Hidden London

Cramped by the crowds? Yearning for peace and quiet? Before you book your ticket out of the big smoke, check out a few of  acclaimed author and London resident Alex Robinson's favourite quiet places in the country's capital. 

Parks and Gardens

With the tightly-packed tube and traffic-choked streets, it’s hard to believe that London is one of the world’s greenest cities. But it is. London has Avoid the parks of the city centre – especially the Royal Parks and make your way to those a little further afield. You won’t have to go far. We recommend Regent’s Park (tube Mornington Crescent), which has delightful gardens, acres of lawns and a lovely little café, Hampstead Heath (tube Hampstead) which offers fabulous views of the capital, or Richmond Park where there are herds of wild deer and acres of woodland and open space.

Museums and Galleries

Avoid the big museums and galleries in London’s city centre this weekend and instead stroll around one of the city’s many delightful smaller collections. We love theWallace Collection (tube: Bond Street), a stately home in a leafy square just north of Oxford Street  housing one of the finest selections of Old Master European art in the country. Or there’s theHorniman Museum (rail Forest Hill), with a delightfully quirky and eclectic collection. Look-out for the bizarre Victoriana, including an unnervingly realistic merman – grafted together from a stuffed monkey and a sea fish, which fooled 19th Century Scientists. And be sure to see the anthropological galleries – with fascinating ritual objects and costumes from Papua New Guinea and West Africa - and the huge collection of early musical instruments. There’s an aquarium too and the museum is set in lovely lawned gardens which are perfect for a picnic.The Royal Airforce Museum(tube: Colindale)Britain's only national museum dedicated wholly to aviation, with huge hangars willed with aeroplanes from Sopwiths and Spitfires to Tornados and Vulcan bombers. It’s great for the family, with plenty of hands-on activity for the kids.

Walks and Wildlife

Parts of London are not just crowd free, they are empty. Grab a Boris bike and head West along the Regent’s and Grand Union Canal (reachable from one of half a dozen tube lines which include Camden, Westbourne Park or Kensal Green). This waterway cuts through the heart of London, past the mansions of Regent’s park, the pretty barge boats of Little Venice through areas of old brick warehouses and crumbling buddleia- covered factories, emerging into pastoral green fieldsas it winds towards Windsor. It’s busiest around Camden, but beyond Zone 3,you’ll see as many herons and kingfishers as people. There’s wildlife in the city centre too, especially around the Thames, whose water is now home to salmon, otters and even the occasional lost pilot whale. To see the best of it, make your way to the WWT London Wetland Centre (tube Hammersmith). This is one of urban Europe’s most important water bird sanctuaries, and it lies just off the Jubilee barge route in Barnes. 

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