With lots of distractions and two very noisy cats at home, finding quiet cafés, libraries, coffee shops, and other places to work and write within easy reach in central London is essential for my productivity.
So I’ve tried quite a few of them (with varying levels of success) on my travels and now have a good selection to choose from when I need to be left alone with my laptop and some decent free wifi.
Here are a few of my top spots. Is yours on the list? Let me know if I’ve missed your favourite in the comments below, or drop me a message…
This beautiful little library is just round the corner from Liverpool Street, but you wouldn’t know it from the silence inside.
It’s contained within the Bishopsgate Institute and completely open to the public, so there’s no need to sign up to use the free wifi, newspapers or study area.
A true gem.
Nearest Tube: Liverpool Street
Opening hours: Monday – Friday 10am-5.30pm (until 8pm on Wednesdays); Closed Saturday and Sunday
Address: 230 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 4QH
More information: Visit the Bishopsgate Institute website
The Wren at St Nicks Cole Abbey is one of the lovely church cafés in the City of London and, alongside Host Café at St Mary Aldermary, is one of the best.
Drinking coffee and writing on your laptop in a church might seem a little odd at first, but personally, I think it’s a fantastic use of the space and a great way for the churches to pay for the maintenance of their centuries-old buildings.
I’d recommend you give it a try: they are lovely spaces to write in and the two mentioned above are open very early in the morning, so you can get an hour’s worth of writing in before work.
Trust me, it beats breakfast at a fancy hotel hands-down…
Nearest Tube: Mansion House
Opening times: Monday to Friday, 7am-4.30pm (closed 1pm-2pm on Thursdays)
Address: 114 Queen Victoria Street, London EC4V 4BJ
More information: Visit The Wren website
RHS Lindley Library
Travel to Vincent Square in the depths of Pimlico and you’ll find the headquarters of the Royal Horticultural Society and their little-known (but very quiet) library. Remarkably, the library is free for anyone to use and you don’t even have to be a member.
There are a few good writing desks and free wifi, as well as lots of reading material if you need a break. Not many people know about this place, so it’s surprisingly quiet, and the staff are very nice, too — I’d highly recommend it.
Nearest Tube: Pimlico
Opening times: Monday to Friday, 10am-5pm
Address: 80 Vincent Square, London SW1P 2PE
More information: Visit the RHS website here
John Harvard Library and Mouse Tail Coffee
If you can’t decide whether you want to write in a lovely library or drink coffee while you work, then you’re in luck… yes, Mouse Tail Coffee is a coffee shop in a library.
And this little coffee shop on the side of John Harvard Library takes its coffee very seriously; the mouse tail name refers to the ideal shape of the stream of espresso, which should be fine and continuous.
The staff aren’t serious though — they’re actually very nice and also serve good tea, food and cake. If you’re not in the mood for refreshment, you can use the library instead, but the free wifi is provided by the coffee shop.
Nearest Tube: Borough
Library opening times: Monday-Friday, 9am-7pm; Saturday, 9am-5pm; Sunday 12pm-4pm
Address: 211 Borough High Street, London, SE1 1JA
V&A National Art Library
Tucked away in one of the most popular museums in London is a quiet spot to that many Londoners miss.
It’s a bit more of a hassle to visit than many of the other coffee shops on this list, but you’ll be writing in one of the most inspirational places in London and it’s free, so I think it’s worth it.
To use the library, you’ll need to join. This is free, but make sure you take current ID and proof of address (read instructions here) with you. You’ll also need to check your bags into the cloakroom downstairs — you’ll be given a clear plastic bag for your laptop/notepads and remember to take a pencil, as pens aren’t allowed.
Nearest Tube: South Kensington
Opening times: Tuesday to Saturday, 10am-5.30pm (until 6.30pm on Fridays)
Address: Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL
More information: Visit the V&A website here
The Barbican Cinema Cafe
I’ve written specifically about this lovely place before and I’m including it as a separate point from the Barbican Centre here, as it feels so much more chilled-out and homely compared to its concrete big brother.
The cafe next to the cinema is a lot cosier than the centre itself and little-known enough to be quiet, even on weekends.
The opening hours are also almost as good as the centre itself and I still can’t get over how scrumptious their tomato soup is (I know that’s a strange thing to keep banging on about, but it’s really good).
Nearest Tube: Barbican
Opening hours: Monday – Friday: 8am–10.30pm; Saturday and Sunday: 10am–10.30pm
Address: Art’s Centre, Barbican Centre, Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS
Hanbury Hall Café
Hanbury Hall is fast becoming a favourite for east London freelancers in the know, thanks to its free (and fast) wifi, plenty of seating spread out over several different areas, and gorgeous food to top it all off.
The upstairs area was almost completely silent when I visited as well, even though it was a busy Friday afternoon at Spitalfields Market just down the road, which certainly helped for a very productive afternoon of work.
Highly recommended for anyone wanting to switch off with lovely tea and coffee practically on tap…
Nearest Tube: Liverpool Street
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 8am-5pm; Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday 12pm-5pm
Address: 22 Hanbury Street, London E1 6QR
More information: Visit the Hanbury Hall website
Black Sheep Coffee
This small chain of coffee shops has branches all over the City of London, but my favourite is the one in EastCheap.
Like all coffee shops, there is a lot going on here but the staff are super-friendly and it’s perfect if you like some background noise while you write.
I especially love the character of the place — the wall behind the counter is decorated with a funky mural and it’s completely devoid of pretence.
Nearest Tube: Tower Hill / Cannon Street
Opening times: Monday – Friday, 7am – 5pm
Address: 31 Eastcheap, London, EC3M 1DE
More information: Visit the Black Sheep Coffee website
The Barbican Centre
The Barbican Centre is the stuff of a quiet writer’s dreams…
Not only can you get free super-fast wifi, a cup of tea for £1.70 and plenty of plug sockets for your laptop, you can sit here and work for hours on end, without having to pay a penny.
It’s also open until 11pm every night (even on bank holidays) and it’s quiet enough to work there on a weekend, too (check out some of the higher levels if the ground floor is a bit busy).
I like wandering up to the library to clear my head when I fancy a break.
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday: 9am–11pm; Sunday: 11am-11pm; Bank Holidays: 12 noon–11pm
Nearest Tube: Barbican
Address: Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS
More information: barbican.org.uk
Bloomsbury Coffee House
A photo posted by A Peace of London (@apeaceoflondon) on
My favourite coffee shop in London and, in my view, a perfect place to write and soak up the studious atmosphere from the university students who surround you.
The word ‘quiet’ is a little ambiguous for this one since it’s off the beaten track with a ‘local’ vibe (and it’s certainly quieter than Starbucks) but there is lots going on with people chatting all around you.
So if you like some background noise while you work, then go right ahead…
There’s free wifi available and I promise you’ll find something lovely to fuel your brain, from lovely coffee and tea to big slices of cake and breakfast muesli.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 8am-4pm (term time until 6pm); Saturday and Sunday 8am-1.30pm
Nearest Tube: Russell Square or Euston Square
Address: 20 Tavistock Place, Kings Cross, London WC1H 9RE
More information: bloomsburycoffeehouse.co.uk
Pancras Square Library
Free wifi and lots of shiny open space are on offer at Pancras Square Library’s new premises at the 14-storey 5 Pancras Square, Kings Cross.
There’s everything you need for a break, too: as well as the wide selection of books, DVDs and CDs on offer, you can also peruse the newspapers and magazines or relax at the onsite cafe.
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 8am- 8pm; Sunday 11am-5pm
Nearest Tube: King’s Cross St. Pancras
Address: 5 Pancras Road, Kings Cross, London N1C 4AG
More information: Visit the Camden Council website
The British Library
The British Library might seem like an obvious place to mention in a list of quiet spaces to write in the city, but it’s so well set-up for writers and just a damn lovely place that I’m putting it in anyway.
There are free wifi, fancy writing desks and a few literary masterpieces surrounding you if you need some inspiration.
For a well-earned break, head to the Sir John Ritblat Treasures gallery just downstairs, where you can view gems like Shakespeare’s First Folio, Jane Austen’s notebooks, and Alice’s own copy of Alice in Wonderland.
Opening hours: Monday – Thursday 9.30am-8pm; Friday 9.30am-6pm; Saturday 9.30am-5pm; Sunday 11am-5pm
Nearest Tube: Euston or King’s Cross
Address: 96 Euston Road, Kings Cross, London NW1 2DB
More information: bl.uk
The Southbank Centre
The Southbank Centre has open space aplenty (both inside and out) plus views of the river from the terrace and loads of cafes to choose from.
Free wifi is available at the Royal Festival Hall and there are libraries onsite too (including The Poetry Library) for when you need a break from all your hard work.
Opening hours: Royal Festival Hall is open 10am – 11pm every day
Nearest Tube: Waterloo
Address: Belvedere Road, Lambeth, London SE1 8XX
More information: Southbank Centre website
Ask for Janice
This cool and minimalist cafe in Smithfields is open from early in the morning so you can start writing early if you’re a morning person.
They have an impressive breakfast menu to kick-start your writing brain, too…
Their toast and crumpets are reasonably priced, and they have more substantial items like avocado on toast if you’re feeling particularly hungry.
Decent free wifi is included.
Opening hours: Monday – Friday 7:30am-12:30am; Saturday 4pm – 12:30am
Nearest Tube: Farringdon or Barbican
Address: 50-52 Long Lane, London EC1A 9EJ
More information: Ask for Janice website
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