in London, besides picnic in a local park or drinking beers on a roof terrace. But fear no more.
Here’s a list of my top 7 outdoorsy things to do in London.
SUP Little Venice
If you’re anything like me, you associate paddle boarding with long hot summer days, bikinis, and beach hangouts. It’s certainly not something you’d associate with London, but the times, they are changing! As one of the fastest growing water sports in the world, the hype continues to build around stand-up paddle boarding and tour companies are now popping up around London to serve this city-slicking audience. Paddle boarding through the canals past Little Venice is a truly unique London experience, and one I would highly recommend. Learn more here.
Visit the Brockwell Park and Lido
Brockwell Park is a welcome respite from the constant buzz of Brixton. The park has a reputation for hording yummy mummies, and is a beautiful green space full of overly enthusiastic dogs. Come here to make friends with a few golden retrievers and relax at the “Brixton Beach” aka the Brockwell Lido.
The Lido features an Olympic size swimming pool… and half of the local residents on a weekend. The Lido café is also well-known for serving amazing brunches. It’s busy but beautiful.
Try out the Santander Bikes
I’m not exactly an expert cyclist, and certainly wouldn’t become a cycling commuter like half of my office, but riding around on the Santander bikes is always a laugh. You could explore the royal mile like when I first visited London (back then they were Barclays bikes), or you could try some of Visit London’s waterside routes:
- The Thames Cultural Cycling Tour is a 27km route that takes in a lot of London’s maritime history. Read about and download a map for the Thames Cultural Cycling Tour here.
- There are a number of other options for waterside cycling in London. There are miles of canal north of the Thames. Cycling is allowed along these stretches, but some sections require a permit. Check the Canal & River Trust website.
- There are also long routes along two tributaries of the Thames. In the north east is the Lee Valley offering 26 miles (42km) of traffic-free cycling. For more information visit the Lee Valley Park website.
Explore some abandoned rail routes
The Parkland Walk Railway is one of London’s little-known pleasures. It’s effectively a linear park, that follows the Capital Ring route from Finsbury Park to Highgate (both accessible by tube) along an abandoned railway line. Along the way, you’ll find the crumbling remnants of old tube stations, a creepy sculpture of a green man, and plenty of wee dancing birds. Those with strong legs can follow an additional spur from Highgate up to Alexandra Palace, for spectacular views of north London.
Pet deer at Richmond Park
Richmond Park is one of London’s best kept secrets, and not a common haunt of the casual weekend tourist. While many choose to visit Hyde Park or Green Park, Richmond park is where you can actually go a little wild and feel like you’ve escaped the madness if city life. Once Henry VII’s favourite hunting spot, this area is now a site of national importance for its wildlife conservation, and herds of deer roam freely alongside the heavily booted children. It’s a great spot for a picnic, and even better if you feel motivated enough to go running.
Play some outdoor ping pong
Whether you’re a ping pong maestro, with moves as quick as the Korean Olympic Team, or an absolute klutz with zero hand-eye coordination, you can practice your hand at one of the many outdoor ping pong tables across London. In many cases you can rent ball and bats from a nearby café, but I would recoment packing your own. Find the table nearest to you.
While you can’t exactly delve into the great wilderness when living in London, the city is exceptionally good and dolling up its urban centre with hidden gardens and green spaces. Everyones heard of Kew Gardens, but what about hidden gems like the Isabella Plantation? The bright colours of this woodland garden are so vibrant you’ll think you’re reliving an acid trip from your hippy days. It’s an absolute delight.