1. Make some farmyard pals at one of the city farms
When you hear the word ‘London’, we’re sure the first thing that springs to mind isn’t ‘farmyard’, but our beloved city has a way of throwing up surprises. If you’ve had enough of human contact recently – and let’s face it, soon you may not legally be allowed to even have any of that – why not see if you can make some friends of the animal variety? Hackney City Farm is a damn good place to start – it’s free, is situated smack-bang in the middle of Hoxton and Cambridge Heath, and has pigs, ducks, geese, goats, sheep and a resident donkey called Clover, who does parades all over London when the time permits. If you’d rather stay south of the river, Vauxhall City Farm will give you the chance to meet a pair of alpacas who starred in none other than Star Wars: The Force Awakens – get your photo requests ready.
2. Get adding to your bedroom plant collection
Let’s face it – we Londoners seem to be obsessed with plants – maybe it’s because the majority of us don’t actually have gardens… In any case, there’s nothing more relaxing than spending a day browsing for some extra foliage. Sunday’s colourful Columbia Road Flower Market is the obvious choice here, but there are plenty of other options in town. Tucked away beneath the railway arches of Nunhead station lies The Nunhead Gardener – a beautiful spot festooned in crawling house plants, shrubs, ferns and all manner of plant pots. Other spots include Dalston’s N1 Garden Centre, Chiswick Flower Market and the Battersea Flower Station – prizes for whoever came up with that name.
3. Explore more of London’s off-the-beaten-trail walks
We couldn’t mention a list of the best outdoor activities to do in London without throwing in this one. The sheer number of walks you can do in our city is pretty damn phenomenal, whether you want to tick off UNESCO-listed landmarks or be at one with nature away from the crowds. One of our favourites is North London’s peaceful Parkland Walk, which takes you from Finsbury Park to Highgate along an abandoned railway line. The trains are long gone, but the stations, graffiti-covered tunnels and platforms still remain, giving you the chance to alternate between historic railway relics and swathes of wild woodland along the way. As London’s longest nature reserve, you may be lucky enough to spot some of the resident wildlife along the way, and you can opt to extend the walk to Ally Pally to soak up some of the city’s best panoramic views.
4. Soak up the views from some of London’s best vantage points
Speaking of views, there’s more to London than just the one from Ally Pally (though this is a bloody great one we’ve got to admit). At the polar opposite end of the city lies Crystal Palace, from where you can see iconic landmarks such as The Shard, the Walkie Talkie and even St Paul’s Cathedral (if you squint, mind). Staying south, Gipsy Hill and One Tree Hill (no, not the TV show) deserve honourable mentions – the latter due to the fact that the oak tree found here was allegedly sat under by none other than Queen Elizabeth I herself. Continuing with the history theme, you could view London from where Henry VIII was alerted that Anne Boleyn had had her head cut off in Richmond – nice – or you can overlook the Thames from Greenwich’s UNESCO-listed park. Let’s not forget Primrose Hill – just a stone’s throw from Secret London’s office.
5. Savour a pint or two in a heated pub garden
Ah yes – there’s nothing Londoners love more than a pint of the sweet stuff at a pub, and luckily for us, most of them are decked out in all manner of heaters, blankets and covers to keep you nice and toasty when it’s Baltic outside. If you’re knocking about North London, The Flask in Highgate is a firm favourite – it’s also considered one of London’s most haunted pubs – so who knows, you may be joined by a resident spook while you’re sipping on a bevvie out in the garden! For East Londoners, Crate Brewery, The Crooked Billet and the People’s Park Tavern are all good choices, and if you’re west, the garden of The Prince Albert in Notting Hill is perfect for whiling away the hours. South of the river, don’t miss the Tamesis Dock – a converted 1930s Dutch barge-turned-pub which serves up a never-ending selection of beers.
6. Gorge your way through one of London’s many food markets
Of all the best outdoor activities to do in London, eating your way around the city’s various different food markets has to be near the top of the list. Start your attack with a visit to the famous Borough Market, which houses the proverbial who’s who of London foodie outlets. Neal’s Yard Dairy, Brindisa, and Bread Ahead are long-standing tenants, but there are a whole host of other stalls found here rustling up everything from traditional Valencian paella to Middle Eastern mezze. Plus, with plenty of gluten, dairy, and meat free options, there’s a dish for everyone here – make sure you loosen your waistband and bring enough cash! Other spots in town include Hackney’s Broadway Market, which sells everything from dairy-free cheese to coffee and delectable doughnuts every Saturday, as well as Maltby Street, Camden and Seven Dials Markets.
7. Discover some of the capital’s eclectic street art
London’s fit to bursting with street art to brighten up your day (or, let’s face it, your Insta feed), and there’s no better spot in town to see this than in East London. Brick Lane is arguably the epicentre, with talented artists adorning the walls and alleyways with all manner of different pieces, including pelicans, foxes and parkour dancers – there’s even a Banksy right by the Truman Brewery. Other areas of town which feature heavily in diverse street art include Dalston, Bethnal Green, Camden, Brixton and Hackney Wick. You’re best viewing the latter by taking a wander down the River Lee Navigation Canal.
8. Find and tackle a new cycling route
There’s nothing better than hopping on a bike and feeling the cold wind in your face as you cycle past some of London’s most famous landmarks. Ok, cycling may not be for everyone, but it truly is the best (and quickest) way of getting from A to B. Promise. Over recent years, more and more cycle lanes have been added to our city’s roads, and that’s not even mentioning the various parks, canals and marshes you can easily explore with a set of two wheels. For a city-based cycle, we’d recommend moseying on down the Regent’s Canal, which takes you from Paddington Basin all the way to Canary Wharf via the ZSL London Zoo. For something a bit more wild, traverse Richmond Park’s Tamsin Trail from where you’ll be able to view the resident herds of wild deer.
9. Challenge yourself to an outdoor escape game
Ok, so this one is fairly rogue, but we still think it’s one of the best outdoor activities to do in London right now. Billed as ‘where an escape room meets a treasure hunt’ experience, these games will allow you to follow a designated trail on your phone, uncover clues and solve cryptic puzzles as you make your way around various different parts of the city. Games take around up to three hours to complete, and currently you can find them in Camden, Kensington Gardens and Monument. There’s even a Jack the Ripper-themed one which will take you around the spooky streets of Whitechapel and Aldgate where he claimed his five victims – just don’t try and complete that one when the sun has gone down!
10. Rent a boat and see the city’s sites from the water
To round-up this list of the best outdoor activities to do in London right now, we had to include this one. London is famous for its waterways, and some of the best views in town come from the network of canals, reservoirs and – duh – a certain river that criss-crosses it. You could hop aboard one of the twenty or so ‘Uber boats’ which traverse the Thames from Putney all the way down to Woolwich, passing all those iconic London landmarks along the way. Alternatively, you could be the captain of your own ship and rent a ‘GoBoat’ in either Canary Wharf, Paddington or Kingston-upon-Thames. Pooches are more than welcome so you can happily bring your furry, four-legged friend on board with you, and there’s also space for picnics to boot. Sign us up!