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  • Amanda Mercer

Relaxing Things To Do in London 2024

Updated: May 2


Sunset panorama of Tower Bridge with reflections in London, UK

As goes the saying beauty is in the eye of the beholder - so goes relaxation. What sounds like a lovely de-stressing activity for one person may very well sound entirely torturous to another. And if you are anything like me, that may prove to be the case from one day to the next.


Thankfully, London has an abundance of locations to find your particular way to unwind and revitalize. Whether you want to sit still and take in beautiful surroundings, learn something new, produce some endorphins through exercise, or get creative, this guide includes a variety of unique ideas and suggestions to help you relax in London, England.


 

TABLE OF CONTENTS



 
 

Looking at Art - with a Twist

(Relaxing in the Art Museums of London)


A woman sitting in an art museum admiring a painting
 

Wander through an art museum - London has 87! While perusing the artworks can be a great way for relaxing in London all on its own, I'd like to offer a twist...


Years ago I was given a gift of two books: Irving Stone's story of Vincent van Gogh, Lust for Life, and a coffee table book of van Gogh's paintings. The ability to see the painting that was being highlighted in the book as I read about Vincent van Gogh's trails and tribulations during that time period, was absolutely wonderful. Seeing his paintings in-person after reading his story was the best experience I had ever had in an art museum.


Going beyond the frame and into the story of its creation offers another level of enjoyment and relaxation. Pick up a book on the artist (non-fiction or historical fiction) and read it before taking a trip to the museum. Or bring it to the museum and read (or listen) to it as you sit before the piece of art. Here is a list of a few suggested pairings:


NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART

(Learn about the artist)


Paintings: The Fighting Temeraire by J.M.W. Turner The Evening Star; Calais Pier; Dutch Boats in a Gale; Dido Building Carthage; Margate at the Sea. (Rooms 34-36)

Book: Turner: The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W. Turner by Franny Moyle - “Franny Moyle tells a compelling story of a self–taught prodigy... A restless painter who always sought new forms of expression in watercolour and oils. Moyle is an unpretentious art historian, and she has written an inviting and easily digested biography of the best of British painters.”– Stephen Fay, Economist.


Paintings by Hans Holbein the Younger: A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling (Anne Lovell?) Room 27; Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan Room 12; Erasmus Room 12; The Ambassadors Room 12.

Book: The King’s Painter: The Life of Hans Holbein by Franny Moyle - “Evokes the painter and his world as vividly as a Holbein masterpiece. Beautifully written and illustrated, this book is a must for lovers of Tudor history.”―Tracy Borman, author of Thomas Cromwell and The Private Lives of the Tutors


TATE BRITAIN

(Learn about the artist)


Portrait(s): Ophelia by Sir John Everett Millais - This iconic Pre-Raphaelite painting depicts the tragic character from Shakespeare's play "Hamlet" floating in a river surrounded by flowers. AND The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse (TATE BRITAIN) - Another Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece, this painting illustrates the moment from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem where the Lady of Shalott drifts downstream towards Camelot.

Book: The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal. This suggestion is a little outside the box because it is historical fiction - but it is a FANTASTIC read (fair warning - a bit creepy)! And it offers great insight into the era of the Pre-Raphaelites. “I’ve missed subway stops to finish a book, but this is the first time I almost missed a plane . . . What more could one want from a Victorian thriller? But Macneal delivers even more . . . It’s a perfect blend of froth and substance, a guilty pleasure wrapped around a provocative history lesson.” (The Washington Post)


Portrait(s): Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy by David Hockney.

Book: David Hockney: The Biography, 1975-2012 by Christopher Simon Sykes. "Drawing on interviews with Hockney, his siblings, and colleagues; Hockey's autobiography; and diaries of famous friends, such as Christopher Isherwood and Stephen Spender, Sykes matches his subject's ebullience in this admiring, well-researched life." —Kirkus Reviews


EXTRA RELAXATION TIP: Stroll through a local bookstore to find your pairing for a piece of art or artist. Amazing independent bookstores are all over London. They are also your best bet at finding a staff member who could recommend additional pairings. Check out: Brick Lane Bookshop, Tower Hamlets; E1; Daunt Books, Marylebone, W1U; Hatchards, St James's, W1J; London Review Bookshop, Bloomsbury, WC1A.


 
 

Contemplative Silence

(Relaxing in the Cemeteries of London)


A vine laden path in Highgate Cemetery London
 

A stroll through Highgate Cemetery may sound peaceful, but its eerie ambiance and Gothic architecture make it a hauntingly beautiful destination. The cemetery is the final resting place of notable figures, and the overgrown pathways and weathered tombstones create an otherworldly atmosphere. Some even claim to have witnessed paranormal activity within the cemetery's historic grounds.


The Cemetery offers tours too! Check the website for availability.


Address: Highgate Cemetery, Swain’s Lane, London N6 6PJ.

Website Link: Highgate Cemetery


Abney Park Cemetery is also one of the "Magnificent Seven" Victorian era cemeteries that will delight those looking for a ghostly afternoon or evening stroll. The cemetery is the final resting place of notable figures, and the overgrown pathways and weathered tombstones are deliciously haunting. If you have the chance, don't miss the unforgettable Halloween walking tours where you wander among the graves by torchlight.


Of interest: Amy Winehouse's music video for "Back to Black" included graveyard scenes filmed at Abney Park Cemetery.


Address: Abney Park Cemetery

219 Stoke Newington High Street

London, N16 0LH


ADDITIONAL STROLL WORTHY LONDON CEMETERIES:


Kensal Green Cemetery

West Norwood Cemetery

Brompton Cemetery

Nunhead Cemetery

Tower Hamlets Cemetery.


 


 


Take a Stroll Back in Time

(Relaxing in the Royal Parks of London)


ST. James's Park in London England
 

Distracting yourself from the stresses of everyday life can do wonders for your well-being. How about stepping back in time and inside the story of a true event as you stroll through the beautiful and calming Royal Parks?

 

BARDEUM AUDIO VISUAL WALKING TOURS


Advertisement for BARDEUM Mobile App self-guided walking tours

 

HYDE PARK


ATTEND THE GREAT EXHIBITION. One of the most defining events of 19th century London was The Great Exhibition of 1851. An enormous glass palace was erected in Hyde Park to house and attract visitors from across the world in order to highlight Britain at the height of its imperial dominance.


You can now step back in time as you stroll through Hyde Park as if you were attending the opening day of the exhibition. Download the BARDEUM app in the App Store or Google Play and our immersive audiovisual tour THE GREAT EXHIBITION.


It is written by Elizabeth Macneal (The Doll Factory, The Circus of Wonders) and narrated by Tuppence Middleton (Downton Abbey, The Imitation Game).


Cover art for Bardeum's audio visual walking tour for Hyde Park, London entitled The Great Exhibition written by Elizabeth Macneal and narrated by Tuppence Middleton

The years, decades, centuries have fallen away, and here you are on the 1st of May 1851. Tens of Thousands of people have descended upon London’s Hyde Park. At nine o’clock the turnstiles will open, and you will find yourself at the opening day of The Great Exhibition, a vast, temporary glass museum.

 

The Crystal Palace, as it has been nicknamed, was built to house more than a hundred thousand exhibits of culture and industry from around the globe. You will behold all of Great Britain’s achievements and that of the countries surrounding it – machines and presses, taxidermy and clothwork, ceramics and ironmongery.

 

It is the first World’s Fair - the project of Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert. His reputation rides on its success or failure. The Queen is alive with excitement and will, of course, be in attendance. Step back in time on our immersive audiovisual walking tour and witness this dazzling spectacle that was to become a symbol of the Victorian era.


"A perfect afternoon stroll into another age, told with capriciousness and verve. Put on your top hats and bring your parasols, Victorian London is just a tap on your phone away!"

-Inga Vesper, journalist


The experience begins at The Italian Gardens Cafe on the north side of Hyde Park near the Lancaster Gate. The walking tour ends a short distance from the Victoria & Albert Museum where you can see many objects that were displayed at The Great Exhibition.


 

KENSINGTON GARDENS


Step back in time to Georgian London and take a stroll through Kensington Gardens with King George II's long time mistress, Henrietta Howard, and hear tales of the gardens as well as the cutthroat world of the Georgian Court. The audiovisual walking tour begins just outside the palace at the King’s Arms Gate at the junction of Palace Avenue and Kensington Road. Download the BARDEUM Mobile App in the App Store or Google Play.


The experience is written by TRACY BORMAN, acclaimed author, historian, and Joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and narrated by FLORA MONTGOMERY, a celebrated actor best known for her roles in Grantchester, Endeavor & A Very English Scandal.


Cover art for Bardeum's audio visual walking tour Tales of A mistress for Kensington Gardens written by Tracy Borman and narrated by Flora Montgomery

"Good day to you and welcome to Kensington Gardens. It is the year 1734 and King George II reigns over England. Kensington Palace is the center of court and its gardens are the place to be seen.

"Forgive me, but before we progress, I must ensure that you are dressed appropriately. You do not want to suffer the humiliation of being turned away by His Majesty’s gatekeepers for not being of sufficiently genteel appearance.

"I am Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk, Mistress of the Robes to Queen Caroline and, er, companion to her husband, King George II. You might say I serve two masters, although in very different ways. But more of that later. For now, let us enjoy the gardens."



"A deliciously inviting way to explore one of the most atmospheric places in London. At once entertaining and informative, this is a stroll in the best of company through the elegant, eccentric world of the early Georgian court.’

Sarah Gristwood, best-selling Tudor biographer, novelist, and broadcaster


*The Tales of a Mistress tour offers images as well as narration - perfect for a virtual visit as well.

 

ST. JAMES'S PARK


ATTEND AN EXECUTION (1649). London was once known as the City of Gallows. Between the first recorded public execution in 1196 to the last in 1868, tens of thousands of people were put to death. These public displays of control and violence became part of life in London.

 

Step back in time and experience the most controversial execution in British history. The Death of a King: The Path to Execution on the BARDEUM mobile app is an audiovisual walking tour written by CHARLES SPENCER (The White Ship, Killers of the King) and narrated by ANTHONY HOWELL (Foyle's War; Selfridges).


Download the BARDEUM app in the App Store or Google Play. The experience begins outside St. James's Palace and takes users through St. James's' Park and onto the Banqueting House.


Cover art for BARDEUM audio visual walking tour of St. James's park in London written by Charles Spencer and narrated by Anthony Howell

Imagine a chilly day in late January 1649, and a carriage with a gold crest on its doors arrives at the gatehouse of St. James's Palace. It is carrying an eight-year-old boy and his thirteen-year-old sister. They are Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and Princess Elizabeth, two of Charles the First’s children.

But, this is no happy royal or family visit. For, in a unique moment in English history, the king has recently been condemned to death, and these children have been brought to London to say their final goodbyes to their father.

Escorted by a regiment of 1200 men, King Charles the First is paraded from St. James’s Palace, through St. James’s Park and onto Whitehall, where his executioner awaits.

 

Walk in the footsteps of the condemned King as you learn about the events that ultimately led to this remarkable renunciation of the Divine Right of Kings and stand witness to his final words as the axe falls.


"A magical tour...brilliantly written. it weaves you into its story and you are spellbound, watching the decline, fall and execution of the King - and you can’t do anything to stop it."


Kate Williams, CNN royal historian & New York Times bestselling author

 
 

Produce Some Endorphins

A female runner strecthing next to the River Thames in London with the Tower bridge in the background
 

Endorphins are chemical signals in the brain which scientists have found can reduce pain, anxiety & depression. They may also help boost self-esteem, reduce inflammation, and regulate appetite. They are the all-natural pain reliever that the body releases during exercise. Here are some ideas of how to get moving and produce some endorphins in LONDON:

 
 

RUN


Lonely Planet offers a list of London's 7 Best Tunning Routes HERE. If you are interested in running with a group - try a running club. Here are just two of many clubs in the area:



 

BIKE


Komoot lays out the Best Cycling Routes Around London. Find the list HERE.

Brake Away Bike Tours and Fat Tire Tours offers unique and highly rated organized tours around London.


 

KAYAK, PADDLE BOAT or BOARD


Check out The London Kayak Company for guided tours.


Secret Adventures also offers a nighttime kayaking tour across London.


 

YOGA


Take a Yoga class at the Sky Garden in Central London, offering 360 degree panoramic views including iconic sites like St. Paul's Cathedral, the Tower of London, and Tower Bridge.


Here is a listicle from Country & Town House of 10 Of The Best Yoga Studios & Classes In London.


 
Get Creative

Glass blowing classes in Washington D.C.
 

Studies have found that engaging in art and creative activities calms the mind and helps release unwanted emotions. (Note: If you have perfectionist tendencies - getting creative may not be very relaxing).


GLASS BLOWING


The Adam Aaronson Glass Studio offers glass blowing courses for beginners.


The Glass Hub offers classes ofr every skill level including single day courses.


ART CLASSES


The National Gallery offers a wide range of art classes from life drawing to artist focused courses.




ENJOY YOUR RELAXING DAY IN LONDON 


BARDEUM offers self-guided audio/visual tours via mobile app. These immersive experiences are written by award-winning & bestselling authors, journalists, and historians.


Available in the App Store and Google Play.

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