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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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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A quiet wandering in Waterloo, Lambeth and Vauxhall

A few Saturdays ago, I joined forces with Saira from Living London (if you haven’t read her blog yet, you really should) and a few other London bloggers to explore the quieter side of some of south London’s busiest areas: Waterloo, Lambeth and Vauxhall.

Along the way, we discovered a poet’s paradise underneath abandoned railway arches, a city farm full of strange birds and Banksy’s “secret” tunnel. Here are my highlights — check Saira’s wanderings page for upcoming tours of her other London secrets…

The Graffiti Tunnel, Leake Street

Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel, Waterloo, London
Image: A Peace of London

Created by Banksy during the Cans Festival in 2008, The Graffiti Tunnel is a spectacle for anyone with even the remotest interest in street art. It’s completely legal and anyone can paint here — it’s so popular that you can come here a few days apart and see very different artwork in the same spot.

Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel, Waterloo, London
Image: A Peace of London

It’s definitely not crowded and worth a visit if you want something off the beaten track in this tourist-heavy area — but if you’re hoping for a serene paradise, maybe skip this one…

Nearest Tube: Waterloo

More information: Visit the Legal Walls website or read The Hostel Girl’s review.

Old Paradise Yard

Old Paradise Yard, London
Image: A Peace of London

This tiny garden, art gallery and event space sits just behind St Thomas’ Hospital and the banks of the River Thames. You’d have to know it was here to find it, which made it a great pit-stop for our walk.

Old Paradise Yard, London
Image: A Peace of London

Old Paradise Yard was once a school for the children of Lower Marsh traders before it became a Tibetan Buddhist centre. The old school rooms have been turned into studios and they also host a cafe and evening events, but it was so peaceful here during the day on the Saturday we visited.

Nearest Tube: Lambeth North

More information: Visit the Old Paradise Yard website

Vauxhall City Farm

Vauxhall City Farm, London
Image: A Peace of London

I can never resist a city farm. They’re just such a different experience to anything else you can visit in London — also there are usually alpacas…

Vauxhall City Farm, London
Image: A Peace of London

Like many of the city farms in London, Vauxhall City Farm is free. It’s right next to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and so quiet.

Nearest Tube: Vauxhall

More information: Visit the Vauxhall City Farm website

Blake’s Lambeth

William Blake Southbank Mosaics, Waterloo, London
Image: A Peace of London

“Mosaic is a metaphor for London: all the peoples, tribes, creeds, colours, clans, cultures, faiths and freedoms coming together to make a brilliant whole.”

Another tunnel (or, more accurately, another four tunnels), this time demonstrating Londoners’ ability to make something beautiful out of the dingiest of places. The 70 stunning mosaics within the railway arches of Lambeth were created by 300 volunteers over a period of seven years and you could spend a whole afternoon reflecting on them.

William Blake Southbank Mosaics, Waterloo, London
Image: A Peace of London

The connection with William Blake is a local one — the poet lived round the corner for 10 years from 1790 to 1800. In 1809, he wrote that he wanted his art enlarged and displayed in a public space — two centuries later, Southbank Mosaics have made his wish a reality.

Nearest Tube: Lambeth North

More information: Visit the Southbank Mosaics website

The Ragged Canteen at Beaconsfield Gallery

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

Our last stop on our wandering was a bit of a surprise for everyone — we definitely saved the best ’til last. Owing to the popularity of our planned final pit-stop, the Tea House Theatre, we were forced to look elsewhere for a well-deserved rest. But, as is often the way, in our search for somewhere else we found a wonderful hidden gem to add to our repertoires.

The Ragged Canteen is set in the old Lambeth Ragged School building, serving delicious vegetarian food (with vegan/gluten-free options), Monmouth coffee and fairtrade tea. They have free wifi so it’s perfect for getting work done, but it was also the ideal spot for five bloggers who just wanted to swap stories.

Nearest Tube: Vauxhall / Lambeth North

More information: Visit the Ragged Canteen website

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25 free museums in London (without the crowds)

You don’t have to battle the crowds in South Kensington for the best and most beautiful free museums in London; the capital is replete with quieter, unique places to explore that won’t cost a penny to visit. Here are 25 of my favourites.

Note: While these London museums are officially ‘free’, some do ask for a small donation on the way out to help them continue their work. So if you enjoyed it, pop them whatever you can afford to say thanks.

The Wallace Collection, Marylebone

The Wallace Collection, London
Picture credit: Scott Wylie / Flickr

The Wallace Collection was one of the first quiet places I visited when I moved to London, so it’s kind of special for me. Set in Hertford House, a beautiful central London town house, The Wallace Collection is made up of 18th and 19th-century works of art.

Opening times: 10am-5pm daily, including bank holidays

Nearest Tube: Bond Street

More information: Wallace Collection website

William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow

William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow, London
Image: A Peace of London

As the name suggests, this historic house in Walthamstow charts the life and work of the famous interiors artist William Morris. The building was Morris’s family home during his school years and is now dedicated to his contribution to the arts and crafts movement of the 19th century.

Highlights include the stunning gardens, the rooms dedicated to his relationships and socialism, and of course the tea room (where you can buy possibly the biggest scones in north London).

Opening times: 10am-5pm, Wednesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays

Nearest Tube: Walthamstow Central

More information: William Morris Gallery website

Burgh House and Hampstead Museum

Burgh House, Hampstead, London
Image: A Peace of London

Burgh House holds 300 years of history, having been built during the reign of Queen Anne. It’s also the location for Hampstead Museum, which charts the area’s development from a settlement for forest hunters in 7000 BC to a luxury haven in the present day.

Opening times: 12pm-5pm, Wednesday to Friday and Sunday

Nearest Tube: Hampstead

More information: Burgh House website

Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, Epping Forest

Tudor food display at Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge in Epping Forest, east London
Image: A Peace of London

Commissioned by Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge was built in 1543. Typically of Henry, it was built to be grander than anything that had come before: it was known as the ‘Great Standing’, owing to the fact that it was the only three-floor standing in England. There’s no evidence that Great Harry ever visited, but there’s an intriguing legend linking the building with his daughter (and its namesake)…

Opening times: 10am-5pm, Tuesday to Sunday

Nearest station: Chingford

More information: Read my review here or visit the City of London website

Valentines Mansion, Ilford

Flowers at Valentines Mansion exterior, Ilford, London
Image: A Peace of London

Valentines Mansion, a stunning 17th century house in Valentines Park, Ilford, was built for Elizabeth Tillotson, the widow of the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1696. Added-to and renovated in Georgian times, it stood empty for 15 years before being transformed again into the house you can visit (for free!) today.

Opening times: Tuesday and Sunday (closed every winter until February)

Nearest Tube: Gants Hill

More information: Valentines Mansion website

The Geffrye Museum of the Home, Hackney

Geffrye Museum of the Home, Hoxton, London
Picture credit: Davide D’Amico on Flickr

If you love peering into pretty living rooms on Pinterest, then take a trip to Hoxton and The Geffrye Museum of the Home where you can indulge your passion for interiors (and see another, more down-to-earth side of Hoxton).

Opening times: 10am-5pm Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-5pm Bank Holiday Mondays

Nearest station: Hoxton

More information: Geffrye Museum website

Bethlem Museum of the Mind, Beckenham

Bethlem Museum of the Mind, London
Picture credit: surprise truck on Flickr

The 13th-century Bethlem Royal Hospital was the first UK institution to specialise in the care of the mentally ill continues to provide care today. This unique free museum within the hospital buildings charts the lives and accomplishments of those with mental health problems.

Opening times: 10am-5pm Wednesday to Friday (except public holidays) and the first and last Saturday of the month

Nearest station: West Wickham

More information: MedicalMuseums.org site

The Faraday Museum, Mayfair

The Faraday Museum, London
Image: A Peace of London

When Michael Faraday took over this lab in the basement of the Royal Institution in the 1820s, he probably didn’t realise that it would be turned into a museum dedicated to his legacy almost 200 years later. But so it was, and the collection now includes many exhibits that were used by Faraday himself, including the electromagnet above, which was used in an experiment to show that light and glass are affected by magnetism.

Opening times: 9am-6pm Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays)

Nearest Tube: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus

More information: Royal Institution website or read my review here

The Museum of the Order of St John, Clerkenwell

Museum of the Order of St John, Clerkenwell, London
Image: A Peace of London

This small museum in Clerkenwell charts the story of the Order of St John, from its 11th century Jerusalem roots through to its modern-day work with St John Ambulance.

Opening times: 10am-5pm Monday to Saturday

Nearest Tube: Farringdon or Barbican

More information: The Museum of the Order of St John website

Grant Museum of Zoology, Bloomsbury

Grant Museum of Zoology, Univerity College London
Image: A Peace of London

This small but perfectly formed (and free) museum in UCL’s buildings houses everything from a penguin skeleton to half a cat and a corner of insects; all from London Zoo, The Hunterian Museum and Imperial College London.

Opening times: 1pm-5pm Monday to Saturday

Nearest Tube: Euston Square

More information: UCL website or read my review here

Guildhall, City of London

Guildhall, London
Image: A Peace of London

Not strictly a museum, but one of the finest (and oldest) historical buildings in London. The Guildhall was the setting for Lady Jane Grey’s trial as well as many other medieval defendants, and sits on top of a Roman amphitheatre.

Nowadays it’s used for state and civic banquets, as well as being the home of the City of London Corporation, and its great hall, art gallery and the amphitheatre can all be visited for free.

Opening times: 10am-4.30pm daily (not open on Sundays during the winter)

Nearest Tube: Bank

More information: City of London website

St Bart’s Hospital Museum, Smithfield

Displays at St Bartholomew's Hospital Museum, London
Image: A Peace of London

St Bartholomew’s Hospital has been treating the sick for almost 900 years and is now one of the world’s most prestigious museums. The museum of the same name is hidden beneath Henry VIII’s statue in the Hospital’s North Wing and includes hundreds of medical artefacts, surgical equipment, 12th-century documents, art and uniforms charting nine centuries of medical history.

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

Nearest station: St Paul’s or Farringdon

More information: Barts Health website or read my review here

The BDA Dental Museum, Marylebone

As the name suggests, this museum is dedicated to the history of dentistry. Among its 30,000-piece collection are Waterloo teeth (teeth taken from bodies from the Battle of Waterloo and sold as dentures) and some vintage public health information films and posters.

Opening times: 1pm-4pm Tuesdays and Thursdays

Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus or Bond Street

More information: British Dental Museum website

Horniman Museum and Gardens, Forest Hill

Tropical bird at the Horniman Museum
Image: A Peace of London

East London’s version of the Natural History Museum is a bit out of the way, but you don’t have to go into central London to visit it. Get your fill of natural history in a quieter setting at this Forest Hill gem.

Opening times: 10.30am-5.30pm daily

Nearest station: Forest Hill

More information: Horniman Museum website

London Sewing Machine Museum, Tooting

London Sewing Machine Museum, Tooting, London
Image: A Peace of London

This unusual museum in Upper Tooting celebrates the humble sewing machine with a collection of 600 machines, including one that was given to Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter as a wedding present.

Opening times: 2pm-5pm, first Saturday of the month

Nearest Tube: Tooting Bec

More information: Crafty Sewer website

V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green

V&A Museum of Childhood, London
Picture credit: Martin Moscosa on Flickr

Its big sister may be packed come weekends, but the V&A Museum of Childhood should be far enough away from central London to put off rowdy tourists. As its name suggests, this collection in Bethnal Green charts the evolution of everything from intricate Victorian dolls houses and paintings to Lego and He-Man – and even the trusty space hopper.

Opening times: 10am-5.45pm daily

Nearest Tube: Bethnal Green

More information: VAM website

The Hunterian Museum, Holborn

Sign of the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, Holborn, London
Image: A Peace of London

The third natural history museum on the list and probably the lesser-known. This small but full-to-the-brim museum contains thousands of jarred specimens and skeletons: everything from the 7ft 7ins ‘Irish Giant’, human brains and a plaster cast of Isaac Newton’s death mask.

Opening times: 10am-5pm Tuesday to Saturday (CLOSED 20th May 2017 until summer 2020)

Nearest Tube: Holborn

More information: Royal College of Surgeons website or read my review here

The Ragged School Museum, Mile End

Ragged School Museum
Picture credit: Karen Bryan on Flickr

Test your slate board handwriting and avoid the dunce’s hat during a 45-minute lesson at what was once London’s biggest free school.

Known as a ragged school and set up to give the area’s poorest children a basic free education, it was the work of Thomas Barnardo – also the founder of Barnardo’s children’s charity.

The museum and Victorian lessons are free, but you’ll be hard-pressed to deny them a £2 donation for their trouble.

Opening times: 10am-5pm every Wednesday and Thursday; 2pm-5pm on the first Sunday of each month

Nearest Tube: Mile End

More information: Ragged School Museum website

The Royal London Museum

The Royal London Hospital Museum was founded in 1740 and, like St Bart’s, it has a museum dedicated to its history. Highlights (for want of a better word) include a carbon arc lamp used to give ultraviolet light treatment to King George V in 1928 and a replica of a hat and veil worn by Joseph Merrick (the ‘Elephant Man’) who stayed at the hospital.

Opening times: 10am-4.30pm Tuesday to Friday (closed over Christmas, New Year, Easter and public holidays)

Nearest station: Whitechapel

More information: Barts Health website

Bank of England Museum, City of London

Bank of England Museum, London
Picture credit: http://www.bankofengland.co.uk on Flickr

Bank’s resident fortress looks pretty impenetrable (and rightly so) whatever time you visit, but head to the museum on a weekday for a glimpse of 300 years of financial history.

Opening times: 10am-5pm Monday to Friday

Nearest station: Bank

More information: Bank of England website

New London Architecture

This small museum in The Building Centre offers a preview of how London will look in the future. Admire the giant model of the capital, attend a lecture or even get the inside track on a guided tour.

Opening times: 9am-6pm Monday to Friday; 10am-5pm Saturday

Nearest Tube: Euston or King’s Cross

More information: New London Architecture website

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, Bloomsbury

Figures at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London
Image: A Peace of London

The Petrie Museum’s website promises that it’s the ‘one of the greatest collections of Egyptian and Sudanese archaeology in the world’ and the 80,000 ancient artefacts in University College London would certainly take some beating. It’s hard to believe this packed series of rooms is free to visit but free it is.

Opening times: 1pm-5pm Tuesday to Saturday

Nearest Tube: Euston or King’s Cross

More information: UCL website or read my review here

Sir John Soane’s Museum, Holborn

Sir John Soane's Museum, London
Picture credit: Rory Hyde on Flickr

Maybe it’s the fact that its huge collection has been left untouched, exactly as Sir John Soane left it, for over 180 years. Maybe it’s Londoners’ love of eccentric obsession. Either way, this time capsule charting one man’s love of art continues to gain in popularity.

If you can get in, you’ll be treated to an extraordinary collection of artwork from world-famous artists such as Hogarth, Turner and Canaletto.

Opening times: 10am-5pm Tuesday to Saturday

Nearest Tube: Holborn

More information: Sir John Soane’s Museum website

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Marylebone

library and museum of freemasonry, London
Picture credit: Cristian Bortes on Flickr

Freemasonry might not be at the top of every London bucket list, but dig a bit deeper into this central London gem (it’s just round the corner from Holborn and a short walk from Covent Garden) to see items belonging to popular figures such as Winston Churchill and Edward VII.

Opening times: 10am-5pm Monday to Friday except public holidays

Nearest Tube: Holborn or Covent Garden

More information: The Library and Museum of Freemasonry website

Anaesthesia Heritage Centre

From Morton’s demonstration of ether inhalation in 1846 to machines that knock you out today, the Anaesthesia Heritage Centre is a must for anyone interested in the history of medical science.

Opening times: 10am-4pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday

Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus, Regent’s Park or Great Portland St

More information: Medical Museums website

Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

Old Royal Naval College Greenwich, london
Picture credit: Bill Hunt on Flickr

Its Painted Hall — designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor — has been described as ‘the Sistine Chapel of the UK,’ so there’s at least one reason to visit this south-east London landmark if you haven’t already. On show in the visitor centre are Tudor objects excavated from the old Greenwich Palace, the secret of Greenwich’s own nuclear reactor, and the history of the site as a refuge for old and injured sailors.

Winter opening times: 10am-5pm daily

Nearest station: Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich

More information: ORNC website

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