Whether you’re from London or around the UK there’s no reason to look further than London for a staycation. From fun-filled outdoor activities and nightlife, to taking it easy and enjoying the sights, here is a guide to the best staycation activities in the capital.
A staycation is all about relaxing and making time to do things you enjoy. When staycationing in London, you’ll be spoilt for choice as the city has so much to offer. Whether you’re a culture vulture, a foodie or want to make the most of the outdoors, you won’t run out of things to do on a staycation in London.
Keep reading for some inspiration for your next London staycation.
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Hunt for Bargains at a Market
London’s markets have always been an essential part of the city, attracting tourists and locals all year round. There is such a wide variety of markets across the city, from farmers markets to street food, vintage and antiques, fashion and crafts.
No list of London markets would be complete without mentioning Borough Market. This iconic food market is one of the oldest and largest in London.
You’ll find top-quality meats and seafood, fresh fruit and veg, home baked bread, pastries and cakes, oils and vinegars, jams and preserves. There’s a huge range of street food from around the world, as well as a great selection of restaurants.
I love coming here just people closing time on a Saturday where you can pick up awesome last-minute deals on fruit and veg!
Alfies Antique Market in Marylebone
If you’re into antiques, head to Alfies Antique Market in Marylebone. The indoor market is spread over four floors and has around 100 different traders selling a selection of jewellery, clothing, homeware, memorabilia, furniture, artwork and trinkets.
Once you’ve bagged a bargain, head onto the rooftop cafe for a drink and bite to eat.
Brixton Village and Market Row
Brixton Village and Market Row is another great place to shop. Brixton is one of London’s most culturally diverse neighbourhoods, and this is reflected in the different stalls and outlets in these adjacent markets.
You’ll find fresh food, fresh produce, jewellery, clothing, homeware, arts, antiques and unusual gifts. It’s also a fantastic place to find a wide range of international cooking – Portugese, Mexican, Jamaican, Asian, Afro-Caribbean, Italian and much more.
I used to live nearby and come all the time for dinner!
Camden Market is the place to be! You can find everything you need here, with over 1,000 shops and stalls selling clothes, jewellery, arts and craft, gifts and souvenirs, books, food and furniture.
Get Pampered at the Spa
Staycation are perfect for setting some time aside for yourself, what better way of doing this than by treating yourself to a spa day?
Spa at Four Seasons Hotel
Enjoy lush green views of Hyde Park while you relax at the Spa at Four Seasons Hotel. Using only the best natural products, the spa offers massages, body treatments, facial treatments, manicures and pedicures and treatments for men. If you can’t quite decide what you want, choose one of the spa packages for a mix of treatments.
Housed in Park Lane’s Metropolitan Hotel
Housed in Park Lane’s Metropolitan Hotel, the COMO Shambhala Urban Escape offers specialist therapies and beauty treatments. Choose from various massage therapies, body treatments, acupuncture, facial care and beauty treatments. The spa also offers wellness experiences and fitness classes tailored to your needs.
Aman Spa in the Connaught Hotel
The Aman Spa in the Connaught Hotel in Mayfair offers ultimate relaxation. With an emphasis on holistic wellness of physical, social and mental wellbeing, the spa offers the following four treatments: massage, body polish and wrap, face ritual and the Journey, which encompasses all three treatments. The spa also offers reiki, meditation classes, holistic fitness and beauty treatments.
For something a little more wallet-friendly, try Cowshed Carnaby in Soho. Settle down with a herbal tea, pressed juice or wine from the drinks menu, and prepare to be pampered. This country-themed day spa offers bespoke manicures and pedicures, facials and massages. In a hurry? The spa has a range of 30-minute treatments if you’re in need of a quick beauty fix.
Splash About on the Water
Have you ever wanted to go swimming but never seem to have the time? A staycation is the perfect chance to head out onto the water for a dip. Swimming is an excellent way to relax and destress, and London has some great ponds and lidos.
Hampstead Mixed Ponds
Hampstead Mixed Ponds is one of three swimming ponds on Hampstead Heath, the other two being the males only and females only ponds. They’re open all year round, but keep in mind that they’re extra busy in the warmer months. There are plenty of grassed areas around the ponds to sunbathe, picnic, or just relax amongst the greenery.
Parliament Hill Lido
London has a few outdoor swimming pools as well. Parliament Hill Lido in Hampstead Heath is one of the oldest and most well-known pools in the city.
The 61m unheated pool is lined with stainless steel which gives the water a magical shiny sheen. Another outdoor pool is the London Fields Lido in Hackney. The 50m heated pool is open all year round, and has a large sundeck and sunbathing area.
Serpentine lake in Hyde Park
If you don’t fancy a swim but still want to hang out on the water, head down to The Serpentine lake in Hyde Park. Here you can hire rowing and pedal boats which hold up to six people each. The lake also has the UK’s first Solarshuttle, a solar-powered vessel carrying up to 40 people across the lake.
Enjoy Cocktails with a View at a Rooftop Bar
While London’s pubs are a favourite, sometimes you need to treat yourself to a cocktail or three at one of London’s rooftop bars. From swanky venues to casual joints, it’s a great way to take in the panoramic skyline while you sip on cocktails and nibble on bar snacks.
Madison Terrace Bar and Lounge
Madison Terrace Bar and Lounge offers spectacular views over the city and close ups of St Paul’s Cathedral. The drinks menu includes classic and signature cocktails, spirits and beers. Madison has an excellent tapas menu, with unique additions like truffle fries and spicy buttermilk chicken.
Jin Bo Law
Jin Bo Law is a chic bar on the 14th floor of Dorset City Hotel and boasts close up views of the Gherkin, the Shard and Tower Bridge. The bar has a subtle Asian influence which is evident in the decor and drinks menu – find cocktails with flavours like sour yuzu, sake and Chinese cherry apple.
Culpeper Roof Garden
For something a little more casual, the Culpeper Roof Garden is a lovely place to hang out, and the veggie and herb garden is a welcome patch of greenery amongst the high rises. The cocktail bar is housed under a glass atrium and serves unique drinks with a botanical twist. There’s also a wood-fired grill serving barbecued meats and sides.
Big Chill House
If you’re looking for somewhere with more of a lively, buzzing atmosphere, then Big Chill House in King’s Cross is the place to be. The rooftop bar is decked out with brightly coloured decor and wooden shacks serving locally brewed beer and eclectic cocktails. You’ll also find modern pub grub like halloumi fries, burritos and resident burger joint Chuck Burgers.
Get a Culture Fix at a Museum
London is filled with world-class museums and the best part is that most of them are free to enter. Whether you’re interested in art, world history or science, you’re bound to find a museum that’s right up your alley.
Tate Modern and Tate Britain
To get up close and personal with famous pieces of work from artists like Matisse, Dali, Picasso, Turner and Warhol, head to the Tate Modern and Tate Britain.
National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery is an iconic museum that showcases portraits of influential British people. It’s a unique place as it puts emphasis on the person portrayed, rather than the artist.
Imperial War Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum
If you’re interested in world history and learning more about international affairs, then you’ll love a trip to the Imperial War Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum.
The British Museum is one of the most renowned museums in London and is home to eight million objects from around the world.
Sherlock Holmes Museum and the Jack The Ripper Museum
If you happen to be interested in a specific niche or individual, London doesn’t disappoint – find museums such as the Sherlock Holmes Museum and the Jack The Ripper Museum.
Horniman Museum and the Sir John Soane’s Museum
There is also a range of museums that were founded by significant members of London society, such as the Horniman Museum and the Sir John Soane’s Museum, which showcase fascinating personal collections.
During the day, London’s museums and galleries are often overrun with tourists. Many of them have opened their doors to allow after-hours entry so you can enjoy the exhibitions without the crowds. Most venues have free live entertainment including open mic performances, live music, DJ sets, dance performances, workshops and talks, with the addition of drinks and meals.
Catch a Theatre Show
Another unmissable event that should be on your staycation itinerary is a trip to one of London’s esteemed theatres. You’ll be spoilt for choice with an unforgettable night out, from blockbuster musicals at renowned West End theatres, to classic shows at open air theatres.
One of the most prominent theatres in the country, the National Theatre is home to three auditoriums and presents up to 25 different shows each year. You’ll find a wide programme of shows including international dramas, up and coming plays, musicals and Shakespeare. The theatre also offers behind the scenes tours where you can discover how these productions are brought to life.
The Barbican Centre is a performing arts centre and the largest of its kind in Europe. It’s your best bet if you’re unsure what sort of performance you’re in the mood for, or if you want a little bit of everything. Home to the London Symphony Orchestra, the venue hosts classical and contemporary music concerts, theatre performances, film screenings and art exhibitions. It also has a large international programme of shows, talks and festivals.
Shakespeare’s Globe is an extremely realistic reconstruction of the Elizabethan playhouse built close to its original location at Bankside, Southwark. Shows open between April and October and you can catch all of your favourite Shakespeare plays here. For die-hard Shakespeare fans, why not take a guided tour to go behind the scenes and hear stories about the theatre.
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre is a charming amphitheatre which opens each May. Set in the beautiful leafy surroundings of one of London’s Royal Parks, the theatre is one of the largest in the city, with 1,240 seats. The theatre showcases Shakespeare and classic comedies such as 101 Dalmatians.
Have a Picnic at a Peaceful Garden
When the sun comes out, London transforms. The city’s parks and gardens come into life as people flock to find the nearest patch of green. Places like Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath tend to get quite busy, especially during warmer months. If you’re looking for a quieter, less crowded spot, London has plenty of hidden gardens and green spaces to unwind in.
Hampstead Hill Garden and Pergola
A stone’s throw away from the busy Hampstead Heath is Hampstead Hill Garden and Pergola, where not many people seem to visit. It was built by Lord Leverhulme in the early twentieth century as a venue for his lavish parties. What remains today are the magical and romantic remains of grand pillars and arches overgrown with vines and flowers.
Kensington’s Holland Park
Kyoto Garden is a tranquil Japanese garden in the heart of Kensington’s Holland Park. In the middle of the garden is a charming waterfall that flows into a rock pool full of koi carp. With colourful blossoms, shrubs and quaint water features, you’ll be googling a one way ticket to Japan in no time. Look out for Holland Park’s resident peacocks.
World Peace Garden
Not far from Hampstead Heath is the World Peace Garden, which lives up to its name. This serene woodland glade is filled with gentle notes of wind chimes, and is one of the best places in the city to unwind. Within the garden there are three ponds and a charming little wishing well.
Although it’s nestled in Richmond Park, the Isabella Plantation is never overrun with crowds. This woodland garden boasts intensely colourful blooms, in particular rhododendrons and azaleas. The flowers line the ponds and streams, a haven for invertebrates and amphibians. You’ll also find an array of rare and unusual plants and shrubs.
Saint Dunstan in the East Church Garden
Saint Dunstan in the East Church Garden is a lesser-known spot. The bombed out ruins of this medieval church provide a stunning little oasis in the heart of the city. Trees wind themselves through windows and vines hang gracefully down walls.
Join a Cooking Class
While the thought of cooking when you’re on holiday may not seem at all appealing, hear me out on this one – a staycation is the perfect time to start on that recipe you’ve always wanted to try, or brush up on your culinary skills.
If you’re on staycation with your significant other, it’s also a great way to bond and spend some time together. There are so many different types of cooking classes in London, whether you want to make vegetarian-friendly food or learn recipes from around the world.
52 Cookery School
Food at 52 Cookery School is what every cooking school should look like – a long farmhouse table, rustic decor, copper pots and a cosy lounge upstairs.
The school offers a wide range of classes inspired by cuisine around the world, including Indian, Italian, Mexican, Moroccan, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese. There are also classes which focus specifically on vegan and vegetarian food, as well as basic kitchen and knife skills.
School of Wok
If you’re looking to develop your skills in creating exquisite Asian food, School of Wok covers everything from Japanese cuisine to Thai dishes. Learn how to make Korean bibimbap, sushi, dim sum, bao and classic Chinese takeaway dishes. You can even take classes to develop your wok frying techniques, or join a walking tour through Chinatown.
Masterclass by Pied A Terre
Here’s an opportunity you can’t miss – a cooking class at a Michelin starred restaurant. Pied A Terre runs several masterclasses where you’ll be guided by head chef Asimakis Chaniotis, or founder David Moore. Choose from pasta making, butchery, fish preparation, vegan and vegetarian cuisine, dessert making, cocktail classes, and ceviche and tartare making.
Borough Kitchen Cook School
If a confidence boost in the kitchen is what you’re looking for, Borough Kitchen Cook School focuses on the science behind cooking techniques to help you become a better and more confident chef.
The school puts emphasis on transferable skills and techniques rather than specific recipes. Learn to make jams and chutneys, Korean food, Thai food, Middle Eastern food, Chinese dumplings and bao, steaks, fish and seafood. There are also classes on fermentation and pickling, pastry and bread making, gluten-free baking and mindful eating and cooking.
Take a Day Trip Out of Town
A staycation is the perfect time to get out and explore life outside London. If you’re looking for a change of scenery, there are tons of villages, coastal towns and countryside spots within a short distance from the capital.
Only an hour’s train ride from St Pancras, Canterbury is a small city known for its UNESCO World Heritage Site cathedral. Located on the River Stour, the city has beautiful architecture, charming little streets and lush green spaces. Visit the cathedral, go on a boat tour down the river, or take a walk through the riverside meadows and woodlands. Find Roman treasures at the Canterbury Roman Museum, or catch a show at the Marlowe Theatre.
Brighton is a seaside resort full of character and personality, and it takes around an hour to get there on the train from London Victoria or London Bridge. Check out the bohemian market streets around The Lanes, full of independent cafes, record shops, vintage stores, bookshops and art spaces.
Down on the seafront, chill out on the wide stretch of beach. Walk along Brighton Palace Pier and have a go at arcade games and fairground rides. End the day with fish and chips on the sand.
Surrey Hills is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which stretches over a quarter of the county of Surrey. It takes an hour and half by train to get there from Waterloo or Victoria Station. Surrey Hills has some of England’s most beautiful countryside, with an extensive network of footpaths, byways and bridleways to enjoy. Some of the most picturesque sites are Box Hill, Tillingbourne Waterfall and Leith Hill Tower.
The fairytale town of Rye is a must-visit. Only one hour by train from St Pancras International, Rye is full of cobbled lanes and medieval half-timbered houses. Mermaid Street is one of the most picturesque walkways, and you’ll want to have your camera ready. Rye is close to the sea, so there are plenty of coastal walks you can take. Before you head back to the big smoke, fill up at one of the quaint little tea rooms.
Cosy up at an Independent Cinema
If you want to head out after sundown but don’t feel like a rowdy night out in town, why not chill with a film at an independent cinema? London has a ton of indie picture houses showing a wide variety of blockbusters, cult classics and world cinema.
Electric Cinema is one of London’s leading independent cinemas, and the Portobello venue is one of the oldest working cinemas in the country. There is also a newer branch at White City. With luxury armchairs, cashmere blankets, footstools and side tables, it’s the perfect place to indulge with a glass of red and the latest release.
Regent Street Cinema
Regent Street Cinema is often dubbed the birthplace of British cinema, as this is where the Lumiere brothers’ Cinematographe was first shown in 1896. Take a seat in the grand interior and enjoy exclusive premieres, documentaries and animations, as well as the latest 4K films.
Rooftop Film Club
If it happens to be a clear night, grab a cosy jumper and head to an outdoor cinema. Rooftop Film Club is one of the most popular events during the summer months, with venues in Shoreditch, Peckham and Stratford. Relax in comfy deck chairs and enjoy cult classic and brand new releases – that’s if you can tear your eyes away from the panoramic city skyline.