Lifestyle & Culture

A weekend in London: The Do’s and Don’ts of catching a break in the Big Smoke this spring

A friend of mine recently declared that the cherry blossom season in London was officially open – she wasn’t wrong – and that she would thus refuse to wear any kind of coat or jacket before next September at the earliest. Though I find her resolve ambitious, I too have been embracing the warmer air and the feeling of freedom that adds a quirky saunter to people’s walk.

London feels alive again and it’s about time we got back to exploring its every corner.

I know people who have lived here their whole life and still take Sunday trips to visit specific neighbourhoods, shops or markets. That’s how big and ever changing the city is. However, the excitement of spring sometimes takes us endlessly to the same pubs or patch of green.

For seasoned Londoners and newcomers alike, this short guide should inspire you to try new activities, or at least hopefully put a warm grin on your face:

Dos this weekend:

Visit your local Lido. London’s outdoors pools are an absolute treat and as the weather warms up and the pools aren’t yet filled with hundreds of people, make the most of the council’s low entry prices. My personal go to’s are Parliament Hill Lido and London Fields Lido. (See more about swimming in London here.)

• Groove all day at UnFold. The now legendary techno music venue FOLD, located in East London’s Canning Town has a regular schedule of day parties set on Sundays, from midday to midnight. The website instructs you to “dress to sweat” and from personal experience, I suggest you do.

• Play the iconic British rounders in one of London’s parks (my favourites are Hghbury Fields, Hampstead Heath, Stockwell Park and Finsbury Park). The game is supposed to have been around since the Tudors and boy am I glad I don’t have to run in a corset to play it.

• Have lunch at the Albion in Islington. I obviously have had to pick within a myriad of wonderful places to visit in order to have the best pub lunch and decided to go with a single statement rather than give away my 100 places long list.

This north London pub complete with a terrace giving onto the lovely Thornhill Square and a pub garden at the back, is the ideal spring choice. They have a solid drinks list coupled with a great food menu and the décor is almost filmic.

• Go down Regent’s canal in one of the long, narrow boats that line its banks. The slow pace and still timid sun will nurse you back to life if a pick me up was what you needed after the bleak midwinter, and you’ll get to make fun of the angry joggers and their poor decisions.

Don’ts this weekend:

• Skip the queue. That’s something you really shouldn’t do any day of the week if I’m honest but the long queues you may run into under the sun are to be respected as reverently as the crowned jewels.

My fellow Frenchmen, I see you and hear your plea. But queues are a nation of their own in this country.

• Go jogging or cycling along the canal. (See above.) Hear me out: Yes, the weather is lovely and the canal is an ideal exercising path. However, it also is where thousands will be, with buggies and elderlies enjoying a leisurely walk. Please don’t be the cyclist aggressively honking at others or the runner huffing and puffing of rage rather than exertion.

It’s frankly ridiculous and someone will end up in the water.

* Go visit Covent Garden. Although I can understand why the market holds appeal to visitors in the height of Christmas season, there is no reason whatsoever to choose overbearing crowds, covered grounds, and stucco palaces at this time of year. The exception to this advice however is a visit to the Pineapple Dance studios where you can almost certainly find the type and ,evel of dance class to satisfy this new Spring energy.

• Eat out at one of the big Camden or Southbank food markets. These places are delicious and famous for a reason, and I will absolutely keep stopping by for a nibble whenever I’m in the area. But the crowds, inherent long queues and mayhem that they are sure to bring about on a sunny weekend will devour half of your day and there won’t be anywhere to sit to enjoy your hard-earned meal.

Why not try the Victoria Park food market instead at the eastern edge of the city, or have a picnic in Richmond Park, Hampstead or Walthamstow Forest?

• Go to a matinee show in Theatreland. This one is aimed at people who want to mix up their theatre/performance going experience. If you are a die-hard big glitzy musical fan, I salute you and won’t try to deter you from your plans.

For others, I suggest having a look at perhaps smaller and more local theatres. Riverside Studios in Hammersmith for instance have an amazing programme of shows ranging from straight plays to comedies, kids’ shows and cabarets.

Whilst you are in the area, you could even make a day of it and try one the river banks’ lovely riverside pubs, my personal favourite being The Dove.


Read more about London here in Dispatches’ archives.

See more from Zoé here.

Zoé Manset
author at | Website | + posts

Zoe Manset is a French actress, writer and producer based in London, UK. After growing up in the Fragrant Harbour otherwise known as Hong Kong, Zoe moved to London in 2018 to pursue a BA in Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Arts. Missing the stage too much, she then completed a two year MFA in drama school and is now living the freelance actor life at full speed. Zoe is a fashion history lover, a great pub amateur, a dancer and a big foodie!

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