London's 11 Hidden Quiet Spots

Photo: Courtesy of the London Wetland Centre/Ross Paxton.
City living is stressful. A bad commute, a tense exchange with a coworker, or an overcrowded restaurant is all it takes to inspire thoughts of fleeing. Unfortunately, it's not realistic to rush to a day spa every time your anxiety levels rise (though, that would be nice). It's time to rethink the way you react to stressors in your daily life.
London is filled with quiet, secluded spots perfect for decompressing and regrouping. Take a deep breath and relax in these hidden gardens, ancient church halls, and secret libraries. Your sanity will be restored in no time. No chill pill necessary.
1 of 11
Photo: Courtesy of Geffreye museum/M.Williams.
Geffrye Museum Herb Garden
We often find home inspiration in the Geffrye Museum's period rooms, where you can get a peek at the ever-changing decor styles of the urban middle class over the last 400 years. But, the gardens are where we go when we just need a little quiet time. The front garden is laid out as it would have been when the property was an almshouse hundreds of years ago. Yes, you can still hear the not-so-distant thrum of Kingsland Road, but for a moment it feels a long way away.

Geffrye Museum, Kingsland Road, E2 8EA; +44 (0) 207 739 9893.
2 of 11
Photo: Courtesy of the Victoria and Albert museum.
Victoria & Albert Museum National Art Library
There is something about a library that gives this writer the shivers, in a really good way — perhaps it is a hangover from my time as a History of Art undergraduate. And, the V&A’s national art library just speaks to us. This fine art library is open to everyone, all you need to do is register as a reader before you enter. Even if you don’t have a 20,000 word dissertation to write, can you think of a better place to swot up on the works of the Great Masters?

Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL; +44 (0) 207 942 2000.
3 of 11
Photo: Courtesy of Ian Lougheed.
Paddington Street Gardens
We first noticed Paddington Street Gardens from the back of a taxi as we sped along to Marylebone High Street. The sight of the manicured lawns and vibrant flower beds piqued our interest, and we soon found ourselves hastening back to check out this bijoux patch of green in the heart of London. In the summer, it hosts musical events, but we’re more than happy to sit on one of the benches, read a book, and let the world pass us by.

Paddington Street Gardens, corner of Ashland Place and Paddington Street.
4 of 11
Photo: Courtesy of Thames Barrier Environmental Agency.
Thames Barrier
The Thames Barrier is 520 metres of steel that keeps London from turning into Venice. The flood barrier is tested every single month, and we find it bizarrely peaceful to take a walk along the river and just watch the TB doing what it does best, protecting us from water-based catastrophes of biblical proportions.

Thames Barrier, Eastmoor Street, SE7 8LX.
5 of 11
Photo: Courtesy of Scott Bradbury.
St. Pancras Old Church
There has been a church on the site where St. Pancras Old Church stands for 1,700 years. The church’s stark detailing and elegant interiors are the perfect backdrop for an intimate evening enjoying folk music. The mood is mellow, and the atmosphere divine. It's the perfect way to decompress after a hard day at the office.

St. Pancras Old Church, Pancras Road, NW1 IUL.
6 of 11
Photo: Courtesy of the Chelsea Physic Garden/Charlie Hopkinson.
Chelsea Physic Garden
Get back to nature in the comfort of SW3, with a little help from the Chelsea Physic Garden. This botanic garden's mission is to highlight the importance of plants in all aspects of our lives, from the medicinal to the cultural. Walking through the beautifully maintained space, it's almost hard to believe the River Thames is only a stone's throw away. Make this your new local summer getaway.

Chelsea Physic Garden , 66 Royal Hospital Road, SW3 4HS; +44 (0) 207 352 5646.
7 of 11
Photo: Courtesy of Christ Church Spitalfields.
Christ Church Spitalfields
Old Spitalfields Market is a regular haunt of ours, as is the iconic Ten Bells pub nearby. Just to the left of the aforementioned drinking establishment is a building whose beauty will make you stop in your tracks. Christ Church Spitalfields is one of six churches designed by Sir Christopher Wren’s protégé, Nicholas Hawksmoor, and while it is still an active place of worship, it welcomes all visitors to enter its extraordinary hall. Next time you’re popping out for a pint, take 10 minutes to sit and quietly marvel at its architectural brilliance.

Christ Church Spitalfields, Commercial Street, E1 6LY; +44 (0) 207 377 2440.
8 of 11
Photo: Courtesy of Steven Green Photography.
Highgate Cemetery
Stepping into Highgate West Cemetery is a little like walking onto a Hammer horror film, but without the fake blood and ghoulish extras. Don’t let that put you off visiting this fascinating site. It’s an elegant though slightly decaying spectacle of Victorian funerary architecture at its best, and the park is filled with abundant wildlife and foliage. You'll be transported away from the daily humdrum to a time when things moved at a slower pace.

Highgate Cemetery, Swains Lane, N6 6PJ.
9 of 11
Photo: Courtesy of Benjamin Franklin House.
Benjamin Franklin House
Benjamin Franklin lived and worked at 36 Craven Street for 16 years, and while the belongings of this U.S. founding father have long since been removed, the spirit of this great man remains. Walking through the classically designed rooms, one can only imagine the conversations that took place within these walls. And, this writer left with plenty of design ideas for her far more humble dwellings, too.

Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven Street, WC2N 5NF; +44 (0) 207 839 2006.
10 of 11
Photo: Courtesy of the London Wetland Centre/Ross Paxton.
London Wetland Centre
Can you believe this picture depicts a place that is only 10 minutes away from Hammersmith? But, the London Wetland Centre is that close — nestled in Barnes, but still so near to the heart of the city. This conservation area is teaming with wildlife and flora and fauna. If you can't quite bring yourself to escape to the actual countryside on the weekend, this bucolic spot could be just the local destination you're looking for.

London Wetland Centre, Queen Elizabeth Walk, Barnes, SW13 9WT; +44 (0) 208 409 4400.
11 of 11
Photo: Courtesy of Maggie Jones.
Tooting Lido
As soon as it's sunny in the capital, Londoners flock to the city’s outdoor swimming pools for a dip. Who can blame them? Beat the rush and the queues by signing up for the South London Swimming Club and swim all year round, rain or shine, at the Tooting Lido, Europe’s largest open-air swimming pool. Yes, the water is freezing, and one length swum there is the equivalent to approximately five lengths at your local, indoor, heated gym pool, but for the experience of swimming to the sounds of the birds chirping (and the buses honking), it’s absolutely priceless. Don’t forget your wet suit.

Tooting Lido , Tooting Bec Road, SW16 1RU; +44 (0) 208 871 7198.

More from Travel


R29 Original Series