London is an appealing destination for many reasons. It has an iconic skyline, as well as a view that never fails to disappoint with the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the Shard and other famous buildings. It is a multicultural hub in which more than 300 different languages are spoken. It is, in fact, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world.It is an expensive city, but the good news is that wages are also higher in London. In London, you can find a neighborhood that matches your distinct style and taste, no matter if you consider yourself a hipster, a fashionista, a homemaker or a corporate dynamo.
London has a diverse music scene and is also a great gastronomical destination. There are several choices for food and tons of markets in different parts of the city. There’s always something to do in London, regardless of the time of year. But since summer is upon us, here is a list of things you can do as an expat in London this summer.
Be part of Europe’s largest street festival
The Notting Hill Carnival is Europe’s biggest street festival and hosts a fantastic display, showcasing the city’s multicultural atmosphere. It takes place on the bank holiday that occurs at the end of August and spans the whole of W10 in West London. Celebrations take place in Notting Hill, Westbourne Park and Ladbroke Grove.
The most convenient way to get there is to take the tube and join the crowds heading down the parade route. The floats and bands kick off in the mornings on Sunday and Monday. The Notting Hill Carnival celebrates the city’s Caribbean communities, their traditions and vibrant culture. It dates all the way back to 1964 and it is a fun-filled two days of live music and uniquely Caribbean features like reggae music, soca floats, steel bands and delicious foods such as fried plantain and jerk chicken.
The festival usually begins on Saturday evening with Panorama, which showcases music and outdoor entertainment for the whole family. Sunday morning is the traditional Caribbean carnival opening. Family Day or Sunday Parade follows this, where young performers traipse down the streets in elaborate costumes. It all ends with the Grand Finale, where the streets are chock-a-block with steel bands, dancers and performers.
Celebrate all things Japan
Hyper Japan is a unique celebration of Japanese culture, food, fashion, art, anime and many other Japanese aspects that are adored the world over. It is a one-stop experience for everything to do with Japan in summer. It is a great outing for family and friends, especially if you share a passion for Japanese culture.
This is a chance to enjoy the latest videogames or manga, immerse yourself in kawaii and enjoy live stage performances from the hottest names on the J-Pop music scene. Feast on sushi and sake, and try out new snacks and sweets while you explore Japanese handicrafts, the Japanese language and martial arts. You can even get travel advice if you’re planning your own trip to Japan.
If you’re into cosplay, this is your chance to display your love for your favorite anime character. Visitors dress up in characters of their choice, having made costumes using everything from handmade to shop-bought knick-knacks. The Hyper Japan festival takes place at Tobacco Dock in London on the 14th, 15th, and 16th of July.
Hang out with the felines at London’s first cat café
An absolute treat for cat lovers, Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium gives you the opportunity to enjoy High Tea with some of the cutest felines for company. The proprietress, Lauren Pears, spent a months developing the emporium.
Located on Benthal Green Road in Shoreditch, the café lays down certain ground rules about handling the cats. For instance, guests must not fuss over them while they sleep and must avoid picking up cats that don’t like to be held. Cleanliness is also essential and guests must clean their hands before entering or leaving the café.
There are small wooden beds with mattresses for the cats to sleep on, a hamster wheel intended for the cats and turfed steps for the cats to climb up the walls. The downstairs area has a different ambience with mismatched furniture that lends it a homely, cozy feel. There are cat toys strewn all over the floor and lots of spaces where tired cats can retreat for a nap away from all the attention.
Channel your inner ninja
If you love obstacles, minus the mud, travel or lines, Urban Ninja is the obstacle course for you. The event is based on the hugely popular Ninja Warrior television show and features a short urban obstacle course.
There are two difficulty levels, tame and insane. The Tame obstacles are suitable for those looking to have a bit of fun. The Insane ones are for those who are serious about their obstacles and constitute the toughest challenge in obstacle course racing in the UK.
The course is like a large adventure playground and does not have any dangerous or purposely painful obstacles such as barbed wire or electric shocks. It’s a great outing for friends, as you can compare your times on a leaderboard. Stewards are present to assist anyone who is struggling and they also offer advice on the best strategy to complete each obstacle. There is a welcome and safety briefing before the course starts, and you can get familiar with the obstacles in advance. There is even a practice session when you can figure out the best way to complete the obstacles.
Meet the animals at London’s farms
A unique activity you can do this summer in London is to take a tour of the city’s farms and visit the animals there. Some farms also offer activities and workshops for guests where you can learn about farms and how they are run. This is a great activity for children. Here are some of the best farms in the city.
Mudchute Park and Farm – This is among London’s largest farms and spans 32 acres. Located in the Isle of Dogs, the farm is filled with animals, many of which are out in the fields. There is also a duck pond and a petting zoo. The main focus of the park is the Equestrian Centre, a riding school that caters to all ages. The center allows for all-weather floodlit riding and is equipped with cross-country fences. For a more relaxed experience at the farm, bring along a picnic and have it in any of the green fields where you can watch the horses galloping by.
Hackney City Farm – This farm is popular among the weekend market-goers as it has an Italian café deli serving fresh, seasonal Mediterranean food and delicious farm breakfasts. The farm itself is the home of several happy animals, a garden and a pottery studio. The farm is equipped with a vegetable box collection scheme for the locals and offers sessions on low-impact living.
Deen City Farm – This farm is located on part of the National Trust’s Morden Hall Park Estate. Here you can meet the farm residents such as Kimby the alpaca. You can also buy grass nuts to feed the animals and view the adorable newborn chicks and ducklings. The farm also has a young farmers’ club for kids.
Hounslow Urban Farm – Spanning 29 acres, this farm offers the ideal fun day trip for the whole family. You can take a walk around the paddocks, feed the farm animals that include cows, goats, ducks, geese, rheas, alpacas and chipmunks.
Take a history lesson
The Imperial War Museum was founded in 1917 in London with the aim of collecting and showcasing historic items connected to World War I. Artifacts from World War II were added to the collection in 1939. The museum then continued to add memorabilia, including in its scope more recent British military conflicts.
The aim of the museum is to “provide for, and to encourage, the study and understanding of the history of modern war and wartime experience”. A trip to this museum will give you an opportunity to explore a vast array of official documents. It also has a collection of films, art and recordings. There are weapons, aircraft, military vehicles, and a variety of war memorabilia, all displayed on the museum’s many floors.
The Imperial War Museum has a comprehensive library with public access that is open six days a week. A visit to the museum will also give you access to their photography archive and a collection of art relating to the many conflicts that the country has been involved in over the last hundred years or so.
The exhibitions at the Imperial War Museum change regularly, so there is almost always something new to see, and there are also always activities and events that the public can participate in. While you’re there, you can also visit café that has a fairly good variety of foods on offer, including a special menu for children.
Enjoy open-air theatre
The open-air theatre at Regent’s Park is an important city landmark and a popular destination during the summers. Ensconced in the beautiful park surroundings, the theatre was opened in 1932 and is one of the largest theatres in the city. The stage and the auditorium are uncovered, transforming it into one of London’s most exciting spaces.
The theatre was voted London Theatre of the Year at the 2017 Stage Awards, and has put on fabulous productions such as The Seagull, The Crucible, Henry V, Jesus Christ Superstar and Porgy & Bess. Every year, the theatre has more than 140,000 people visiting it during the season that lasts for 18 weeks. Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s production of The Sound of Music won the WhatsonStage Best Musical Revival award, and its production of To Kill a Mockingbird bagged the Best Play Revival award. The theatre aims to break new ground beyond the park and their productions have toured the UK and Ireland.
Cool off in London’s lidos
When the temperatures rise during the summer, the best place to be is in one of the city’s outdoor pools, or lidos. These are great for those who want to get in a bit of exercise as well as for those who simply want to lounge around and cool off in the summer heat. There are several such pools across the city, including the following.
Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds – The City of London Corporation manages these ponds, and are currently discussing with the locals about important works to prevent flooding. Meanwhile, there are three pools that are open to men, women and mixed groups respectively.
Tooting Bec Lido – This pool in South London opened as a bathing lake in 1906 and is known for its Pantone-colored changing huts. It is the largest outdoor freshwater pool in the UK at a little over 90m. Swimming is permitted around the year, but you have to be a member to swim in winter. The pool’s facilities include a children’s paddling pool and a café.
Oasis Sports Centre – This outdoor pool spans 27.5m and is in Covent Garden. The Oasis is hugely popular and gets quite crowded during peak times such as the summer weekends. Refurbishment was carried out in 2011, and new steps were added to the sunbathing terrace. There are separate areas for families and adults.
Watch sports at an outdoor screening
These are fun ways to enjoy events like the big football tournaments or the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. The outdoors provides a great atmosphere where you can grab a deck chair, relax and sip on a cool beverage as you cheer along with the crowds.
Some of the outdoors sports screens in London include the Strawberries and Screen in King’s Cross where there are 50 deck chairs available, The Pimm’s Wimbledon Bar on the terrace of Selfridge’s Rood Deck Restaurant and Bar, and Big Screen on the Beach, which also has a beachside bar.
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