The sun is (sometimes) shining, and sand is returning to London's streets in the form of pop-up urban beaches. Here's where to find them in summer 2023.
1. The Beach at Brent Cross 2023
Your best option if you've got kiddies in tow, The Beach at Brent Cross is one of London's biggest — and therefore busiest — urban beaches. It pops up in a car park at the north west London shopping centre, bringing with it rides for adults and kids, and food and drink stalls. There's a paddling pool and splash areas for cooling off (capacity is limited so there may be a queue during busy times, with your dip limited to 10 minutes). Look out for special events including magic and puppet shows.
There's a bar at the beach, and a limited choice of funfair-style meals such as fish and chips, burgers and hot dogs. You can bring your own food in, either from the cafes and restaurants in the shopping centre, or from home — but no glassware, knives or alcohol.
The Beach at Brent Cross. Entry £3.50 in advance of £4 on the day, extra charge for rides etc. Open 13 May-3 September 2023.
2. Summer Splash at the Royal Docks 2023
As part of the At The Docks 2023 series of summer events, a temporary lido is being constructed in Royal Victoria Dock, complete with sandpits, deckchairs, and swimming areas.
There will be a shallow swimming area for younger children, and the lido is open to everyone, free of charge, though under-8s must be accompanied by an adult on a 1:1 ratio.
Royal Docks Summer Splash, 31 July-20 August 2023. Free, no booking required.
3. Fulham Beach Club at Neverland 2023
Outdoor riverside bar Neverland once again hosts the Fulham Beach Club, a sand-sprinkled bar and party venue with beach huts, sofas, day beds, cabanas and beach bubbles (igloos, but make it summer) to hire, all in Instagram-friendly pastel hues. There's a bar, and a kitchen serving street food — pizzas, burgers, wings and the like — and you can order from your phone and have it delivered to your table. The venue is strictly 18+ after 5pm, and well-behaved dogs are welcome.
Fulham Beach Club at Neverland. General entry is free (no reserved seating), extra charge for beach huts, sofas and bubbles. Open 28 April-7 October 2023.
4. Walthamstow-on-Sea at Big Penny Social
Beer hall Big Penny Social is ditching the bar stools for deckchairs as pop-up beach Walthamstow-on-Sea opens. Sandpits and deckchairs take over the venue's outside space, with beach huts available to hire. A pop-up fish and chip shop serves up the classic dish, as well as more unusual twists including Sri Lankan spiced fish and chips, scampi or fried halloumi with a choice of avocado and jalapeño sauce or Korean glaze. There's a family beach party every Saturday afternoon, and one just for adults later in the evening, with various other events and entertainment on throughout the week.
Walthamstow-on-Sea at Big Penny Social. Entry free or £2 per person, depending on session. Open from 18 July
London's year-round beach: Ruislip Lido
No need to wait for these pop-up beaches to roll out their sun loungers. Ruislip Lido in Hillingdon has a natural beach year-round, as long as you don't mind sharing sand space with swans. There's even a miniature railway to make getting there that bit more fun. Be aware though, that swimming in the lake is always prohibited.
The Thames Foreshore
And no list of London beaches would be complete without the natural ones, along the Thames foreshore. Well, we say 'natural', but some of the choicer spots have clearly had sand imported over the years. Stairs down to the foreshore can be found all along the South Bank. One notable area is close to Gabriel's Wharf where a particularly sandy patch often attracts sand sculptors.
Another excellent patch is the beach in front of Tate Modern. This one is more pebbly, but is a fascinating place to explore with children. Always be careful when on the foreshore for sharp flotsam and jetsam, and beware of rising tides.
Looking for the real seaside? Check out our guides for the best real sand you can get to on a day trip from London: