5 quiet things to do after work in London this winter

The shorter days and frosty mornings that accompany us through a London winter are no reason to avoid exploring your city — but it’s useful to know where you can defrost.

Here are five quieter places that are open later during the week…

Is your favourite on the list? If not, let me know and I will pay a visit!

1. Visit the Treasures Gallery at the British Library

The British Library, London
Picture credit: Paul Hudson on Flickr

The quietest time to visit the Sir John Ritblat Treasures of the British Library Gallery — possibly the most impressive collection of books and manuscripts on show in the UK — is undoubtedly during a weekday evening.

Highlights for me include one of Henry VIII’s letters to Anne Boleyn, Jane Austen’s notebook, and Isaac Newton’s letter to Samuel Pepys.

I’ll leave it to a visitor on Tripadvisor to sum up why this place is so incredible: “Where else can you see the original Magna Carta and the original handwritten lyrics to Ticket to Ride across the room from each other?”

Late opening times: Tuesday to Thursday until 8pm

Nearest Tube: King’s Cross St Pancras / Euston

Address: 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB

More information: Visit the British Library website here

2. Browse John Sandoe Books

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Get a move on when you finish work and get to John Sandoe Books for a while before it closes at 6.30pm.

The shelves of this traditional bookshop (housed in an 18th-century building) are filled with every book imaginable and the staff are very knowledgeable and friendly — it’s a local bookshop in central London.

I dare you not to leave with at least one book…

Late opening times: Monday to Saturday until 6.30pm

Nearest Tube: Sloane Square

Address: 10 Blacklands Terrace, London, SW3 2SR

More information: Visit the John Sandoe Books website

3. Get cultured at the Barbican Art Gallery and Shop

Barbican centre, London
Picture credit: Chris Beckett on Flickr

Take your mind off things by ending the day with some culture at the Barbican Art Gallery.

The Barbican is a cultural hub of activity and there’s no better time to enjoy it without the crowds that in the evening when the daytime crowds have dispersed.

Late opening times: Until 10pm on Thursdays and Fridays (last entry 9pm)

Nearest Tube: Barbican

Address: Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS

More information: Visit the Barbican website

4. Have a wander in the upper levels of the British Museum

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It’s amazing how quiet some of the big tourist sites can be if you just avoid some of the main attractions, and the British Museum is no exception.

Head to the upper levels to avoid the crowds and get some space.

The bookshop is also open until 8pm on Fridays.

Late opening times: Fridays until 8.30pm

Nearest Tube: Russell Square

Address: Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG

More information: Full list of late opening galleries at the British Museum website

5. Stop for tea at Yumchaa Soho

SOHO CORNER EXTERIOR-2
Picture credit: Yumchaa

I’ve written about Yumchaa Soho more times than I’ve counted, but what I love most about it is its later opening times, which are later than most of the big chains.

This means you can go and read your book after work without having to go and sit on your lonesome in a bar.

Oh, and their range of caffeine-free teas mean you don’t have to succumb to a sugar-loaded chai latte just to make sure you can sleep a few hours later.

Late opening times: Monday to Saturday until 9.30pm (until 8pm on Sundays)

Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus

Address: 45 Berwick Street, London

More information: Visit the Yumchaa website here

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5 lovely places to see a London autumn (without the crowds)

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

The leaves are turning and the shadows are growing longer. It won’t be long until the clocks go back either, which means one thing: the beautiful London autumn is upon us.

Here are 5 quiet places that will show you the best of what the capital has to offer this season.

Sydenham Hill Wood

Sydenham Hill Wood, Dulwich, south London
Image: A Peace of London

Sydenham Hill and Cox’s Walk in south London is the perfect place for long, ambling autumn walks.

Not only are there lots of paths and different routes to explore, there is also a disused railway tunnel — once part of the Nunhead to Crystal Palace railway and now a registered bat roost.

Sydenham Hill Wood, Dulwich, south London
Image: A Peace of London

Explore further and you’ll find the remains of a Victorian folly, which was once part of a hidden garden.

Address: Crescent Wood Road, Sydenham Hill, London, SE26 6LS

Nearest station: Sydenham Hill or Forest Hill

More information: Visit the London Wildlife Trust website here

Grand Union Canal, north-west London

The Grand Union Canal in Alperton, north west London
Image: A Peace of London

Follow the Grand Union Canal up towards Alperton and Sudbury and the Grand Union Canal gets really residential.

In autumn, it comes into its own and you can follow the canal up to Horsenden Hill, where you can get away from civilisation completely, accompanied by brilliant views over Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

Nearest Tube: Alperton or Sudbury Town

More information: Visit the Canal & River Trust website

Horniman Museum Gardens

Horniman Museum Gardens, south London
Image: A Peace of London

The gardens of south London’s own natural history museum have some of the best views out to east London and a conservatory to rival the one at Syon Park.

From here you can see St Paul’s Cathedral, the walkie-talkie and the Shard beyond the bandstand and lovely gardens of the museum.

Horniman Museum Gardens, south London
Image: A Peace of London

Once you’re done with all the seeing of things, pop by the cafe for a hot chocolate or pay the famous walrus a visit in the museum itself — admission is free.

Address: 100 London Road, Forest Hill, London SE23 3PQ

Nearest station: Forest Hill

More information: Horniman Museum website

Waterlow Park

Waterlow Park, Hampstead, London
Image: A Peace of London

If Hampstead Heath seems a bit busy on a weekend, then head to Waterlow Park in Highgate instead.

The park’s great views over London are complemented by Lauderdale House — the 16th-century former home of the notorious Duke of Lauderdale. It’s thought that King Charles II stayed here with Nell Gwynn, his long-standing mistress.

Address: Highgate Hill, Highgate, London N6 5HD

Nearest Tube: Archway

More information: Read my review here or visit the Friends of Waterlow Park website

Severndroog Castle

Severndroog Castle, south London
Image: A Peace of London

Buried deep in the Oxleas Woods in Greenwich, on one of the highest points in London, is the capital’s least-known castle.

Built in the 18th century by the widow of Sir William James — and named after Survarnadurg, the pirates’ fortress that he destroyed in 1755 — the castle was saved from private developers in 2002.

It now offers a viewing platform to rival the Shard’s and a lovely tea room to shelter from the autumn winds…

Address: Castle Wood, Shooters Hill, London SE18 3RT.

Nearest station: Eltham

More information: Visit the Severndroog Castle website

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These 5 secret London places are closer (and quieter) than you’d think…

Nothing compares to the feeling of exploring a surprising secret place in central London.

Whether it’s a quiet little garden opposite a busy tourist hub or a little-known bookshop on a busy high street, London has surprises around every corner — you just have to know where to look.

Watch the world go by opposite St Paul’s

Saint Vedast-alias-Foster, City of London
Image: A Peace of London

Where? Saint Vedast-alias-Foster courtyard

This small courtyard is part of the Wren-designed church of the same name but is hidden behind a door to the right of the main church.

It’s covered over so is suitable even in the rain and there’s even a piece of Roman floor on one of the walls.

Opening times: Monday to Friday, 8am-5.30pm; Saturday, 11am-4 pm; Sundays check before travelling

Nearest Tube: St Paul’s

Address: 4 Foster Lane, London EC2V 6HH

More information: Visit the St Vedast-alias-Foster website

Browse in silence in Hammersmith

Books for Amnesty, Hammersmith, London
Picture credit: Kake on Flickr

Where? Amnesty Bookshop

On one of the busiest streets in Hammersmith lies a charity bookshop that is full of heart (and books).

The shop is run almost entirely by volunteers and sells stock donated by the public and sales raise money for human rights.

They’ve also got an impressive range of books — I once left with nine books — so everyone wins.

Opening times: Monday to Saturday, 10am-6pm

Nearest Tube: Hammersmith

Address: 181 King Street, London W6 9JT

More information: Visit the Amnesty International website here

Discover a little-known underground museum in Tower Hill

All Hallows by the Tower Museum, London
Image: A Peace of London

Where? All Hallows by the Tower crypt museum

You wouldn’t expect there to be anything little-known anywhere near the Tower of London, especially something that is so integrated with the Tower’s history, but All Hallows by the Tower is just that.

Head down to the crypt of this small church — which is also the oldest church in the City of London — and you’ll find a free museum with a collection of Roman and Saxon artefacts (including a Roman floor). The crypt itself also dates from the Saxon period.

Opening times: Monday to Friday, 8am-5pm (until 6pm April-October); Saturday to Sunday, 10am-5pm

Nearest Tube: Tower Hill

Address: Byward Street, London EC3R 5BJ

More information: Visit the All Hallows by the Tower website here

Explore an urban paradise in Soho

The Phoenix Garden, Soho, London
Image: A Peace of London

Where? The Phoenix Garden

This secret garden is so close to theatreland that you’d think you could hear the tickets being printed, but thankfully it’s almost completely protected by the buildings around it.

Managed by volunteers and funded by donations, this is really a public park in every sense of the word.

The garden is planted without pesticides,  herbicides or waste and is even home to the West End’s only frogs.

Opening times: Daily, 8.30am-6pm

Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road

Address: 21 Stacey Street, London WC2H 8DG

More information: Visit the Phoenix Garden website

Write, read or study in Pimlico

RHS Lindley Library, Pimlico, London
Image: A Peace of London

Where? RHS Lindley Library

If you’re looking for a silent place to write in London, then the library at the Royal Horticultural Society’s headquarters in Pimlico is the perfect place.

You don’t have to be a member or even be into gardening — just sign in at reception and enjoy the desks, free wifi and peaceful atmosphere.

Opening times: Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays), 10am-5pm

Nearest Tube: Pimlico

Address: 80 Vincent Square, London SW1P 2PE

More information: Visit the RHS website here

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19 quiet London coffee shops and cafès that culture-vultures will love

There’s nothing quite like relaxing in a quiet coffee shop with a book, the papers or your trusty laptop, is there?

To me this is one of life’s great pleasures, but it can be hard to find a decent (let alone quiet) coffee shop or cafè in London in which do this.

So I’ve selflessly been spending the last few weeks drinking copious amounts of tea to unearth some of the best hidden gems in or around central London. Purely for research purposes, you understand…

Is your favourite hidden gem on the list? I’d love to know what you think. Let me know in the comments or drop me a message

The Foundling Museum Cafè, Bloomsbury

The Foundling Museum Cafe © The Foundling Museum
Image: © The Foundling Museum

This inspiring cafè on the side of the Foundling Museum in Bloomsbury is pretty under-the-radar.

But you can’t help but be creative in this peaceful space, surrounded by a specially-commissioned mural by poet Lemn Sissay MBE, which ties the cafè with its museum’s theme of orphans and childhood nicely.

Opening times: Tuesday-Saturday: 10am-5pm; Sunday 11am-5pm

Nearest Tube: Euston Square / Russell Square

More information: Visit the Foundling Museum website here or read my review of the museum

The Photographers Gallery Café, Soho

Coffee and cake at the Photographers Gallery, Soho, London
Image: A Peace of London

This arty and very central cafè has beautiful food from a specialist baker (pictured above is the mini salted caramel cake I treated myself to) and a chilled-out, social atmosphere.

The staff are really friendly,  and there’s free wifi, too. All profits from the cafè go towards their programme of events and exhibitions.

Opening times: Monday to Friday, 9.30am-6pm; Saturday, 10am-6pm; Sunday, 11.30am-6pm

Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus

Address: 16-18 Ramillies Street, Soho, London W1F 7LW

More information: Visit The Photographers’ Gallery website here

Park Life Cafè, Burgess Park

Chumleigh Gardens Cafe, Walworth, London
Image: A Peace of London

For decent food, beautiful gardens and a park next door, plus a mug of tea for £1, head to Park Life Cafè next to Chumleigh Gardens in Burgess Park, Southwark.

It’s clear that the locals love this place and you can see why. It’s easy to feel at home here and the staff are really friendly.

Before or after your cuppa, head through the gate to the right of the cafè to see the beautiful Chumleigh Gardens (including the multicultural garden — a secret garden within the secret garden…) or head left for a stroll through Burgess Park.

Opening times: Monday to Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday 10am-5pm

Nearest Tube: Elephant and Castle

Address: Burgess Park, 3 Chumleigh St, London SE5 0RJ

More information: Visit the Park Life Cafè website

Host Café, City of London

Host Cafè at St Mary Aldermary church, London
Image: A Peace of London

Can you believe that you can sit under this and have coffee?

Not only is Host Cafè set in the stunning St Mary Aldermary church, it also opens at 7.15am and has free wifi. Their teas and coffees are from independent producers, their pastries are brought in on a bicycle.

For lunch, there are organic soups or homemade pates on offer, or you can bring a packed lunch with you. Can this place get any more charming? I don’t think so.

Opening times: Monday to Friday: 7.15am-4.45 pm (until 4.30pm on Monday and Friday)

Nearest Tube: Mansion House

More information: Read my review here or visit the Host Cafè website

Calthorpe Project Garden Cafè, King’s Cross

Calthorpe Project Cafe, King's Cross
Image: A Peace of London

The organic veg served at this meat-free cafè in King’s Cross doesn’t have to travel very far to your plate — in fact, it’s grown just a few feet away in The Calthorpe Project garden.

Even the coffee is homemade and proceeds help support the project’s mission to support the physical and emotional well-being of local people.

Opening times: Monday to Friday, 10am-5pm

Nearest Tube: King’s Cross

More information: Visit the Calthorpe Project website

The Old Dairy at Vauxhall City Farm

The Old Dairy at Vauxhall City Farm, London
Image: A Peace of London

There’s nothing ‘old’ about this light and spacious cafè at one of the nicest city farms in London.

There’s free wifi on offer as well as a great selection of cakes and lunches. Proceeds from the cafè help to fund their work with disadvantaged young people.

And if you fancy some fresh air, the farm is free to visit!

Opening times: Monday: 11am-2:00pm; Tuesday to Sunday: 10:30am-4pm

Nearest Tube: Vauxhall

More information: Visit the Vauxhall City Farm website here

Thackeray’s Coffee House, Clerkenwell

Thackeray's Cafe at the Charterhouse, Clerkenwell, London
Image: A Peace of London

The coffee house of the Charterhouse in Clerkenwell is one of the lightest, brightest and spacious that I’ve been into. The food is delicious and there’s free wifi on offer, as well as lots of natural daylight.

Plus, there’s a free museum to wander around next door, a lovely green space outside and lots of other gems within walking distance. What more could you want?

Opening times: Monday to Friday: 8.30am-5pm; Saturday: 10.30am-5pm

Nearest Tube: Farringdon

More information: visit the Charterhouse website here

Djanogly Cafè at Tate Britain, Pimlico

Djanogly Cafè at Tate Britain, London
Image: A Peace of London

Tate Britain’s cafè is as cool and slick as you’d expect for London’s most famous art gallery.

They roast their own coffee beans on site and they focus on regional produce for their drinks: the soda is from Hackney, the cola is from Northumberland and the apple juice is pressed on a Gloucestershire farm.

Opening times: Daily, 10am-6pm

Nearest Tube: Pimlico

More information: Visit the Tate website here

Café in the Crypt, Trafalgar Square

Café in the Crypt, St Martin in the Fields, London
Picture credit: Jops on Flickr

Take a few moments to look around you at the second church café on our list — an 18th-century brick-vaulted ceiling awaits above your head and tombstones line the floor beneath your feet.

Back on the tables, you’ll have a choice of home-made hot meals as well as teas, coffees and cakes at great value for café that’s smack-bang in tourist central. Go early in the day to beat the lunch and dinner rush, and bear in mind they have live music on Wednesday nights.

Opening times: Monday and Tuesday: 8am-8pm; Wednesday: 8am-6.30pm; Thursday-Saturday: 8am-9pm; Sunday: 11am-6pm

Nearest Tube: Charing Cross

More information: Visit the St Martin in the Fields website here

Cafè Caritas at 30 Euston Square

Cafe Caritas at the Royal College of GPs in Euston, London
Image: A Peace of London

You might struggle to find anyone else who knows about this café in the Grade II-listed headquarters of the Royal College of GPs in Euston.

The building and security guards at the front door look very imposing at first, but get past that and you’ll be rewarded with an airy space with plenty of natural light and free wifi.

The prices are reasonable and there is some good people-watching to be done as the staff at the college go about their doctor-y business.

Opening times: Monday to Friday, 8am-8pm

Nearest Tube: Euston / Euston Square / King’s Cross

More information: Visit the 30 Euston Square website here

George’s Cafè, Holborn

George's Church and cafe, Bloomsbury
Image: A Peace of London

Eat, drink and reset your mind in the church where Sylvia Plath married Ted Hughes in 1956.

The church is newer than some of the other churches on this list, but has its own unique charm and the cafè stretches right around the aisles, making it a very spacious place to spend a few hours.

There’s also free wifi available, and it’s got some of the longest (and earliest) opening hours on this list.

Opening times: Monday to Friday, 7am-7pm; 9am-3pm on Saturday

Nearest Tube: Russell Square

More information: Visit the St George’s Holborn website

The Ragged Canteen, Vauxhall

Beaconsfield Gallery, Vauxhall, London
Image: A Peace of London

I found this place by accident on a walking tour of Vauxhall, and instantly fell in love.

Not only is it on the side of the independent Beaconsfield art gallery, it also serves great coffee and ethically sourced and seasonal vegetarian comfort food in a retro and spacious location (with free wifi).

If you fancy a wander around the building, there is progressive art available to view for free and magazines/newspapers if you forget your book.

Opening times: Wednesday to Sunday, 11am-5pm

Nearest Tube: Vauxhall

More information: Visit the Beaconsfield gallery website here

Curzon, Bloomsbury

Curzon Bloomsbury
Image: A Peace of London

Tucked away behind The Brunswick Centre is this arthouse cinema with a long history and a chilled bar that doubles as a coffee shop during the day.

Perfect for grabbing a coffee and people watching.

Nearest Tube: Russell Square

More information: Visit the Curzon website

Charles Dickens Museum Garden Cafè, Bloomsbury

Charles Dickens Museum Cafe, Bloomsbury, London
Image: A Peace of London

This little spot in the extension at 48 Doughty Street (the former London home of the author and his family) is inspired by the house itself and — fittingly — perfect for writers and readers.

There is free wifi available and a wide selection of special teas, as well as a whole side table full of huge cakes. Everything from the furniture to the sugar pots is inspired by a Victorian home.

Of course, my favourite part is the reading chair in the corner…

Opening times: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-4:30pm

Nearest Tube: Russell Square

More information: Visit the Charles Dickens Museum website here

Stanford’s Coffee Shop, Covent Garden

Stanford's Coffee House, Leicester Square, London
Image: A Peace of London

Leicester Square might not be the first place you’d head to get a break from touristy London, but Stanford’s Coffee (in the bookshop of the same name) is the perfect place.

They stock a wide selection of London travel books and there’s free wifi, too — so you can research your next exploration while you’re there.

Opening times: Monday to Friday, 8am-7.30pm; Saturday 9am-7.30pm; Sunday 11.30am-5.30pm

Nearest Tube: Leicester Square

Address: 27A Floral Street, London WC2E 9EZ

More information: Visit the Stanford’s website here

Café Below, City of London

St Mary-le-Bow church, London
Image: A Peace of London

If the idea of having tea in the actual church at Host Cafè doesn’t appeal (see above), try Cafè Below just up the road at St Mary-le-Bow, which is hidden away in the crypt.

The crypt is much altered from when the church was built in 1080, but it’s easy to imagine its original use from the old brickwork and the traditional restored ceiling.

Fun fact: the bells at St Mary-le-Bow Church have rung at 9pm every day since at least 1363, and if you were born in an area where you can hear Bow Bells, you’re officially a Cockney.

Opening times: Monday to Friday, 7.30am-2.30pm

Nearest Tube: Mansion House

Address: St Mary-le-Bow Church, Cheapside, London EC2V 6AU

More information: Visit the Cafè Below website here

The Refectory at Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral, London
Picture credit: Matt Brown / Flickr

The cafè on the side of Southwark Cathedral is a little hideaway from the touristy areas of London Bridge and Borough at the weekend.

During the winter you can relax in the clean and airy cafè and in the warm weather, they serve food and drinks in the courtyard.

Nearest Tube: London Bridge

Address: Montague Close, London SE1 9DA

More information: Visit the Southwark Cathedral website here

Mouse Tail Coffee Stories, Borough

Mouse Tail Coffee Stories cafe, London
Image: A Peace of London

This little chain of coffee shops has branches around London, but I have a soft spot for the one at John Harvard Library in Borough, simply because it’s in a library.

Besides some good coffee (which is the same price, no matter what size you get), they also serve fresh juices, delicious vegetarian/vegan food and some pretty mean cakes.

While you drink, you can browse shelves-upon-shelves of magazines for free, or pull up one of the chairs and make use of the free wifi.

Opening times: Mondays and Thursdays, 10am-7pm; Tuesday and Fridays, 10am-5pm; Saturdays, 10am-3pm

Nearest Tube: Borough / London Bridge

Address: John Harvard Library, St Dunstans House, 211 Borough High St, London SE1 1JA

More information: Visit the Mouse Tail Coffee website here

William Morris Gallery tea room, Walthamstow

Cream tea at William Morris Gallery, London
Image: A Peace of London

A little bit farther out than most of the other cafès on this list, the tea room at William Morris’ childhood home is bathed in daylight and has lovely gardens attached to it if you fancy eating in the fresh air.

They serve lovely afternoon teas, fresh food from local producers and some of the biggest scones I’ve ever seen.

Once you’ve finished eating your way through that, make sure you check out the gallery itself, which is free and gives a fantastic insight into his life and work.

Opening times:  Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-4.30pm

Nearest Tube: Walthamstow Central

Address: Lloyd Park, Forest Road, Walthamstow, London, E17 4PP

More information: Visit the William Morris Gallery website here

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Temple Church: a still and beautiful hideaway from City life

Step off Fleet Street into Inner Temple and the sounds of the city instantly melt away. Beyond you lies Temple Church — a 12th-century masterpiece that’s about as far removed from London’s “beaten track” as you can get.

The church and its adjoining graveyard are protected by the Goldsmith buildings, meaning that it was almost silent when I visited on a busy Wednesday lunchtime.

Exterior of Temple Church, London
Image: A Peace of London

The entrance to the church is on the other side of the graveyard, which means you get a secluded view of the church and its 12th-century round to yourself.

Exterior of Temple Church, London
Image: A Peace of London

Speaking of Goldsmith… Oliver Goldsmith himself is buried in the graveyard, and his gravestone bears a quote from his friend Samuel Johnson, who lived just up the road in Gough Square: “…who left scarcely any style of writing untouched, and touched nothing that he did not adorn.”

Grave of Oliver Goldsmith in Temple Church yard, London
Image: A Peace of London

To add to the charm of the place, there are vegetables growing in a patch in the middle of the graveyard…

Vegetables growing in Temple Church yard, London
Image: A Peace of London

The church itself is about as far from a tourist trap as you can get — you could hear a pin drop inside, and the light streaming in through the huge windows makes it seem like the church is glowing.

Interior of Temple Church, London
Image: A Peace of London

Behind you is the church round, which was built by the Knights Templar to recreate the circular Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem — the holiest place in the world.

Temple Church, London
Image: A Peace of London

The current Magna Carta exhibition in the round is very fitting, since this building served as King John’s headquarters from 1214-1215, and it was here that the barons first confronted him about a charter.

Interior of Temple Church, London
Image: A Peace of London
Figure at Temple Church, London
Image: A Peace of London

Two of the men who mediated when John eventually signed Magna Carta — including William the Marshal, Earl of Pembroke who was an adviser to King John and regent to Henry III — were also buried here.

Climb to the upper level to get a good view of their effigies, as well as a birds-eye view of the round.

Interior of Temple Church, London
Image: A Peace of London

When you’ve soaked it all in, make sure you turn left as you leave the church and cross the square, to stop for a few minutes to admire the vista.

Exterior of Temple Church, London
Image: A Peace of London

Temple Church: the essentials

Opening times: Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm

Address: Temple, London EC4Y 7BB

Nearest Tube: Temple

More information: Visit the Temple Church website here

7 tranquil hidden gems to rest your mind in central London

There are many peaceful and chilled-out London places on this blog. But sometimes you want pure silence.

So I’ve compiled the places where I’ve felt truly rested after my visit — where you can just sit alone with your thoughts. Call them mindful, or just peaceful — they’re just great places.

The Brunei Gallery, Bloomsbury

Brunei Gallery, SOAS, Bloomsbury, London
Image: A Peace of London

The Brunei Gallery at SOAS University of London is pretty well-known for its Japanese Roof Garden, but the gallery is probably one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever explored in London.

There are a few different areas — all dedicated to exhibits from Asia, Africa and the Middle East — each perfect for sitting still for a while.

Opening times: Tuesday to Saturday, 10.30am-5pm (open Thursday until 8pm)

Nearest Tube: Russell Square

More information: Visit the SOAS website here

RHS Lindley Library

RHS Lindley Library, Pimlico, London
Image: A Peace of London

This little library was such a surprise to me. It’s so central, but also so hidden that there was just me and two others there when I visited.

The library itself holds a collection covering gardening — from history to design — and there’s also free wifi available, plus desk space and sofas.

Opening times: Monday to Friday, 10am-5pm

Nearest Tube: Pimlico

More information: Visit the RHS website here

Chelsea Physic Garden

Chelsea Physic Garden, London
Image: A Peace of London

‘London’s secret garden’ has its own microclimate within its walls, thanks to the shelter on three sides from the Chelsea buildings and its proximity to the Thames.

This (along with the shelter afforded by the trees) also means that it’s incredibly peaceful, and there are so many little corners to escape to when you’re done admiring the 5,000 plants.

Opening times: Monday, 11am-5pm; Tuesday to Friday 11am-6pm; Sundays, 11am-6pm

Nearest Tube: Sloane Square

More information: Visit the Chelsea Physic Garden website

St Bartholomew the Great

st bartholomew the great church, London
Picture credits: Kotomi_ on Flickr

Long-term readers of this blog will know I am a huge fan of St Bartholomew the Great (plus the hospital and museum).

It’s honestly one of my favourite places and the 11th-century walls are incredibly protecting against the noise of Smithfield outside.

There’s also a cafe and you can currently see a Damien Hirst artwork in the south transept. Read more about St Bart’s history here.

Opening times: Monday to Friday, 8.30am-4pm (until 5pm in spring/summer); Saturday, 10.30am-4pm; Sunday, 8.30am-8pm

Nearest Tube: Farringdon / St Paul’s

More information: Visit the Great St Bart’s website

St Etheldreda’s Church

St Etheldreda's Church, Holborn, London
Picture credit: Paul Capewell on Flickr

When I pushed open the heavy door of the oldest Catholic church in England, I really didn’t know what to expect.

The door to the 13th-century church is hemmed in by office buildings either side, on a gated road behind Hatton Garden in Holborn. This already means it’s pretty quiet, but inside the church I literally could have heard a pin drop, plus I was the only one in there.

If you’re ever in the Holborn area, visit this hidden gem for break from everything.

Opening times: Monday to Saturday, 8am-5pm; Sunday: 8am-12.30pm

Nearest Tube: Liverpool Street

More information: Visit the St Etheldreda Church website

Skoob Books

Skoob Books, Russell Square, London
Image: Skoob Books

Another one of my favourites, Skoob Books was one of the first places I wrote about on this blog and I have been back several times since.

One of my favourite things about Skoob is that it’s underground, so no one can get phone signal, and there’s no background music, either.

Oh, and they do really good deals on a lot of books.

Opening times: Monday to Friday, 10.30am-8pm; Sundays and bank holidays, 10.30am-6pm

Nearest Tube: Russell Square

More information: Visit the Skoob Books website

The Petrie Museum

Petrie Museum, UCL, London
Image: A Peace of London

Forget the British Museum — the best place to see the product of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology is the Petrie Museum at University College London.

This small museum is hidden away in the museum buildings and you can see 8,000 objects completely free — not that many other people know about it. Alongside the Grant Museum of Zoology, it’s one of Bloomsbury’s most peaceful hidden gems.

Opening times: Tuesday to Saturday, 1pm-5pm

Nearest Tube: Euston Square

More information: Visit the UCL website here

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The Calthorpe Project, King’s Cross: one of London’s most treasured green spaces

One of the benefits of working within central London is the number of quiet urban spaces that can add colour, tranquillity and community to your lunch break.

And if you live or work anywhere near King’s Cross, Euston or Bloomsbury, then you’re in luck — The Calthorpe Project is one of the best urban spaces in the centre of the capital.

The Calthorpe Project, King's Cross, London
Image: A Peace of London

The Calthorpe Project was set-up to improve the physical and emotional well-being of those who live, work or study in Camden and surrounding areas.

Calthorpe Project Cafe, King's Cross
Image: A Peace of London

When the land went up for sale in 1980, Camden council busily prepared it for 70,000 square feet of office space. That was until local people caught wind of the plans and then campaigned successfully for the space to be turned into a community garden.

The Calthorpe Project, King's Cross, London
Image: A Peace of London

As well as training and offering volunteering opportunities to people with learning disabilities and mental health issues, the project also supports sustainable food growing.

A big part of this eco-friendly effort is the vegetarian cafe, which serves organic veg right from the garden and they even use the remains to fuel the cookers and indoor heaters.

The Calthorpe Project, King's Cross, London
Image: A Peace of London

The Calthorpe Project: the essentials

Opening times: Monday to Friday, 10am-6pm; Saturday and Sunday, 12pm-6pm

Nearest Tube: King’s Cross

More information: Visit The Calthorpe Project website

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