School’s (nearly) out for summer! If you’re looking for things to do in London in summer then you’re in luck because the city has a jam-packed calendar filled with fun things to do whether you’re visiting London with kids, travelling with friends or hitting the city solo.
We share the best things to do on sunny days from how to keep cool (ice cream, splash parks and water sports!) and where to find the best family-friendly festivals to fun workshops, open air cinemas and much more, including Wimbledon which takes place this month. If you can’t make it to Centre Court then head to Covent Garden instead where screens have been set up for visitors to watch the game, set and match. Don’t miss the street performers while you’re there.
The big news for the summer is the long-awaited re-opening of the Young V&A Museum. After a £13 million revamp – and plenty of ideas, input and inspiration from local children – this new museum for kids is once again welcoming visitors. Put this at the top of your summer itinerary.
The other big re-opening is the National Portrait Gallery, that opened its doors again on 22 June. This is a great option for teens in London.
In 2023, the school summer holidays generally fall between 21 July and 5 September.
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Things to do in London in summer
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Whether you’re looking to revisit old favourites or looking to see some of London’s major attractions for the first time there is plenty to see and do. The following are some of the top things to do in London this summer. And, don’t forget, if you feel like a break from the city then there are plenty of beaches near London that you can reach by train.
Summer Festival at Young V&A
After three years, a £13 million renovation, countless consultations with local children and a name change (it used to be called the Museum of Childhood), the Young V&A is back and is quite brilliant.
There are three new galleries to explore – Play, Imagine and Design – with plenty to delight kids of all ages. A mysterious “sound tree” houses an interactive game, a make-your-own board game table and a giant foam construction set. All together it’s a wonderful world of colour and imagination.
To celebrate the grand reopening the Young V&A are hosting a Summer Festival on July 8 and 9 when local artists, designers and performers will come together for a weekend of family-friendly creative activity.
Meet designer Clara Cu who up-cycles household objects into fashion accessories, enjoy a performance by dance troupe IMD Legion, and watch as the fully articulated puppet Ocho parades around the museum gardens. There’s something for everyone here (even a games cafe just for teens) and it promises to be a weekend of much fun and merriment.
When: Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 July
Where: Young V&A, nearest tube Bethnal Green
REPLAY: A Limitless Recycled Playground at the Southbank Centre
Running at various times through the summer as part of the Planet Summer Festival at the Southbank Centre is REPLAY: A limitless Recycled Playground.
Billed as “part installation, part adventure playground” REPLAY has been built entirely from waste materials that can be moved, changed combined and reimagined.
The playground is suitable for ages 0 – 11 years old.
When: 8 July – 3 September at 10.30am, 12pm, 1.30pm, 3pm and 4.30pm. Sensory adapted sessions and early year sessions are also available.
Where: The Southbank Centre on London’s South Bank
Theatre on Kew: Alice in Wonderland
Kew Gardens is the perfect place to spend long summer days and now there’s one more – curious – reason to visit. Taking place this summer in the Berberis Dell (created between 1869 and 1875 from a former gravel pit to showcase the gardens’ growing collection of Berberis) is an outdoor production of the magical tale of Alice in Wonderland.
Join Alice as she falls down the rabbit hole, meets the disappearing Cheshire Cat, has tea with the Mad Hatter and confronts the bad-tempered Queen of Hearts.
When: Wednesdays to Sundays, 22 July to 28 August; 11am and 2pm (the show runs fro 70 minutes with no interval).
Where: Kew Gardens, the closest gate is Victoria Gate. Children under 2 go free, see website for details and ticket prices.
Greenwich+Docklands International Festival (GDIF)
London’s leading festival of free outdoor theatre and performing arts is back with a bang bringing colour, lights, entertainment and pure fun to the Docklands.
More than 35 events will take place over the 17 day festival, the theme of which is “Acts of Hope”.
Highlights this year include Open Lines, a heart-stopping tight-rope walk above Woolich by French high-wire walker Ttiana-Mosio Bongonga and Cygnus, a ballet performed by life-sized, multi-coloured animatronic swans on the Royal Victoria Dock.
When: 25 August – 10 September
Where: Various venues, check website for details
Summer on the Square
Taking place during the month of August is Summer on the Square, a free festival of art in Trafalgar Square, in the heart of central London. Inspired by the National Gallery Collection, this event promises a number of fun drop-in sessions open to all ages and abilities.
Become part of the carnival community and create a colourful costume piece with Mandinga Arts; work with artist Matt Shaw to build a collaborative art gallery space; or take a sensory journey with artist Marc Woodhead and musician Luke Crookes.
When: 1 – 28 August
Where: Trafalgar Square; timings for the various sessions vary so check the website for details.
Nature Roadshow at Richmond Park
Taking place on the 26 and 27 July in Richmond Park is a free Nature Roadshow where everyone is welcome. Discover the wonderful wildlife that can be found in Richmond Park, enjoy craft activities and take part in interactive storytelling events.
Some of the activities on offer may include dressing up as a butterfly, spider or even a worm, meeting the park’s smallest residents thanks to the bug box and learn fun facts about your favourite creatures – and more!
Additional Nature Roadshows are taking place in some of London’s other Royal Parks, check the website below for details.
When: The Nature Roadshows take place in Richmond Park on 26 and 27 July; register your interest in advance
Where: Richmond Park, check website for details as the location is different on each day.
Coronation Bench Trail at the Tower of London
Hundreds of schools across the UK designed their own illustrated Coronation benches to celebrate the Coronation of King Charles III and to express their hopes for the future.
Fifteen winners were selected from more than 1,500 entries and these were brought to life by professional artists and 14 benches are now on display throughout the Tower of London (the 15th, the winning bench for Northern Ireland is on display at Hillsborough Castle). See if you can find all 14 as you tour the Tower.
Also on at the Tower of London, but only until 21 July, is Restoration at the Tower. Journey back to 1661 and learn how preparations were made for Charles II’s coronation procession. Meet diarist Samuel Pepys, playwright Thomas Killigrew and Lady Cavendish, while you’re there and see if everything goes to plan.
While here, make sure you see the Crown Jewels!
When: The Coronation Bench Trail runs until 1 September. Restoration at the Tower ends on 21 July.
Where: The Tower of London; nearest underground Tower Hill
Summer at the (London Transport) Museum: Build Better
The London Transport Museum is hosting six weeks of green-themed family fun this summer. The museum’s Green Journey installation returns to the Transportorium Garden for the school holidays with interactive elements to help kids learn about climate change and sustainability in a fun and engaging way.
Through family workshops, sensory storytelling and movement sessions, and a stamper trail through the museum, families can discover sustainable transport solutions currently used by Transport For London, green jobs and much more.
When: Until Saturday 3 September
Where: London Transport Museum; nearest tube Covent Garden
Visit the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace
On 14 July Buckingham Palace open its gates for 10 weeks, welcoming visitors to tour the magnificent State Rooms including the Throne Room, the Ballroom and the White Drawing Room. Whether or not you’ll see a member of the Royal Family on your tour is another matter…
When: 14 July – 24 September; nearest tube Victoria, St. James’s Park and Green Park
Where: Buckingham Palace; Adult £30, child £16.50, if booked in advance. Under 5s Free. Family discount available
Family Activities at Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is always fun to visit with kids and this summer they are running a number of family-friendly activities. The Tower has run drawing challenges for children before, inviting the next generation of artists to doodle the view from the Walkway.
When: Dates have yet to be announced for the summer holidays, check the website for details. Family activities are drop-in and included in the price of admission.
Where: Tower Bridge; nearest tube Tower Hill and London Bridge
Summer Fete at Westminster Abbey
Taking place on Saturday 8th July is Westminster Abbey’s Summer Fete. Enjoy children’s games, crafts and gifts, an enormous 60ft inflatable obstacle course and much more. There will also be a BBQ, tea and cakes and Pimms for the grown ups. Fingers crossed for sunny weather!
Westminster Abbey usually hosts a number of events for the whole family to enjoy throughout the summer holidays.
Where: Westminster Abbey; nearest tube Westminster station
When: Saturday 8 July; 11am – 3.30pm
Discovery Days at Hyde Park
The Discovery Days at Hyde Park are always fun and they’ve got a great line-up for the summer school holidays.
These free and exciting nature-inspired activities are great for young children and they’re also fun for adults, too. During the summer holidays, Discovery Days at Hyde Park take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11am to 3pm at the Lookout Discover Centre.
Where: Hyde Park LookOut Discovery Centre; nearest tube Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner
When: Various dates, see website for details; These are drop-in events that take place between 11am – 3pm. Free
London Zoo’s BIG Summer of Fun!
London Zoo is setting the bar high this summer with lots of fun activities. Don’t miss the Really Wild Challenge! a series of favourite family games (with a wild twist) taking place throughout the school holidays.
Can you follow the animal outline and avoid buzzing the wire? Can you sneak through the forest without waking up the hungry tiger? And can you tell your deer droppings from your porcupine poo? Test animal knowledge with these games and more. Good luck!
Where: ZSL London Zoo; nearest tube
When: The BIG Summer of Fun runs from 22 July to 3 September
Fun events at the Natural History Museum
There are lots of fun things to do at the Natural History Museum this summer. Take part in an out of hours tour of the museum’s newest exhibition at the world famous Dinosaur gallery, go behind the scenes with an expert guide for a look at the museum’s fascinating preserved zoology collection and join in a series of free events and activities inspired by the artwork and wildlife specimens that live at the museum with The Wild Escape series.
Paid events include Jurassic Encounters: Animal Show where you can meet the modern-day relatives of the animals that live alongside Dippy the Dinosaur in a fascinating animal handling show.
When: Various dates, check website for details.
Where: Natural History Museum; nearest tube South Kensington
Family events at the British Museum
The brilliant British Museum is running a number of family workshops and events over the summer holidays. These include making masks inspired by objects from Ancient Greece and Persia, creating an Ancient Greece or Persian-themed family photo, out-of-hours tours to China, ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, and the chance to explore the world of Ancient Greece through Minecraft.
Where: The British Museum; nearest tubes Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square and Goodge Street
When: Various dates, check the website for details. Most are free, drop-in events.
Summer fun at the National Maritime Museum
The National Maritime Museum will be hosting a range of indoor and outdoor activities for the family this summer promising lots of maritime-themed fun. Workshops include Collagraph Printing (collages made by glueing different materials to cardboard), Ocean Stories, Mystical Mer-folk and Sink or Float – and more!
Where: The National Maritime Museum; nearest station Greenwich Station and Cutty Sark DLR
When: Various dates throughout the summer, check the website for details. The sessions are free and drop-in.
Meet the crew of the Cutty Sark
Head to Cutty Sark in Greenwich and discover the stories behind what was once the world’s fastest tea clipper – that’s a very fast ship to you and me.
School holidays and weekends are the best time to visit because that’s when characters from the Cutty Sark’s past are on board to help you learn more about this famous ship. Meet the captain, chat with the cook and learn all about how Jock Willis built the Cutty Sark.
Don’t forget that the new Climb the Rig experience is also taking place all summer long.
Where: Cutty Sark; nearest station Greenwich Station and Cutty Sark DLR
When: Meet the characters of the Cutty Sark takes place on weekends and during the school holidays.
UNIQLO Tate Play: Zero to Infinity at the Tate Modern
Immersive art fun can be found at the Tate Modern this summer thanks to Rasheed Araeen’s interactive sculpture, Zero to Infinity.
The work features 400 brightly coloured geometric cubes that people are of all ages are encourage to stack, tilt and balance to create new configurations.
Where: The Tate Modern; nearest tube Southwark, Blackfriars and St Paul’s
When: 22 July – 27 August; daily 10am – 6pm; free
The Lost Laundry Challenge on board HMS Belfast
Can you help one unlucky sailor find his lost uniform? Take part this summer in HMS Belfast’s Lost Laundry Challenge and see if you can track down all 10 lost items. It won’t be easy; every sailor on every sailor on board HMS Belfast would have worn his own uniform, and with almost 800 ratings all wearing the same one it was a challenge to make sure nothing got lost in the laundry!
If you want to look like a sailor yourself then you’ll have the opportunity to handle and try on real items from a sailor’s kit plus make your own cut out uniform to take home.
Top tip! Combine a trip to HMS Belfast with lunch at nearby Borough Market.
Where: HMS Belfast; nearest tube London Bridge
When: Lost Laundry Challenge takes place everyday from 22 July to 3 September.
Family Hub: Flight Academy at the Imperial War Museum
Challenge yourself to break a World Record this summer at the Imperial War Museum’s Flight Academy.
Create your own paper plane based on an Avro Vulcan or Lockheed Blackbird and discover the World Record breaking paper plane design that has flown for 69 metres.
IWM also hosts regular Story Seekers events throughout the summer when families can learn more about the museum galleries following a Story Seekers trail. From survival at sea to astonishing acts of bravery, these family-friendly trails are a great way to learn about the people behind the objects.
Where: Imperial War Museum; nearest tube Lambeth North
When: Flight Academy takes place everyday from 31 July to 25 August.
Wonderlab at the Science Museum
One of the best places to go for a day out that is both engaging and educational then head to Wonderlab at the Science Museum. Here, kids can get hands on with science experiments and watch interactive presentations. These lively demonstrations teach visitors about fire, electricity, rockets and more.
Where: The Science Museum; nearest tube South Kensington
When: Open daily
The Box Rocket at the Discover Story Centre
The current exhibition at the charming Discover Story Centre is a space-themed, immersive exhibition called The Box Rocket created with Dapo Adeola and Tọlá Okogwu. Visitors will have to travel on an intergalactic adventure in a homemade rocket ship and, once they’ve landed safely on a peculiar planet, will have to complete an important mission.
Where: The Discover Story Centre; nearest tube Stratford
When: Ongoing; check website for details and prices.
Growing Curiosities: The Science of Gardens at the Garden Museum
Budding gardeners should make a beeline for the Garden Museum this summer where a family exhibition is taking place exploring the science of our gardens and the natural world.
Inspired by zoologist and children’s author Nicola Davies, and featuring original artwork by illustrators Emily Sutton and Mark Hearld, the hands-on interactive exhibition will introduce budding biologists to DNA, biodiversity, composting and microbes.
Where: The Garden Museum; nearest tube stations Vauxhall, Westminster and Lambeth North.
When: 19 July – 14 September
Discovering Hogwarts at the Warner Bros Studio Tour
Explore Harry’s early years at Hogwarts at the Warner Bros Studio Tour this summer and see favourite scenes brought to life. For the first time ever, the Great Hall will be adorned with 400 floating candles just as it was when Harry first arrived at Hogwarts. Discover the the secrets behind one of Harry’s first ever experiences with magic, learn how the studio team were able to bring Hagrid the half-giant to life and much more.
Grab a free Activity Passport from the lobby when you arrive and collect themed stamps as you make your way around the tour. Collect them all and a magical password will be revealed which you can use to redeem house points (go Hufflepuff!).
When: Until 4 September
Where: The ‘Warner Bros Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter’ in Watford.
DIVA at the V&A Museum
The latest exhibition to open at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum celebrates the power and creativity of iconic performers across opera, stage, popular music, and film.
DVIA exhibition highlights include the sketch of the Flame dress worn by Tina Turner, Billie Holiday at her only ever London appearance at the Royal Albert Hall and photos of legendary divas Cher, Elton John and Diana Ross together at the Rock Awards in Santa Monica in 1975. A great option for teens in London.
When: Until April 2024
Where: The V&A Museum, closest tube South Kensington
Head to an Outdoor Cinema
London is a great place to be during the summer months for so many reasons, not least the numerous pop up cinemas that appear. Not all outdoor cinemas in London have family-friendly films on show, however, so we’ve picked our favourites here. Book a ticket and keep your fingers crossed for good weather.
Screen on the Canal
Everyman Cinema is showing a free film festival on the banks of Regent’s Canal in Granary Square, Kings Cross. Films run throughout the day and every evening. Seats are on the grassy steps and are staggered to ensure everyone can see the screen. This is a non-ticketed event so make sure you arrive early!
Pop Up Screens
Pop Up Screens have locations across London (mostly south of the river) including Fulham, Brockley, Hammersmith and Sydenham.
The Luna Cinema
The Luna Cinema is popping up at Chiswick House, Kenwood, Dulwich Park, Clapham Common, and Westminster Abbey among other locations. They are also launching Luna Kids this summer, specifically for families.
Dinosaur World Live at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park
Get ready for a roar some summer at the wonderful Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Dinosaur World Live returns in August bringing with it a host of incredibly life-like dinosaurs including the Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Triceratops, a Microraptor and Segnosaurus.
When: 11 August – 3 September
Where: Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, closest tube Baker Street; check website for ticket prices.
Kaleidoscope Festival at Ally Pally
There are lots of music festivals taking place this summer but one of our favourites for families is the Kaleidoscope Festival. Taking place on Saturday 15 July in Alexandra Palace, North London, the all-day festival promises bands (including Hot Chip and former Supergrass front man Gaz Coombes), DJs, Comedy and more.
The Family Area promises magic, arts and crafts, and even a Mini Land Rover Experience presented by Go Ape. Fingers crossed for warm weather.
When: Saturday 15 July
Where: Alexandra Palace, North London
Notting Hill Carnival
Dust off your sequins and feathers, Notting Hill Carnival is back. The carnival takes over west London for two days in August with plenty of fun and festivities. If you’re planning to visit the festival with kids then bookmark Sunday, which is when the Children’s Carnival takes place with a children’s parade.
Where: Notting Hill; nearest tube station Westbourne Park
When: 27 – 28 August
The Terrible Thames tour
If you want to combine a river cruise sightseeing trip with a brilliant performance then hop onboard the Terrible Thames tour. Brought to you by the team behind the Horrible Histories franchise, this 45-minute trip along the River Thames is funny, insightful and laugh-out-loud fun.
Where: Boats depart from Tower Bridge Quay near St Katherine’s Dock, not far from the Tower of London.
When: Various times during the day, check the website for details.
The Battersea Games
Taking place at the Battersea Power Station over the summer holidays are The Battersea Games, an array of free and ticketed sports and games activities for everyone.
Watch Wimbledon on a big screen followed by the Women’s World Cup, the Tour de France, the Netball World Cup and more. Enjoy sports and games themed films at The Cinema in the Power Station, play a game of padel, challenge your family to a ping pong tournament, try your hand at a giant chess set and much more.
When: 1 July – 3 September
Where: Battersea Power Station; nearest tube Battersea Power Station
Free Dance Classes in Wembley Park
Get ready to show off your best moves on 16 July with Rambert Dance Day at Wembley Park. Take part in free, fun-packed classes and learn to disco, rock n’ roll, hip hop and much more including K-pop and Caribbean Dance Vibe sessions too!
Rambert Dance Day is par of Wembley Park’s Summer of Play.
When: 16 July
Where: Samovar Space, Olympic Way, Wembley Park