London is a uniquely brilliant yet stressful place to live, study and work in. As the weekend arrives, it provides a much needed relief and break from the daily commute and struggle. However, by Sunday evening it can often feel like the weekend has disappeared in a drunken, hungover blur. It is important to set at least one day aside as a day of rest, to disengage from the fast-paced, restlessness of the city. This article offers a guide on how to lay-back and enjoy London’s more peaceful areas.
There is no better start to a Sunday morning than the smell of food wafting from the kitchen. Sunday arrives, and you’re probably feeling worse-for-wear or just simply exhausted – this calls for a greasy fry-up. If you don’t have the ingredients head to your local café. Cheap and cheerful, (and often less busy than Starbucks) London is full of independent cafés who are all deft hands at knocking up a delicious breakfast whilst you can sit down and relax. If you live with flatmates or you are in a couple, it’s a lovely, sociable thing to do. You can cringe over the events of the previous night or make plans for the day ahead. Situated in the beautiful Vauxhall Park there is Parco Café. For £6 you get a full English and a complimentary hot drink, also there is a vegetarian option available. As the days are getting sunnier and warmer this is a perfect place to sit outside.
We are at the beginning of April, Summer is around the corner and the sun is making a reappearance, albeit sporadically. Remove yourself from London’s busy urban maze and find its photogenic green spaces. There are the obvious places: Hyde Park, St James’s Park etc. However, if you really want to escape ‘The City’ then a 30-minute journey from Clapham Junction will take you to Richmond Park. This is a stunning and immersive stretch of green land. It has beautiful colours and there is not a single skyscraper in sight. Even if the weather is drizzly or cold, wrap up warm and enjoy its dim, auburn colours and misty atmosphere. You’ll spot deer and hear the birds singing wherever you are. This is a perfect place for couples, families, dog walkers and students to enjoy a peaceful walk. Before you return home, you can grab a hot drink at The Pembroke Lodge, a café which has stunning views across the park.
Photo credit: Christopher Bulle
Alternatively, if you want to escape London without ever leaving Zone 2: Greenwich is only 30 minutes on the DLR from Waterloo and feels like a slice of an English town cut and pasted into the city. Walk around the area, enjoy its community-like energy, and grab a drink at its independent cafés or explore its food market. Greenwich Park, nearby, is a woody, thriving place full of people. It’s not quiet but it has the hustle and bustle of the city in a relaxed open-plan space where you can walk at your own pace. If you make the gentle walk to the top of the Royal Observatory you can enjoy panoramic views of all of London. Canary Wharf, most prominently, is within sight; the skyscrapers are like giants against a stunning backdrop.
Photo credit: Ed Webster
Finally, a short tube journey north of London to Highgate Cemetery will take you upon a contemplative and spiritual exploration of some of London’s famous graves and tombs. As well as finding the big names (Marx, George Elliot, Douglas Adams and Malcolm McLaren, to name but a few) I encourage you to explore beyond the prescribed trail. Take a moment to read the epitaphs that loved ones have inscribed and trace the tragic yet beautiful history of the cemetery. It may sound gloomy however, you will come away with much to reflect upon. Moreover, if you get to Highgate Cemetery via Archway, you can walk through Waterlow Park. This is a small, yet surprisingly picturesque park with a beautiful lake and a family atmosphere. As you walk through the park you will hear children laughing, see families racing up the hill and the sound of couples playing tennis on the courts. Take a walk along Highgate High Street, which offers a mixture of independent shops, pubs and eateries. Particularly, there is Limone Fine Foods, a small Italian delicatessen with free-from options, packed with delicious and flavoursome fresh Italian food. Buy something to take-away and sit at the top of Waterlow Parkoverlooking the lake, trees and wild flowers.
Photo credit: Loz Pycock
There is more to London than skyscrapers and Pret a Manger’s, it is vast and you can never quite see it all – as you explore, something will always pop-up and surprise you. Even in one of the world’s busiest cities, you are never far away from a peaceful spot.