Early morning London: Where to seize the day in style across the capital

Bright beginning: start the day off at the crack of dawn  (Getty Images)
Bright beginning: start the day off at the crack of dawn (Getty Images)

What’s that you hear? Birdsong? Hark, it must be British Summer Time! But while the days are becoming shorter as we head towards the clocks going back at the end of October, that still leaves a fair few months to make the most of the early-morning light (and hopefully sunshine). And there is plenty to do in the capital before that first Teams meeting of the day. Whether it’s a pre-work ramble, a spot of birdwatching or practising your sun salutations, we’ve rounded up some of the best things to do, all before 8am. So set your alarm, and seize the day — and tell everyone about it.

Go on a bird walk in Regent’s Park

Grab some binoculars, channel your inner Alan Partridge and head to the 395-acre Royal Park where a signposted bird walk will take you to some of the best spots for catching a glimpse of its many winged residents. Starting at Clarence Gate at the top of Baker Street, the walk includes a chance to spend time overlooking the park’s peaceful lake and depending on the month, new varieties of birds can be spotted each time you go back. The most common birds you might see include Ruddy Ducks, Whoopers, Grey Herons, Mute Swans, Teals and Pintails (us neither).

Opens at 5am all year round, Regent’s Park, NW1 4NR, royalparks.org.uk

Grab a coffee in an abbey

 (Alamy Stock Photo)
(Alamy Stock Photo)

If that first morning coffee is akin to a religious experience then may we suggest you save it for The Wren Coffee, where you can enjoy a cup of the good stuff in possibly the most beautiful surroundings in the City. A mere cafetiere’s throw from St Paul’s Cathedral, this coffee shop is housed in St Nicholas Cole Abbey so expect to be charmed by its lofty ceilings, wood panelling, stained glass windows and ornate gilding while getting your caffeine quota for the day in. Proceeds go towards maintaining the talks held to help spread the good word, if that’s your cup of joe.

7am Mon-Fri, St Nicholas Cole Abbey, 114 Queen Victoria Street, EC4V 4BJ, thewrencoffee.com

Go for a swim in a pond

Spending your first waking hours in a chilly, muddy pond with some ducks might not sound like the most relaxing start to your day, but there must be something in the water as Hampstead Heath’s swimming ponds attract loyal water-treaders year after year in summer. There’s a mixed pond (on the Hampstead side of the Heath), as well as separate ladies’ and men’s ponds (both on the Highgate side), and be prepared for it to be chilly in there, so if you’re not used to cold water swimming, do a bit of research ahead of time. Oh, and you’ll need to book a slot. And don’t forget to pack a pair of pants!

7am, Hampstead Heath, NW3 2SN, hampsteadheath.net

Breakfast in style at The Wolseley

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

If it’s a slightly more grandiose start to your day you’re after, then skip over to Piccadilly for a spot of breakfast at The Wolseley. It started life in the 1920s as a car showroom, before becoming home to Barclays Bank, and now you can breakfast under the Venetian and Florentine-inspired marble archways in its restaurant. Specialities include bubble and squeak, grilled kippers and devilled lamb kidneys — but you can also have an English breakfast or opt for something from the viennoiserie (bakery) and a smoothie if you’re feeling slightly more restrained.

7am Mon-Fri, 160 Piccadilly, W1J 9EB, thewolseley.com

Feed your inner florist

Nothing says you’ve got your life together more than a rotating fresh flower game at home, and there really isn’t anywhere bigger than New Covent Garden Market where 20 wholesalers set up shop each day to offer a floral smorgasbord of the best picks not only to florists, wedding planners and market-stall holders, but to you, the general public, too. Depending on the season, any flower you want you’ll get — and if you’re a newbie, fear not, as the expert traders revel in passing on their hard-earned knowledge. It can be quite overwhelming, so if you need a breather, just step back and enjoy watching this incredible community at work.

4am, Mon-Sat, New Covent Garden Market, SW8 5BH, newcoventgardenmarket.com

Go for a group morning walk

For a slightly slower but no less virtuous start to the day, why not try joining the team at Poplar Union for their weekly Friday morning walk? Led by a team of people who work at the arts and community centre in Tower Hamlets, this walk aims to bring people in the community together for a positive start to the day that involves a bit of movement but most importantly, a chance to chat with other walkers. No need to book, just make sure you’re at Poplar Bakehouse for 7.30am — and be sure to grab a post-walk reward when they open at 8am.

7.30am every Friday, Poplar Bakehouse, 8a Cotall Street, E14 6TL, poplarunion.com

Get your sweat on

 (Press handout)
(Press handout)

With 10 sites all over London, there really isn’t any excuse not to book into a class at 1Rebel. Concepts include Ride (spinning), Rumble (boxing and HIIT), Reshape (hell on earth with weights) and Reformer (pilates), and over 45 minutes you can guarantee you’ll be coming out beetroot red and drenched. If you’re after an extra high, some of the Ride sessions are musically themed —think S Club 7 v Steps, techno v rock, Britney v Christina — and even the cynics among you will find themselves belting out some bangers before breakfast. Grab a branded shake post-workout for bragging rights at the office.

6.15am, locations all across London, 1rebel.com

Grab a pint in Borough Market

Your eyes don’t deceive you — you really can grab a drink pre-noon at Borough Market’s The Market Porter pub. This traditional Victorian pub is hard to miss, sitting on the corner of Stoney Street and facing straight into the market. And if you’re up for a novelty pint between 6am and 9am then this is the spot to get it, as the pub opens its doors for the tradespeople setting up their stalls for a long day at work. A word to the wise: we’d maybe save this for a day off, just to be on the safe side.

6am Mon-Fri, 9 Stoney Street, SE1 9AA, themarketporter.co.uk

Do sun salutations in Peckham

Want to challenge your body but quiet your mind? Then head to The Bussey Building in Peckham for one of their early-morning Yogarise sessions — Dynamic Flow. Over the course of an hour you will be led through the class by one of its many teachers who will work with you on continuous breath work and movement. Classes open with sun salutations and include standing and seated asanas (poses) and end with a savasana (relaxation). Don’t be fooled by your preconceptions of yoga though — be prepared to get sweaty.

7am, Units b1.1 + b1.2, The Bussey Building, 133 Copeland Road, SE15 3SN, yogarise.london

Get some lengths in at Brockwell Lido

 (Alamy Stock Photo)
(Alamy Stock Photo)

It’s not every day that you can take a dip in a Grade II-listed pool — but it could be as Brockwell Lido is open early seven days for swimmers to take on its Olympic-size pool. Summer season tickets run from April to September or, for those brave enough, you can grab a yearly pass for unlimited access all year round. After your swim, you can also take advantage of the on-site cafe or pop into the gym. Top tip: pop on Twitter in the AM as the team report on how cold the water is. You’re welcome. Read our full guide to London lidos here.

6.30am Mon-Fri, Brockwell Park, Dulwich Road, SE24 0PA, fusion-lifestyle.com

Grab a 24-hour bagel

Once you’ve finished arguing about which Brick Lane bagel shop is better, sate yourself with a bagel from Beigel Bake which is open, you guessed it, 24 hours a day. Copious fillings await — from peanut butter and Nutella, to egg, chopped herring, tuna, avocado and smoked salmon. But the OG filling has to be salt beef with gherkins and mustard. If you’re after something sweeter, croissants and other treats abound but we’d stick to the classic. Whether you’re starting your day or ending your night, this is a guaranteed satisfaction station.

24hrs, 159 Brick Lane, E1 6SB, bricklanebeigel.co.uk