Finding a place in London where you can actually feel cosy and quiet enough to allow for the optimum reading experience is a task. In a city where much of the free time people seem to have is standing on a jam-packed tube for half an hour, it might seem to be impossible to sit, let alone relax somewhere quiet while out and about in the city. But there is hope for all of us bookworms with tired legs. These are my top five recommendations for places to read in London.
Situated in the middle of the West End two minutes down the road from Piccadilly Circus, this enormous bookshop is perfect for escaping the crowds on the street or for killing an hour or two. It stays open as late as 10pm on weekdays and with six floors filled with sofas and books to explore you’re sure to find a quiet nook somewhere, though perhaps avoid on weekends as it gets closer to the holidays. Any bookshop will welcome a reader but this branch is particularly hospitable; it’s so big that you can finally live out the childhood dream of hiding in your own library. Plus they have a whole shelf full of discounted books on the third floor.
Recommended for: longer stops, cosiness, relaxing bookish environment.
This is one of my favourite parts of the southbank because of the chilled atmosphere and beautiful surroundings. It offers benches and a view of the river, as well as a little shopping centre and dozens of great food stalls for when you get peckish. And if you have the urge to browse, both the Southbank Centre’s second-hand book market and the wonderful National Theatre bookshop are moments away. The perfect place to sit and watch the world go by.
Recommended for: food, a quick sit down, people-watching.
Another haven in a non-stop area, the Quaker Centre cafe in Friends House on Euston Road is ideal if you find yourself with some extra time before catching a train as it’s almost directly opposite the station. It’s a large, quiet and welcoming space, perfect for spending an afternoon with a book and some tea. There are a couple of peaceful outdoor spots too if the weather is balmy enough.
Recommended for: quiet atmosphere, spaciousness, cakes.
Northampton Square Garden
This little patch of green is a beautiful place to enjoy a book, and its proximity to City University of London in Clerkenwell makes it the perfect weekend hideaway when there are fewer students milling about. There’s even a cafe if the weather turns against you. It’s quiet enough for you to take your instagram photos of the picturesque bandstand and autumn trees in peace.
Recommended for: warmer days, peaceful surroundings, solitude.
Finally, one for the tired Queen Mary student; just hop on the Hammersmith and City line for fifteen minutes and you’ll find a leafy sanctuary full of tropical plants and fish. It’s only open to the public on selected days but well worth the visit. There’s no environment more relaxing for a good read than being surrounded by cactuses and terrapins. There’s plenty of culture to absorb in the surrounding areas too, including the Museum of London and of course the Barbican’s own cinema, theatre and exhibition spaces.
Recommended for: light background noise, late night weekend breaks.