27 dog-friendly things to do in London
13th May, 2022
Planning some time in the capital, but not sure if there’s much for your beloved pup to do in the big smoke? Never fear: our list below is full of brilliant experiences that you and your hound can share in this great city.
No matter where you venture this year, make sure your dog insurance is up to date. You can get a quote from Purely Pets in a matter of minutes. Happy exploring!
1. Visit Tower Bridge
Billing itself as London’s only major dog-friendly attraction, Tower Bridge welcomes all well-behaved dogs (and owners) to explore its historic Towers and Victorian engine rooms. If you both have a head for heights, you won’t want to miss the breathtaking Glass Floor, with its vertiginous view down to the Thames below. You and your furry friend will get to climb the famous Towers and learn the thrilling stories of those who brought this iconic national monument into being. Just be sure to keep dogs on a lead and supervised at all times.
2. Take tea at the Egerton House Hotel
You may be thinking that dogs and posh afternoon teas don’t mix especially well. Well, when it comes to Knightsbridge’s ultra-chic Egerton House Hotel, think again. Canines are more than welcome within the Egerton’s fastidiously decorated rooms: better still, they get their own bespoke Doggy Afternoon Tea. This pooch-pleasing selection of treats includes chicken and beef meatloaf, homemade dog biscuits and a carrot cupcake. And don’t miss the Dogtinis, the essential drink for the capital’s most prestigious pups: a homemade chicken consommé martini with turkey skewers, plus canapés on the side.
3. Ride the Ruislip Lido Railway
Britain’s longest 12-inch gauge circuit, the Ruislip Lido Railway west of the city takes passengers on a very pleasant loop around the eponymous lake, weaving its way through the ancient Ruislip Woods. Choose from two main stations. Woody Bay station is beside the beach and children’s splash pad, while Willow Lawn is your stop for the Water’s Edge pub and carvery. Dogs are very welcome on board – as they are at the Lido’s own dedicated doggie beach.
4. Roam Hyde Park’s endless expanses
If your dog just needs acres of space to bound around in, and you don’t want to take half a day getting out of the city, Hyde Park will always make an excellent choice. Some 142 hectares in size, much of this ancient Royal Park is open to four-legged adventurers – and any places where they are not allowed will be clearly marked. Then, when your canine chum needs a break from all that charging around, head for the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen, next to the park’s own lake of the same name, for a drink and some tasty treats. By the way, if your dog will be exercising in some unfamiliar spots, it’s worth making sure that your dog insurance is up to date to cover against any unexpected injuries.
5. Find a dog sport club or course
Across the capital you’ll find plenty of clubs and courses where your dog can get stuck into something sporty. There are a whole host of options, so we can only give a small sample here – but, for example, East London’s Friendly Creatures will get you started off in dog agility (we went into this brilliant activity and its many benefits in more detail elsewhere on this blog). West Londoners, meanwhile, can head to the City Paws Club in Fulham for their dog agility fix. We also love the sound of canicross – essentially, a cross-country run with your dog attached to you via a harness. DogFit runs canicross sessions in south and west London.
6. Climb up to Alexandra Palace and Park
Centred on its grand Victorian entertainment venue, North London’s Alexandra Park is a 196-acre park with some brilliant views of the capital’s skyline. Like any park of its size, there’s plenty of open space for your dog to tear about in. But there’s much more to this park than its verdant acres. A boating lake, café, bar and regular farmers’ market all combine to make ‘Ally Pally’ a very worthwhile day out for all members of the family.
7. Stay at the dog-friendly Rosewood hotel
We could rave all day about the Rosewood’s traditional British country-house charm, with its beautifully judged mix of Edwardian elegance and contemporary sophistication. However, right now we’re here to tell you that the Rosewood is a supremely welcoming place for your dog to while away a night or two. No matter their size, dogs get to stay for free. Better yet, beds, food and water bowls are laid on: just let the hotel know in advance that you’ll be bringing a canine companion.
8. Find a dog agility trail
Yes, we mentioned dog agility in our entry on dog sports courses and clubs a little further up. However, the fact is that, if you and your dog are already reasonably confident around an agility course, you don’t even have to sign up for a club: you can just make your way to one of the capital’s several dedicated dog agility courses. These are nicely dotted around the city: east Londoners can head to the agility course within Mile End Park, while those on the west of the city have the option of Twickenham’s Chase Green Bark Park. Others include the dog exercise area at Walthamstow’s Higham Hill Recreation Ground, and a series of jumps and weave poles in Islington’s Barnard Park. South of the river? Make for the agility course at Southwark’s Geraldine Harmsworth Park.
9. Take in the views from Primrose Hill
Stunning views and an excellent, dog-friendly restaurant are the big draws of this beautiful park on a hill in affluent North London. The iconic views span much of the city’s skyline, including the dramatic towers of its financial district. The restaurant in question, meanwhile, is the York & Albany, run by top chef Gordon Ramsay. Dogs, you’ll be pleased to hear, are welcome.
10. Find a dog show
Being a busy capital city full of millions of dogs, London has a fairly packed calendar of dog shows and events. A few we could mention here are the big and brilliant annual Dog Show at Chiswick House, and the Halloween Dog Walk organised by canine charity All Dogs Matter.
Then there’s Pup Aid, a fun dog show run by volunteers working to end the cruel practice of puppy farming. The excellent Londog website, always worth a browse for advice on life with a dog in the capital, keeps a running diary of upcoming dog events.
11. Ramble, run and paddle around Hampstead Heath
This big, beautiful open area of common land spans some 790 acres of meadows, woodland, ponds and more. Talking of the Heath’s many ponds, one in particular is known as ‘the dog pond’ – and with good reason, as it's very popular with dogs and their owners. Bring a towel or two, a water bottle to wash away the mud, and bring some footwear that’ll allow you to get immersed too if need be. And, as with any visit to a pond with your dog, be on the lookout for blue-green algae, which can be highly dangerous to dogs.
We discussed the dangers of this poisonous bacteria in this article. If, after a paddle, your dog shows any of the symptoms that we list in that article, you should get them seen by a vet as soon as possible. If you take out dog insurance through Purely Pets, you also have the option of calling our 24-Hour Vet Helpline.
12. Go for an indoor swim
Not all doggie paddles have to be outdoors. On a balmy summer’s day, you and your canine chum will want to head to the nearest suitable pond for some alfresco bathing – but if the weather’s not quite right for an outdoor dip, you have indoor options across the capital. Dipping Dogs, in Uxbridge out west, and the Hainault Hydrotherapy Centre in Romford, just into Essex, both welcome canine visitors in need of an indoor swim. More specifically, these excellent places both provide hydrotherapy – a way for your dog to recover from injuries or surgery with some light, non-weight-bearing exercise. Helping your dog make a swift, safe recovery from any injuries or operations is one of the things you’ll want to do as a loving and responsible owner – indeed, we’d put it right up there with providing the right dog/pet insurance to help with those medical bills.
13. Try some doggie bingo
Taking place in a hall near Aldgate, Dabbers Social Bingo has revitalised the once-famous but largely disappearing game via a variety of brilliantly colourful themed events. These include the bi-monthly Doggie Bingo, an afternoon of bingo aimed squarely at dog-lovers and their best friends. You can expect some special, dog-themed bingo calls and disco balls: you may also get the chance to show off your pooch’s party tricks, with prizes on offer for both owners and their capable canines.
14. Go for a bike ride
Although most dogs love nothing better than dashing around under their own steam, there will be times when they’ll just want to sit back and take in the landscape while you supply the pedal power. And for these times, we highly recommended the dog-friendly cargo bikes hired out by CarryMe Bikes in East London. Just pick up a bike from their HQ in Lower Clapton, and take yourself (and furry friend) off for a long, leisurely ride around the area’s many beautiful marshes and canals.
15. Have a round of golf
The UK has a decent number of dog-friendly golf courses, where golfers can stroll their way around the 12 or 18 holes with their favourite companion in tow, either on a lead or under responsible control. And, as a quick look at the map section of the excellent DogGolf.info website reveals, London has a few options here. Well-behaved dogs are allowed off lead on the course at Wimbledon Common, while you’ll need to bring a lead if you’re golfing with a doggie at the Dulwich and Sydenham Hill course.
16. Find a breed-specific meetup
Social media has made it easier than ever to connect with other dog lovers in your area. More than that, online communities have grown up around specific breeds, and these groups often get together to show off their beloved pets to an appreciative audience of fellow owners. Pugs, Dachshunds, Bulldogs (English and French) and Beagles are all the focus of regular owners’ meetups across the capital. Meetup.com is the place to search for the perfect event for you: just type your dog breed and ‘London’ into the search boxes on the homepage, and see what comes up.
17. Walk The Line
This might be the perfect mix of exercise and culture – and definitely something you and your dog can enjoy together. An outdoor sculpture trail running between Stratford’s Olympic Park and the O2 Arena in North Greenwich, The Line follows the various waterways along its route, with contemporary artworks dotted along the way. Result: a waterside walk that’s both calming and stimulating. The whole walk will take you some four hours, so you might want to pick a section instead. You’ll find a useful map on the website.
18. Wet your whistle at Smith and Whistle
Mayfair’s Smith and Whistle is famously one of London’s dog-friendliest bars. Better still, it’s got a list of specially designed ‘dogtails’ for your furry friend to enjoy. Highlights include the Bubbly Bow Wow, a mix of dog-friendly prosecco and liquidised blueberries, and the Hound's Hops (dog beer with fresh mint). Better still, the bar’s location opposite the beautiful Green Park makes it perfect for a pre- or post-stroll drink.
19. Visit a City Farm
London’s Docklands area is home to not one but two dog-friendly city farms. Surrey Docks City Farm may have the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf for a backdrop, but once inside and roaming among its animals and greenery you’ll feel far from the stresses of city life. Not far away, Mudchute Farm on the Isle of Dogs has alpacas, sheep, cows, pigs, goats, hens and a variety of smaller animals. Dogs are also welcome at the on-site café, the Mudchute Kitchen. Better still, the Farm has both on and off-lead areas, so you and your dog can get whatever exercise you both need.
20. Go for a row
Many of the rowing boats and pedalos that you can hire across the city won’t allow dogs on board. However, a few of these services are more than happy to let your canine chum scrabble on board. These include the rowing boats at Hollow Ponds in East London: the friendly folks here will allow dogs of any size, as long as they are kept under control and on a lead. The Hollow Ponds boats are open every day from 10am to 8pm during the summer. Bring cash with you, as a £10 deposit is required on top of the hourly or half-hourly fee.
21. See some street art
Most indoor art galleries are, unsurprisingly, off-limits to dogs – but if you seriously need a culture fix while keeping your dog exercised, Shoreditch in East London is the place to go for the best street art. Here’s a very helpful, dog-centred Shoreditch street art itinerary.
22. Head out to Walthamstow Marshes
Hackney Marshes are a justly famous area of green space on the edge of the city. However, we’re also big fans of the neighbouring Walthamstow Marshes, behind the Lea Valley Ice Rink. Your dog will have a marvellous time exploring the woods, marshes and wild flower meadows here. They should also make some new canine friends along the way, as this area is deservedly popular with dogs and their human hangers-on. In winter, what’s more, there’s plenty of lovely mud to splash about in.
23. Chill at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden
This volunteer-run community garden is a big draw for dogs and their owners alike. You’ll love the peaceful surroundings, the craft beer, natural ice lollies and wood-oven pizzas. Dogs, on the other hand, will simply be over the moon at all the interesting things to sniff and explore. Come mid-morning if you and your dog prefer a bit of peace and quiet – or try the evenings if your pup isn’t great around children.
24. Walk – or glide – along Regent’s Canal
When it comes to making your way down North London’s historic, vibrant and beautiful Regent’s Canal with your dog beside you, you have at least two options. One fun way to travel is on the water itself, in one of the dog-friendly, self-drive electric crafts known as Go Boats. The boats ply the beautiful section of the Canal from Paddington to Camden Lock, and at £95 an hour they are not that cheap – but for that price you can get up to eight of you on board, plus dog/s. If you don’t fancy taking the boat, the Canal also makes for some great walks. Why not use the Canal & River Trust’s excellent Little Venice to Camden route map to help you plan your waterside walkies?
25. Refuel at Shake Shack
Burger chain Shake Shack has won itself a cult following, and it’s not hard to see why – the burgers are top-drawer. Happily, this is one foodie destination that your doggie friend will enjoy, too, as the menu has its own dedicated ‘Woof’ section. This includes such canine delights as a frozen vanilla custard Pooch-ini, served with red velvet dog biscuits.
26. Stock up on goodies at Hair of the Dog
This smart shop in the affluent suburb of Highgate stocks various upmarket dog products and brands, including 100 percent bamboo ball throwers from Planet Dog and beds, collars and leads from the oh-so-British dog goodies brand Bone & Rag. What’s more, there’s also a grooming service at the back of the shop. Using top-quality spa pet products, Hair of the Dog’s professional groomers will give your pampered pooch a relaxation session to remember.
27. Travel safely
Lastly, it’s worth remembering how to travel safely around the capital with your dog. We’ve given you lots of options for getting around on foot or by boat: however, the chances are that you will also need to use public transport once in a while.
And the good news here is that the capital’s public transport system network is generally welcoming towards well-behaved dogs. Pups are allowed on London’s buses, trains and Underground, and you won’t need to pay extra for them. Just remember to keep them on a lead or in a carrier, and either use the lift or carry them up and down the escalators.
Be aware that dogs can occasionally be refused access to public transport if there is a good reason to do so – and this is generally down to overcrowding. With this in mind, it’s worth travelling outside peak times if you can.
Dog insurance – for all your adventures together
We hope this article has provided you with plenty of inspiration for fun times together in our wonderful capital city. Just make sure you have the right Purely Pets dog insurance in place before you head out and about.
Why not get a quote for dog insurance before you hit the big city?