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A guide to the best places to cool off in London

Andy Stevens / 17 July 2015 ( 23 July 2019 )

Where to cool off in London when the weather’s hot and you fancy a retreat from the heat and the hustle and bustle.

Soho Sky Terrace
The Soho Sky Terrace in London's Carnaby Street

Soho Sky Terrace, The Courthouse Hotel

Barely minutes from the untold horrors of the retail hordes herding around Oxford Circus is this relaxing rooftop bar terrace high above Carnaby Street.

Here you can plonk down your bags, pick out your cocktail weapon of choice, nibble on canapés and simply come up for air again in comfort. Open from 3pm every day, weather permitting, it's a perfect place to break free of the crush.

The Courthouse Hotel

The Parlour at Fortnum & Mason

Step away from the elbowy bustle of Piccadilly to wallow in a spectacular ice cream treat for you and yours in the Queen's favourite food shop.

This enclave of iced magic will whip you back to the 1950s with its stylish nod to the heyday of ice cream parlours - and all with a topping of extra indulgence, the Fortnum way.

The Parlour's signature Knickerbocker Glory, for one, deserves its own plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Fortnum & Mason

Victoria & Albert Museum, glass rooms and ceramics galleries

Yes, it might be in South Ken Museum Central, with all the trudging queues of tourists filing from the Tube and 'doing the museums', just to say they've done them. But among that strip of great collections and artefacts, the V&A manages to maintain an aura of unflustered serenity.

Perhaps it's the weight of artistic and design endeavour resonating from every display cabinet which lends this sense of calm. Wend your way to the glassware rooms, 129 and 131, the ceramics galleries, chiefly rooms 136 to 146, to peruse in peace, stop, look, think and admire.

Victoria & Albert Museum


Daunt Books, Marylebone High Street

A hushed sense of cloistered academia lends itself to this oasis of the written word in central London's most chi-chi high street.

Row upon galleried row of books - with a distinct travel tilt guaranteed to trigger wanderlust - fill this grand Edwardian building.

Once you're done craning your necks and thumbing away through the shelves, having perhaps picked out a rare and tempting volume (and, really, there's no rush), then repair to the bookshop cafe for a restorative coffee and a whisk through a few opening chapters.

Daunt Books

Hammersmith waterfront: The Dove, The Old Ship

The magnetic lure of the winding old Thames, as she starts to babble along into prime West London residential and rowing territory past Hammersmith Bridge, make these two historic waterside pubs well worth the schlep from Hammersmith Tube station.

You'll find four pubs along the river path, but this pair are the stand-out watering holes: The Dove ticks the old world pubby charm box and lays claim to Britain's smallest snug bar, and it has a dinky river's edge outside space to sit quietly and watch swans and ducks, and their human equivalents, the sailors and rowers, plough through the water.

And further along past the boathouses, The Old Ship has been keeping the river community fed and watered for nearly 300 years in its enviable waterfront spot – and still does so all day.

The Dove and The Old Ship

Queens Wood Cafe, Queens Wood, Muswell Hill

Head north and you'll find something deliciously secretive about this friendly little community cafe in the magical woods of London N10, nestled between Highgate and Muswell Hill.

This log-cabin style refreshment stop brings out your adventurous inner child, as you momentarily imagine you're in some remote spot deep in a national park, rather than a few yards from the nearest bus stop on Muswell Hill Road and a couple of miles off the North Circular.

A peaceful and welcome repose for refuelling after a gentle, crunchy woodland yomp.

Call 020 8444 2604

The Rooftop at The Trafalgar St James Hotel

You've guessed it from the name: it's all about the views at this swish sky bar above Trafalgar Square.

High above the nose-to-tail traffic, and getting on for eye level with Nelson on his column, you can take an afternoon tea or something stronger while savouring the city sights as the crowds madden away down at ground level.

The Trafalgar St James

Cloisters and Gardens, Westminster Abbey

A space for quiet reflection, to take time and gather thoughts – and all in one of London's most popular  tourist locations. And unlike the abbey proper, the cloisters and gardens won't cost you a penny for those thoughts.

Westminster Abbey

St Bartholomew The Great Church, West Smithfield

At once a calming and uplifting experience when you discover London’s oldest surviving church, sitting quietly amid the old City of London street pattern near the famous Smithfield meat market and St Bart’s Hospital.

The building  was founded in 1123 as an Augustinian priory and has been in continuous use as a church since 1143.

This remarkable place of worship is one of the City’s true survivors, having survived the Great Fire of London and two world wars, and has been used for scenes in many films, including Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Other Boleyn Girl and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

It remains a place of perfect, serene contemplation on the edge of the money-making mile.

St Bartholmew the Great

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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