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Unexpected outdoor experiences in British cities

Wild swimming ponds in London, modern sculptures on Liverpool’s coast, or street art trails in Glasgow are just some of the ways to experience a taste of the great outdoors on a British city break. Discover a collection of al fresco things to do, spanning Britain’s rich history, inspiring art, green spaces and fresh flavours…

Dinosaur parks and heritage walks

Friends on Millennium Bridge, a London Landmark seen in the Harry Potter film series. Credit to VisitBritain/Sam Barker

For an outdoor day trip loved by Londoners for more than 150 years, plan time to explore the world’s first dinosaur park at Crystal Palace. Created by fossil-obsessed Victorians, part of the park is home to more than 30 Grade-I sculptures, which are thought to have been the world’s first 3D, full-sized models of dinosaurs as imagined from their remains. Here you can spy marine reptiles crawling from the lake, as well as imposing Megalosaurus and Iguanodons – a mould of the latter was even split open on New Year’s Eve 1853 to host a celebratory dinner party! At weekends, you can also venture out on the Boating Lake and explore by pedalo (small pedal-powered boats) from spring until the end of autumn.

If you’re looking to discover London’s historic landmarks you can don your comfiest shoes and follow one of the City of London’s self-guided walks. Covering all manner of themes, from The City on Screen to 10 Centuries in One Day, these fascinating tours reveal the secrets of the capital and its history. If you’re a fan of art and sculpture you may especially enjoy the Talking Statues tour, which shares the stories of nine of the city’s statues in their own words, while history buffs will be spoilt for choice!

Crystal Palace Park

Sea sculptures and Scottish street art

Street art in Glasgow, puppets painted on large brick wall in the city centre. Credit to VisitBritain©Samuel Jeffery

Nestled on Liverpool’s Crosby Beach is Another Place by Anthony Gormley. Plan a trip at low tide to marvel at the army of 100 cast-iron figures spread across two miles of coastline, all modelled on the artist’s own body and staring out to sea. This stirring art installation is a short drive from the city centre and is easily accessible via public transport.

You can also dream of getting under the skin of one of Britain’s most vibrant cities by wandering the Glasgow City Centre Mural Trail via a self-guided audio map. Peppering the streets of Glasgow, this eye-catching collection of murals includes a ‘Wonderwall’ celebrating the achievements of people from the University of Strathclyde and a large-scale mural of St Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow.

Crosby Beach, Liverpool

Harbour-side dining and city vineyards

Brunel's SS Great Britain. Credit to Adam Gasson

Once a bustling meeting place for sailors and merchants, Bristol Harbourside now houses numerous market stalls, attractive bars, restaurants, shops and museums – an ideal spot to soak up the city’s atmosphere and dine al fresco. You can sample traditional fish and chips and enjoy a piping hot portion with a view at Bristol’s Salt and Malt, or for a light snack, cream tea or Boatman’s Lunch, hop aboard the Greenshanks Café Bar, housed in a converted boat.

The harbour is also home to historic and modern icons, from Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s SS Great Britain in the Great Western Docklands to Banksy’s Girl with the Pierced Eardrum. You can also visit the renowned Arnolfini, an International Centre for Contemporary Arts complete with its own al fresco waterside café and bar. Want to learn more about Bristol’s history? Plan a trip to the M Shed museum’s outdoor exhibits, which can be visited even when the museum is closed. These include electric cranes – a landmark of Bristol since the 1950s – as well as restored trains, cargo ships and the Mayflower, thought to be the oldest surviving steam tug in the world. 

Fancy discovering London’s first commercial scale vineyard since medieval times? North London’s Forty Hall Vineyard is largely volunteer-run, using organic and sustainable farming to create English still and sparkling wines, which can be enjoyed at Capel Manor College’s Forty Hall Farm throughout the year. Alternatively, head to London Cru or Renegade Urban Winery to get a taste of the capital’s fine city-made wine.

Bristol Harbourside

London’s wide-open spaces

Red deer rutting at Richmond Park, London. Credit to Max A Rush / The Royal Parks

Looking to explore the British countryside on a trip to the capital? Richmond Park is home to 2,500 acres of ancient woodland, vast grasslands and picturesque lakes. The biggest of all the Royal Parks and the capital’s largest enclosed space, it gives a real taste of the wilderness and is strewn with walking and cycling trails, plus the chance to spot red and fallow deer. Alternatively, you can arrange a guided horse ride around the park with a local stable, an unforgettable way to explore this historic London location.

From trotting to paddling, some of London’s parks also offer another type of outdoor experience – wild swimming. Perhaps the best-known spot for a dip in London are the bathing ponds in Hampstead Heath, nestled among the rolling hills, trees and wildflowers of the park. You can take a bracing swim in one of three different ponds, or there is also a nearby lido at Parliament Hill, an unheated swimming pool that’s open all-year round.

Richmond Park

You are encouraged to always check individual attraction websites for the latest information, as details are subject to change.

06 Jan 2021(last updated)

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