When you think about London, nature, hiking and everything ‘outdoorsy’ probably doesn’t spring to mind. And that’s fair enough. London is known for its buzzing atmosphere of busy streets, tasty restaurants, late-night bars and hundreds of years worth of rich history. But there’s another side to London. A side that isn’t spoken about as much as the fancy afternoon teas, the West End shows and street food gastro markets. A side where you can head outdoors, get your clothes muddy and enjoy the great British fresh air. Believe it or not, there are plenty of things to do outdoors in London!
From woodland walks to paddleboarding along the Thames, spotting wildlife in the marshes and swimming in outdoor ponds in Hampstead Heath, there’s an outdoorsy activity for everyone. So, let’s get started and discuss the best outdoorsy things to do in London!
1. Wild Swim in the Hampstead Heath Ponds
Hampstead Heath in North London is not just known for its beautiful walks and scenic skyline views on Parliament Hill.
It’s also home to the best wild swimming spots in London, meaning you can get to the great outdoors in just 30 minutes from Charing Cross.
With three natural bathing ponds and a 60m Lido, you can head to the area for an outdoor swim 365 days a year.
If you’d like to swim in the Heath itself, there are either men’s, women’s or mixed ponds to choose from. All three have lovely views of the surrounding woodlands, so it’s easy to forget you’re in one of the busiest cities in the world!
As well as the adventurous outdoor ponds, Hampstead Heath is home to the 85-year-old Parliament Hill Lido, which is open all year round (although it is unheated, so it’s only for the bravehearted during the winter months!).
As you can imagine, it gets pretty busy when the sun’s out, so make sure you arrive early to secure a spot!
Insider Tip: Combine an outdoor swim in Hampstead Heath with a picnic on Parliament Hill, one of the most iconic spots in London for its incredible skyline views. Grab a tasty pizza from Mimmo La Bufala and a bottle of wine from M&S on the high street to save a few pennies on pub and restaurant prices.
2. Spot Deer in Richmond and Bushy Park
Richmond Park is undoubtedly one of the prettiest and most popular Royal Parks in London.
Spanning over 2500 acres, it’s the city’s biggest green space. Full of interesting wildlife, wholesome woodland walks and even some tasty food in the cafes, Richmond Park is a must for any nature fans visiting London.
When you’re there, keep an eye out for one of the 600 beautiful free-roaming deer. They are dotted all over the park and can be seen on most days, regardless of the weather.
Just be aware that the deer are wild animals, so keep both yourself and the animals safe by staying at least 50m away at all times (don’t be the person who takes an up-close selfie with one).
Insider Tip: Bushy Park is another great location in London to spot free-roaming deer, and is just a short distance from Hampton Court, Henry VIII’s former home. It’s another firm favourite for those wanting to explore London whilst wandering the great outdoors!
3. Take a Woodlands Walk Through Putney Heath
Another great outdoor activity in London is visiting the 400-acre Putney Heath, a beautiful outdoor area just a 30-minute drive from Richmond Park.
Putney Heath is made up of dense woodland, trickling streams, grassy fields and urban wildlife.
If you visit at the weekend, expect to see cricket matches, family gatherings, friendly dogs, birthday picnics and pub gardens full to the brim!
Not only is Putney great for its woodland walks, but it also sits on the River Thames and is surrounded by bars, restaurants, pubs and cute cafes.
Wandsworth Park and Barnes Bridge are also within walking distance of Putney, so you can make a day of exploring some of the prettiest sights in London.
Putney is just a 15-minute train journey from London Waterloo, and the Heath is a 20-minute walk from the station.
You can even reach Putney by taking the Uber boat from Central London!
Insider Tip: Fancy an afternoon in a sunny beer garden? Combine your walk in Putney Heath with a drink in The Telegraph, one of the best pubs in Putney. Equipped with a large beer garden, delicious all-day food and cosy interiors, it’s a local favourite!
4. Admire Plants at Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens is a UNESCO Heritage site in London that is over 250 years old. Today, it is known as one of the best conservation sites for plants, fungi and fauna from all over the world.
From beautiful Japanese Gardens to 170 different species of rose, Kew Gardens is home to over 50,000 of the rarest and most biodiverse plants on the planet.
During your visit, you’ll spend time strolling around the gardens and picturesque landscapes, whilst learning about the important work Kew Gardens does.
It’s an insightful, exciting and fun outdoor activity at one of London’s most iconic landmarks.
5. Enjoy a Canal Ride Around Little Venice
Little Venice is a beautiful maze of canals, riverside restaurants and scenic views. Just a short distance from Paddington Station, it’s a great outdoor activity for those wanting to see something a little different.
Choose from either sipping your coffee canalside or being a little more adventurous and boarding a canal boat trip to Camden.
There’s also the option to hire a paddleboard or pedalo.
Insider Tip: Stop for an Aperol Spritz with incredible views across the Little Venice canals in Cafe Laville. With alfresco dining, it’s a great spot to relax and watch the world go by!
6. Get your Boots Muddy at the London Wetlands Centre
Did you know that London is home to a wetlands and wildlife centre?
The WWT London Wetland Centre is over 105 acres and is full of scenic walkways, mossy swamp areas and organised daily activities.
Spend your day walking along some of the muddy trails and spotting wildlife such as birds, bats and grass snakes.
Located in Barnes, the WWT London Wetland Centre is just a 20-minute train ride from London Waterloo. It’s open 7 days a week, 364 days a year, with various opening times to ensure you can make the most of the seasonal wildlife!
7. Relive your Childhood at the Spitalfields City Farm
When you think of things to do in London, visiting a farm probably isn’t the first thing that you think of!
Yet the Spitalfields City Farm is one of the best ways to get your outdoor fix right in the heart of London’s East End.
Spend your day reliving your childhood, feeding the goats, chickens and geese, spotting your favourite farmyard animals and getting your hands dirty.
Visiting Spitalfields City Farm in East London also supports local communities and schools, as your donations are used to help with food poverty and the cost of living crisis.
A great outdoorsy day out for all ages!
Insider Tip: You can also visit Hackney City Farm, another farm full of animals and fun things to see in East London. It’s also free to visit, making it one of the cheapest of London’s outdoor activities!
8. Spot Horses in Ham House Gardens
Ham House is another beautiful, outdoorsy spot in West London.
A 17th-century Stuart house located on the rural banks of the River Thames, taking a trip to the house means you can stroll the perfectly mown lawns, admire the woodland wildflowers and even spot the horses that roam the grounds.
Spread over 100 acres, Ham House is perfect for walks and outdoor time in London. With over 250 trees, pretty meadows and a variety of wildlife, it’s a great way to spend the day outside.
If it starts to rain during your visit, you can actually go into Ham House and observe historic paintings and a unique collection of artworks.
9. Have a BBQ in a Boat Along the Thames
Ever thought about hiring your own boat and having a BBQ on the River Thames? With Skuna, you can do just that!
London’s ‘floating hot tubs’ are quickly becoming one of the most popular outdoor activities to do in the city.
With no sailing experience needed, you can sail your own boat from Canary Wharf and explore London from the water for up to two hours.
Each boat has its own barbeque, fuel, utensils and chopping board for you to get tucked in and start cooking on the water.
This is an all-year-round outdoor activity; as they even have blankets and hot water bottles for the colder months!
Insider Tip: Whilst you can bring your own food and stock up on sausages, you’ll need to buy your alcohol at the onsite bar. Bringing your own alcohol sadly isn’t allowed.
10. Explore Epping Forest
If you want to head a little further out of Central London to get your outdoor fix, I recommend taking a trip to Epping Forest.
Known for being the largest open space in London (it’s over 6000 acres!), it’s the perfect place to spot wildlife, admire the woodlands, swim in ponds and listen to the sounds of wild birds.
With three visitor centres, you can learn about the local history, as well as how the area has changed from the Ancient Roman and Victorian periods.
There’s also an onsite cafe and cosy nearby pubs for you to grab a coffee (or a pint) after your long walk.
Perfect for cyclers, dog walkers, runners and just those who want to visit to admire the views, Epping Forest is one of the best outdoor activities in London.
11. Hike around The Chilterns
Less than an hour from London, the Chiltern Hills provide miles of quintessential English countryside.
Surrounded by pubs, restaurants and historic market towns, there’s a fun outdoor activity for everyone.
The Chilterns are one of London’s hidden gems, as not many people know just how stunning the countryside is just a stone’s throw from the city.
Regardless of the weather, they offer incredible views, sweeping hills, flower-filled woodlands, tranquil walking trails and more.
Travelling to the Chilterns from London? Either jump on the Metropolitan line and depart at Amersham or Chesham, or use the Chiltern Railways line at London Marylebone.
Insider Tip: There are walks and hiking trails all over the Chilterns, but one of our favourites is the Chess Valley walk. With some of the most incredible panoramic views of the countryside, footbridges and stepping stones connecting parts of the ancient woodlands and beautiful water meadows, it’s a great spot to go for a wholesome country walk.
Bonus Fun Outdoor Activities to Do in London
As well as all of these incredible outdoor activities, you can also:
- Have a picnic in St James’s Park, one of London’s most beautiful Royal Parks
- Visit the street food market in Victoria Park every Sunday afternoon
- Head to London’s longest nature reserve, the 4.5-mile Parkland Walk between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace
- Stroll around the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park, a gift from the city of Kyoto to commemorate the long friendship between Japan and Great Britain
- Visit London Zoo, the world’s oldest scientific zoo near Regent’s Park
- Take a swim in The Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park
- Walk along London’s South Bank and enjoy the iconic London views
- Catch a movie in one of London’s open air cinemas
- Drink a cocktail in a rooftop bar at Trafalgar Square
- Enjoy a takeaway pizza from Franco Manca’s and have a picnic in London Fields
- Ride the 178m tunnel slide at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
- Climb the O2 to have incredible views of iconic London landmarks
Plan Some London Outdoor Activities!
Next time you’re in London, remember that there are plenty of ways to explore the outdoors (even if they aren’t the first activities that spring to mind).
Whilst London is an incredible city for food, drink, shopping and nightlife, it’s also a great place to see some of the English countryside and enjoy some of the best outdoor activities in the UK.
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Jennie of Jennie Wanders is an award-nominated, UK-based travel blogger who creates practical, fun and down-to-earth travel guides for the everyday person. She is constantly on the search for the best experiences, accommodations, tours and itineraries for those who want to see more of the world, but aren’t sure where to start.
In addition to running her blog and social media channels full-time, Jennie is also a freelance travel writer.