Found yourself near Oxford Street or Soho and need some quiet, quick-sharp? A Peace of London to the rescue… I’ve rounded-up some of the best and most tranquil places to visit in one of the busiest areas of the capital. Aren’t I good to you?
Is your favourite place on the list? Let me know in the comments at the bottom of the page, or drop me a line!
Grab a coffee (and a book) at Stanford’s
Stanford’s Book Shop and Coffee House is one of my favourite places in London. It’s a central London institution: the book shop has been here in Long Acre for over 100 years and even featured in the Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles: Dr John Watson is sent ‘down to Stanford’s’ to buy a map of Dartmoor.
These days, they have an extraordinary number of travel books (including a great selection of London guide books for visitors and locals alike) and a wonderful bookish atmosphere to surpass any of the big chain shops, but the real jewel in their crown is their coffee shop. Their Venetian rose tea is heavenly, the service is great, and I could happily eat 10 slices of their pumpkin bread in one sitting.
If you’re looking for a place to work on your laptop, they have decent free wifi in their coffee shop too (as do these other great places to write). I always find this a really productive place to work for a few hours.
Nearest Tube: Leicester Square / Covent Garden
Opening times: Monday to Saturday, 9am-8pm; Sunday, 11.30am-6pm
More information: Stanford’s website
Escape from it all at the Brunei Gallery’s roof garden
Just a 10-minute walk from Tottenham Court Road is the Japanese Roof Garden at the SOAS Brunei Gallery. Once inside the gallery, the sounds from the students and Russell Square outside disappear and the roof garden one of the area’s best-kept secrets. Its design is dedicated to forgiveness; it’s the perfect place to let the stress of the outside world disappear.
Nearest Tube: Russell Square
Opening times: Tuesday to Saturday: 10:30am-5pm (late night Thursday until 8pm)
More information: SOAS University of London website
Experience London’s trendy art scene at the Riflemaker gallery
Whether you’re into art or history, this gallery set in an old riflemaker’s shop is for you. The shop was built in 1712 and is now the oldest public building in the West End, housing work by upcoming artists and celebrating the historical artists who have inspired them. Go for the craft or go for the history: Riflemaker is a unique part of Soho that shouldn’t be missed.
Nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus / Oxford Circus
Opening times: Monday to Friday, 11am-7pm; Saturday 12pm-6pm
More information: Riflemaker Gallery website
Browse in silence at Any Amount of Books
This very peaceful little bookshop holds a special place in many Londoners’ hearts thanks to its classic second-hand bookshop appeal and shelves-upon-shelves of poetry, literature, history, and antiques. The tranquillity of the upstairs is surpassed by the perfect silence of the downstairs, where boxes of fresh stock fill the space and books fill every nook and crevice.
And all within a stone’s throw of Leicester Square…
Opening times: 10:30am-9:30pm daily
Nearest Tube: Leicester Square
More information: Any Amount of Books website
Visit the home of two musical legends at Handel & Hendrix
The former home of two musical greats, George Frideric Handel and Jimi Hendrix, these two Georgian terraces are now part of the same museum dedicated to music. Handel lived here for 36 years (he died in the bedroom upstairs), and Hendrix called it ‘my first real home of my own.’
Nearest Tube: Bond Street
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 11am-6pm; Sunday, 12pm-6pm
Admission is normally £10 but you can get in free with a London Pass.
More information: Handel & Hendrix website
Soak up literary history at The London Library
You’ll be in good company at this 175-year-old private library in central London: a list of esteemed previous members reads like a who’s who of literature. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, George Eliot, Bram Stoker, Virginia Woolf, and Agatha Christie have all come to The London Library to work, read, and write.
Nowadays, the collection spans over a million books dating from the 16th century onwards. You’ll need membership to visit, which starts at £15 for the day.
Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus
Opening times: Monday to Wednesday, 9.30am-8pm; Thursday to Saturday 9.30am-5.30pm
More information: The London Library website
Pay a visit to the home of science at The Royal Institution
Peek into the basement lab where we learned why the sky is blue at The Royal Institution in Albemarle Street, just outside Soho. The lab itself is now the Faraday Museum; it’s named after Michael Faraday, the man who created the perfect place for experiments using light and electricity out of the dark little basement that no one used.
Here, Faraday and his colleagues conducted experiments that changed the way we saw the world. It was at the Royal Institution that we learned that electricity is a force and heat is a form of motion.
Address: 21 Albemarle St, London W1S 4BS
Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus
Opening times: Monday to Friday 9am-6pm
Eat heaven on a plate at Yumchaa
Yumchaa means ‘drink tea’ in Cantonese, or ‘tasty tea’ in English slang. And the tea house of the same name in Berwick Street doesn’t disappoint: enter the shop to be greeted by tea flavours galore, from burnt toffee caramel black tea, through lemon sherbet rooibos (my favourite), to mint white teas, and chilli hot chocolate thrown in, too.
This is a popular place, but it’s buried far enough into Soho to be largely inhabited by in-the-know Londoners. You can usually find a quiet spot downstairs, especially during the week.
And CAKE. Oh, the cake. Taste their millionaire’s shortbread and taste heaven on a plate… how can you refuse?
Opening times: Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm; Saturday, 10:30am to 8pm; Sunday, 11am – 8pm
Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus of Tottenham Court Road
More information: Visit the Yumchaa website
Returning soon… The Phoenix Garden
This secret garden near the tourist-central areas of Oxford Street, Leicester Square, and Tottenham Court Road is a welcome retreat from the concrete and the crowds. The garden is currently closed for building works, but they promise to reopen in summer 2016 and the updates from the Facebook page look promising. Keep checking the website for updates.
Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road
More information: Phoenix Garden website
More quiet London area guides
- 7 quiet places to write in central London (with free wifi)
- 14 quiet places in Bloomsbury and Russell Square
- 9 quiet places to visit in Holborn, Temple and Fleet Street