How To Keep Cool In London In The Summer Heatwave

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 27 months ago

Looks like this article is a bit old. Be aware that information may have changed since it was published.

How To Keep Cool In London In The Summer Heatwave
Photo: Shutterstock

We spend 50 weeks of the year moaning about the weather, then when we do get a taste of summer, it's just too damn hot. Here's how and where to cool down when the heatwave hits London.

How to keep cool on the tube

Mmm.... sweaty. Image: Shutterstock

You're joking right? The tube is London's own furnace — rumour has it the devil himself once had a cosy little lair on the Central line, but found it a bit too toasty and relocated to the cooler, more bearable flames of Hell instead.

A section of the air-conditioned tube map. Click here for the full, beautiful, icy masterpiece

That said, there are ways you can rework your commute to keep a bit cooler — meet the air-conditioned tube map. Compiled by Londonist's own Geoff Marshall in the sticky days of the summer 2018 heatwave, it helpfully shows which tube lines are nice and chilled. No surprise that the Central line is absent. Of course, we make no promises about your fellow commuters having the common decency to wear deodorant, but one step at a time, eh?

Rooftop bars and beer gardens in London

The view from Madison, one of London's best rooftop bars

If you're anything like us, your thoughts turn to al fresco supping as soon as the sun shines. You've got two main options; rooftop bars, and beer gardens — or, you can combine the two on this summer booze crawl.

Rooftop bars can be found across London, from themed hipster hangouts in east London, to stunning views of St Paul's Cathedral, and Peckham's perennially popular Frank's. Browse our guide to the best rooftop bars in London this year.

Image: Shutterstock

If you're more about the booze than the views, gather your crew together and make for your nearest beer garden. From riverside terraces to sprawling open spaces, and more compact gardens in the city centre, kick back with a pint and a packet of crisps — just watch out for wasps.

Where to get the best ice cream in London

Image: Shutterstock

Is it even summer if you don't have an ice cream on your lunch break... and then another on your way home from work? Sure, you could pop to the local newsagents for a Magnum... or you could hit up one of these ice cream shops, selling the best cones and tubs in the capital.

For a bit more extravagance, tuck into an ice cream sundae (sharing optional, obvs), or for a lighter, more refreshing scoop and some rather unconventional flavours, eat your way through these gelato menus.

Image: Shutterstock

We haven't forgotten about London's vegans either — there's a surprisingly decent vegan ice cream scene in the capital, ranging from your run-of-the-mill strawberry, to more adventurous flavours including lime and basil, and chilli.

Lidos and outdoor swimming in London

Parliament Fields Lido. Image: Shutterstock

Year-round swimmers must dread summer, when fair weather dippers take to London's many lidos and wild swimming ponds in a bid to cool down. Of course, there are the famous ones — the ponds on Hampstead Heath, and Brockwell Lido — but there are also a fewer lesser-known gems. Finchley Lido, anyone?

Want to be really on the pulse? Try out London's newest wild swimming lake. It only opened on 20 July 2019

Summer beaches in London

Viking Bay in Broadstairs. Image: Shutterstock

No need to hop on the train to get to the beach — although Kent, Essex and Sussex all have some excellent options. London has its own beaches, which pop-up every summer to offer city dwellers the feel of sand between the toes... and in their hair, and up their nose... Anyway, if you're up for finding sand in your crevices until October, here are the details of this year's summer beaches in London.

London water fountains you can play in

Image: Shutterstock

Move out the way, kids — we're coming in. In summer, London's awash with water fountains that you're allowed to play in. Splash, paddle and whoop to your heart's content — just remember, you've got to go back to the office in that soaking wet shirt and tie.

Barbecuing in London parks

Image: Shutterstock

Every year, the list of parks in which you're permitted to barbecue dwindles as the powers-that-be tighten their rules. At time of writing, these are the London parks in which barbecuing is allowed — but do check before you go, as rules are often changed, and some parks only allowed barbecuing in certain areas at certain times. Other than that, whip out your bangers and you're good to go.

Take to the ice

Streatham ice rink is open all year

Ice skating's not just for Christmas — London has a several year-round ice rinks, situated in dark, cool buildings, away from all that sunshine. The most central one is located at Queensway, and has bowling, arcade games and a restaurant and bar, and it's located underground — ideal if you're swerving the sun entirely.

Your other icy option is Ice Bar. The somewhat-gimmicky cocktail bar just off Regent Street is kept at -5°c all year round, with furniture made of ice. You're provided with a cape and gloves on entry, which seems excessive when it's upwards of 30°c outside, but after a couple of minutes in the frozen lair, you'll be rather grateful for them.

Last Updated 24 July 2019

Continued below.