Finding places to work in London
Whether you’re on a working trip and need to catch up on email or you simply fancy a quiet spot for a peaceful afternoon read, London is full of great places where you can concentrate on the task at hand. It’s a pleasant feeling to work over your agenda in the company of other busy city-dwellers and the bustling pace of central London life can be very stimulating for your work ethic. Cafes, libraries, parks and hangouts are all to be found throughout town, all full of hardworking students, working men and women and leisurely freelancers. For inspiration on where to find free wifi, great coffee and calm, creative vibes, take a look at our ideas below. Click on the bold names of the places for links to their location on Google Maps.
The first port of call for workers looking for an escape from their home office, cafés can be a great place to get stuck into a project. The pros are obvious: good free wifi, hot drinks or snacks close to hand and a relaxed, bustling surrounding. They can be pretty economical too: take your own cup to Pret a Manger and many other coffee shops and you’ll get a discount on your drink. And although smaller, independent places often have a more welcoming decor, the anonymity of the larger chain coffee shops means you can buy one latte at 10am and remain undisturbed until the afternoon. Check out the Starbucks in Spitalfields for lots of table space and a nice atmosphere, as well as the Prêt à Manger on Piccadilly opposite Green Park, perfect for pensive strolls around the park on your breaks.
For the more discerning café enthusiast, only chic, hip, independent coffee shops will do. Store Street Espresso is a very light and spacious place with great coffee and good value fresh food. But beware: they turn off the public wifi from 10am-4pm to encourage conversation and reading. Elsewhere, Look Mum, No Hands (which takes its name from the old joke, which ends: “Look Mum! No teeth!”) on Old Street has loads of room and enjoys a cool reputation as a café-cum-bikeshop, so you can get your wheel trued while sipping a flat white and dipping in and out of the Aeneid (or whatever it is you’re doing).
On nearby Shoreditch High Street stands the Ace Hotel, a multi-use venue, café, workspace, bar and hotel. With loads of plug sockets, long tables and 24/7 opening hours, this is a favourite among local creative freelancers for late night work sessions. You’re not even really obliged to buy a coffee to work here. Just sit down, plug in and look cool and reflective among the young crowd.
A similar mood of calm creativity can be found at the oh-so-cool Google Campus hangout in Old Street. Become a member (for free) and enjoy working among energetic start-up founders and the tech crowd. And of course Google, which funds the whole operation, doesn’t skimp when it comes to the quality of the coffee and snacks. It’s not open on Saturdays and Sundays though, so make the most of it in the week.
But if you’ve got all the hot drinks you need in a pre-packed thermos and it’s total silence you’re after, head over to any of London’s great public libraries. The Big Daddy of the lot is the British Library on Euston Road. Although you have to join as a member (an arduous process which involves providing bank statements and identity cards) to access the actual collection, passers-by are quite welcome to sit at the work desks and access the complimentary wifi. The studious atmosphere is great for serious workers, but it can fill up in the afternoon so arrive early to bag a seat.
If it’s too busy at the BL, check out the Wellcome Collection library just across the road. You’ll find all the same conveniences here but a smaller, more relaxed ambiance prevails. And if you get bored, you can always check out their intriguing, often gory medical display cabinets in the museum section. The Guildhall Library in the Square Mile offers a similar pleasurable mix of quiet work space and intriguing museum exhibits, in this case on the subject of London’s history.
And finally, why not get your creative juices flowing by working outside in the fresh air? Given the spate of sunny skies that Londoners have enjoyed recently, the prospect of reading and writing out in the open has become more and more attractive. Although you may lose out on wifi and plug sockets, a comfy park bench overlooking the lake, such as in St James’s Park, is surely incomparably more pleasant than anything indoors. And if storm clouds appear to begin their mutterings, you can head over to the Benugo cafe on the other side of the water for refreshment and shelter.
Smaller parks and green spaces can be just as good as big ones. For instance, the bombed out shell of the Wren church on St Dunstan’s Lane near the Tower of London has been converted into a quaint but serene benched park offering a welcome respite from the manic financial district mere yards away. It’s perfect for a long stint with a novel and a cup of tea.
With all these options, you've got no more reason to put off that pesky piece of work that's been hanging over your head. Our apologies...