Skip to Content

Get Outside And Explore: 23 Outdoorsy Things To Do Near London

London is often perceived as a bustling metropolis with little connection to nature and the great outdoors. The city’s rich history, vibrant nightlife, and world-class dining scene tend to dominate the conversation. However, there’s another side to this iconic capital that’s less frequently discussed. A side where one can trade in high heels for hiking boots, indulge in fresh air, and reconnect with nature. Surprisingly, London offers a multitude of opportunities to do just that. From leisurely woodland strolls to paddleboarding along the Thames, spotting wildlife in its marshes, or taking a refreshing dip in an outdoor pond on Hampstead Heath, there’s something for everyone who loves spending time outdoors. It’s time to shine a spotlight on these hidden gems and explore the best ways to experience London’s great outdoors.

Wild Swim in the Hampstead Heath Ponds

Hampstead Heath in North London is more than just a picturesque spot with scenic views of Parliament Hill – it’s also home to some of the best wild swimming spots in the city, mere minutes from Charing Cross. In fact, you can enjoy a swim amidst nature’s beauty 365 days a year, thanks to three natural bathing ponds and a 60m Lido. For those who prefer a more secluded experience, there are separate men’s, women’s, or mixed ponds to choose from, each offering stunning views of the surrounding woodlands that will transport you far away from the hustle and bustle of London’s city life. But Hampstead Heath is not just about swimming – it’s also where you’ll find the historic Parliament Hill Lido, open all year round, albeit unheated during winter months for the more adventurous souls. As expected, the area can get quite busy when the sun shines bright, so plan your visit early to secure a spot and make the most of your experience. For an added touch of luxury, consider combining your swim with a picnic on Parliament Hill, where you’ll find breathtaking views and a chance to indulge in some delicious pizza from Mimmo La Bufala and fine wine from Marks & Spencer on the high street.

Spot Deer in Richmond and Bushy Park

Richmond Park, London’s largest green space, stretches across 2500 acres of breathtaking natural beauty. This haven for nature enthusiasts offers a unique opportunity to connect with wildlife, take leisurely woodland strolls, and indulge in delectable cuisine at its cafes.

The park is teeming with life, featuring over 600 free-roaming deer that can be spotted on most days, regardless of the weather. However, it’s essential to maintain a safe distance – at least 50 meters – to ensure both human and animal safety. Remember, these are wild animals, so a selfie opportunity shouldn’t come at the expense of caution.

For fellow nature lovers, another must-visit location is Bushy Park, which is just a short distance from Hampton Court, Henry VIII’s former residence. This hidden gem offers an unparalleled experience of exploring London while immersing oneself in its lush natural surroundings.

Take a Woodlands Walk Through Putney Heath

image source

London is home to numerous outdoor activities, and one such gem is Putney Heath, a 400-acre haven just a 30-minute drive from Richmond Park. The area boasts dense woodland, meandering streams, rolling grassy fields, and an array of urban wildlife. On weekends, you can expect to stumble upon lively cricket matches, family gatherings, playful dogs, birthday picnics, and bustling pub gardens filled with laughter and good cheer.

What sets Putney Heath apart is its picturesque landscape, which not only offers serene woodland walks but also provides stunning views of the River Thames. The area is surrounded by a variety of bars, restaurants, pubs, and quaint cafes, making it an ideal spot to combine outdoor activities with a relaxing afternoon in the sun.

Wandsworth Park and Barnes Bridge are also within walking distance, allowing you to create a day filled with exploration and discovery. With Putney Heath being just a 15-minute train journey from London Waterloo and a 20-minute walk from the station, it’s easily accessible by public transportation. Alternatively, take an Uber boat from Central London for a unique and convenient experience.

Insider Tip: Treat yourself to a leisurely afternoon in The Telegraph, one of Putney’s most beloved pubs. This charming establishment boasts a spacious beer garden, delectable all-day food options, and cozy interiors that make it the perfect spot to relax and unwind.

Admire Plants at Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens, a 250-year-old UNESCO Heritage site in London, has evolved into a world-renowned hub for plant conservation. This treasure trove boasts over 50,000 specimens from around the globe, featuring an astonishing array of flora, fungi, and fauna. Wander through the serene Japanese gardens or marvel at the vast collection of roses – 170 species strong – as you explore this biodiversity hotspot. As you meander through the picturesque landscapes, discover the significance of Kew Gardens’ work in preserving the planet’s precious plant life. A visit to Kew Gardens is an enriching experience that harmoniously blends education and entertainment, making it a must-visit attraction at one of London’s most iconic landmarks.

Enjoy a Canal Ride Around Little Venice

Little Venice is a captivating oasis, nestled just a short distance from Paddington Station. This picturesque haven offers a unique blend of serenity and adventure, making it an ideal outdoor destination for those seeking a departure from the ordinary. As you stroll along the canalside paths, you’re treated to a tapestry of riverside restaurants, scenic views, and tranquil atmosphere. For the more adventurous, the option to board a canal boat trip to Camden presents itself as a thrilling excursion. Alternatively, hire a paddleboard or pedalo for an immersive experience. Insider tip: Be sure to pause at Cafe Laville, where you can indulge in an Aperol Spritz while soaking up the breathtaking views across the Little Venice canals. This alfresco haven is perfect for relaxation and people-watching, offering a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Get your Boots Muddy at the London Wetlands Centre

London, home to the WWT London Wetland Centre, is a treasure trove for nature enthusiasts and families alike. Spanning over 105 acres, this haven is replete with picturesque walkways, lush swamp areas, and an array of daily activities to keep you engaged. Immerse yourself in the midst of a tranquil atmosphere as you stroll along the muddy trails, spotting a variety of wildlife including birds, bats, and grass snakes. Conveniently located in Barnes, just 20 minutes away from London Waterloo by train, this haven is open seven days a week, 364 days a year, with varying opening times to ensure that you can make the most of the unique seasonal wildlife experiences.

Relive your Childhood at the Spitalfields City Farm

London’s urban landscape may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about farms, but Spitalfields City Farm is an exception. This East End gem offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature right in the heart of the city. As you spend your day exploring the farm, you’ll have the chance to relive childhood memories by feeding and interacting with animals like goats, chickens, and geese. The farm’s diverse array of farmyard creatures is sure to delight visitors of all ages. What’s more, your visit supports local communities and schools, as donations help address issues like food poverty and the cost of living crisis. For a fun-filled day out that’s perfect for families or individuals alike, look no further than Spitalfields City Farm. And if you’re looking for even more outdoor adventure, consider visiting Hackney City Farm, another free attraction in East London that’s just as engaging.

Spot Horses in Ham House Gardens

Ham House is an idyllic retreat in West London, offering a serene escape from the urban bustle. This 17th-century Stuart house, situated on the picturesque banks of the River Thames, invites visitors to meander through its immaculately manicured lawns, take in the vibrant wildflowers and spot the horses that roam freely across its expansive grounds. Spanning over 100 acres, Ham House is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, boasting an impressive 250 trees, lush meadows and a diverse array of wildlife. Whether you’re looking to while away the day exploring nature or seek shelter from the elements, this charming estate has something for everyone. Within its walls lies a treasure trove of historic paintings and a unique collection of artworks, offering a fascinating glimpse into the past.

Have a BBQ in a Boat Along the Thames

Imagine a sunny afternoon on the River Thames, surrounded by the sights and sounds of London’s bustling cityscape. With Skuna, you can turn that vision into reality by hiring your own boat for a relaxing BBQ adventure. No sailing experience is necessary – simply hop aboard from Canary Wharf and spend up to two hours exploring the capital from a unique perspective.

As you cruise along the river, you’ll have everything you need to cook up a storm on the water. Each boat comes equipped with a barbecue, fuel, utensils, and a chopping board, so you can get creative with your culinary delights.

And don’t worry about getting chilly – Skuna’s got that covered too! Their boats are designed for all-year-round use, complete with blankets and hot water bottles to keep you cozy during the colder months.

So why not treat yourself to a little luxury? Just remember to stock up on your favorite snacks at the onsite bar (don’t forget the sausages!), as outside alcohol isn’t permitted. With Skuna’s floating hot tubs, you’ll be hooked from the very first moment.

Explore Epping Forest

For a unique outdoor experience outside of Central London, consider visiting Epping Forest. This expansive green space boasts over 6,000 acres of woodland, ponds, and wildlife spotting opportunities. The forest offers an immersive connection with nature, allowing you to bask in the sounds of wild birds, swim in serene ponds, and take leisurely strolls through the ancient woodlands.In addition to its natural beauty, Epping Forest is also steeped in history. Three visitor centers provide a glimpse into the region’s past, showcasing how the area has evolved over time – from Ancient Roman settlements to Victorian-era changes. After exploring, recharge with a visit to the on-site cafe or one of the cozy nearby pubs, perfect for a post-hike coffee or pint.Whether you’re an avid cyclist, dog walker, runner, or simply seeking a peaceful escape, Epping Forest is an ideal outdoor activity in London that caters to a wide range of interests.

Hike around The Chilterns

Just an hour’s journey from London, the Chiltern Hills boast breathtaking English countryside vistas that will leave you enchanted. This charming region is replete with pubs, restaurants, and historic market towns, offering a wealth of outdoor activities for every interest. A hidden gem, indeed, as few are aware of the stunning scenery mere miles from the city’s bustling streets.

The Chilterns’ versatility knows no bounds – regardless of the weather, visitors can expect to be treated to spectacular views, rolling hills, vibrant woodlands bursting with flora, peaceful walking trails, and more. For those seeking a tranquil retreat from the urban jungle, this is the perfect destination.

Getting here is a breeze; simply hop on the Metropolitan line and disembark at Amersham or Chesham, or opt for the Chiltern Railways line departing from London Marylebone. Insider knowledge: the Chess Valley walk is an absolute must-visit – its panoramic views of the countryside are simply breathtaking, while ancient woodlands, footbridges, stepping stones, and picturesque water meadows create a truly idyllic setting perfect for a rejuvenating country stroll.

Bonus Fun Outdoor Activities to Do in London

In addition to these fantastic outdoor activities, you can also indulge in a variety of experiences that showcase London’s unique charm. For instance, head to St James’ Park for a picturesque picnic amidst the city’s oldest Royal Park, or visit Victoria Park on Sundays for a street food market experience like no other. Take a stroll along the 4.5-mile Parkland Walk, which connects Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace, offering breathtaking views of London’s natural beauty. Explore the serene Kyoto Garden in Holland Park, a gift from the city of Kyoto to commemorate its long-standing friendship with Great Britain. Alternatively, visit London Zoo, a pioneering scientific zoo located near Regent’s Park, or take a refreshing swim in The Serpentine Lake within Hyde Park. Enjoy a leisurely walk along South Bank and take in the iconic views of the city, or catch a movie under the stars at one of London’s open-air cinemas. For a more relaxed evening, sip on a cocktail from a rooftop bar overlooking Trafalgar Square or indulge in a takeaway pizza from Franco Manca’s and enjoy it with friends in London Fields. Lastly, ride the 178m tunnel slide at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for an adrenaline rush like no other, or climb to the top of The O2 to take in panoramic views of London’s most iconic landmarks.

Plan Some London Outdoor Activities!

London often takes centre stage, but its proximity to lush greenery and picturesque landscapes makes it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Beyond its renowned culinary scene, vibrant nightlife, and world-class shopping, the city offers a multitude of ways to connect with nature. From exploring England’s rolling countryside to indulging in adventure activities, London’s surroundings provide ample opportunities to get outside and make the most of your visit.