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How to Beat the Crowds in London

Find pockets of peace in London’s bustling capital.

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Jade is a writer with a passion for travel, drag queens, and baked goods. Her happy place is South America, but when she's not exploring the world, she enjoys cooking and reading Gothic novels in her London flat.

The lively city of London often feels like a year-round festival—particularly if you frequent central areas such as Soho and Oxford Circus. But the British capital also offers a surprising amount of serene spots if you know just where to look.

England’s capital is typically at its busiest during the summer and in December when Christmas shoppers flock to see the lights and bag a holiday bargain. Regardless of what time of year you find yourself in The Big Smoke, this guide will help you feel like you’ve got the city all to yourself.

Wander during the weekend

Fleet Street in central London on a quiet day.
Choose the right time to explore.Photo Credit: Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock

Explore outside of the work week.

While London buzzes with suited-and-booted businesspeople on weekdays, the weekend tells a different story. Areas such as Fleet Street, Farringdon, Leadenhall Market, and the London Wall are usually deserted on Saturdays and Sundays, making it the ideal time to explore winding alleys and sites that are reputedly haunted.

You may find that some popular lunch chains are closed in these areas. But don’t worry—when it comes to dining, most of the area’s historic pubs (some of which are hundreds of years old) remain open on weekends.

Walk along canalside stretches

Little Venice in London in summer with boats and leafy trees.
Little Venice is a lovely place to explore.Photo Credit: I Wei Huang / Shutterstock

Italy’s Venice isn’t the only city with unique waterways.

Located on a serene stretch of the Regent’s Canal near Paddington (Maida Vale, to be exact), Little Venice is a quirky and quiet area home to canalside pubs, shops, theaters, and barges.

Follow the waterside route north for an hour or so, and you’ll find yourself in the iconic Camden Market (where London’s subcultures are at their most vibrant) via Regent’s Park and London Zoo. For another serene canalside stretch, start off at Broadway Market and follow the trail to Limehouse, a dockland area home to many riverside restaurants.

Related: London Do’s And Don’ts: 10 Unwritten Rules That Every Londoner Knows

Go farther afield

The Painted Hall in Greenwich in London.
Head out of the center to explore more.Photo Credit: IR Stone / Shutterstock

Head out into the suburbs.

Heading out to London’s furthest zones is a surefire way to encounter fewer people. Plus, using London’s super-fast and easy-to-navigate public transport system means it’ll take far less time than you’d expect.

Top picks on the city’s outskirts include the Chislehurst Caves, an artificial underground cave network on the cusp of the Kent border; the Painted Hall in Greenwich, featuring elaborately decorated ceilings reminiscent of Italy’s Sistine Chapel; and Epping Forest, a sprawling piece of woodland so large that you’re unlikely to encounter anybody else there.

Embrace nature

A water feature in Kyoto Garden in London.
Tranquil Kyoto Garden.Photo Credit: I Wei Huang / Shutterstock

Immerse yourself in green in London’s vast parks.

Almost a fifth of London is green space. In fact, the capital is home to a whopping 3,000 parks, so it's much easier to find a quiet spot, even in the more centrally-located Hyde Park or Regent’s Park.

But if you want to enjoy a real moment of calm, head to Kyoto Garden in Holland Park will transport to straight to Japan, complete with trickling waterfalls and rock gardens. If you plan to face the crowds while shopping on Oxford Street, recover with some rest and relaxation at Phoenix Garden afterward, which is just off Shaftesbury Avenue. It’s the perfect secret space to unwind in one of London’s busiest areas.

Feel the rhythm of the night

A twilight view of the Thames and St. Paul's Cathedral.
London is buzzing at night.Photo Credit: Annapurna Mellor / Shutterstock

Go ghost-hunting after dark.

While some parts of the city come alive after dark, like Soho and Shoreditch, two of the city’s nightlife hotspots, others get quieter. London’s landmarks look glorious when illuminated—take an evening tour to see icons such as St. Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge when lit up.

But for those that want to dive into the paranormal, spooky ghost tours are the way to go. You’ll lose most of the crowds as you delve into the haunted past of areas such as Whitechapel, where notorious Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper struck.

Visit off-peak

A Chinese New Year parade takes place on a London street.
Choose your timing.Photo Credit: Ms Jane Campbell / Shutterstock

There’s a good reason to arrive out of season.

No matter what time of year you head to London, you’re sure to coincide with other visitors, but you still may encounter fewer people after the busy Christmas season.

Visit during the months of January and February to avoid big crowds. Though you should plan to bundle up, braving the winter season means you’ll likely find discounted rates on accommodation, and you can catch the London Chinese New Year parade, see the winter lights art installation at Canary Wharf, and beat the cold by visiting some of London’s world-class museums.

Take a day trip

Flower beds and the grand lawn of Hampton Court Palace outside London.
See the British countryside on a day trip.Photo Credit: Kirill Ts / Shutterstock

Delve deeper into England’s rural countryside.

Make the most of Britain’s well-connected railways by escaping the busy city for the day. In fact, there’s a wealth of day trip destinations within easy reach from London.

While most people head to Stonehenge and Windsor Castle (take a day tour to see both if you’re tight on time), more off-the-beaten-path options include Hampton Court Palace, the former home of King Henry VIII; the serene villages of the Cotswolds in Oxfordshire; and Blenheim Palace, the filming location of hit TV show Downtown Abbey.

Related: Know Before You Go: Visiting Stonehenge

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