Feeling stressed? Need to escape the hectic pace of city life? Head to one of these parks, cafés or libraries to find a peaceful place to read
1 La Médiathèque
A great South Kensington hideaway is La Médiathèque at the Institut Français, the largest French library in the country. The Art Deco style and rich colours of the Grade II listed library make it a warm, comfortable place to read. You’ll stay longer than you’d expected to. Open Mon-Fri 9am–9.30pm, Sat 10am–9.30pm, Sunday times vary.
17 Queensberry Place SW7 2DT, 020 7871 3545; institut-francais.org.uk
2 Holland Park Café
Located near to The Orangery is this little friendly café, serving locally sourced food, hot drinks and cakes. The surroundings are very idyllic and there is ample outdoor seating. Should the weather be very chilly, the atmosphere inside is buzzy without feeling intrusive, making the café a great stop if you’re planning on a quiet read with a cup of tea. Open daily 9.30am–6pm.
Ilchester Place W8 6LU; 020 7602 6156; hollandparkcafe.co.uk
3 Books for Cooks
Notting Hill’s famous cookbook shop is also the perfect spot for a lunchtime read, accompanied with a dish of the day from the test kitchen. Space is compact − although seating has been extended to 30 people − but the atmosphere is relaxed and informal. Pick a cookery book from the shelves and drool over the recipes while you eat. Open Tue–Sun 10am–6pm.
Blenheim Crescent W11 1NN, 020 7221 1992; booksforcooks.com
4 V&A National Art Library
The V&A’s fine and decorative arts reference library holds over one million items and its sense of grandeur is best observed with a simple skywards glance at the huge chandeliers and book-lined shelves along the balcony. The library’s reading rooms are free and open to the public; they are, as you would imagine, a quiet and peaceful place to read. Visitors need to register on arrival, plus free wifi is available should you need it. Open Tue–Sat times vary.
Cromwell Road SW7 2RL; 020 7942 2000; vam.ac.uk
This tranquil corner of Holland Park is even better during early autumn as there are fewer visitors than in summer. Sit on one of the park benches with a hot drink while you listen to the waterfalls spilling into the ponds below. Between chapters, take a stroll around the stone bridge and look out for peacocks and squirrels. Your sense of self will soon feel restored. Open daily 7.30am until 30 mins before dusk.
100 Holland Park Ave W11 4UA; 020 7361 3003; rbkc.gov.uk
6 The Troubadour
Set up in 1954, this famous London coffee house has a touch of Le Marais café about it. It features a gig venue, restaurant and wine shop, but during the day serves as a quiet, book-friendly café. Monday to Thursday daytime is best for catching up on a few chapters; try to grab a seat at the calm back section by the window for mid-sentence people watching. The café is open daily, 9am-12am.
263-267 Old Brompton Road, SW5, 020 7370 1434; troubadour.co.uk
7 The Antelope
This Fuller’s pub off the King’s Road is quiet during daytime hours, while the traditional English interior will make you feel like you’ve disappeared into a Sherlock Holmes story. The two ‘snug areas’ are just that – cosy nooks where you can disappear from the world in a leather-backed armchair with a book and a pint. Open daily, times vary.
22 Eaton Terrace SW1W, 020 7824 8512; antelope-eaton-terrace.co.uk
8 Italian Gardens, Hyde Park
One of London’s most underrated attractions, this Italian quarter of Hyde Park featues a 150-year-old ornamental water garden. Believed to have been given as a gift from Prince Albert to his beloved Queen Victoria, the gardens are especially gorgeous on autumn days. Hyde Park is open daily 5am-midnight.
Located near the north side of Kensington Gardens, royalparks.org.uk