London attracted a record number of international visitors in 2015, with an all-time high of 18.6 million. Add into that the 8.6 million people who call the UK capital home and you get a very crowded and congested city.
With so much hustle and bustle, there may be times when you just want to break away from the crowds and enjoy some ‘me time’ in a quiet pocket of London. So where can you get some time alone in a city so packed with people?
Regent’s Canal Near King’s Cross
There’s a strange logic in London where the busier and more chaotic an area is, the quieter and more secluded its canal path is. That rule is definitely true for the path running along Regent’s Canal between Regent’s Park and King’s Cross.
Not too far away, central London is in its usual crazy haze with newly arrived tourists dragging cases off trains and busy business types darting around. However, the refreshingly quiet canal makes it seem a world away.
There are plenty of great spots to stop off to read a newspaper or book or simply watch the ducks. It’s a fine way to pass a few hours while making your way to Camden.
Okay, so spending time amongst the deceased isn’t the most vibrant or uplifting way to seek out some solitude, yet Brompton Cemetery – one of London’s Magnificent Seven historic cemeteries – is a magical place.
This beautiful landscape combines historic monuments, trees and wildlife with the stories of the remarkable people buried there, including many people who were knighted by the Queen of their time. As such, it is designated Grade I on English Heritage’s Register of Parks and Gardens.
Brompton is the only cemetery in the country owned by the Crown and managed by The Royal Parks on behalf of the nation.
As of 2014, green spaces made up just under half of London. With so many parks to choose from, the 8.4-acre Gillespie Park near Arsenal FC’s Emirates Stadium is considered to be one of the quietest and most secluded. Head past the Ecology Centre and you’ll emerge in a forest that is almost always empty.
Kentish Town Library
Found at 262-266 Kentish Town Road (NW5 2AA), this Camden library sits near a busy shopping area and an underground station, but you wouldn’t know it once inside.
We’ve picked out Kentish Town Library because it is cozy yet large enough to find a corner to make your own with a decent book without attracting the mega crowds like the London Library. However, there are many other ‘local’ libraries that will fit the bill.
The Actors’ Church in Covent Garden
Almost any church is highly likely to provide some me time but St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden – or The Actors’ Church as it is also known – is extremely welcoming to non-believers, despite its regular schedule of services and religious events. The church’s garden is also perfect for solitary wanderers with comfy benches.
The Tate Modern’s Rothko Room
If you exclude the big ones, museums are well set-up to go solo. Like libraries and churches, peace and quiet is a common feature outside peak hours so you’re free to wander aimlessly through sparse, noiseless rooms and gaze contemplatively at paintings and sculptures.
The Rothko Room in the Tate Modern is a great place for this, with comfy benches and huge aesthetically-pleasing canvases.
The Grand Union Canal
It could be because it doesn’t run through the trendiest parts of London or that it looks neglected in places but the Grand Union Canal – which runs up to Birmingham – is often forgotten about.
The canal can be gorgeous, dotted with barges and houseboats, and it makes for a splendid solitary walk.
Fans of the stretch suggest heading west from Boston Manor towards Brentford. This will take you under gorgeous bridges and across muddy rabbit-filled fields.
If you manage to get to Brentford, you’ll pass through disused shipping sheds that open out into a little harbour where you can sit and be bothered by nobody.
Theatres in the daytime
London’s West End is second only to New York’s Broadway as theatre’s premier platform, but in the day, London’s theatres can be notably lacking in people, yet they remain open.
Locals recommend the Actors Centre in Soho with its quiet cafe and cozy corners surrounded by books. There’s also the Soho Theatre’s bar area and The National with its almost deserted Understudy serving cheap coffee with free Wi-Fi.