‘I need the seasons to live to the rhythm of rain and sun.’ – Sophie Marceau.
Having lived in London for over a year now, I think it’s safe to say there are elements of the city that I enjoy in every season. Every spring, summer, autumn and winter there are seasonal offerings that bring out the best of the city and make me excited for the upcoming months. Even during winter, when the city is at its darkest and coldest, London has tricks up its sleeve to ensure we remain enamoured with urban living.
Of course, there are activities that transcend the seasons and can be enjoyed at any time during the year. Here, I have included my favourite seasonal treats, and at the end I have added those things that I feel can be done at any time of year, no matter the weather.
Ice Skating. I’ll be the first to admit, I am terrible at skating. But what could be more seasonal that ice skating during winter, especially in the run-up to Christmas. A seemingly endless number of ice rinks pop up from November through to January across London. My favourite rink has to be the one at the Natural History Museum, but there are many to choose from. Why not check out Somerset House, Hyde Park, Canary Wharf or, with views extra, London’s first ever rooftop rink at Tobacco Docks? Even if you’re rubbish like me, wrap up warm and grab your skates for some seasonal fun on the ice! Click here for a more comprehensive list of rinks across the capital.
PS – if you’re as bad at skating as me, but want to get some ice-themed fun in, why not try curling? Head to Stratford’s Roof East to get a session in, then enjoy some seasonal mulled wine and a burger afterwards! I have to say, I went recently and it is the most fun I’ve had in ages!
Eating Roast Dinners. Now I for one could definitely eat a roast at any time of year (except perhaps the hottest days of summer). But winter is definitely the best season for a roast, preferably eaten in front of a roaring fire with a glass of mulled wine on the side. From personal experience, I’d definitely recommend The Cricketer’s Arms in Richmond or The Tap on the Line at Kew. Bonus: going to either of these pubs means you can work up an appetite for your roast by getting in a good walk beforehand.
Visiting the ballet. From the end of November until January, the National Ballet generally dance The Nutcracker, a classic Christmassy tale. I went in January this year to see a performance and it was the perfect post-Christmas treat. I’d definitely recommend getting tickets as a pick-me-up after Christmas, when the winter blues are more likely to set in during January and February.
Visit the markets. London is home to some amazing food markets. I’ve talked about them in this post before, and I think spring is the perfect time of year to head to your favourite market and sample some of the food there is on offer. As the cold winter days fade, it’s nice to get (kind of) outside again. Among my favourites are Flat Iron Square, Pop Brixton, Dinerama and Mercato Metropolitano, where the food ranges from stone baked pizzas to bao buns to cheese platters, from hot dogs to fried chicken to curries from all over the world.
Take a boat ride. The Thames River Boats resume their service from central London up river to Richmond, Kew and Hampton Court in the spring, so this is the perfect time of year for an excursion to any of these locations for some greater London exploration. If you are looking for a cheaper day out, why not try the Thames Clipper service instead. This runs year round, but spring is a great season to take a boat from Embankment downstream to Greenwich, where you can explore the park, learn about GMT and find out more about London’s maritime history.
Check out the London Marathon. London’s most iconic sporting event, held every April and with upwards of 40,000 runners each year. It is pretty difficult to ignore this event, as it takes over large swathes of the capital on the day. Whether running it yourself (respect!) or spectating, this is definitely worth checking out if you live in London or if you happen to be visiting over this period. If you are running, make sure you set up your fundraising page early to get your donations in and raise as much money as possible for your chosen charity!
Visit a rooftop bar. As with the ice rinks during winter, London becomes home to many pop-up rooftop bars during the summer. It’s definitely worth going along to one at least once to enjoy the long summer nights and iconic views across the capital. The opening of the famous Frank’s Cafe seems to now herald the start of summer, so be sure you don’t miss out! For a comprehensive list of the best of London’s rooftop bars, check out TimeOut London here.
Watch a film at an outdoor cinema. As with the rooftop bars that pop up all over the city, outdoor cinemas are also extremely popular during the summer months. A particularly quirky option is King’s Cross’s floating cinema, found at Granary Square every summer, where cinema goers can enjoy viewings of classic films. When I visited, we watched The Jungle Book cartoon. To see what was available in 2017, and to give a taste for years going forward, check out this link.
Pack a picnic. Unfortunately, most of central London’s parks do not allow BBQ’s, but don’t let this deter you. There are so many parks and open spaces in London that you should definitely make it your business to take a picnic out one day and enjoy some of the green space available! If you head to Hyde Park, be sure to check out the Pavilion that opens every summer, or try peddle boating on the Serpentine. Alternatively, head a little out of London to enjoy the delights on offer at Bushy or Richmond Parks, or pop into Kew Gardens. And don’t forget to check out lesser known parks too – they may be a little less crowded and there are some real gems out there!
Go on a ghost tour! The perfect low-key way of celebrating Halloween in the capital if you’re not a fan of the American commercialisation around the day. London has a long and often bloody history, with such celebrated murderers as Jack the Ripper and gory goings-on like grave robbing. There are plenty of tours on offer, especially if you head to The City to explore the history around the streets there. I’ve been meaning to go on one for a while, and this will be the one I book when I do… Even the website looks creepy.
Try leaf peeping. In London, there are plenty of opportunities to see the changing colours of autumn. Even a walk down a tree-lined street can offer delight as the leaves begin turning, but you could make a day of it and get out into London’s parks to see the trees in their full glory. Regent’s Park is home to The Broad Walk, a tree-lined avenue that becomes almost unbearably photogenic during the autumn months. Most local parks will become even more beautiful as a riot of colour erupts, so be sure to get out and enjoy a kickabout in the crispy autumn leaves before winter sets in.
Check out Bonfire Night firework displays. There are some wonderful firework displays across London around the 5th November. Some of the most famous and well-visited are the fireworks at Alexandra Palace and the display at Battersea Park. However, there are organised events all over the capital, often with food stalls, music and bars available. This year, I went to Alexandra Palace and can confirm that the display is excellent, as was the laser display that preceeded the fireworks. Definitely worth the £11 ticket cost.
And then, of course, there are those things that you can do in London throughout the year, whenever they take your fancy and whatever the weather.
Go on a walk. Sure, London is a sprawling urban space, but thankfully there are loads of parks and outdoor spaces where you can take a walk. For a leisurely stroll, visit any of the numerous parks scattered across the city. If a longer walk takes your fancy, why not try walking Regent’s Canal from Bethnal Green to Camden and beyond, or hiking some the Thames Path. Both offer slightly greater walking challenges! Alternatively, head out of the city and explore Epping Forest for a day.
Catch a movie or see a play. There are literally hundreds of cinemas in London, including some great independent and smaller cinemas that I’d recommend checking out for a plethera of films beyond the major blockbusters. My personal favourite cinemas in London include the Curzon SoHo and Clapham Picturehouse. Both have cool little bars and a more intimate feel about them than your classic Odeon or Vue.
Spend an afternoon relaxing in a cafe. If you want to read a book, do some work or just escape the flat on a damp Sunday afternoon, you could do worse than finding a local cafe, grabbing a coffee and embedding yourself there for a few hours. I recently discovered Vanilla Black, a fantastic cafe near my house where I like working on this blog on weekends. If you do your research, you’ll find some great places serving delicious coffee anywhere you go in the capital.
Visit a museum. There are so many museums here, and the best thing is, most of them are free to visit. You have the classics – the Natural History Museum, the V&A, the British Museum… But have you considered checking out some of the smaller museums? London is home to some truly quirky ones!
Treat yourself to brunch. Anywhere, anytime. Brunch has to be one of the best meals money can buy… Perfect for every season.