An Introvert's Guide to London: 10 Ways to Recharge

Dec 8, 2015 1:30:00 PM / by Stephanie Sadler

Yes, CAPA global cities are bursting with people from around the globe and are inevitably full of social and networking opportunities. They're also home to some pretty amazing quieter places though, and are host to tons of activities that give the introverts among us a chance to recharge and perhaps discover another, more peaceful, side of a bustling metropolis. Here are 10 of our favorites in London:

1. HEAD FOR NATURE. London is a surprisingly green city so you if you're missing nature, you won't have far to go to feel like you've left the city completely behind. Try the woodland trails and plantation of Richmond Park where it's common to see deer grazing in the grass. Another sprawling green space with trails through the trees is Hampstead Heath. Or, closer to CAPA, there's Hyde Park with its swan-filled Serpentine. Head east for Greenwich and take a moment to stand on the Prime Meridian. Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park is a pocket of peacefulness, as is the smaller St. Luke's Gardens in Chelsea and Pheonix Park near Covent Garden. For something a bit different, head to the quiet Wetlands Wildlife Park just south of the Thames in Barnes to feed the otters, Spitalfields City Farm or Muschute Farm for cows standing against a surreal backdrop of city skyscrapers, or take a 4.5 mile hike along Parkland Walk which runs the length of an old rail line from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace.

London by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist
Photo: London's Richmond Park by Stephanie Sadler 

2. WALK THROUGH A CEMETERY. Cemeteries in London don't always mean a somber atmosphere. In fact, many are used as running paths by locals or provide benches where workers sit to enjoy their lunch. Admire the tombstones from centuries past and watch the wildlife scurry over the stones. You'll see plenty of squirrels, birds and butterflies alongside many different types of wildflowers and wild berries. London is home to the Magnificent Seven, many of which offer tours, but you're free to walk through them on your own as well. In Earl's Court near CAPA, there's the romantically overgrown Brompton Cemetery. Head north for Highgate Cemetery to see the resting places of Karl Marx, Douglas Adams and George Eliot among many others. Try Kensal Green which was inspired by the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. If you're interested in religious or social history, try Abney Park in Stoke Newington, an area known for its religious dissidents. Scattered across the city, there are tons of others. They are peaceful places, but do go during daylight hours. 

London by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist
Photo: Fulham Palace Road Cemetery by Stephanie Sadler

3. COZY UP IN A CAFE. Carve out a little me-time with a coffee or tea and a book in one of London's many cafes. Some, like Booklyn Coffee on Commercial Street in Shoreditch, have great windows for people watching. Others, like Scootercaffe in Waterloo, have secret dim basement nooks with music from decades past. Some are just plain quirky like the upper floor of The Bridge in Shoreditch. Some have excellent treats to accompany your tea or coffee like those savory muffins in Sacred Cafe just off of Carnaby Street. If you're a cat lover, head to Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium in Shoreditch to pet a furry feline while you sip your latte. For a breakfast break, try the Porridge Cafe in Hackney or Cereal Killer on Brick Lane. If you want a really different experience, try The Attendant, a cafe built in a restored Victorian toilet. There's also Ziferblat on Old Street where you pay 5p a minute but have access to an espresso machine, books to read, records to play and, importantly, unlimited peanut butter on toast. We could go on, but we'll let you discover the rest on your own! No doubt you will. 

London by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist
Photo: A London cafe by Stephanie Sadler

4. RELEASE SOME ENERGY. What better excuse for a bit of alone time than "I'm going for a run!" or a bike ride or a yoga class. Take your pick! London has a great public bike scheme that anyone can use. Just make sure you know your traffic rules or stick to the bike paths that run through the parks. If cycling's not your thing, join a class that doesn't require interaction like yin yoga at TriYoga, for example, or brush up on Pilate skills at your local gym. In the summertime, there's the option of renting a paddle boat in the Serpentine or heading to one of London's lidos or the outdoor swimming pools on Hampstead Heath if you're game for a slightly murkier dip. Failing that, pull on your sneakers and start walking. London is a huge city to explore and more often than not, wandering the streets by foot will help you see and understand so much more than public transportation...and you get that exercise!

London by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist
Photo: Biking in the City of London by Stephanie Sadler

5. CHECK OUT THE MUSEUMS & GALLERIES. You can find a museum or gallery to suit just about every interest in London and they're a wonderful introvert activity that gives you a bit of space as well as a chance to learn a bit more about the city. There are, of course, the most well known like the Victoria and Albert Gallery, the Natural History Museum, the Saatchi Gallery and the Science Museum near CAPA and the Tate Modern and the National Portrait Gallery not far away. A few of the quirky options include the Fan Museum in Greenwich, the opulent interiors of the Leighton House Museum in Holland Park which include an Arab Hall which amazing Islamic tiles, the nostalgia-inducing Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in Notting Hill, the Ragged School Museum in Mile End where the conditions of a schoolhouse that taught impoverished children in 1800s Britain were recreated, and the Horniman Museum in Lewisham most famous for its huge stuffed walrus. The Telegraph has an amazing list (part 1 and part 2) with other options. For art, try the Halcyon Gallery on Bond Street and head east for White Cube in Shoreditch and a few that really love street art: The Brick Lane Gallery, Stolen Space and Village Underground.

London by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist

6. TAKE YOUR CAMERA FOR A STROLL. Challenge yourself to go outside, to whichever area of the city interests you, and really observe the world around you. It could be somewhere you go every day - near CAPA or your internship site - or somewhere you've never been before. It doesn't matter so much where it is as long as you're present in the moment. Leave your phone in your bag and keep a camera in your hand instead. Walk slowly, stopping along the way to take in your surroundings. Notice funny shop names, the diversity of the people around you, the peeling paint on the bridge over the Thames or the freshly painted graffiti on an East London wall. Look down and you might see one of the 400 pieces of chewing gum art that Ben Wilson created on the Millennium Bridge. Look up and you might see blue plaques attached to the houses where famous people used to live or architectural details that offer insight into the city's past. Take photos to document your experiences. Tag us on Instagram #CAPAStudyAbroad (when you get home!). Create a walk of your own, join a walking tour if you're in the mood for company, ask someone from the CAPA team for their suggestions or map out your own route with  

London by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist
Photo: Denmark Street by Stephanie Sadler

7. HIT THE BOOKS. If you're a book lover, join one of London's monthly Silent Reading Parties where, sure, you're around other people, but you're spending an hour reading your own book, of your own choosing, with no pressure to talk about it afterwards. It's a nod to the old days and catching on quickly. If that's not of interest, spend a few hours checking out The British Library which houses an impressive 150 million books in just about every language, adding 3 million to their collection every year. In other words, plenty to explore, a great place to do research and it has some cool stuff like Beatles manuscripts and Leonardo da Vinci's Notebook, not to mention the Magna Carta. There are self-guided literary walks to explore in London (like this one near CAPA). For bookshops, try The London Bookshop Map for 115 independents. Don't miss Daunt in Marylebone, a beautiful bookshop arranged by area of the world. For secondhand, try the outdoor Southbank Book Market, the Book and Comic Exchange in Notting Hill, Skoob Books on Marchmont and any of the local charity shops.  

London by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist
Photo: British Library by Stephanie Sadler

8. EXPERIENCE THE CULTURE. Beyond the museums and galleries above, London has some amazing cultural experience if you know where to look. Introverts, religious or not, might enjoy a quiet peak into one of the city's houses of worship of any denomination. Westminster Cathedral is a popular one for visitors as is St. Paul's Cathedral where you can climb up to top for a breathtaking view. One of the best places to experience life as locals know it is to wander through one of the markets. There's a Sunday farmer's market in a Marylebone parking lot that has few local visitors and the North End Road market on a Saturday is a fantastic place to pick up cheap fruits and veggies. For the bigger markets, there's Brick Lane and Spitalfelds, Portobello, Borough Market, Greenwich and Covent Garden, but give yourself a break from the crowds and take a little stroll down the nearby side streets for a breather if you decide to go. Other cool experiences include a walk through the Huguenot time capsule that is the Dennis Severs' House, a wander through the hidden Silver Vaults in Chancery Lane, admire the beautiful interior of the Liberty building on Regents Street or, among many other options, tour the Whitechapel Bell Foundry - makers of both Big Ben and the Liberty Bell. 

London by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist
Photo: St. Paul's Cathedral by Stephanie Sadler

9. SEE A SHOW. Whether it's a film, live theater, a comedy night or a musical performance, there's no need for interaction when you head out to see a show. From the big screens at the IMAX to cozier movie experiences at the Everyman Theatre to the Ciné Lumière in South Kensington which is at the French Cultural Institute, for English speakers there are many to choose from. In the summertime, venues across the city have outdoor screenings complete with food trucks. Also worth a visit is the British Film Institute where you can watch 1,000 hours of free film and TV in the Mediatheque. You'll find live theater galore in the city's West End. Check out The Telegraph's top tips and tricks for getting your hands on cheap tickets! The best city in the world for stand up, check out London's comedy scene too. Time Out has a guide and up to date listings each week. If you have cash to splash, the Royal Opera House hosts some incredible performances from opera to ballet. There's a lot of free music in the city too, so anyone can enjoy it. Time Out has a list of upcoming free shows from classical to blues to jazz and just about anything else you're in the mood to listen to while you unwind. 

London by Stephanie Sadler, Little Observationist
Photo: The Royal Opera House by Stephanie Sadler

10. JOIN THE INTROVERTS SOCIAL CLUB. It might seem like a bit of an oxymoron to suggest a social club as an activity for introverts, but this one is for all of those who are like-minded which means there's no pressure. You might even enjoy it, and if not, no one is going to question your excuse to leave nor is there reason to make one at all. Their rules are stated in the meet up group

1.    Relax, we’re all introverts here.
2.    You can leave whenever you want. No excuse necessary. A simple “well, I'm off, see you next time” will do.
3.    Silence doesn’t always have to be uncomfortable.
4.    ‘Over-sharing’ is ok. It’s what we do sometimes.
5.    Introverts don’t judge each other.
6.    It’s great to buy others a drink, but it’s also fine to just get a drink for yourself. It’s all good.

They plan events that include everything from a nighttime visit to the Science Museum to an afternoon of board games to a weekend walking adventure in the Canary Islands. 


Find out about the CAPA London program

Topics: London, England, Practical Study Abroad Advice