You won’t believe you’re in London with these 9 days out
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Lockdown is easing and you can now spend more time outside after months of being cooped up at home. You might not want to jump on a plane right now through — while there are destinations you are allowed to visit, the goalposts keep changing.
Holidaying in the U.K. this summer certainly makes sense but you may be battling crowds and high hotel prices in places like Cornwall right now. London is a big, populated, often intense city but there are plenty of places you can visit without even leaving Greater London which will make you feel like you’ve escaped the capital, even if you haven’t.
Here are our favourites.
1. Little Venice
A great way to combine Italy and the Netherlands, you can take a leisurely walk through this beautifully unique part of Maida Vale, north west London. You can admire the brightly coloured canal boats and some will even offer you a Venice-style ride on them, for a small fee. Ask around to see who’s taking passengers when you visit.
2. Epping Forest
Social distancing is a breeze in this massive green space on the Essex and London border. You can ramble through the various marked paths, or get completely lost and isolate yourself in your own private space to immerse yourself in nature. You won’t need to worry about disturbing the peace as you can easily go without seeing another person for hours here. If a forest picnic with nobody in sight sounds like heaven to you. this is the place to do it.
If there’s been any rain recently pack your wellies as it gets, and can stay, very muddy.
3. Richmond Park
In west London, you can find London’s second-largest park where if you’re lucky, you might spot one of the 600 wild deer. While they are beautiful to admire, it’s best to maintain some distance between yourself and the deer, especially if they have their fawns with them.
Once you’ve had your deer fix hike up the steep mound on the western edge of the park. You’ll be rewarded with a lovely view of St Paul’s Cathedral 10 miles away.
4. Hampstead Heath
Fancy some wild swimming in London? Take a plunge in one of Hampstead Heath’s famous (and cold) swimming ponds in north London. Overheating in the city? This is the perfect place to cool off. It’s open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in summer only with separate changing facilities for males and females — as well as a woman’s only pond. There’s good and bad news about Hampstead Heath this summer. The good news is that even with so many things closed in London, the ponds are open for swimming. The bad news is that it’s no longer free and due to the reduced capacity, it’s advisable to book online in advance this summer.
You don’t want to make it all the way to the Heath and be unable to pop in the ponds for a dip!
Related: How to spend a Sunday in London
5. Highgate Cemetery
A cemetery might not be your first thought for a fun day out, especially if you’re trying to impress on a first date, but stay with me. This cemetery, near Hampstead, has loads of character and interesting headstones to see. If you feel like you’re on a movie set you wouldn’t be mistaken. “Dorian Gray”, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” and “Cambridge Spies” were all filmed at this location.
Even those with only a passing interest in history will find something of interest amongst all the ancient, crumbling headstones, including its most famous resident — Karl Marx.
6. Kyoto Garden
Konichiwa! Japan may have missed out on hosting the Olympic Games this year (here’s hoping they will take place next year) but you can get your zen fix with a visit to this beautiful and Insta-popular slice of paradise in Holland Park in west London. Opened in 1991 it was a gift from the city of Kyoto. Here you can find a traditional Japanese garden with tiered waterfalls and water full of koi carp. It’s open from 7:30 a.m. till just before dusk each day — don’t forget your camera.
There’s also the Fukushima Memorial Garden nearby.
7. Ruislip Lido
More outdoor swimming in London? It’s certainly not recommended to swim in the Thames, but if you’re keen to escape a hot day in summer without fully escaping London, there’s a 60-acre lake in Ruislip in west London where you can swim or just laze about on the sand. While it may not be exactly the same as flopping down for a week in Majorca it’s a unique way to enjoy a “beach” while still being in Greater London.
It’s a bit of a hike north-west but where else can you go to the beach in a major city like this? Keep in mind that on a hot weekend day in summer you’re likely to have the same idea as thousands of other people so prepare for crowds.
8. Greenwich Village
If friends or family who haven’t been to London before visit me, I always take them to Greenwich Village in south-east London. Why? Because it has a real “little country village” feeling while still being very close to the centre of London. There are markets to peruse (I highly recommend the sausage rolls), cute little pubs to pop in for a cheeky sharpener, and you can also hike up to the conservatory for a fantastic view over London.
There’s also the Cutty Sark Tea Clipper, a celebrated historic sailing ship which was the fastest ship of its time which you can visit as part of the Royal Museums Greenwich. It’s reopened post-lockdown.
9. Brixton Windmill
Did you know there’s a working windmill right in Zone 2? The Brixton Windmill, south London, is London’s last working windmill, built in 1816. In normal times you can tour inside the structure, though until September it’s closed given the difficulty in social distancing inside a windmill!
It’s used to mill flour, which you can purchase on-site.
If you’re sick of looking at the four walls of your home but aren’t quite ready to travel abroad just yet, these are some unique ways to feel like you’re travelling without actually leaving London. All are easy on the wallet, too, and easy to get to.
Featured photo by John Stillwell/PA Images via Getty Images
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