London is an exciting and buzzing metropolis and deserves such a description. Yet, there are times when city life feels overwhelming. For those times, there are a whole host of relatively quiet spots that allow you to enjoy a slower pace of life come Sunday.
Where to Spend a Slow Sunday
1. Victoria Park Market
Victoria Park Market is a popular produce market that takes place every Sunday from 10am to 4pm in one of East London’s prettiest parks. Enjoy a street food snack for your Sunday morning walk around the park or down the canal, or pick up some seasonal fruit and veg, fresh bread and artisan cheese for later.
2. Kew Gardens
Whatever the season, a slow Sunday at The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew is always a day well spent. With world-famous glasshouses and beautifully kept woods, grounds and gardens, there is so much botany to enjoy both inside and out. Or, simply bring a blanket and find a quiet spot to read and relax.
3. Holland Park
Holland Park is a 54-acre park with gardens, patches of woodland and sports facilities. With relaxing waterfalls and even a few wandering peacocks, The Kyoto Garden donated by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto in 1991, is a real highlight.
4. Barbican Conservatory
The Barbican Conservatory opened in 1984 and is home to over 2,000 species of plants. A lush oasis in East London, the Barbican Centre’s giant greenhouse is open on selected Sundays for those in need of some urban escapism.
5. Richmond Park
From a scenic riverside to good restaurants, there are many reasons to spend a slow Sunday in Richmond. Yet, without a doubt, one of the most popular weekend jaunts in this area is Richmond Park. As the largest royal park in London, there is plenty of space to run, cycle, walk or amble and get some fresh air.
6. Petersham Nurseries
Down a track road in Richmond, Petersham Nurseries is about as far away from Central London life as it gets. Created by the Boglione family, this plant nursery-meets-restaurant-cafe-meets-lifestyle boutique charms visitors with its laidback rustic-luxe aesthetic. Enjoy a leisurely lunch among the plants with menus that are inspired by slow food and sustainability.
7. Columbia Road Market
This popular flower market is one of the busier locations on this list. The affordable prices and variety of fresh blooms and houseplants available continue to attract crowds each Sunday morning.
For a slower experience, visit Columbia Road as early as possible (the market starts at 8am), or try Conservatory Archives on Hackney Road instead. This London plant shop is the definition of an urban jungle and only about a 10 minute walk from the market.
Focusing on everything from slow to intentional and sustainable living, these London-based bloggers and Instagrammers share the Slow Living LDN. passion for enjoying the quieter side of the capital. As part of A Year of Living Slower, they reveal their favourite places to spend a Slow Sunday in London.
The Eco Everyday
Carly is an editor who is passionate about independent brands and pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle. Her photos are a beautifully curated mix of London and countryside spots in natural tones. Carly’s brown coat is becoming iconic in her Instagram feed, giving her a signature style when she features in front of the camera.
The Eco Everyday’s Slow Sunday in London: Notting Hill
Having lived in East London for many years (I met my husband, got engaged and got married to him on the same road from Dalston to Shoreditch), it’s sometimes nice to go on an adventure and explore a different area at the weekend.
Across the city, the many pretty streets in and around Notting Hill can have a quiet, sleepy feel that are perfect for a slow-paced Sunday (especially if you steer away from the crowds on busy Portobello Market).
There’s so many great independent shops to visit, not to mention vintage and charity treasure troves. Some of my favourites include: Summerill & Bishop for beautiful tableware (including delicate recycled glass bottles); Wolf & Badger for indie brands and natural skincare (I love By Sarah London); and Rellik (so many memories as I used to go hunting for vintage dresses there regularly in my teens). And if you want an Instagrammable vegan-friendly brunch, Farmacy’s ‘Earth Bowls’ are worth the trek across town for alone.
Like Slow Living LDN., Bryony is an advocate of slow living in the city. She is particularly passionate about pursuing a low impact lifestyle and often shares inspiration on how to live more sustainably in daily life. Bryony’s extremely lovable English Bulldog, Muffin, is also a star of her feed.
Bryony’s Slow Sunday in London: Victoria Park Market
Sunday is my favourite day of the week. It always starts with a dog walk, which at this time of year is pretty chilly. My husband and I layer up, grab our reusable mugs and the three of us venture to our local cafe for a coffee. We then walk to Victoria Park market via the canals for lunch or a snack and to buy some groceries and treats for later. When we arrive home it’s time for a cosy movie or a jigsaw puzzle which we do whilst chatting and listening to our teenage favourites playlist- got to have balance!
Before bed I love to have a bubble bath; there’s something medicinal about soaking in hot water with a lovely candle burning and the only task left to do being to fall asleep.
On her blog and accompanying Instagram page, Angie shares inspiration on where to enjoy London’s quieter spots, in addition to well-being (particularly how to find calm), culture, travel and of course, brilliant books. Changing Pages’ feed is packed with beautiful shots of places to visit in the capital.
Changing Pages’ Slow Sunday in London: Holland Park
Mostly my Sundays will start with church, which is a lovely reflective way to set the tone for the day. Afterwards, the essential ingredients for a delicious slow Sunday are fresh air, exercise, coffee, reading and some gentle wandering. Holland Park and the surrounding area meets all of these requirements.
Positioned between Kensington High Street and Notting Hill Gate, Holland Park is easily accessible, but often so much quieter than neighbouring Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. A meandering walk through the secluded wooded areas, and you are quickly transported away from the busy London streets. The tranquil Japanese inspired Kyoto Garden is a lovely place to sit with a book, and the pretty orangery is perfect for coffee and cake and people watching.
Nearby, Leighton House Museum, is truly one of London’s hidden gems. Tucked away in a residential street, it is the former home and studios of the painter Lord Fredrick Leighton and always feels wonderfully undiscovered. The entrance hall is a vision of turquoise and blue mosaic from floor to ceiling, and the building often houses fascinating exhibitions. It’s a beautiful place in which to wander and soak up some culture before heading back to Notting Hill or Kensington High street where lunch and supper options are plentiful.
Ruth lives in South East London and posts about slow, simple, quiet and sustainable living both on her blog and Instagram feed. She shares muted, calming flatlays and interiors and is currently undertaking a 365 day challenge to slow down, simplify and focus on the smaller things in life.
My Simple London’s Slow Sunday in London: Blackheath and Greenwich
Slow weekends in London are amazing, especially here in the South East. We love to go up to Blackheath, sometimes we go to the farmers’ market to pick up fresh bread and cheese to eat on the Heath, or we pop into a few charity shops before having a cuppa and a treat in Gail’s bakery.
Then, we head across the Heath into Greenwich Park for a wander. We always stop to take in the stunning views of Greenwich and beyond. The boys love to have a kick around with a football while I sit on the bench to read my book. When we arrive at the other side of the park, we all enjoy a little browse in the bookshop then a wander around Greenwich market. On our way home we may be persuaded to pop in the Maritime museum or to buy an ice-cream!
I am so grateful for days like this and for living in this wonderful pocket of South East London.
Thank you to all of our contributors for their photos and thoughts. From Victoria Park Market to Greenwich, there’s so much inspiration here for a Sunday well-spent in the city.
This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments and mini challenges in living better, not faster. February’s theme is Slow Sundays and aims to put the self-care back into the traditional day of rest.
Founded by Carlo Petrini in the 1980s, the slow food movement began as a reaction to the perceived threat to Italian culinary traditions after the planned opening of a McDonald’s in the heart of Rome. Over thirty years later, the slow living movement encompasses more than food, but the ethos remains the same; living faster is not always the optimum.
Progress is often measured by efficiency and convenience. And
as consumers, we’ve become accustomed to both the speed and choice which comes
with such progress. Many of life’s answers (fact-checked, or not) are only a
Google away. Global news floods our smartphones as it happens. Our supermarkets
stock fresh produce from around the world, regardless of the season. We can
order measured-out meal kits or simply throw a ready-meal in the microwave.
Rather than seeing these developments purely as ways to simplify our lives, the slow living movement suggests they can also complicate them. Instead of making conscious decisions, we find ourselves on auto-pilot and consuming without really reflecting on the impact of our choices.
Speaking to the Independent now a decade ago, Petrini claimed, “The idea of the modern has been superseded; the challenge today is to return to the small scale, the handmade, to local distribution – because today what we call ‘modern’ is out of date.”
Petrini’s statement was a reaction to our culture of convenience. Today, it is more pertinent than ever, reminding us how we passively consume, whether that’s social media on our smartphones or single-use packaging.
How slowing down can help you live more sustainably
Approximately 90.5% of plastic waste produced has never been recycled. This estimate revealed in the journal Science Advances was dubbed The Royal Statistical Society’s statistic of the year for 2018. Their choice reflects the growing conversation around waste from single-use plastics and the importance of tackling our throwaway culture.
In 2015, plastic packaging waste amounted to 47% of all plastic waste produced globally.
It’s estimated that we consume between one and five trillion plastic bags a year – five trillion bags equates to almost 10 million bags per minute and if laid flat, this quantity would cover an area twice the size of France.
Styrofoam containers (which also reportedly contain carcinogenic materials) can take over 1,000 years to decompose.
By 2050, it’s estimated that 99% of marine birds will have ingested plastic.
It costs approximately €630 million per year to clean up Europe’s beaches and shores.
While governments work on improving waste management systems and consider bans and levies on certain plastic items, the UN highlights the importance of policy makers to raise public awareness and change consumer behaviour. And in this, we can have an active role.
Slow living is about removing yourself from the quickened pace of daily life to make conscious decisions. In the environmental sphere, this means replacing the idea that “you don’t have time”, with “living with intent” by planning ahead to be able to consume in a more sustainable way.
For example, you could make more time to cook from scratch using local, in-season produce that doesn’t come wrapped in packaging. This could have a knock-on effect; support your local community, eat fresher food and carve out time in your day for a screen-free, mindful activity.
Or, you might choose to do some research into sustainable swaps for your go-to plastic items on supermarket shelves – many of these products are reusable, too, benefitting your wallet.
When it comes to the impact of our impulsive throwaway culture on the environment, it’s clear that it’s time to build on the counter-current that has been stirring in recent years. It’s time to live slower and make it fashionable to reuse, research and waste less.
Ingrid Opstad is the founder of popular lifestyle and interiors blog That Scandinavian Feeling. Originally from Norway, she shares inspiration for living a Scandinavian lifestyle outside of the Nordic countries.
In the following interview, Ingrid tells us what hygge really means, explains her own understanding of slow living and shares other intriguing Norwegian words. This is a valuable insight into why the Scandinavian countries continue to be rated among the happiest in the world.
That Scandinavian Feeling is a great name for a blog and clearly emotive for you. How would you describe that feeling?
“Thank you, the name came to me after moving to Italy when I started focusing on my heritage and wanted an outlet where I could share more. As I am a Norwegian living abroad and trying to find a Scandinavian feeling from my surroundings, I created the blog that Scandinavian feeling with the intention for it to represent the feeling of cosiness and calm with a Nordic simplistic and minimalistic style. The blog is a place where I share my knowledge and love for Scandinavia; it touches upon everything from interiors, design, lifestyle and hygge.
That Scandinavian feeling is a feeling that is very dear to me. It is a lot of things but at the same time also hard to explain, and I guess that’s why it is so fascinating and deep in my heart. It is not about location or origin but simply a mix of cosiness and calm. It is a warm atmosphere that invites you in and makes you feel welcome, but at the same time a cool freshness that hits you like a winter breeze. It is wrapping yourself up in a nice comfy blanket with a hot drink and a cinnamon bun. It is simplicity and minimalism, focusing on the little things in life. It is wooden houses, reindeers, knitted jumpers, fjords and mountains, hygge… all the things that remind me of Scandinavia and help me feel close to my home even though I am far away.”
Hygge has been huge in the UK over the past few years, but it’s arguably become slightly commercialised over here. If we take it back to its roots, what does it really mean?
“The concept of hygge is a way of life in Scandinavia that focuses on cosiness, comfort, warmth and togetherness. It is about enjoying those little moments that make us happy and relaxed, either on our own or with people we love. Hygge is without a doubt one of the reasons the Scandinavian countries consistently top the polls as the happiest people on earth each year.”
Does Norway have its own equivalent for hygge or Sweden’s lagom?
“What many people might not know is that hygge actually also is a Norwegian word, and we use it the same as the Danish do, just not as much. But for us Norwegians, I think the word koselig would be our own equivalent. It describes the warm feeling you get from simple pleasures in life. It can be meeting up with a good friend, cosying up under a blanket on a cold winter day with a book, a smile… Basically anything you enjoy can be referred to as koselig. We also say that if a space has a cosy atmosphere, it is koselig.”
What would be your tips for embracing that Scandinavian feeling, wherever we live?
“First of all, making sure I create a cosy atmosphere in my own home is key for me to embracing that Scandinavian feeling no matter where I am. I’ve been focusing on adding little personal elements to my house to make it more homely, little details like photos and decorative items reminding me of where I’m from. I enjoy creating my own little Scandinavian nest here in Italy; when I’m in my apartment it makes me feel like I am back home in Norway, but when I step outside I am yet again in Italy.
Another way to find that Scandinavian feeling is to discover places you feel welcomed, for me that means cafés where I can escape and relax. One of those places is the Hygge Café in Milano, it reminds me of a café you would find in Scandinavian countries with the Nordic sense of tranquil. In London I used to visit places like the Nordic Bakery or Scandinavian Kitchen regularly for cinnamon buns and hygge. Now, on my blog I regularly post about cafés or restaurants I discover with a Scandinavian feeling to help people find a place as it is always something I am on the hunt for myself when visiting new cities or countries.
Another part of that Scandinavian feeling is being close to nature, as this is a biggie for us. Friluftsliv is a Norwegian word describing the Nordic philosophy of outdoor life and encouraging you to enjoy nature, appreciate the outdoors and be active. A direct translation to English would be ‘fresh-air life’. When I go hiking in the mountains near the Alps or visit one of the many lakes here in Italy it reminds me of Scandinavia and gives me that feeling.
For me, a balance of hygge and slow living together with an active friluftsliv enjoying nature is key to a happy and healthy life and to embracing that Scandinavian feeling.”
Where’s your favourite place to shop for Scandi design?
“I am quite conscious about spending money and owning less, so I guess I browse stores more than I actually purchase items. There are a lot of great online stores I check out regularly, like for instance Finnish Design Shop, Utility Design, Cloudberry Living etc.
In London, Skandium is my favourite place to go. Last time I visited London I stopped by the Marylebone High Street store and wanted to buy everything but my suitcase was just too small… In Milano, near where I live, I tend to visit either Design Republic or the department store La Rinascente which both have an excellent selection of Nordic brands. I do also go to IKEA probably once a week, so most of my furnitures is from there since it is so affordable.
But the best places for me are always when I go back home to Norway and can visit all my favourite stores which all have great selections of Scandinavian design. So I highly recommend taking a trip to any of the Scandinavian countries.”
Do you have any morning or bedtime rituals that you follow everyday?
“I love a slow start to the day, so my morning ritual usually starts with a cuddle in bed with my dog Bowie (who is a big hygge lover), before we both get outside for some fresh air. After a walk and a long breakfast I feel refreshed and ready to tackle the day.
Both me and my boyfriend are night owls so we love staying up way too late. I have been trying to go to bed earlier lately to see if it will help me sleep better, while also making sure I drink plenty of water and wash my face before bed. I try to read and have downloaded the app Headspace (after your recommendation) which I am planning to start using as my new bedtime ritual.”
What does slow living mean to you?
“Slow living to me is about taking time in your daily life to focus on your own well-being and happiness. It is a different way to face the day and appreciate everything that surrounds us. The importance of taking our time, to chat, to spend time with people who make us feel good, all without rushing. It is closely linked to hygge I would say. Sometimes our everyday life can feel so busy, but I believe taking a slower approach and focusing on the small joys is essential.
When I lived in London and worked in a busy office I used to feel quite stressed. When it comes to slow living I have learned a lot from the Italians, they can be quite relaxed and easy going on many aspects of life which is something I discovered while living here. When it comes to food for instance, Italians always sit at the dinner table and slow down for as long as possible. Something I am now happily adopting in my everyday life.”
Do you have a favourite quote or motto that inspires you?
“My favourite sentence that always stays in my head is “remember to enjoy the little things” – simple but so true. It relates both to hygge and that Scandinavian feeling, a reminder to make sure we focus on those little everyday things that might otherwise be forgotten. For me, the little things like stroking my dog, taking five minutes to enjoy a coffee or going for a walk are the things that makes me feel happy and inspired.”
Thank you to Ingrid for sharing so much insight on the way she lives and how we can each embrace that Scandinavian feeling in London and beyond. What she herself has learnt about slow living since moving to Italy shows us that we have something to gain from the traditions of each and every culture around the world.
You can follow That Scandinavian Feeling on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for more Scandi insights and images like those she shared for this post.
The borough of Richmond upon Thames, home to the capital’s largest royal park, is a green oasis ten miles south west of central London. Without leaving zone 4, visitors enjoy riverside views and a world-renowned botanical garden. Not to mention, plenty of food spots to while away a slow weekend morning or afternoon. For a breath of fresher air and a change of scenery, spending a Sunday in Richmond ticks all the boxes.
Richmond Park is a Sunday morning hotspot in this area of London. You’ll find it packed with cyclists, dogs, couples and families, all getting some exercise and hoping to see one of the park’s famous grazing deer. If it wasn’t for the city skyline above the treetops, you could easily be forgiven for forgetting you were in London.
A benefit for those living outside of Richmond is that there are free car parks; they fill up fast, though. For a National Trust-esque breakfast (pastries and a £7.50 full English) or cup of tea, visit the stunning Pembroke Lodge, a Georgian mansion with views across the Thames Valley.
The River Thames flows for over ten miles through the borough and is arguably one of the area’s biggest draws, especially in the summer. The restaurants, pubs and lawns that line the riverside make for a relaxing place to enjoy a couple of drinks and watch numerous people and dogs passing by.
If you’re familiar with Henley-on-Thames, home of the Royal Regatta, Richmond is its London cousin. And much like in Henley, rowers and boats are a common sight. You can even jump aboard a boat and cruise down the Thames to Hampton Court.
After a stroll along the riverside and across a few grassy footpaths (yes, even in London!), you will eventually come across the original Petersham Nurseries down a stony lane.
The cafe, restaurant, lifestyle shops and plant nursery are a joy to discover and re-discover each time you visit. The rustic-meets-luxe home products are carefully sourced and visitors are encouraged to draw inspiration from the beauty of nature. The menus are as sustainable and seasonal as possible and the atmosphere akin to dining in a good friend’s courtyard garden.
Richmond Brunch Spots
Nestled among the town centre’s upmarket shopfronts, there’s no shortage of places to eat. The Ivy Cafe will always deliver an enjoyable brunch, as will New York-inspired small brasserie chain Jackson + Rye.
Somewhere particularly apt for a slow Sunday brunch, however, is No 1a Duke Street. This Slow Living LDN. favourite boasts calming interiors and large glass doors that open up onto a courtyard, inviting the outside in, and vice versa.
Duck Pond Market
For a bit of sustainable shopping, Richmond’s Duck Pond Market takes place at Heron Square each weekend. You’ll often find the foodie market (Saturdays) and the artisan market (Sundays), filled with stalls from local makers and London independents.
The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew
A little outside of the town of Richmond, you’ll find Kew Gardens. An oasis of green that deserves a whole day – or at very least an afternoon – of exploration itself. There are so many things to do at Kew – it is, after all, London’s largest UNESCO World Heritage Site. From palm houses conserving endangered plant species to a treetop walkway, Kew offers something different during every season.
This town and its borough offer an escape from inner-city life when you haven’t the time to travel somewhere truly rural. From parks to palm houses, a Sunday spent in Richmond is a Sunday well-spent.