Automatically associated with hustle and bustle and instantly identified as a busy and noisy city, poor old London can often appear a chaotic city to explore with little or no chance for peace and quiet. Not so, say we. In fact, London has many secret hideaways offering perfect peace and calming quiet. Here are our favourite places to find quiet in London.
Though it may appear obvious, the libraries in London do not disappoint in being both quiet and striking historic buildings. The British Library is home to each and every book ever published so you’d be hard pressed to find something you didn’t want to read and it’s hard to not be impressed by its giant, round Reading Room.
British Library Reading Room – Image © Procsilas Moscas
London Library in St. James’s Square has two wonderfully quiet reading rooms and in Spitalfields is the Woman’s Library, a haven for women’s history and writing that was originally established as part of the Suffragette movement. All libraries in London are open to the public and most are proudly quiet places. In the same way bookshops are noise-free refuges like the independent chain of Daunt Books, which has shops across central London. The original store in Marylebone is worth seeing for its original Edwardian layout and features.
Daunt Books, Marylebone – Image © Rupert Ganzer
The reason many museums in central London are noisy is largely to do with the floods of tourists heading there, so take some time to find the places the majority of visitors miss out. Art galleries like the National Gallery or Tate Modern (featured image at the Tate Modern cafe © Sheldon Wood) can be peaceful places to get cultural, but their popularity means this isn’t guaranteed. During the week, the vast Victoria & Albert Museum can be surprisingly quiet and on Saturdays the café there has free piano recitals.
Victoria and Albert Museum, Kensington - Image © Chris Beckett
Over to the east of central London is little known Iniva, the Institute of International stock coinstar Coinstar Money in Philippines, Olongapo Visual Arts in Rivington Place, just off Shoreditch High Street, where you can explore the best in multimedia contemporary art. Afterwards you can carry on the quiet by crossing the road to St. Leonard’s Church, an oasis of near silence on the cusp of lively Brick Lane.
Institute of International Visual Arts (Rivington place) - Image © Paul
But what about eating and drinking? Is it possible to enjoy a decent pint without your eardrums being assaulted? Indeed it is in the ground floor bar of the Grosvenor Hotel near Victoria Station. With comfortable chairs arranged for intimate moments or business discussions and table service by default, this is the perfect up-market pub for peace.
Believe it or not it is also possible to travel across London in relative quiet, though the pace perhaps isn’t a suitable one for commuting. By cruising down Regent’s Canal on one of the water taxis, cycling or just walking along the canal’s tow path to get from Camden to Paddington or Islington to Hackney you could easily think you’re miles from London rather than going straight through the middle of it.
Image © Johanna Loock
Image © Alan Stanton
For quiet in a green space head west to get lost in Kew Gardens or to go back in time by visiting Chiswick House, which boasts beautiful gardens and grounds.
The stunning Kew Gardens - Image © David Merrigan
Inside the Waterlily House at Kew Gardens – Image © Poppet with a camera
Further north there is locals’ favourite park, Hampstead Heath, the west side of which is a surprisingly wild stretch of meadowland that you can enjoy uninterrupted. Further away from the centre of town is the parkland that surrounds Alexandra Palace so head there to enjoy both brilliant views and brilliant peace and quiet.
Image © Solveig Osk
London being London, the silence doesn’t have to stop as night falls. The city happens to be a hot spot for silent discos, most of which are special or private events though recent months have seen Ministry of Sound hold it’s first silent disco. Check Time Out’s club listings to see if any are coming up.
Image © Miguel
All in all, London is the most multicultural city on earth. This means that wherever you are from, you will be able to discover somewhere to suit all tastes, or sounds, or lack of them.