Time Out's London NapMap™

In what we’ll call a world first for ‘comatose cartography’, Alan Rutter maps the best public places in central London for bit of shut-eye

  • Time Out's London NapMap™

    Catching forty winks at Trafalgar Square

  • I’m not the heaviest sleeper at the best of times, and when the humidity kicks in during a London summer, insomnia descends with a vengeance. While the capital’s parks are an obvious place to sneak off to for some catch-up during the day, there’s not always one nearby when you’re staggering knackered around the centre of town (or if there are, they’re carpeted in students ‘studying’). So I set out to find some more interesting options…

    Trafalgar Square

    Okay, possibly a ludicrous choice. But I’ll give anywhere a go. The pedestrianisation of the north side of the square stopped this tourist hotspot from being an actual traffic island, but it’s nevertheless noisy, with a steady stream of vehicles roaring past and children screaming in various languages as they attempt to mount the lions. I bed down in a slightly tramp-like manner on the base of Nelson’s column, pigeons be damned. Somehow the sight of Big Ben in the distance is very relaxing – even if the child who narrowly misses jumping on my head isn’t. This is just stupid. More squares Russell Square WC1, Soho Square W1, St James’s Square SW1

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    Settling down in Embankment Gardens

    Embankment Gardens

    These long, thin gardens are surprisingly sheltered from the cabs and tourist buses bombing up and down Embankment. Unfortunately, I’m not the only person who’s come here for a rest, and there doesn’t seem to be a spare patch of grass or an empty bench. But then, what’s this? Deckchairs! This is napping in style. Without questioning why so many of them might be empty, I settle in and begin to doze under the blazing sun. Then somebody clears their throat… into a microphone. At the nearby outdoor stage, next to a banner that says ‘Bluepeace’, a band begin to belt out what can only be an environmental protest song. It’s all in a good cause; sadly, that cause is not sleep. More gardens Jubilee Gardens SE1, St James’s Gardens NW1, Victoria Tower Gardens SW1
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    Getting some shut-eye at the British Museum

    The British Museum

    The courtyard is swarming with tourists, so I head inside. At first the cavernous interior of the Great Court seems an unlikely place to catch some shut-eye – foreign students chatter excitedly as they try to find the Ancient Egyptians, an Italian family argues animatedly while pointing at a statue and next to me a Japanese woman clicks away with a camera that’s bigger than her. But once I’ve shuffled over to a corner near the wall and stretched out on a bench, the hubbub is strangely soothing – the Court acts like a giant seashell, turning the human noise into a single rising and falling sigh. Then the tutting starts nearby; evidently my taking up three seats is irritating a group of culture-vultures with tired feet. One of them lets out an annoyed sigh. I sit up, stretch casually and make for the exit. British Museum, 44 Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG (020 7323 8181/www.britishmuseum.org). Russell Square/Holborn tube.More indoor places The British Library, Natural History Museum, St Paul’s Cathedral
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    An afternoon snooze in Postman's Park

    Postman’s Park

    Created in a churchyard in 1880, this little memorial garden is shockingly quiet – despite being bracketed at either end by major, traffic-fizzing City thoroughfares. The hand-painted plaques under the walled roof area – dedicated to ordinary working Londoners who died in heroic circumstances – add a reverential and sombre air to the surroundings (the tourists file past them silently). The tree on the small mound on one side of the park seems almost ergonomically designed for soporific slouching, and I’m soon drifting off… and then waking up again. It’s not so much the chafing bark that’s disturbing me, but the fact that when I scanned the plaques myself I found an ‘A. Rutter’ who died at the end of the nineteenth century after falling into a sewage works. The nature of my namesake’s grubby demise is enough to stop me enjoying even temporary oblivion. Damn it.More small parks Green Park SW1, Vauxhall Park SW8, Lincoln’s Inn Fields WC2Do you have a favourite spot for a bit of London shut-eye? Let us know
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