As I usually spend most of my time alone in my home office, city life can be overwhelming unless I pace myself. My habit whenever possible is to avoid morning and evening rush hours, not book more than two meetings a day with plenty of time in between, and take regular breaks.
It wasn’t till a friend remarked that I’m good at finding peace in the city that I realised that in true introvert style I subconsciously seek out quiet spots. Places where I can reflect on what I’ve just seen and heard, and prepare for what’s happening next.
These are my favourite places to find peace in the city:
1. Cafes – not the chains like Pret and Eat, although these can be quiet if you go out of the normal lunchtime rush. Department stores like John Lewis and Selfridges have cafes tucked away in the basement or on higher floors that fewer people find. (And they have reliably clean, well-maintained loos!) On my latest trip I had lunch in the basement cafe in Waterstones in Piccadilly, which was much less crowded than their other cafes.
2. Bookshops – and speaking of bookshops, they can be quiet refuges in their own right. I’ve spent time rejuvenating in Hatchards in Piccadilly, Daunt Books in Marylebone, and Foyles in Charing Cross Road – I recommend the cafe on the top floor there for reviving coffee and cake!
3. Parks and squares – smaller ones are best avoided at lunchtime in good weather when the grass and benches fill up with people. In the larger ones you don’t have to walk far before the crowds thin out and you can get some peaceful time in nature.
4. Churches – I went into St James’s, Piccadilly, which was incredibly quiet considering its location, and that it was being set up for the filming of an orchestra. St James’s allows homeless people to come in and sleep in the pews on the Piccadilly side of the church, which seems to me a truly Christian use of the space. Regardless of your personal beliefs it’s a light, peaceful space ideal for contemplation of your day or greater things.
5. Libraries – no longer the hushed places I remember from my childhood, but still welcome refuges from the outside hustle and bustle. Read the papers, take advantage of the wifi, or pull a book from the shelves for a few minutes.
6. Museums and galleries – there are plenty of free ones. Find a quiet gallery a little way from the busy entrance and there will be a wide bench to sit down on and take the weight off your feet while you contemplate the art and/or the visitors.