Living in London is a tad bit different from living in cities like Philadelphia or Pittsburgh; it’s hard when you don’t have a car here to venture out of the bustling city for an escape from the sirens, construction, trains, and honking horns. I am lucky enough to have so much family nearby in the country, but don’t always get the opportunity to go ‘home’ for the weekend – I also wouldn’t want to miss out too much on the city itself. Here are a few of my favorite places to get away without really getting away. I have found that though they might be well known by name, they are London’s best kept secrets for frequenting as a local instead of a visiting as a tourist.
I was going to save the best for last, but I was too bursting with excitement to talk about this magical place. It’s amazing how many people love London regardless of it’s often horrible, ‘muggy’ weather, so it’s no surprise that on a sunny day, this city knocks any other out of contention. Hyde park is around 350 acres and is smack-dab in the middle of the city; to some it is seen as the ‘original central park.’ Its western border is marked by Kensington Palace, the residence of William, Kate, their children, Prince Harry, and the American-born, soon-to-be Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. You can tour the parts of the residence that are open to the public, as well as have a traditional High Tea here. The late Princess Diana’s memorial garden is located here in the garden and is accompanied by many other special sights scattered throughout. There are swans, doggy play dates, coffee and cake stops, beautiful running paths, bikes for rent, and many-a-doggo. In the spring time, you are introduced to the first blooms of daffodils, crocus, and cherry blossoms. I have yet to find a space that tops this.
The Victoria and Albert Museum
With the large sum of funds generated by the first World’s Fair in London in 1851, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert chartered the construction of three major museums in the South Kensington neighborhood of the city; the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. The latter of these three houses more artistic exhibitions such as those of high end designer Balenciaga, the history of Winnie the Pooh, and special guest talks by experts in each field as well as cast members from Netflix’s The Crown. This rather unconventional museum is where I find my peace. Wandering around the permanent art exhibitions, looking at the vibrant colors of each fabric and tapestry brightens up any dreary rainy day (of which there are quite a few). I find this is where I get the most work done, especially in their National Art Library, which is a pretty nice place to study. To be truthful I’m being modest – studying anywhere after this will be no where nearly as impressive, it’s an absolute treat.
This is perhaps the most shocking, but I very much value my time on the tube. After a long day of work, it is almost an unspoken rule of peace and quiet on the tube ride home. No one talks, which gives time to think, listen to your favorite music, read a book, or just sit in peace for some time ‘alone’ on your way back to your flatmates. You have a chance to reflect on the highs and lows of the past 8 hours, people watch, and read the free newspaper to catch up on current events (the Metro and City AM in the morning, the Evening Standard at night). In the mornings, the tube ride gives you time to sip your coffee (or tea) and wake up before starting another busy day in this bustling city. I’m not advising to come to London just to take a ride on the tube; my goal is to help you think about that because transport is a necessary part of our lives, why not enjoy the ride?