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Want to embrace the mantra ‘new year new you,’ but not sure how to go about it? Here are seven places in London to chill and help you get in touch with your inner calm.
You might think that London’s centre is sure to be a concrete jungle, bursting with sky-scrapers, neon lights and advertising, but there are a number of wide open green spaces that are soothing to the soul – all freely available to the general public. These large parks are beautifully landscaped and laid out with wide walkways, making them an ideal location for a stroll, or even to linger on a bench or on the grass, enjoying the warm sunshine, the scent of flowers and the gentle buzz of bees as you collect your thoughts or just get away from the hustle and bustle of the streets that lie just a few metres away. The eight or more parks are spread evenly through London, so everyone can enjoy one of these relaxation spots without too much travel.
This beautiful cemetery appears more like a faerie glen than a place of mourning. This is because greenery has been encouraged to sprout throughout the grounds, softening the impact of the memorial stones – all of which conspire to make Highgate Cemetery famed for its wonderful funerary architecture. Pets (apart from service animals) are forbidden as is shooting video footage, but otherwise visitors are welcome to walk through the cemetery and take as many still photographs as they like. This makes for a unique and tranquil environment where you can step back from your hectic life and see how irritations and stresses are actually the small stuff, enhancing your wellness and inner calm. The cemetery is a mere few miles from Islington, making it a handy destination for those living and working in the environs.
The Chapel is a re-purposed pub that now hosts a hair salon – but a hair salon with a difference - it was reinvented from the ground up to combat the things that women universally dislike about hairdressing but also to create a completely calm, serene experience in itself. When you make your first appointment with The Chapel, you need not have any worries about a new hairdresser not ‘getting’ your style. Long before anyone touches your hair, you will have a lengthy one-to-one discussion so your stylist understands not only what you want for your hair but also gains a sense of you as a person. In this way, the salon changes a simple hair appointment into something closer to a therapy session, leaving you looking great and feeling calm and relaxed.
In the heart of The Angel, this rather disturbingly named destination offers relaxation, cocktails and jazz, sweeping you away from the hurly-burly of everyday life into a tranquil world of quirky décor, swooning music and perfectly composed drinks.
Originally built in 1100, St Dunstan in the East was a church surrounded by a small but well-maintained garden. The church was expanded in the 1300s and repaired extensively several times in the 1600s – including during the Great Fire of London, before it was finally destroyed in the Second World War. Rather than rebuild the church, it has been left as a ruin, while the gardens have been maintained, creating a small, leafy oasis smack in the middle of bustling central London. Few people know about St Dunstan’s so it is always a quiet and peaceful place, no matter how busy the rest of the city might be.
For a break from the usual relaxation spots, take a stroll down Brick Lane. Bustling with vendors and performers, it is an ideal place to just get away from life’s stresses for a bit. There are plenty of eateries from all cultures so you can explore the globe while you stroll, culinarily speaking. The multicultural music, products and food offerings combine to transport you away from your daily grind, giving you some headspace and allowing you to release the stresses of your usual life.
Attached to a hostel designed to be a first port of call for young Indian students arriving in London, the restaurant at the Indian YMCA is open to the public – and thank goodness that it is! Having been in business for almost 100 years, the chefs know what they are doing and take great pride in providing wonderfully authentic Indian cuisine three times a day. You must be there in good time as the restaurant closes in between the set mealtimes, but if you manage to score a place at the table, you will be transported with delight with a tasty – and reasonably priced – meal. The Indian YMCA is one of London’s best kept secrets and is a great way to get away from it all for a short while.
Canary Wharf is known as the cutting-edge place for new and growing businesses in London, so finding a tranquil garden oasis on the roof of Crossrail Place can come as a pleasant surprise. Fully contained under a timber-framed roof, the garden is home to many exotic plants that would not survive outside the safety of the greenhouse. The roof garden is a suburb in miniature, boasting shops and eateries, and even performance spaces. It is ideal to escape for a couple of hours, when city life gets too much for you and you crave natural greenery and a quiet space in which to simply breathe.