6 Of London's Most Relaxing Days Out

By Zoe Craig Last edited 6 months ago
6 Of London's Most Relaxing Days Out
Serpentine pedalloes by Justin Berman.

Step away from the frantic rush of your city commute; dodge your busy high street; and skip past eateries with harassed waiting staff and long queues.

When you need a break from all the rushing about that Londoners are just so well practised at, here are some ideas for opting for the relaxed route.

Having a peaceful day out mainly means planning less, not more. So here are some very simple ideas for decluttering your London life, just for one day. Enjoy.

1. Explore a watery world at London Wetlands Centre

London Wetland Centre. Photo by Matt Brown.

Spend a chilled day wandering around the London Wetland Centre in Barnes, exploring 100 acres of lakes, ponds and gardens, spotting birds and pretending you're deep in the English countryside, despite being firmly inside zone 3.

If you're after a really quiet day out, you might want to check there aren't any special events planned; the London Wetland Centre hosts family-friendly activities throughout the year, but sometimes you might want to dodge the crowds.

If you're after a bit of excitement, make sure you see the otters being fed.

Eat: Take the stress out of travelling somewhere else for lunch and enjoy the treats on offer at the Wetlands Centre Cafe.
Drink: Nearby is the Red Lion, a smart Fuller's boozer with an enticing beer garden, perfect for a relaxing post-walk pint. Or you could enjoy some laid-back jazz at the Bull's Head.
Don't Miss: If you're looking to explore Barnes further, try the Barnes Trail and sample relaxed 'village' life inside the M25.

2. Indulge in a Royal Retreat at Kew Gardens

Step away from the more popular spaces in Kew Gardens, and make a beeline for Queen Charlotte's Cottage, a rustic, 18th-century royal retreat in the south west end of the gardens.

Look out for the nearby meadow: the first kangaroos to live in the UK were introduced there in the early 1790s; by the early 19th century there were 18 of them.

Can you believe this is in London? Queen Charlotte Cottage by leica0000.

Today the meadow is a beautiful flower garden, far removed from the hustle and bustle of Kew's other attractions.

Eat: The Kew Gardens cafes are right there, meaning the task of finding somewhere else for lunch has been done for you, and you can get on with the serious job of eating.
Drink: Pop to The Sun Inn (as long as it's not a match day) for a cosy, reliable pub-stop. Or choose the historic Botanist, and sample some great craft ales.

3. 'Sail away' on the Serpentine

Take a boat trip in the Serpentine. Choose between rowing or pedallo-ing into the centre of Hyde Park's peaceful 40-acre haven of still water, stop your chosen vessel and just... drift.

If powering your own launch seems too much like hard work for a truly lazy day, you could always opt for a trip on the UK's first Solarshuttle, a magnificent machine which glides silently across London's most beautiful central lake, powered only by the sun.

The Solarshuttle

Extend your day trip into the evening with a relaxing cocktail in a secluded spot at the nearby Kensington Roof Gardens; or go and watch a film from the comfort of the sofas at the Electric Cinema.

Eat: You can't go wrong with a wood-fired pizza from the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen
Drink: Luxuriate in a bloody mary at the Queen's Arms

4. Saunter around some Southwark sights

Head south-east for a day of quiet contemplation and exploring in Southwark.

Start with a wander around Nunhead Cemetery — it's one of the least famous and celebrated of London's big seven, and so you won't have that niggling anxiety that you should be instagramming famous graves; instead you can just pootle about.

Nunhead Cemetery. Photo by Raymond Goertz.

From here, it's a short hop to Sydenham Hill Woods, a proper south London wilderness where the only thing that'll disturb your peace will be the surprisingly cute collection of dogs being walked around the area. We've always found their owners to be in good spirits; so there's the chance to do that very un-London thing and nod, smile and say hello. It's almost like being up north.

Eat / Drink: The Ivy House, (near Nunhead Cemetery) and The Wood House (near the woods...)
Don't Miss: The (protected) views of St Paul's from the cemetery; the abandoned railway in the woods.

5. Unwind with a massage and a museum

London's packed with spas; if you're idea of a truly relaxing day out involves a massage, twinkly music and some properly fluffy white towels, we suggest heading to Cowshed in Clarendon Cross near Holland Park. The best thing about Cowshed? Unlike some spas where all you're 'allowed' to eat is a vegetable juice and some chia seeds, these guys serve proper treats: coffee, prosecco, hot chocolates, muffins and, yes, cake. Cake!

A treatment room at Cowshed at Clarendon Cross, Holland Park.

Once you're fully pampered, you can spend the rest of the day wondering around the semi-wild woodland and beautiful formal flower beds in Holland Park.

Finally, take in a bit of chilled-out culture at the nearby Design Museum: the permanent collection is free to visit, so you needn't have any worries about 'getting your money's worth.'

Eat / Drink: The Parabola bar, café and restaurant in the Design Museum are open until 11.30pm from Thursday to Saturday, and 6pm on a Sunday.
Don't Miss: Kyoto Garden in Holland Park.

6. Feel instantly calmer feeding a llama

Start your day dodging the usual stressful offerings from TfL, and take to the river.

Catch a river bus to Masthouse Terrace on the north side of the Thames, or the adjacent Greenwich Pier on the south side and leave all your stresses behind as you flow gracefully past the bustling city out east towards Woolwich.

If you get off at Greenwich Pier, head through the historic Greenwich Foot Tunnel; from Masthouse Terrace, the route to Mudchute Farm is a similar 15-minute walk.

It's impossible to feel anything but relaxed when you meet the doe-eyed, supremely dignified llamas and alpacas, and the happy horses at Mudchute City Farm.

A calming llama at Mudchute. Image: authors own.

You can pay a pound for the privilege of feeding these magnificent beasts.

Eat: Home-cooked food at Mudchute Kitchen  
Drink: At the Lord Nelson, a proper boozer at the southern tip of the Isle of Dogs. No pretentions; no stress.

Last Updated 26 May 2017