London is a fast-paced and lively city, and sometimes the hustle and bustle of urban living can get too much. Luckily there are lots of charming escapes hidden away within the metropolis where you can enjoy some peace and quiet to recharge your batteries. Take time out on your London break to explore one of these city sanctuaries.
Queen Mary’s Garden, Regents Park
Swap traffic fumes for the perfume of roses in this circular garden brimming with brilliant blooms, including roses, delphiniums and begonias. Enjoy a leisurely wander around the ornamental lake, where you’ll spot colourful carp if you look beneath the surface, and marvel at the grandeur of the Triton fountain and other cherub statues dotted throughout the circular setting. The strategically cultivated shrubberies lend a sense of privacy, and a small Japanese garden adjacent adds to the tranquility.
British Library, St Pancras
Nothing says ‘peace’ quite like the silence of a library, and bibliophiles will love the open spaces here, designed to aid study and reflection. Head to the Sir John Ritblat Gallery to see literary treasures which include Da Vinci’s notebook, Jane Austen’s notes, Captain Cook’s journal and Shakespeare’s folio, as well as maps and scriptures including the Magna Carta. The reading rooms are open to those with a permanent address and a genuine need to use the collections.
Brompton Cemetery, near Earl’s Court
Used more as a public park than a place of mourning, this cemetery was designed to be like an open air cathedral, making it a soothing and peaceful place for sober reflection. A steady stream of joggers and cyclists elevates this pleasant green space from the funereal, and the serene tree-lined avenues are ideal for lazy autumn walks. Explore the thousands of headstones and monuments, from the simple to the ornate, or stroll down the central colonnade to admire the Italian-style chapel.
Chelsea Physic Garden
Designed specifically as a healing space, this ‘secret’ garden provides an idyllic escape from the hustle and bustle of the city streets. An important botanical resource, this placid park is home to a whole world of fascinating flora — look out for the alpine rock garden, the largest olive tree in Britain, or the plant-bed of deadly poisons. Open to the public between April and October, this horticultural haven is well worth the £8 entrance fee.
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Art galleries are a great way to combine quietude with culture, and this Regency jewel is a long way from the tourist hot-spots of Central London. A series of interlinked rooms lit naturally by carefully designed sky-lights provides a majestic setting for one of the finest collections of art in the country. With exhibits that include Canaletto, Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Dyck, art lovers will be in heaven in this relaxed and refined setting, a mere 15 minutes from Victoria.
St Dunstan in the East
Situated between London Bridge and the Tower of London, this bomb-ruined church garden is one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Mostly destroyed in the Blitz, Sir Christopher Wren’s impressive tower and steeple remain, while the gothic ruins are bedecked with creeping vines and wall shrubs. Shielded from the busy streets, this is a dramatic setting for some peaceful contemplation, or simply a unique place to eat your lunch.
Close to St Paul’s Cathedral and raised above the surrounding streets, this quiet space surrounded by gorgeous gardens and a fishpond is a calm oasis amid the manic financial district. It is home to the unique and heart-breaking Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice, a tribute to those who have died saving others, commemorated on a long wall of hand-painted ceramic plaques.
Deep in the heart of London’s business district, this concrete sanctum is surrounded on all sides by high-rise blocks which keep the noise out. Although the scenery may not be the prettiest, this hidden space has a stark charm augmented by the running water and gentle atmosphere, making it a great place to sit and read a book, or spot the birdlife and fish that inhabit the lake.
Situated close to the frenzy of Paddington, this delightful waterway marks the point where Regents Canal and Grand Union Canal converge. The tow path is punctuated with willow trees along its grassy banks, and the brightly-coloured houseboats add a dash of cheer to the picturesque scenery. You can stop for a leisurely drink at one of the waterside cafes or enjoy a peaceful picnic on the embankment; either way you’ll feel like you’re a million miles from the fast-paced city centre.
Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park
Sidestep the urban jungle in this wonderful woodland garden in the south west corner of Richmond Park, designed to be bursting with pretty plants at all times of the year. In spring the clearings are awash with bluebells and daffodils, while in summer the wild streams are lined with lilies and Japanese irises. Autumn brings a dazzling display of colour as the leaves change hue, and in winter the flowering heathers form a captivating carpet of mauve, making this a marvellous hideaway for a spot of relaxation in any season.
This post was brought to you by Show and Stay