With London being famous for its fickle weather and where the sun often hides behind the clouds most days during the year, summertime is a long-distant lover whose occasional returns are met by the biggest embrace, writes Kulay Labitigan:
It is fascinating how Londoners wear their brightest faces every time Mr. Sunny sashays its precious rays far from their stereotypical snob and moody. Just like in other cities of the world, this time of the year is best to go outside and be torridly kissed by the shimmering sunshine.
Should you be lucky to see Mr. Sunny out in your future trip to London, here are my top 6 picks of free or cheap things to do and places to go during this well-loved season in the world’s creative capital.
1. New Tate Modern
The Tate Modern’s newest extension has just been made open to the public last year. Its beautiful architecture houses some of the world’s most important modern and contemporary artworks including our very own David Medalla’s work called The Bubble Machine. This 10 story brutalist designed building has a free-access viewing deck presenting an exciting 360 degrees views of London skyline up above the River Thames.
2. Hampstead Bathing Ponds
Hampstead Heath is one of the popular open green spaces in London which is just few kilometers from the famous Trafalgar Square. Due to its proximity, a lot of people enjoy its fresh experience of rich wildlife and recreational activities. One of these is the Hampstead Bathing Ponds. It has a Men’s pond, Women’s Pond and Mixed pond for people to dive in. Open whole year round, access to the pond will cost you around two quidds — a very cheap deal to add up to your unforgettable London Summer experience.
3. Portobello Road Market
Accessible by almost 11 different kinds of buses and a couple of tube stations such as Notting Hill Gate Station (Central Line/ Circle and District line) and Ladbroke Grove Station (Hammersmith and City Lin), Portobello Road Market should be on your summer getaway list. It is one of the world’s most iconic markets that is famous for artisanal products, souvenirs and most especially antiques. Not to mention you’ll get to find The Travel Book Co.’s iconic blue door of the nostalgic rom-con film starred by Julia Robert and Hugh Grant whose title is the name of the same place.
4. Imperial War Museum
If you love period war movies, this place is for you. Aside from it is free admission, it has one of the best World War interactive exhibitions. The museum provides a thought-provoking visitor experience that provides enlightening insights about the war and learn from it. Aside from the exhibitions, they also have film showing, tours and events that will surely fondle the historian junkie in you.
5. Serpentine Galleries Pavilion and Summer houses
Serpentine is one of the top art galleries in London and the world. Annually during around summertime, they commission several architects and designers to build pavilion and summer houses for locals and travelers alike to inhabit. It is a must-see for all creative souls wanting to immerse in the contemporary art and design scene in London. They have also programmed several activations on site like performances and events that is surely worth a place on your itinerary.
6. Sunbathing / Picinic at the park
Where there are grass, there are picnics and sunbathing chairs. This time is known when locals enjoy their local summer drink called Pimms, some barbecue grilling in their backyards or a quiet time under the sun at the park with their music and favorite book.
When you are just visiting London and your AirBnb does not have back yard, it is ideal to walk to any open squares or closest park near you or might as well head to Hyde Park. Its vast public green space attracts tons of people doing all different activities under the warmth cares of the well-missed weather.
The author Kulay Labitigan is a London-based Filipino experience designer, who just finished his Masters degree in Narrative Environments from Central Saint Martins-University of the Arts London. He combines multi-sensorial experience and spatial design to tell stories, fostering and investigating man-to-man, man-to-object, and man-to-space interactions, and has collaborated with various performance-makers and participated in group exhibitions in Manila, Jakarta, Venice and London.