As one of the world’s leading cities, London is, of course, a sprawling, fast-moving, ceaseless metropolis. To experience the UK capital is undoubtedly to encounter its diverse colour and culture, excitement and boundless, vivacious energy and, yes, its break-neck pace. Those who want a quiet time away from home probably ought to choose somewhere else for a short-break! But what if, during your time spent in the city, you do fancy just a few moments of peace, contemplation and the opportunity to be at one with nature in a spot that feels like only you’ve discovered it? Do you actually get any of those in London? Why, yes; of course – in fact, just read on…
Sky Garden(20 Fenchurch Street EC3M 8AF)
Granted, it may be housed in the gargantuan construction that’s the controversial ‘Walkie Talkie’ building in the heart of the City of London, but this indoor garden space is also a haven of nature, designed for weary commuters and curious visitors to get away from it all 155 metres-up, above the hustle-bustle of the city’s financial district way below. Perfect for a coffee break, a glass of wine, a cocktail or a full meal – and ideal if you happen to be visiting this part of town. Just remember to book in advance; although there’s no entry price.
Kyoto Garden(Holland Park Avenue W11 4UA)
If the idea of exquisite Oriental design with the likes of pools of fish (specifically koi carp), a beguiling waterfall and stone lanterns galore sounds to you like the recipe for utter repose, then you’ll be delighted to find this little slice of Japanese heaven is tucked away in the (also) elegant but very English environs of the Central-West district that’s Holland Park. And it’s even better if you choose to visit in the morning – that way there’s a good chance you’ll have its decorous delights all to yourself!
There’s no question Little Venice ought to be one of London’s most talked about destinations, but for some reason it remains an overlooked gem; somewhere only those in know are aware of. Centring around a hugely charismatic canal basin, it offers up not just a picturesque waterway (and the opportunity to take a pleasant stroll along the towpath all the way up to the oh-so colourful Camden), but also a plethora of traditional pubs, excellent eateries and other attractions – such as a puppet theatre that (at certain times of the year) is moored in a canal boat. Yes, really. No doubt about it then, Little Venice is where to head if you’re looking for something unexpected and delightful and staying nearby at the Park Grand Paddington Court London hotel or wanting to choose from among some of the best restaurants near Paddington Station.
Kensington Roof Gardens(99 Kensington High Street W8 5SA)
It’s true that this venue is often hired for closed events and hosts nightclubs of a weekend evening, but the rest of the time it’s open to the public and free to enter to boot. With a total area of one-and-a-half hectares, its spaciousness is perfectly accompanied by its cornucopia of flora and fauna; offering up visitors more than 100 trees, as well as vines and a pond with ducks and, yes, flamingos, to take in. So whether you decide to relax in its traditionally English-designed area, or those with a Tudor or even Spanish influence, you’ll feel genuinely spoilt – especially if you visit on a warm, sunny day when the views of London around you are at their very best.
Chelsea Physic Garden(66 Royal Hospital Road SW3 4HS)
It may be Kew Gardens that usually gets all the column inches, but London’s oldest botanic garden is actually this one, hidden away far more centrally in upmarket Chelsea. In fact, it’s almost 350 years old, a fact that’s behind the reality it was originally a unique and globally-leading supplier of natural medicine – a prestigious past it’s far from shaken off today, being home to, as it is, of around 5,000 edible plants of a medicinal nature and value. It’s also, needless to say, a wonderful little spot to visit should you be in the area and feel the need to escape from the speed of the city for a few precious moments.