Summer life in London

23 June 2022

As the summer period unfolds you may be thinking about how you will spend your time in London. Read on for UCL Chemistry student Esther’s tips.

Panoramic view of the City of London with boats on the river and the buildings basked in a warm orange glow

It’s a strange reality when, as summer draws nearer, you suddenly find that you have no exams to prepare for, no deadlines to hit, no lectures to attend. The lack of a schedule can leave you feeling a bit aimless.

Following is a list of my favourite things to do and see to fill structureless days and make the most of the fast-paced big city London.


Alongside the usual suggestions to visit the British Museum, National Gallery etc., London has a multitude of free museums and galleries

The ‘Rooted Beings’ exhibition is on at the Wellcome Collection, just next to UCL, and runs until 29th August. Like all their exhibitions, it explores the interface between science, history, and art in a quirky way.

Sir John Soane’s Museum located in Holborn is free and is the converted home of the 19th century architect. The outside doesn’t give indication to the labyrinthine treasure trove inside, a time capsule of his life’s collections.

The Science Museum Lates is also free and you can view the exhibitions late at night, get drinks from the bar, enjoy DJs, and take part in activities, all with dinosaurs or Andy Warhol’s various works.

Sport & exercise

Sports and exercise are good options, and don’t necessarily require gyms.

There’s a 386.6 meter running track between Regent’s park and Primrose Hill and it’s a great flat place for some HIIT training.

Alternatively, hire a Lime bike and cycle to Walthamstow Wetlands Nature Reserve, and enjoy the many birds and wildlife or relax with a drink at the café. 

Open air swimming in one of London’s lidos (e.g., Tooting Bec, London fields, and Hampstead Heath’s natural pools – all are low-cost but check which ones are heated) are great when its sunny, rejuvenating in the rain and always energising.

If you prefer the gym or exercise classes, consider signing up to Classpass. They offer a one-month free membership of credits to spend at participating classes and gyms.

Outside places & walks

Soak up the bustle and chaos of Kings Cross while sitting by the canal on the steps at Granary Square. From there walk west along Regent’s Canal to Little Venice (about 3.5 miles) or east to Limehouse (about 6 miles).

Or stroll along Southbank from London bridge to Westminster, past the London Eye, with great views of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Oxo Tower, and Big Ben.

Queen Mary’s rose garden in Regent’s Park, about 20 minutes’ walk from UCL, is also an option, and the roses are usually in full bloom in June (stunning).

Reflection & perspective for the mind & body

If you prefer peace of mind, stillness, and time for reflection the London Buddhist Centre in Bethnal Green run several donation-based guided meditation sessions and also offer yoga classes (£9 per session).

The Kyoto Garden in Hollard Park, designed by Shoji Nakahara, is also a lovely place for reflection and for finding a sense of peace and simplicity here.

Or escape the crowds and watch the sunset (with great views of the City of London) from Primrose Hill or Hampstead Heath.

Bars and restaurants

If you want dining out, then check out (a seriously condensed list)

Brazilian Gourmet (5 min from UCL) which has a family-run feel to it and serves amazing authentic Brazilian food and drinks at reasonable prices - make sure to try the pao de queijo…

The Hawley Arms where Amy Winehouse used to work lets you experience Camden culture (minus the tourists). It’s set over two floors with a rooftop garden and the rock band Pulp, famous for the song Common People, plays at 12 am every night and inevitably there’ll be some table dancing.

The Observatory, a small café/gallery on Marchmont street near UCL, with outside tables has a quiet city Sunday morning coffee vibe, and there is a nearby photography gallery.

How UCL Student Support and Wellbeing can help

If you need some support, UCL remains open for current students. Make an appointment with one of our caring advisers.

Here’s to enjoying a varied and exciting summer in London!

Esther Ambrose-Dempster, Chemistry, Post-graduate student