The ultimate summer calendar: things to do, London, August 2022
The London summer season is finally here. From open-air cinema to outdoor art, these are the unmissable events to help you make the most of the warm weather
Free things to do in London
Leave your purse at home and find the best of London's free, family-friendly entertainment this summer.
Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF) runs from Friday 26 August to Sunday 11 September, bringing with it a 17-day programme of free outdoor performances and interactive art installations, all of which are taking place in the streets, squares and green spaces of Greenwich. Highlights include German artist Stephanie Lüning's Island of Foam (pictured), which is smothering Greenwich Peninsula in mountains of rainbow-coloured, eco-friendly bubbles on 3 & 4 September.
Flowing back into the city from 1 September is the annual Totally Thames Festival, with 90 arts-related events – most of which are free – taking place along the banks of London's leading river. Guided walks, art installations, storytelling and live musical performances are all part of this year’s programme, with plenty for the whole family to enjoy.
Serpentine Pavilion, 2022, by Theaster Gates
Fancy seeing some art without having to head inside a stuffy (and potentially pricey) gallery? Have a scroll then a stroll through our guide to London's outdoor art installations and sculpture trails. Highlights this summer include Theaster Gates' Black Chapel at Serpentine Pavilion (pictured).
Over on Greenwich Peninsula, Summer Sessions is offering three months of free activities, including live music, film screenings, family sports, workshops and DJ sets to raise spirits and keep the crowds mingling.
Swinging west, Notting Hill Carnival returns on the August Bank Holiday weekend for the first time since before the pandemic, bringing with it goat curry, steel drums, rum punch, coconuts, jerk chicken and a whole lot of joy.
Wherever you end up roaming, if it's hot, you've got the kiddos with you and they need to cool off immediately, head to your nearest play fountain for some free, fun splashing.
Things to do with kids in London
The Obliteration Room at Tate Modern
With six (or more!) long weeks to fill, the summer holidays can see parents taking on a secondary role of full-time entertainers. Fortunately, there’s a host of thrilling attractions and schemes on hand to help ease that pressure. From a Secret Garden exhibition to a dotty Yayoi Kusama experience especially for families and Kids Week offers across West End theatres, this summer brings lots of new things to do with kids.
Pergola on the Roof, Shepherds Bush
Out with the dingy pubs of darker months. British summer is notoriously brief, so don't waste a moment of those precious sunny days. Make like a New Yorker and enjoy your post-work tipple from the vantage point of a rooftop bar. London is home to plenty of hidden gems (The Lucky Club in Camden is a newbie worth venturing to this summer) as well as cult favourites (Peckham's Franks among them). And many of the most glamorous rooftop bars can be found atop chic hotels.
The lawns at Glyndebourne
Even those left cold by opera will be charmed by the country-house delights of Glyndebourne or Garsington. Gourmet picnics, champagne and the finest frocks are a perfect backdrop for world-class musical performances. However, you don't even have to leave the city for a country-house experience: Holland Park Opera brings the pastoral atmosphere to the centre of town.
Al fresco theatre
Summer is the season when London’s theatre crowd emerges blinking from the city’s darkened auditoriums, swapping plush seating and cosy comforts for the bracing and somewhat unpredictable experience of watching a show in the great outdoors.
From the capital’s three main open-air offerings – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe and the National Theatre’s River Stage – to a slew of smaller, regional venues dotted around the UK, here are the outdoor theatres worth travelling to this summer…
If you really do prefer your theatre when it comes with the promise of a roof and a comfy seat, check out our round-up of the best new plays opening this August.
Wild swimming: London's hidden spots
Kenwood Ladies Pond, Hampstead
As seasoned Londoners we've learned our al fresco swimming lesson the hard way – you'll want to arrive early to secure a spot and avoid the queues. Hampstead Pond is the most central spot for wild swimming, while a short car or train journey will lead you to a number of secluded havens.
Prefer to bob around in waters a little more clear and filtered? The Serpentine is surprisingly quiet for somewhere so central, or try Brockwell, London Fields or Tooting Bec Lidos: all of which boast the buzz of a holiday destination and are great for an outing with family or friends.
Waterside dining at The Summerhouse, Little Venice
How to spot an Englishman abroad: identify the tourists who are lounging over lunch in outdoor terraces for lunch in spite of lobster-red cheeks. Yes, all-year-round sun deprivation makes us Brits lap up the rays at every opportunity. But for those rare sunny days, London offers plenty of outdoor dining spots, including large swathes of Soho which have remained pedestrianised with covered tables lining the roads since the lockdown eased. Tables are hard to come by in the hallowed gardens of The River Café and Petersham Nurseries, but there are hidden gems (try the garden at Mazi) and riverside marvels (we're looking at you, Towpath Café) waiting for your custom.
Or, if you're a foodie with your finger on the pulse, check out our round-up of the best new restaurants opening this August.
Beach East at the Park, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Can't wait until the bank holiday weekend to catch some seaside fun in the sun? Lucky for Londoners, city beaches are cropping up across the capital. We love the beach at Brent Cross, where families can enjoy customary seaside games or Limin' Beach Club on South Bank for deckchair lounging with a rum punch in hand.
Luna Cinema at Hampton Court Palace
Add some drama to your run-of-the-mill movie night by rolling out a blanket at one of the many pop-up screens across the city. Pop Up Screens is London's original al fresco cinema experience, while Luna Cinema specialise in screenings with spectacular backdrops such as Hampton Court Palace and Westminster Abbey. And never to be overlooked is Rooftop Film Club, which takes the action sky high.
If you don't trust the Great British Weather, or are simply exhausted by working your way through everything else on this list (in which case, we salute you!) then treat yourself to a night of Netflix: here are the shows and films dropping this August.