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London is often classed as the ‘coolest’ city on the planet, but during the summer heat, it can be anything but. We don’t often have prolonged heat waves but on the few joyous occasions that we do have a hot summer, there are many ways for Londoners and tourists to chill out (literally). Here is the low down on London’s coolest spots and how to stay cool in London:
Places to cool down in London
London has a bounty of outdoor baths and swimming pools and is well known for the lidos dotted all over the capital – the most popular ones include London Fields in east London, Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park, Brockwell Lido and Tooting Bec Lido. If you are looking for somewhere very central to cool down in London, the Oasis Sports Centre is only a few steps from Covent Garden and the West End and is very ‘friendly’. Most London lidos generally have an admission fee around the £5 mark, allowing you to use them all day.
London Sky Garden
London’s highest garden open to the general pub is located towards the top of the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building (nicknamed as such due to its exterior shape, clearly seen from all over London). The gardens are free and feel very cool and not too humid, because of the water spray in the gardens and the rather effective air conditioning. At the top, soak up stunning views of London and the verdant tropical foliage plus the Skypod bar and cafe. Fenchurch Restaurant or City Garden Bar.
One caveat – if you want free entry to the Sky Garden, you need to book a free ticket online in advance of your visit (usually one to two weeks in advance). If you want to be more ‘impulsive’ and turn up on the day, you’ll likely have to make a last minute dining reservation (if available) at Fenchurch Restaurant or City Garden Bar. Read more about Sky Garden in our Sky Garden guide >
Hampstead Heath Bathing Ponds
If you’re looking for something a little more ‘natural’ or rustic than London’s lidos (and cheaper, at £2 per person), how about going for a dip in one of the bathing ponds on Hampstead Heath? There are several ponds (for mixed, womens and mens bathing respectively) and you don’t need to be a member to use them in the summer. Be warned though that the water can be very cold, even on hot summer days – so make sure you bring suitable gear to wear afterwards.
London’s Only Beach – Ruislip
Ok, so this is another London lido of sorts but it also lays claim to being London’s ‘only beach’, so you can sunbathe on real sand take a dip in the lake to cool off (note there is also sometimes a pop-up Camden Beach at the Roundhouse) but there is no water involved – shame).
Ruislip Lido is in fact a huge 60 acre lake set in the 700 acre Ruislip Woods National Nature Reserve – just head to the lake through the forest and your watery reward awaits.
Be warned that on very hot sunny days, Ruislip Lido can get very crowded and getting public transport back can be quite challenging (especially as you have to get a bus to and from Ruislip station to the beach at the end of the day).
London Aquatics Centre at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Pretend to be an Olympic swimmer by taking the plunge in this huge swimming pool and aquatics centre in east London that boasts two 50 metre pools and a 25 metre pool for diving. Make a day of it and read about all the things to do at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park >
Bermondsey Beer Mile
OK, we just had to include a reference to bars and beers in a guide on how to cool down in London – we thought about recommending all the historic bars in London’s Square Mile, as they are all very close together and also the famous Cheshire Cheese Pub on Fleet Street has a basement bar metres underground, which always feels quite fresh
That said, we think you should check out the Bermondsey Beer Mile – 16 breweries all with taprooms concocting the best craft beer in London and all within close proximity – visitors are spoilt for choice as they walk / stumble along the ‘mile’ trying lots of different (and generally quite strong) beers – read our full guide to the Bermondsey Beer Mile here, including a map >
Southbank Centre, Fountains
As it is generally frowned upon to go for a dip in the Trafalgar Square fountain (we’ve seen people do it but the water must be rank), one alternative might be to make the short walk to South Bank and take a wet walk through the fountains at the Southbank Centre. The fountain fun is mainly for families and kids – you can also check out the Southbank Food Market if you are visiting at the weekend.
Greenwich Foot Tunnel
Slightly surreal and a little more offbeat than the rest, but this is definitely the coolest, free place in London (we are speaking from experience as we use this a lot to get from Millwall to Greenwich).
Even when we used it recently on a 30c day in London (in June 2020), the temperature was noticeably cooler given the fact the 370 metre long foot tunnel runs beneath the Thames, giving it a very cooling effect.
Why not get the DLR to the Cutty Sark or Island Gardens, walk in this engineering marvel of Georgian London and then reward yourself with an ice cold pint at the Gipsy Moth pub or Trafalgar Inn in Greenwich.
Read our Greenwich guide here >
Further Afield / a Little Out of London
If you want to get out of London to cool off, try the beaches at Brighton and / or Margate, both of which are less than an hour away from London by train.
Check out our day trips from London blog >
Note if you are looking for an actual ice bar in London, the only one the capital had closed recently (maybe London wasn’t ready for it or it was all the hen parties that put people off…)
Other London blog posts
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