London’s hidden gems: a Tube map

One for the wallet, I think… as if Harry Beck’s famous Tube map design wasn’t fabulous enough, National Express and Londonist have teamed up to add an extra something that I think you might love… and that I’m printing out to keep with me when I’m exploring.

Created by National Express and Londonist, London’s Hidden Gems: A Tube Map includes a selection of our city’s little-known and eccentric museums, secret gardens and unusual attractions alongside the famous coloured lines.

The map can be downloaded from the National Express website here.

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9 quiet places near Soho and Oxford Street (yes, it’s possible…)

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 Coffee House, Leicester Square, London
Image: A Peace of London

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

Japanese Roof Garden at SOAS Brunei Gallery, London
Image: A Peace of London

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

The Rifemaker Gallery, Soho, London
Picture credit: Steve and Sara Emry / Flickr

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

Any Amount of Books, Charing Cross Road, London
Image: A Peace of London

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

Handel & Hendrix, Soho, London
Image: Michael Bowles / Handel & Hendrix in London

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

The London Library, St James's Square, London
Image: Pete D on Flickr

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

The Faraday Museum, London
Image: A Peace of London

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

More information: Read my review here or visit The Royal Institution website

Eat heaven on a plate at Yumchaa

SOHO CORNER EXTERIOR-2
Picture credit: 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

Phoenix Garden, London
Image: Kacper Gunia / Flickr

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

 

The hidden mews of Belgravia and Knightsbridge

London has many secrets — from the corners of Regent’s Park that need to be seen to be believed, to the nature reserve within a stone’s throw of King’s Cross. All you need to find them is a sense of adventure…

So last weekend I took a group from the Explore Quiet Places in London Meetup group on a tour of the secrets behind Belgravia and Knightsbridge, with help from independent tour guide Yannick Pucci. Believe it or not, there are streets in these busy tourist areas that enjoy almost perfect silence and a sleepy village atmosphere, just five minutes from the crowds that keep many Londoners away.

Here are my favourite parts of our walk — this was an adapted version of Yannick’s Macarons and Mews tour, so I won’t give too much away. But if these pictures leave you aching to find out more, why not book one of Yannick’s upcoming walks? Details are at the bottom of the page…

We found perfect peace and quiet (and a dream home) just metres from Hyde Park.

Mews in Knightbridge
Image: A Peace of London

We found Ennismore Gardens, location for Ava Gardner’s ‘little London retreat,’ where she lived for 22 years.

Ennismore Gardens, London
Image: A Peace of London

Followed shortly by the beautiful Ennismore Gardens themselves…

Ennismore Gardens, Knightsbridge, London
Image: A Peace of London

…which also offer a different view of the V&A.

Victoria and Albert Museum seen from Ennismore Gardens, London
Image: A Peace of London

We discovered the secret behind this map in the entrance to a car park in Knightsbridge (clue: can you spot the river running from Hampstead?)

Knightsbridge map, London
Image: A Peace of London

And found Yannick’s favourite quiet spot within metres of the V&A and the Science Museum.

South Kensington, London
Image: A Peace of London

Finally, we found out the fascinating history behind the Lanesborough Hotel.

Lanesborough Hotel, Hyde Park, London
Image: A Peace of London

About Yannick Pucci — tour guide extraordinaire!

Our guide for the afternoon was Yannick Pucci, who is an independent tour guide, Londonist contributor, and British Museum guide. Yannick’s knowledge of the history, culture, and backstreets of London is evident in his guiding style and his passion for showing people a different side of the city is inspiring. He comes highly recommended from many London bloggers, including yours truly!

Yannick runs regular art deco and food tasting tours — our walk through Belgravia and Knightsbridge was an adjusted version of his Macarons and Mews tours especially for our Meetup group. Find out more at LondonUnravelled.com.

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24 quiet London parks and secret gardens to escape to

From secret gardens in the city to the best London parks on its outskirts, the capital has some of the best quiet green spaces in the UK. Escape from the concrete jungle into expanses of colour that will take your breath away. And, with spring in full swing and summer fast approaching, now’s the perfect time to take it all in.

Here are 24 of my favourite quiet parks in London to while away a few hours in the sunshine. Is your top spot on the list? Let me know if I’ve missed your favourite in the comments below, or drop me a message

Meanwhile Gardens

Meanwhile Community Garden, west London
Image: A Peace of London

Meanwhile Gardens are central, they have an interesting history and are also super-peaceful; even on the hottest day of the year so far, I still managed to find a quiet spot.

If it hadn’t been for a meeting back in central London, I could easily have sat here for hours, listening to the world go by on the canal and watching the sunlight slowly drift along the Moroccan tiles.

Nearest station: Westbourne Park

More information: Read my review of Meanwhile Gardens here

Painshill Park

Painshill Park, west London
Picture credit: Pedweb / Flickr

Journey to the very edge of south-west London (I’m talking just before the M25) and get lost in this landscape garden. It has enough hidden treasures to keep you busy for a whole afternoon: crystal grottos, a beautiful lake and hidden ruins, as well as 158 acres of greenery.

Nearest station: Cobham & Stoke d’Abernon

More information: Painshill website

Morden Hall Park

Morden Hall Park, London
Image: A Peace of London

This National Trust park at the heart of the south London community boasts historic buildings (including a restored waterwheel), wetlands, a rose garden and the River Wandle within its sprawling acres. It’s especially peaceful in the evening, when you can wander the boardwalks and bridges in almost-perfect solitude.

Nearest Tube: Morden or Wimbledon

More information: Visit the National Trust website here

St George’s Gardens

St George's Gardens, Bloomsbury, London
Picture credit: Alanah McKillen / Flickr

I stumbled on this amazing garden on a walk around Bloomsbury and instantly fell in love. Its history is so typically-London (it was created as ‘open-air sitting room’ for the poor) and it still holds on to its Victorian routes. Plus, it’s hidden away from the main road so you feel like you’re walking into a local secret…

It’s not just for the poor anymore, but it does retain its ‘sitting room’ feeling, with plenty of seating to people-watch all through the day. The winding paths, beautiful tombs, and little details like the figure of Euterpe, the Muse of Instrumental Music, make this a perfect place for whiling away a few hours.

Nearest Tube: Russell Square / Euston

More information: Friends of St George’s Gardens website

Kenwood House gardens

Kenwood House gardens
Image: A Peace of London

Join the dog walkers and locals in-the-know by enjoying a Sunday walk at the 112 acres of Kenwood parkland. Kenwood House is one of my favourite historic houses in London and their gardens (adjoining Hampstead Heath) are just as beautiful, having been designed by Humphry Repton — the last great landscape designer of the 18th century.

Nearest Tube: Golders Green or Archway

More information: Read my post about Kenwood House here or visit the English Heritage website

Bushy Park

Garrick Temple at Bushy Park, London
Picture credit: tpholland / Flickr

Richmond Park isn’t the only jewel in south-west London’s crown. Bushy Park (above), home of Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare in the west corner of the park, is a stunning example of what the best of London’s parks have to offer.

Discover the Temple and its pleasure gardens and, if you’re left wanting more, take a trip to admire Hampton Court Palace, which is right next door.

Nearest station: Hampton / Hampton Wick / Hampton Court / Teddington

More information: Visit the Royal Parks website

St Ethelburga’s Centre

St Ethelburgas Centre for Peace and Reconciliation
Image: A Peace of London

This amazing little secret garden in Bishopsgate, near Liverpool Street station, is one of my favourite places in London. St Ethelburga’s was once a medieval church that, sadly, was mostly destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1993. The remains of the church were rebuilt as a centre for peace to welcome anyone of any religion and provide a wonderful space for thinking.

The centre is formally open on Mondays between 1-3pm, but often open at other times. Contact them if you’re travelling a long way.

Nearest Tube: Liverpool Street

More information: St Ethelburga’s website

St Botolph Without Bishopsgate

St Botolph without Bishopsgate garden, London
Image: A Peace of London

Relax in the presence of the 18th-century St Botolph in the grounds of the churchyard. This colourful garden looks extra-special in spring and summer, and is a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street station, so it’s perfect for a bit of a sit down after work or on lunch.

Nearest Tube: Liverpool Street

More information: St Botolph website

Camley Street Natural Park

Camley Street Natural Park, King's Cross, London
Image: A Peace of London

This nature reserve within a stone’s throw from King’s Cross station and Granary Square is one of the area’s best-kept secrets and comes alive in the spring. I love the tranquillity of this (very) green space, knowing that there is wildlife hidden all around me. It’s especially good for kids as there is so much to see all year round, but good for chilling out as an adult, too.

Nearest Tube: King’s Cross

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

Crystal Palace Park

Crystal Palace Park, south London
Picture credit: Berit Watkin / Flickr

If you’ve been heard of Crystal Palace Park but haven’t been yet, then make 2016 the year you make the trip. My favourite bit is undoubtedly the dinosaurs (or, at least, the Victorians’ ideas of how they thought they looked) but there’s so much to see here. Have a go in the maze, admire the ruins of the palace or find a quiet spot in the wide open space.

Nearest station: Crystal Palace

More information: Bromley website

Keats House gardens

Keats House, Hampstead, London
Picture credit: Laura Nolte / Flickr

Relax in the gardens where the poet John Keats apparently wrote his famous poem Ode to a Nightingale. The museum in the house where he lived between 1818 and 1820 is open from Tuesday to Sundays in the summer, and is well worth a look, but the gardens are completely free and just as beautiful.

The house is just round the corner from Hampstead Heath as well, so are a great alternative if you find the Heath a bit crowded during the summer. A perfect place to relax with a picnic and soak up the creative atmosphere!

Nearest station: Hampstead Heath

More information: London Shh website

Horniman Museum gardens

Horniman Museum Gardens
Picture credit: Samuel Mann / Flickr

Fantastic views over London, a beautiful conservatory, and a free natural history museum on site make the grounds of the Horniman Museum one of the most interesting gardens on our list. They’re a bit out of the way but great if you don’t fancy travelling into central London, and Forest Hill feels residential enough to not feel like a bit city.

Nearest station: Forest Hill

More information: Horniman Museum website

The Phoenix Garden

Phoenix Garden, London
Picture credit: Kacper Gunia / Flickr

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. I’ve been checking their website for updates in the run-up to writing this post as they’re currently closed for building works, but when they reopen you should go check them out next time you’re in the area (check the website for more details).

While you’re there, may I recommend Yumchaa for some of the best sandwiches and tea you can get in Soho.

Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road

More information: Phoenix Garden website

Ham House gardens

Ham House gardens, Twickenham, London
Image: A Peace of London

The grounds of this historic house on the banks of the River Thames in Richmond (technically Twickenham…) are just as lovely as the house itself. The kitchen garden has been here since 1653 and the building adjoining the orangery has been turned into a stunning light-filled cafe. There’s also a lot of open space to admire the gorgeous house before you.

The gardens cost around £4.50 to explore I think (at least they were when I was there last year: the website isn’t working for me to check as I’m writing this!) or around £11 if you want to enjoy the house as well.

Nearest Tube: Richmond

More information: National Trust website

Valentine’s Park

Valentine's Mansion, Ilford, London
Image: A Peace of London

I’ve talked about Valentine’s Mansion until I’m blue in the face, but I’ve neglected to mention how brilliant the rest of the park is (which is probably why I don’t have a decent photo of the rest of the park…)

Valentine’s Park was voted the sixth best park in the country towards the end of 2015 and boasts a big lake, boating, an aviary, cafe, and loads of open space. It’s big enough to accommodate the locals and it’s always easy to find a quiet corner to relax in. It’s really popular with locals and easy to get to for everyone else, as it’s only a 10-minute walk from Gants Hill station (on the east end of the Central Line). Such a hidden gem.

Nearest Tube: Gants Hill

More information: Read my review here or visit the Redbridge website

Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park

Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park, London
Picture credit: Laura Nolte / Flickr

Created from boggy ground in the 1830s, Isabella Plantation is one of the highlights (and little-known gems) in Richmond Park. The plantation is at its peak in late April and early May, but its evergreen azaleas and other rare plants surrounding the streams and ponds mean it’s beautiful all year round.

More information: Royal Parks website

St Dunstan in the East church garden

St Dunstan in the East, London
Picture credit: frenchdave / Flickr

I was questioning whether to add St Dunstan in the East in this post as they’re are becoming very well-known, but in the end, it’s just such a lovely place with such a rich history that I can’t leave it out…

This small patch of green born out of the ruins of a medieval church is one of the most beautiful places in the City of London (bar none, in my opinion) and is just so chilled-out at the weekends. I think the fact that the garden is in such a busy and modern part of the city – usually full of suits rushing to get to their next meeting, oblivious to the beauty that sits just yards from them – makes it all the more endearing.

Nearest Tube: Monument

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

Fairlop Waters

Fairlop Waters, London
Image: A Peace of London

If you’re missing the beach, then head to Fairlop where you can enjoy the next best thing, just a 10-minute walk from the Central Line. The waters here are really calm and there’s a lovely walk going around the outside, as well as little gaps in the hedges where you can sneak in and sit on the “banks” of the lake while the water laps at your feet.

There’s even a boulder park for the kids (or the big kids) and climbing and exercise equipment dotted around the edge of the walking trail if you’re feeling energetic…

Nearest Tube: Fairlop

More information: Read my review here or visit the Fairlop Waters website

Christchurch Greyfriars rose garden

Christchurch Greyfriars, London
Image: A Peace of London

Like St Dunstan in the East, Christchurch Greyfriars was created by Christopher Wren, but bombed during the Blitz and then turned into a beautiful rose garden. It sits in the shadow of St Paul’s and is just round the corner from another of the area’s great historical spots: St Bartholomew’s Hospital.

It’s usually busier during the week as people from local offices use it for their lunch break, so the best time to come and enjoy it in peace and quiet is on the weekend, when the area is usually quieter in general, too.

Nearest Tube: St Paul’s

More information: Read about Greyfriars’ history here or visit the City of London website

Barbican Conservatory

Barbican Conservatory, London
Image: A Peace of London

The Conservatory has to be one of the Barbican’s best-kept secrets. It’s only open on Sundays and Bank Holidays for a start and sits quietly near the top of this concrete behemoth, waiting to be discovered. It’s home to exotic fish and over 2,000 tropical plants and trees, which sit among the concrete walls so comfortably that it almost seems as if they were made that way. AND you can now have afternoon tea there!

Check the website for opening times, as they’re sometimes closed for private events. If you’re in the mood for a cuppa after exploring the Conservatory, then head to Barbican Cinema Cafe on your way back to the Tube station.

Nearest Tube: Barbican

More information: Read my review here or visit the Barbican website

Fenton House gardens

Fenton House gardens, Hampstead, London
Picture credit: Laura Nolte / Flickr

Fenton House is one of Hampstead’s finest historic houses, but not many people mention how stunning the gardens are, too. Take a walk in the pristine 300-year-old walled gardens, explore the sunken rose garden and then recline in the apple and pear orchard.

Before you leave, I’d recommend discovering the house, too: the panoramic view of London from the balcony (one of the highest points in the city) will take your breath away. And don’t forget to take a trip to the stunning Hampstead Heath Pergola while you’re in the area.

Nearest Tube: Hampstead

More information: National Trust website

Culpeper Community Garden

Culpeper Community Garden, Islington, London
Picture credit: London Permaculture / Flickr

An urban oasis a stone’s throw from the bustling main street in Angel, Islington, the Culpeper Community Garden has 50 plots made up of a rose pergola, ponds, lawns, vegetables, and wildlife. It’s a welcome retreat for locals, market traders, lunchtimers, and visitors, and is a sterling example of what community can do: it’s run completely by garden members and volunteers.

If you’re after something sweet to drink while you’re taking in all that greenery, then head to Piacha Tea Bar up the road and pick up a lovely tea smoothie.

Nearest Tube: Angel

More information: Culpeper Garden website

St John’s Lodge Gardens, Regent’s Park

St John's Lodge Gardens, Regent's Park, London
Picture credit: Laura Nolte / Flickr

This small garden to the north of the inner circle in Regent’s Park was designed for meditation for the 3rd Marquess of Bute, so it’s hardly surprising that it’s both serene and beautiful. St John’s Lodge is a private residence, but you can still access the garden through the small gate along the inner circle.

More information: Royal Parks website

Coram’s Fields / Brunswick Square Gardens

Brunswick Square Gardens, Bloomsbury, London
Image: A Peace of London

Named after Thomas Coram, the man who set up the Foundling Hospital in 1739 to care for babies who were at risk of abandonment, Coram’s Fields provide a place for children and young people to play in peace. The hospital marked the start of the history of the Coram charity, which now changes the lives of over a million children a year, and the original hospital building now stands as a museum dedicated to the history of the charity right next to the fields.

Adults aren’t allowed into Coram’s Fields without a child, but grown-ups can enjoy the adjoining Brunswick Square Gardens for the kind of cultural quiet that only Bloomsbury can bring; Brunswick Square is mentioned in Jane Austen’s Emma and the Bloomsbury Group (including Virginia Woolf) met at a house on this site, too.

Nearest Tube: Euston Square / Russell Square

More information: Bloomsbury Squares website

You might like… more parks in London

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Explore quiet places in London this lunchtime with Time Out (and me!)

Good morning everyone! I’m excited to let you know that I just had my first guest blog post published on Time Out London — how fabulous!

And of course, my first post had to be about quiet places in London, so I compiled a list of quiet places to explore on your lunch break. Visit one of these places today, or save it for one of those days when you just need some quiet away from the office…

Read the post now

If you know someone who would love the post, then I’d be over the moon if you could share it with them.

The list is conveniently separated into areas so you can see where to visit for the area you work in. If you don’t see an area you were looking for, then let me know in the comments below (or pop me a message) and I’ll cover it here instead.

Happy Tuesday!

 

11 quiet places to visit in London that are perfect for families

This is a guest post by Julie, aka Jaf in the Box.

I love exploring, it probably comes from my own parents who were great at exposing us to a variety of places and taking us on various trips in France and abroad. Since moving to England more than 10 years ago I have done my fair share of exploring.

Now, as a mum of three, I am delighted to share with my favourite family-friendly ‘quiet’ (or rather quieter) spots in London with you.

1. London Wetlands

London Wetlands Centre
Image: Jaf in the Box

This place has got to be one of my favourite quiet places in London. It’s so close from the city centre and yet is such a haven of peace and tranquillity, surrounded by birds of all sorts. I would really recommend it to anyone.

There is a cafe for food, snacks or drinks for the grown-ups and little ones as well (plenty of available high chairs). I wrote a post on my own blog about it which might inspire you.

More information: London Wetlands website

Swans at London Wetlands Centre
Image: Jaf in the Box

2. Pembroke Lodge

Pembroke Lodge, Richmond, London
Image: Jaf in the Box

Pembroke Lodge is in Richmond Park not far from Richmond Gate but has super views across the Thames Valley. We love having a walk with the kids there as it’s never too busy and we sometimes stop in the newly restored garden where the kids enjoy playing.

There is a really good cafe where we can warm ourselves up if the weather is a bit cold. If you are brave, you can even walk down the hill to Petersham Gate where there is a nice sandy playground for the kids.

More information: Pembroke Lodge website

View from Pembroke Lodge, Richmond, London
Image: Jaf in the Box
Pembroke Lodge, Richmond, London
Image: Jaf in the Box

3. Chiswick  House and Gardens

Chiswick House, London
Image: Jaf in the Box

A beautiful park with lots of lanes where the kids can cycle (bear in mind that cycling is restricted to the tarmac drives within the gardens and not allowed on garden paths and lawns) or scoot. There is also a small play area and a good cafe.

More information: Chiswick House website

Playing in Chiswick House, London
Image: Jaf in the Box

4. Horniman Museum

Horniman Museum, Forest Hill, south east London
Image: A Peace of London

This is one of my favourite museums for the little ones as it’s like a small national history museum and a music museum all in one. The Museum gardens are also great as you have space to experiment with different instruments, great views across south London, a small farm and a nice cafe.

The only problem is the parking in the area around the museum so I would encourage people to come by public transport and stop at Forest Hill train station or get on a bus.

More information: Horniman website

5. Morden  Hall and Deen city farm

Morden Hall Park, London
Image: Jaf in the Box

A great park part of the National Trust with lots of beautiful roses in the summer and a pretty good city farm which is free (donations are encouraged though). It’s easy to park and there is a good garden centre where you can shop at the end of your visit. There is a cafe at the entrance and a cafe at the City farm.

More information: Deen City Farm website or National Trust website

6. Osterley Park

Osterley Park, London
Image: Jaf in the Box

A beautiful National Trust house – I am yet to be disappointed by the National Trust. It’s a stunning property in Isleworth with a lake as you arrive, with a nice cafe and shop if you fancy an ice cream, a snack or a drink.

The main lawn is perfect for a picnic or if you fancy kicking the ball but I love going into the House garden where it’s a bit quieter and they often have garden games such as croquet. They even have lounge chairs in a few spots which come well appreciated when the weather is nice!

More information: Osterley Park and House website

Family time at Osterley Park, London
Image: Jaf in the Box

7. RAF museum

Based in Hendon, this is a fantastic museum. It’s free of charge but you do pay a small amount for the parking (lots of space). There are amazing helicopters, planes, and it’s so big you are never bothered by anyone.

Just don’t lose one of your little ones in there as it happened to us; we had a good 10-minute panic search to find our little girl who had gone sulking behind one of the massive planes.

More information: RAF Museum website

8. Battersea  Zoo

Meerkat at Battersea Zoo, London
Image: Jaf in the Box

This is a small zoo right in the heart of Battersea Park. The park itself is a really nice park for walking with the family with a lake and lots of different alleys and even roads where you can cycle or roller skate. And you have the added bonus of being  by the Thames, which provides beautiful light and views, not forgetting to mention the sight of the stunning Peace Pagoda.

The zoo is not too big, perfect for the under-eights I would say and there are lots of picnic tables if you fancy lunching al fresco. The kids love the play area which can satisfy the younger kids as well as the ‘older ones’ (up to the age of 10 years old in my opinion).

More information: Battersea Park website

Battersea Zoo, London
Image: Jaf in the Box
Peace Pagoda at Battersea Park, London
Image: Jaf in the Box

9. Museum of Childhood

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

The Museum of Childhood is a fantastic museum with a really fabulous selection of old toys. It’s fun for the whole family and it’s free of charge. Beautiful building and plenty of spaces for a spot of lunch.

We went on a Sunday morning which meant we had no trouble finding a spot to park and no crowd to bother us. It’s close to Bethnal Green Station so any other time, it would be better to come by Tube.

More information: V&A Museum website

10. Kew  Gardens

Kew Gardens, London
Image: Jaf in the Box

This is an all time favourite. It’s huge and even when it gets busy there are so many cornered alleys to find a quieter spot to picnic, feed a baby, play, read etc. We love it and when everyone has had a real walk  we can go the Creepers and Ladders for some play time or we go to the small aquarium in the Main Green House.

More information: Kew Gardens website

Kew Gardens, London
Image: Jaf in the Box
Kew Gardens London
Image: Jaf in the Box
Kew Gardens, London
Image: Jaf in the Box

11. The Southbank

The perfect spot to pit-stop with the family as it’s big and I never have to worry whether the little ones are on their best behaviour. There is space for them to run around, particularly if you go there during the week, and they have changing facilities which come in handy.

More information:  Southbank Centre website

Happy family outings to all!

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12 quiet things to do in London this Bank Holiday Monday

The weather might have been a bit hit-and-miss this Easter, but that’s no reason to cower under the duvet. Make the most of your last day off with some of London’s most fascinating, unusual and least-crowded places, all of which are open on Bank Holiday Monday…

1. See the dinosaurs at Crystal Palace Park

Crystal Palace Park dinosaurs, south east London
Image: A Peace of London

Pay the Crystal Palace dinosaurs a visit at south London’s best park (IMO). After you’ve marvelled at the Victorian imagination and learned how they came about on the audio tour, explore the Terraces that were originally the setting for Crystal Palace, and have a go at the maze if you’re feeling adventurous.

Bank Holiday opening times: 7.30am until dusk

Nearest station: Crystal Palace

More information: Bromley website

2. Experience “darkness itself” at Chislehurst Caves

Chislehurst Caves., south east London
Image: Simon Swatman on Flickr

Those who like to be scared silly on their days off (and don’t mind a couple of loud noises) will enjoy a walk (guided, thankfully) through over a mile of one of south London’s most haunted places. Find out how the caves saved 15,000 lives during WWII, experience total darkness 350 feet below ground, and hear the story behind the haunted pool.

Bank Holiday opening times: Tours on the hour between 10am and 4pm inclusive

Nearest station: Chislehurst

More information: chislehurst-caves.co.uk

3. Visit the home of an artist at the William Morris Gallery

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

Discover the family home of designer, craftsman, and writer William Morris, who lived in this Georgian house between 1848 to 1856 with his mother and his eight brothers and sisters. It’s now the only public gallery dedicated to William Morris and is a fine example of Georgian domestic architecture.

Fun fact: the house’s next occupant after the Morris family was the publisher Edward Lloyd, who is known for publishing ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ and the first vampire stories to be published in England.

Bank Holiday opening times: 10am – 5pm

Nearest Tube: Walthamstow Central

More information: wmgallery.org.uk

4. Peek behind the curtains at The Geffrye Museum of the Home

Geffrye Museum of the Home, Hoxton, London
Image: 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). This acclaimed museum is normally closed on Mondays but makes an exception on Bank Holidays.

Bank Holiday opening times: 10am – 5pm

Nearest station: Hoxton

More information: geffrye-museum.org.uk

5. Step back in time at the Old Royal Naval College

Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London
Image: Márcio Cabral de Moura on Flickr

This small museum (known as the Discover Greenwich Visitor Centre) charts the history of the ORNC site, the most interesting part being the remains of Greenwich Palace. As well as parts of the walls (with windows modelled on Hampton Court) they also have lots of Tudor artefacts found near the site, too.

Bank Holiday opening times: 10am-5pm

Nearest station: Cutty Sark DLR

More information: ornc.org

6. Visit the otters at WWT London Wetlands Centre

London Wetlands Centre, Hammersmith, London
Image: A Peace of London

It’s hard to imagine that there’s a wildlife sanctuary within walking distance of the busy centre of Hammersmith, but seeing is believing. Admire the otters (go during feeding time for the full otter experience) and relax as all manner of wildlife goes about its business around you. And, if you’re of the bird-watching persuasion, you can spot over 200 species of our feathered friends here.

Bank Holiday opening times: 9.30am-5.30pm (last admission 4.30pm).

Nearest Tube: Hammersmith

More information: wwt.org.uk

7. Go shopping at Battersea Flower Station

Battersea Flower Station, London
Image: Battersea Flower Station

It’s often described as ‘magical’ so now’s the time to explore this pretty independent garden centre and florist, just round the corner of Battersea Park and south of the Thames. All of their team and produce is from the area, so you’ll be supporting local suppliers, too.

Bank Holiday opening times: 11am-5pm

Nearest station: Clapham Junction

More information: batterseaflowerstation.co.uk

8. See the weird and wonderful at the Horniman Museum

Horniman Museum, Forest Hill, south east London
Image: A Peace of London

Explore the rich collection, aquarium and gardens that make up one of south-east London’s best museums. Highlights include hundreds of animal specimens — either taxidermied, skeletal or displayed in formaldehyde — in the main gallery, the strange (living) aquatic creatures in the aquarium, and the magnificent conservatory outside.

Bank Holiday opening times: 10.30am-5.30pm

Nearest station: Forest Hill

More information: horniman.ac.uk

9. Learn about a legend at the Florence Nightingale Museum

Florence Nightingale Museum, London
Image: Florence Nightingale Museum

Florence Nightingale not only had a radical impact on sanitation, military health and hospital practices but also established nursing as a respectable profession for women. Learn more about the lady herself and, until 14th April, see a previously-unknown portrait among other treasures at their exhibition, Hidden Treasures from the Hospital Vaults.

Bank Holiday opening times: 10am-5pm

Nearest station: Westminster / Lambeth North

More information: florence-nightingale.co.uk

10. Indulge in Stuart extravagance at Ham House

ham house, richmond, london
Image: A Peace of London

This beautiful historic house is set on the banks of the River Thames in Richmond and is regarded as one of the grandest Stuart houses in England. It boasts a stunning orangery (now serving as a gorgeous café), a collection of rare and intricate artefacts and, apparently, a ghost or two.

Bank Holiday opening times: 12pm – 4pm

Nearest station: Richmond or Twickenham

More information: National Trust website

11. See Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare at Bushy Park

Garrick's Temple to Shakespeare, Bushy Park, London
Image: tpholland on Flickr

Discover 18th-century actor (and friend of Dr Johnson) David Garrick’s celebration of William Shakespeare, as well as the beautiful Bushy Park near Hampton Court Palace. Unfortunately, the Temple is only open on Sundays, but the pleasure gardens that surround it (and the view of the Temple next to the water) are worth the trip.

Bank Holiday opening times: Bushy Park and Garrick Temple Pleasure Gardens open 7.30am-dusk

Nearest station: Hampton

More information: garrickstemple.org.uk

12. Escape to the country at Mudchute Park and Farm

View of Canary Wharf from Mudchute City Farm, London
Image: A Peace of London

You don’t have to go far in London to get a taste of the countryside. This is especially true at Mudchute Park and Farm in east London, where the high-rise towers of Canary Wharf loom large in the distance.

Both the park and the farm are open seven days a week (including Bank Holidays) for free, and both a cafe and farm shop are available on site too.

Nearest Tube: Mudchute DLR

Opening hours: 9am-5pm daily, including Bank Holidays

More information: Read my review or Mudchute Park and Farm website
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