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Top five: Places for people-watching

Image © Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

Sit back, relax and enjoy the company of a thousand strangers

Whether you’re a budding author, an actor researching for a part or just like being somewhere busy, these venues all provide great spots to sit back, relax and enjoy the company of a thousand strangers. So bring a book, put your feet up and enjoy.

The Southbank

When the weather is good, there is simply no place in London quite like the Southbank. The sheer diversity and contrast of its offerings, from relatively upmarket restaurants to the famed (and threatened with closure) skate park attracts a whole range of people. Sit on a bench outside the National Theatre and bask in the view of the Thames, Parliament, Somerset House and St. Paul’s. And whilst you’re down there why not enjoy the Southbank Centre’s Festival of Neighbourhood? The event covers the entire area, and includes a temporary Thames-side beach and a number of arty seats dotted around for you to relax on. The Festival also incorporates London Wonderground, which returns for its second year with its line-up of circus, cabaret and comedy.

The tube

There is nothing quite like the tube for experiencing commuter cold-ness. Tumble amongst the stony-faced hoards during the rush hour to see some real characters, or ride at the weekend to be surrounded by tourists trying to figure out that darned tube map. Whether you’re jammed into somebody’s armpit or able to stretch out on an off-peak service, there will always be plenty of people. Or brave the late-night tube, as charging drunkards rush to catch the very last train as if it’s the final helicopter out of Saigon – it will certainly begin to feel like that. For those who make it: a strong sense of relief. For those who don’t: the horror of the nightbus. So even if you’re stuck on a tube without a book or a newspaper your journey need not be dull. Just don’t make eye contact. Never make eye contact.

Camden Lock

This lovely piece of north London straddles Regent’s Canal, in the heart of bustling Camden. Perch on a bench by the towpath, or sit in one of the numerous cafes and bars, and if you’re lucky enjoy the sunshine. If you wander along the canal you’ll pass the Pirate Castle, which runs a kayaking and canoeing club, and eventually get to Regent’s Park itself. Back at the Lock the nearby market can be excellent to find that book you always wanted to read, or to pick up a present for a friend or partner. At night-time it becomes a lively hub, when the clubs and bars open for the evening.

Speakers’ Corner

Since the 19th century Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park has been a focal point for debate and discussion. These days you never know who might be speaking, but you can have no doubt it will be interesting, stimulating or at least entertaining. Depending on the speaker and their topic of discussion, the surrounding area can either be deserted or occupied by a significant crowd. A great place to see some truly interesting characters: all in the beautiful surroundings of one of London’s greatest public parks.

The British Museum

Atriums don’t get much more dramatic than that found at the heart of the British Museum. Known to most as the Great Court, it was redesigned at the turn of the millennium to create the sweeping glass roof that exists today. Surrounding the central reading room, it is now the largest covered square in Europe. Relax there with a book and wander into as many of the fascinating exhibits as take your fancy. Or grab a coffee and slice of cake from the Museum café. Either way, there’s something about being in such an enormous yet enclosed space that you should experience.

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