Places in London that Feel Like You Have Escaped the City

Sometimes London feels a bit too big and you may want a break from all the madness from the city. Luckily, you don’t have to always travel far to feel like you’ve gotten away! Here is the list of my favorite places to go when I feel that I want to take a breather from the business and vastness of wonderful London.

Holland Park:

Holland Park is a real treat, a place that has an atmosphere unlike any other.  With multiple different themed gardens inspired by countries around the world, you can find your fancy in at least one of these gardens!

Kyoto Garden
Kyoto gardens at Holland Park

Kyoto gardens present a tranquil area in which you can relax on a bench, watching the carp swim along in the pond while listening to the calming waterfall.  Or you could head over to the Dutch gardens and enjoy the bright tulips, organized in beautiful patterns.  Who would have thought that this would all be present within the city? Whatever sort of atmosphere you are looking for, I am sure you can find it somewhere in Holland Park!

The British Museum:

The British Museum has so much culture and history under its great glass tile roof, one could get lost and forget where they are.  The museum is also known as the “World Museum”. This is because there are so many different archaeological artifacts from around the world, from Aboriginal Australia, to China, to Canada. Thus, there’s so much to see and learn.  You can get lost in all the history that you forget you’re in the present!

Millennium Bridge

Now, you may recognize this bridge from a Harry Potter film, but this bridge is still just as great and camera-worthy in real life!  Walk along the river Thames and take in the beautiful sights of central London. You will be snapping pictures that will make all of your friends and family jealous.  The steel suspension footbridge was built as part of the UK’s millennium celebrations.  Check out the famous “wobbly bridge” and see views of the London skyline that almost seem distant although in the middle of the city.  You will feel as if you are in a movie while on this movie star bridge.

Millennium Bridge, City of London
View above Millennium Bridge

Victoria and Albert Museum:

Much like the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum is not only a museum filled with many different amazing artifacts and cultural pieces. The building itself is stunning!  You can enjoy both the wonderful exterior of the building, with the grand red brick and perfect arches. There is also the sophisticated, bright interior that helps to showcase all the artifacts. 

No matter what mood you are looking for, you can get it just right with all of the different exhibits.  The V&A have many classic European sculptures, but also different works from all over Asia. You can once again get lost in history when at this museum.

Neal’s Yard:

If you would like a pop of color, you absolutely need to check out Neal’s Yard!  Tucked into an ally way near seven dials, this colorful getaway is the perfect place to get that fun atmosphere.  It is one of the most vibrant areas that you can find in central London. With such fun colors, what better place to hang out?  This colorful escape makes you forget about the hustle and bustle of the city that is just steps away.

Neal's Yard

Hampstead Heath:

Hampstead’s protected wild park is a wonderful grassy public space that you can just go and relax on.  It is located in Northern London and consists of 320 hectares of land, including many different biking and hiking trails.  The view of the Central London from the park is phenomenal.  With the wooded areas and meadows surrounding you, you will forget that you are a short tube ride from the main part of the city. 

Kynance Mews:

Yet another South Kensington gem, Kynance Mews is a beautiful picture spot in the spring and summer that isn’t extremely popular.  You can always go to a park to see blooming flowers, but at Kynance Mews, you get to experience wonderful cobblestone streets, traditional architecture, all enhanced by various flowers and trees.  It is a quaint area that is the perfect spot for some fun and springy photos that feel far gone from the touristy areas.

A walkway on Kynance Mews

Enjoy this blog post? Check out our other posts as well here. You can also join us on our treasure hunts, available at both the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum and discover wonderful treasures from around the world with some friendly competition!

If you’re visiting London, there’s so much to see (and do)! But where can you find great photo spots in London that will look amazing on Instagram and be a cool memory to look back on? I’ve chosen some unique places for you to visit so get your cameras ready! 

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Trafalgar Square is a central gathering place you might have been to many times, but do you know everything about it? Read on to discover tidbits about its present, past, and some quirks (surveillance lamp attachment, anyone?).

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Upon first glance, you might expect this alleyway to be filled with witches and wizards shopping for wands at Ollivander’s, school robes at Madame Malkin’s, or buying new spell books at Flourish and Botts. Unfortunately, this charming street is not Diagon Alley, the center of London’s Wizarding World in Harry Potter series, it is actually Goodwin’s Court!

Goodwin’s Court! Photo from Wikimedia Commons, Davric, CC BY-SA 4.0.  

Located a short walk away from the Leicester Square tube station, Goodwin’s Court was clearly a key inspiration for the wizarding world! If Diagon Alley isn’t designed to look like Goodwin’s Court, then Knockturn Alley (the dark wizard’s Diagon) was definitely inspired by this London alleyway. It is believed that the Harry Potter film team could not use Goodwin’s Court as a filming location, due to the fact that it was too narrow, but they took major inspiration from the alleyway still. 

Can you imagine waving your magic want in Goodwin’s Court? Photo from E2 Architecture.  

Take a look at these clips from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (or Sorcerer’s Stone in America) and from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Can you see where Goodwin’s Court provided inspiration?

Diagon Alley Scene – Harry Potter

Diagon Alley – Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets 

The Harry Potter movies aren’t the only ones to use Goodwin’s Court in some film capacity – the movie Mary Poppins Returns actually used the alleyway in a scene (click here if you’re interested in more iconic London film locations)! As Emily Blunt and Lin Manuel Miranda traipse through London with grand musical numbers, they dip into an alleyway looking for a hidden door. This alleyway, you guessed it, is Goodwin’s Court! The charming street looks just as perfect within the Great Depression era of London, as it does in a magical wizarding world! 

Check out this video: London Film Locations 2 – Covent Garden: Mary Poppins, Harry Potter, Superman and more! to get a sneak peak into the different films shot at Goodwin’s Court!

The plaque on Goodwin’s Court dates its origin back to 1690. Photo from Wikimedia Commons, John Levin, CC BY-SA 2.0. 

This charming piece of London offers a window into the past with gaslit lamps, ornate window fronts, and exclusive foot traffic fit for Charles Dickens and eras past. According to a plaque at the entrance of the alleyway tells us that Goodwin’s Court was built in 1690 (Wow!) and was previously known as Fishers Alley. The buildings are believed to be over 300 years old – older than the United States of America even!  

Goodwin’s Court is a great photo location — duel your friend as if you were Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, or click your heels in the air like Mary Poppins, Jack, and the Banks kids (you’ll get the chance to pose for a pic on our London Street Fun hunt!). This slice of history is not only a window into the past but a window into some of our favorite movies! Explore Goodwin’s Court and make a little magic of your own by adventuring out on our new London Street Fun treasure hunt! 

If you liked this blog post, you may also like our other THATMuse post Four Iconic London Film Locations as well!

You might have been to Covent Garden —the bustling tourist market sprawling in London—but do you know everything about it? From wild punk groups to fascinating shops to a sometimes-salacious history, read on to find our 5 fun facts!

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London might have more iconic landmarks than any other city in the world. Big Ben, Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye are all instantly recognisable to people all over the world, even if they’ve never so much as changed flights at Heathrow. A lot of this is down to film and TV. Hundreds of establishing shots of London’s skyline have fixed it firmly in the public imagination. Let’s have a look at some of the most famous London film locations. And once the lockdown’s over, you can go and find them yourself!

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Since I moved to London, almost 5 years ago, people have been asking me what I miss most about Italy. Well, the list is long, of course. I miss the sea, the weather and my family, for a start. But most importantly, like most Italians abroad, I miss the food. While there’s nothing like my grandma’s ragu’ or my dad’s cannoli, there are some wonderful Italian restaurants in London that make me feel (almost) at home.

As lockdown’s slowly lifting, making plans:

You’re right, during lockdown restaurants have been closed a long time. But, hey! Surely, we can make plans for when we return to the new normal! When people say that pasta and pizza are always good, no matter what you put on top of them, the heart of all Italians ache a bit… If you’ve tried some authentic Italian food, I’m sure you understand the difference between a good and a mediocre pizza. In case you don’t know where to get a real taste of Italy, let me tell you about the three best Italian restaurants London has to offer!

1. La Mia Mamma, For the Best Pasta in London

La Mia Mamma is one of my favourite Italian restaurants in London, and is definitely the home of the best pasta in London. The restaurant literally ‘imports’ Italian Mammas from all different regions of Italy. There is a rotation of moms taking over the kitchen and creating a great selection of regional dishes. Other than making fresh food every day, the mammas welcome all guests singing Italian patriotic songs or hugging you when you arrive, just like a real loving mom would do. With Italian music in the background and loud Italians debating at the tables around you, it really feels like being in the Bel Paese. Located in Chelsea, I usually enjoy a nice walk after dinner. And remember, they have a super long waiting list, so make sure to reserve your table far in advance!

Until restaurants are allowed to open, La Mia Mamma are also offering deliveries of “survival packs”, DIY packs and more!

Fresh pasta, tomatoes, cheese and other Italian food

2. Santa Maria Pizzeria, for Authentic Italian Pizza

Is there anything that makes Italians happier than eating a real Napolitan pizza? The answer is no! We might be able to get used to London’s windy and rainy weather, but not to a life without pizza. Angelo and Pasquale, both from Naples, imported a wood-fired oven from Italy (without which you wouldn’t be able to make the perfect pizza). Soon afterwards, they opened Santa Maria in the borough of Ealing. I guarantee that the pizza you eat there tastes just like the ones you would eat in the top pizzerias of Naples. One of the things I love the most about Santa Maria is that it is a place for anyone! From penniless students to famous singers, to politicians and VIPs, this pizzeria welcomes everyone. Also, Santa Maria is the place to go if you’ve had a light lunch and need your daily carbs intake: the pizza is HUGE!

Of course, all of the Santa Maria Pizzeria restaurants are currently closed. But you can still order online through Deliveroo!

3. Ristorante Orsini, a Delightful Italian Restaurant in London

Ristorante Orsini is another authentic Italian restaurant in London that I love. This small, family-run restaurant is perfect for both lunch and dinner. Located in South Kensington, many people like to go there during their break from a visit to either the V&A or the Natural History Museum. There’s a familial vibe and it is incredibly hard to choose from the wide selection of authentic Italian dishes that they offer. Of their delicious plates, I tried their amazing homemade pasta, and fell in love with their tagliolini, served with plenty of seafood. They’re also famous for their ‘fritto misto’ (fried fish). But… perhaps my favourite thing was the dessert! So… if you’ve got room, don’t forget to order their gelato or Tiramisu’.

Sadly, this restaurant is fully closed during lockdown. But once restaurants and bars open again, it will be important to support local businesses, so remember to stop by!

Transforming your Home into an Italian Restaurant

It’s true that it’s possible to eat good Italian food in London. But… be careful! While almost every single restaurant in London serves pasta, finding ‘real pasta’ in London is not easy. I’m looking forward to being able to visit my favourite Italian restaurants, but for now I’m cooking plenty of Italian dishes at home. For those of you are not lucky enough to be on lockdown with an Italian, don’t worry! Cooking Italian food is really easy. If the ingredients are fresh, they won’t need much elaboration.

Need some ideas for fun things to do at home (apart from making pizza, of course)? Subscribe to our blog for some inspiration!

Our THATMuse Dinosaur and Extinct beasts Treasure Hunt focus on the incredible treasures inside the Natural History Museum’s 80 million strong collection, but this blog contains 7 fascinating facts about the natural history museum building itself.  

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Introducing our London KidPack!

We are very excited to announce the arrival of our new London KidPack! Joining our ever-successful Paris KidPack, it is full of fun activities, puzzles and creative fun. Add one as a bonus after a family treasure hunt at any of our three London museums, and keep the discovery going!

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Cafés at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Gamble room by Joseph Gamble in the V&A restaurant. Beatiful white marble and gold columns and decoration.
Gamble room, James Gamble, 1865 – 78. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Fittingly for a museum of art and design, there are three beautiful and inspiring places to eat, drink and rest inside the V&A. The Main Cafe is also the worlds very first museum cafe, with its three rooms still in their original design. All of these can also make great places for score tallying and prize giving after you THATMuse Treasure Hunt!

V&A garden cafe, with tables and chairs under umbrellas near trees and water feature
The Garden Café. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Garden Café

In one corner of the V&A’s beautiful garden is the relaxed Garden Café. Serving coffees, cakes and other refreshments in the heart of the buildings, its the perfect place to admire the building’s uniquely beautiful architecture.
We often begin our Travel Trail and Fashion Hunts here, (weather permitting!) and it can be a lovely place to dip your toes in the pool and enjoy the sun.

The Garden Café is open all year, weather dependent in December and January.

Sleek glass front of Sackler Courtyard cafe with white tables and chairs outside V&A
The Courtyard Café. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Courtyard Café

The new Courtyard Café at the Exhibition Road entrance is a stylish place to grab a bite, right next to the exciting special exhibition gallery. Depending o time of day it serves healthy breakfast pastries, open sandwiches and salads for lunch, as well as an interesting selection of British craft beer and sparkling wine.

Opening times:
Daily: 8.30 – 17.45
Friday: 8.30 – 20.30

Please note: occasionally the Courtyard Café will not open until 10.00 due to museum events.

Green decorated walls and stained glass windows in Morris room, 1866 – 8 Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Morris room, 1866 – 8. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Main Café
Gamble, Morris and Poynter Rooms

The V&A’s main cafe is actually the world’s first museum cafe! First built in the 1860’s, long before London’s other museums invested in catering, the South Kensington Museum as it was then known was a bit more of a trek out of the city proper than it is today. So the founding Director Henry Cole decided a restaurant would attract more visitors and aid in their enjoyment of the wonderful collection. He hired three eminent designers to decorate the rooms;  James Gamble, William Morris and Edward Poynter.
These incredible rooms now host a huge range of hot and cold meals, drinks and treat. You can even book a replica High Tea that Queen Victoria herself enjoyed!

Opening hours:
Daily: 10.00 – 17.10
Friday: 10.00 – 21.15

Blue porcelain wall decoration, stained glass windows and iron fireplace in Poynter room V&A
The Poynter Room
The comfortable spacious T. Rex Grill seating area
T. Rex Grill eating area

The T. Rex Grill

– Located in the Green Zone           
– Hours: 11:00 – 16:00
– Very cool display with moving dinos. A large space, great for large or small groups to meet up for score tallying (more of a sit-down place)
– Children welcome! Lots of space
– Offers burgers, steaks and pizzas at a pretty affordable price range- prices £10 and up; also offers desserts

The Kitchen's ordering bar
The Kitchen’s ordering bar

The Kitchen

– Located in the Red Zone         
– Hours: 10:00 – 17:00 
– Very kid friendly – offers lunch and activity packs to keep them entertained while parents eat (or tally up their hunts!) sit down place 
– Offers a variety of food from sandwiches, wraps and salads, pizza and burgers; also has dessert options (similar to the coffee house)           
– Prices range from £8.50- £12.50 for adults and £4.25- £5 for the children’s menu (kids under 12)         
– Adult Meal Deal: main, dessert, soft drink for £12.95            
– Kids Meal Deal: main, dessert, soft drink for £8   

Muffins on a cake stand in the Natural History Museum's The Coffee House
Great-looking muffins at the Coffee House

The Coffee House

– Located in the Red Zone (Lasting Impressions Gallery)            
– Hours: 10:00- 17:00            
– Offers pastries and baked goods ranging from £4-£6; perfect for grabbing a quick bite on the hunt (or some caffeine to refuel) or for small groups to score tally; better for on-the-go and for groups without children        

Dining area at the Natural History Museum's Central Café
Dining area at the Central Café

Central Café

– Located in the Blue Zone
– Hours: 10:00- 17:30
– Very family friendly; offers high chairs for babies and toddlers
– Mostly offers sandwiches and salads, but has on the go snacks like crisps and fruit if you need to stop and refuel; this is mostly on-the-go

Darwin centre research building lit with neon green

Darwin Centre Café

– Located in the Orange Zone            
– Hours: 10:00- 17:00 
– Very similar to the Central Café in terms of food – offers sandwiches and salads for more filling options, but also has crisps and a variety of baked goods like caked and pastries

The THATMuse blog has content pieces about the actual museums where you’re hunting, but we’ve also amassed plenty of recommendations of what to do in Paris and London apart from your museum time. Check out our Travel Tips category on the blog for pieces from kid-friendly parks, cafes and toyshops to romantic cocktail lounges near our museums. 

This post, which first appeared in the Telegraph, was written by expat Daisy de Plume, founder of THATMuse.

Is your notion of Christmas a Dickensian delight in London – or a stroll down the Passage des Princes in Paris? Which European capital is more Christmasy? From ice skating to toy shopping, there’s plenty to keep families entertained over the festive season – but which city has the best options? Daisy de Plume, mother of two and resident of both cities, lists the best Christmas-themed activites for families in London and Paris.



The labyrinthine 19th century covered passages of Paris is the perfect spot for Christmas shopping and nestled in the elegant Passage Jouffroy is a family-run toyshop called Pain d’Epices. Specialising in dollhouses, children marvel at the tiny decorated Sapin de Noel with miniature cadeaux.

The crème de la crème of the passages couvert is Passage des Princes, exclusively devoted to fun and games, from stuffed animals to art supplies and race-bikes.


Pollock’s ground floor shop has old-fashioned toys for sale

Pollock’s ground floor shop has old-fashioned toys for sale CREDIT: ALAMY Where Paris has those tiny little dollhouses, London focuses on the ginormous. At seven storeys of toys, Hamleys is the biggest toyshop in the world. It’s not to be missed for visitors, but at the height of Christmas shopping, we prefer the more intimate Pollock’s Toy Museum. Benjamin Pollock was a Victorian creator of toy theatres and the fascinating museum has been family run since the Fifties.

If you’re short on time, keep to Pollock’s ground floor shop where there are reasonably priced wooden toys.

Paris: 1



After a festive meal, where better to burn off energy than on the rink in front of the Natural History Museum? London has plenty of other rinks to pirouette upon, including Skylight’s rooftop rink, with impressive city views, or cutting your crystal in the rink of the Tower of London, outside the Queen’s jewels. London rinks sell hot chocolate to warm hands and cockles after whizzing around the ice.


Usually Paris would win this one hands down, but this year there will not be a rink within the Eiffel Tower and all outdoor rinks have sadly been postponed. Instead, we head to the Zenith Theatre at La Villette to take inspiration for next year from Disney On Ice and marvel as our favourite characters perform impressive song and dance numbers on the ice. An awe-inspiring (and warmer) alternative.

London: 1

Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is a popular attraction.



West London has the lion’s share of holiday fun, from Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland to the illuminated trails through Syon Park’s arboretum, and the dazzling light shows on the glasshouse at Kew Gardens. You can even sing “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer” to the deer in Richmond Park; deer scouting gives London a leg up on this Christmas competition.


Galeries Lafayette gets spruced up for Christmas The City of Light is an apt moniker for Paris at Christmas. The illuminated cheer of Paris market streets is distinct, with family-run fromagerie and fishmongers hoisting decorated Christmas trees on top of their awnings.  Excellent decorations can be seen on rue Montorguiel (2nd), rue des Martyrs (9th), rue Cler (7th) and du Commerce (15th). If you don’t mind a bit of jostling, there’s also the theatrical Christmas windows designed for tots at Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, with raised platforms for the little ones to get a good, protected view. You don’t get that at Harrods.

London: 1




Hunkering down in the daytime to watch a Christmas movie is a delight of the holidays and London has lots of pop-up cinemas in unexpected places. After venturing through a glistening icy cave at Backyard Cinema’s Snow Kingdom you can nestle into a beanbag and enjoy family films including Home Alone and It’s a Wonderful Life.


A perfect way for the family to escape the cold (and the tourists) is to duck into a beautiful theatre to introduce the children to some hilarious silent classics. A gorgeous Art Nouveau theatre, Le Luxor has Egyptian-esque architectural features, while Le Balzac (off the Champs-Elysées) has plush red velvet seats and dramatic curtains. Both cinemas host children’s programmes, often including silent greats such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, in case you don’t speak French.

Paris: 1


Galeries Lafayette gets spruced up for Christmas


La Cuisine Paris has a fantastic selection of classes for the whole family to learn how to make a Bûche de Noël or a Galette des Rois. Children as young as five have fun getting their paws dirty kneading buttery French dough. The delicious treat to take home is a bonus!


Throughout December, Bread Ahead in London’s Borough Market hosts seasonal baking classes where you can learn how to bake mince pies, dense ginger cake and stollen together. London has plenty of places to simply ogle beautiful baked goods, including the snow-frosted gingerbread houses at The Savoy’s patisserie. While you’re there, be sure to count the baubles and crackers that festoon the glittering fir tree.

A tie!