The A-Z of Quiet London
I is for insider tipsTake an early lunch Head out at around 12 and your lunch hour will be much more relaxing: there are no queues when you’re buying food, and you’re more likely to get a seat on the park bench to read your novel or find a patch of grass to sunbathe on lazily.Theatre adviceFor popular shows, try to find seats on Monday or Tuesday (although an empty theatre is no fun – you only get half the experience). Matinees are worth considering – they attract an older, more contemplative crowd. At many fringe theatres the audiences are very small. And don’t forget that Beckett’s ‘Eh Joe’ is about to come to the West End; in the play, Michael Gambon doesn’t say a word – there’s just a recorded voice.
If you’re sick of the crowds at galleries and museums, there are two solutions: get there first or get there last. Late-night openings may not be quiet, but we recommend Camden Arts Centre (Wednesday until 9pm), the Hayward (Tuesday and Wednesday until 8pm), the National (Wednesday until 9pm) and the Photographers’ Gallery (Thursday until 8pm). Also, museums’ upper floors are usually quieter.
J is for just floatingLighter than airAn hour cocooned in a flotation tank offers the ultimate in relaxation. You lie in the dark, suspended in a warm solution of Epsom salt so dense that you float effortlessly. As well as helping with back problems, arthritis and insomnia, this treatment – it is claimed – promotes accelerated learning and can reduce high blood pressure. London Float Centre, 7 Clapham Common South Side, SW4 (020 7720 4952/www.londonfloatcentre.com) Clapham Common tube.
K is for kidsLivesey MuseumIf you’re looking to keep the little darlings quiet, the Livesey Museum for Children is a godsend – and it’s nearly always empty. With a mythical ship, the biggest dragon in Peckham, a minotaur’s labyrinth and all manner of hands-on activities, this is perfect for a school-holiday jaunt. 682 Old Kent Rd, SE15 (020 7635 5829/www.liveseymuseum.org.uk) Surrey Quays tube or South Bermondsey rail. Open Tue-Sat 10am-5pm. Adm free. Wells Park You might appreciate vast expanses of unspoilt greenery in the midst of London, but the kids are going to want something to keep them occupied. The underused Wells Park offers the best of both worlds – you can enjoy the tranquility, while the children frolic in the fountains, water jets and two playgrounds. Wells Park, Wells Park Rd, SE26. Sydenham rail.
L is for lecturesHappy talk What could be more soothing than to duck out of the city hubbub for a couple of hours to enlarge your brain with a lecture on anything from the ethical considerations of the war in Iraq to discussions on art and architecture. There are tons of places that host lectures for the public – and they’re often free. The London School of Economics runs regular events (the Rt Hon Jack Straw MP recently lectured on the future of democracy), while Gresham College was set up 400 years ago specifically to provide free lectures for the public (on 10 July, you can hear an explanation of traditional Japanese music). Other institutions have an international perspective – the Goethe Institut specialises in German cultural talks and activities, while the Institut Français has an expected Gallic flavour. Aside from checking the websites of the various institutions, at www.lecturelist.org you can search by topic. Alternatively, you could just sneak into one of the universities and sit with the undergraduates – you’ll probably be the only person listening. LSE Conference and Events Office, Houghton St, WC2 (020 7955 6043/www.lse.ac.uk) Temple tube.
Gresham College, Barnard’s Inn Hall, Holborn EC1 (020 7831 0575/www.gresham.ac.uk) Chancery Lane tube.
Goethe Institut London , 50 Princes Gate, Exhibition Rd, SW7 (020 7596 4000/www.goethe.de/gr/lon/) South Kensington tube.Institut Français,17 Queensberry Place, SW7 (020 7073 1350/www.institut-francais.org.uk) South Kensington tube.
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