Sometimes the fast-paced London life can get a little overwhelming, but there are plenty of peaceful pockets where you can escape the hustle and bustle of busy London life right in the heart of the city. From the Japanese-style Kyoto garden in Holland Park to the tropical sanctuary that is the Barbican Conservatory, here are our top picks for places in London that are perfect for some much-needed downtime.
There are countless beautiful parks dotted around the city, one of these being the leafy Hampstead Heath, the very park that inspired C.S. Lewis’ magical Chronicles of Narnia. The Heath spans 800 acres of towering woodland, wildflower meadows and hilly walking trails. Here you can take in the sweeping views spanning over Parliament Hill or cool off from the summer heat (or winter if you’re serious about wild swimming) in one of the iconic Hampstead Ponds, where they have female, male and mixed ponds to take a dunk in.
The Tate Modern is located inside a disused power station along London’s bustling South Bank and is an excellent spot to indulge in some much-needed me-time. You’ll find over one hundred years of art here, dating back to early 1900s modernism to contemporary artworks created today. Wander around each room at your leisure and make sure you don’t miss the must-see pieces by Warhol, Picasso, Dalí and more. The gallery is free to enter and there’s no need to book, but it’s always worth checking what exhibitions they’re currently showing. Past exhibitions have included Chris Ofili and Yayoi Kusama to name a few.
If you consider yourself a bit of a historian and horticulturist then you’ll appreciate this 55-acre West London park. Reimagine the lives of many influential figures of London society who used to frequent Holland House, the Jacobean mansion that backs onto the park that played a vital role in the political, social and literary life in the city for over 300 years. Tap into your zen at the Japanese-style Kyoto Garden in Holland Park, adorned with Japanese maple trees and a beautiful bridge above a pond teeming with majestic Koi Carp. Perch on a bench to listen to the calming sounds of the waterfall and be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the flamboyant muster of peacocks that roam freely in the park.
The Regents Park is one of London’s eight Royal Parks spanning 395 acres of tree-lined pathways, flower-filled gardens, lakes and wetlands. It’s a popular spot for wildlife watching as the wetland is home to over 100 species of wild birds and a breeding population of hedgehogs. Take a stroll through the garden of 12,000 roses in the Victorian-style Queen Mary’s Gardens, home to the city’s largest collection of roses in the capital. If it’s city skyline views you’re after, head to the top of Primrose Hill, you could easily while away an hour or two here sitting on a bench people (and dog) watching.
Escape to a tropical sanctuary just moments from Central London at the Barbican Conservatory (featured pic), the second biggest conservatory in the city. The 23,000 square feet of space is home to 1,500 species of tropical plants and trees, many of which are rare or endangered in their native home country. There are also three indoor ponds teeming with exotic fish from Japan, America and England as well as an Arid House on the east side which houses an eclectic collection of succulents and cacti.
South Kensington’s V&A Museum is the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance and is part of the “Museum Quarter” alongside the Natural History Museum and Science Museum. It houses more than 2.3 million objects spanning back over 5,000 years all broken down into topics – architecture, fashion, theatre and furniture. Depending on what time you visit, you might even find that you have some of the rooms to yourself for ultimate peace and quiet in one of London’s most remarkable buildings.
You’ll never be short of things to see and do at Southbank Centre, the UK’s largest arts centre perched along the banks of the River Thames. This creative hub thrums with world-class art and culture and features a dynamic year-round events programme encompassing everything from theatre, art and dance to music, literature and more. After soaking up the culture, grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants at the Southbank Centre, or if you visit from Friday to Sunday, pop along to the bustling food market where you’ll find everything from pad thai to duck confit burgers as well as an assortment of sweet treats.