London is an amazing city. I first visited when I was 16 and instantly fell in love with the hustle and bustle, the expensive coffee, and the opportunities ‘round every corner. It’s not perfect, but I now call it home and have been living here since the first lockdown.
I haven’t been everywhere or seen everything (who has?), so this is very much not a comprehensive guide, but instead a hand-picked selection of my favourite places, spaces and eateries which might be of interest to fellow city freelancers.
If you’ve never bought authentic Italian dessert from a man in a red phone box, you’re missing out on one of London’s best-kept secrets. It’s also one of the cheapest lunches I’ve had so far in London, so perfect for a hungry freelancer out for a stroll in Russell Square.
Their savouries, including both meat and veggie lasagnes and arancinis, are amazing, and they do meal deals and discounts for students/NHS workers! Even at full price it’s just over £5 for a full portion of tiramisu and a hot/iced coffee. They make special flavours of tiramisu each day too, like coconut and even banana, so there’s something for every sweet tooth.
Recently, they opened a coffee bar just two minutes down the road from the original phone box, with tables and an indoor space, so you can enjoy these treats in all weathers.
They do loyalty cards for free coffees, so of course I’ve been way too many times. As a plus, the guy who runs the phone box is really nice. Check them out on Instagram @walkmisu.
Compared to the relative quietude of the one Costa in the rural town where I grew up, the noise and hassle of your average London café is simply an unrealistic setting for actually completing any work.
However, if you’ve ever thought for a moment about wanting to work somewhere other than your living room/bedroom/home office, the Fugitive Motel is a compromise you should consider. They have a spacious bar and backroom with outside seating and heaters, hot drinks for daytime working, and a great evening menu for socialising afterwards.
The best part for me is that they were running a deal where you could get a meeting room and unlimited coffee for a reasonably low price, which is perfect for a meeting with clients, interviewees or other freelancers. You’ll need to book, but a great solution to the question of in-person meetings.
Need a break from your screen but have no idea what to do with it?
Why not check out my favourite art exhibit to date: the Sculpture in the City tour. A self-guided walk with an audio tour in the app, this exhibit is spread through the financial offices between Liverpool Street Station and Fenchurch Station. There's something for everyone, and it is really beautiful.
I won't spoil any of the surprises, but my favourite is Oliver Bragg's In Loving Memory series.
Everyone’s got their own opinion on whether to use co-working spaces, what their merits are, and whether they’re worth the (often extortionate) price. I can't afford a whole office or studio in London (as much as I would love one) and my living room remains free, albeit a lot less exciting.
Co-working offices seemed to be the perfect compromise, but the market for them has not been easy to navigate. I’ve tried several schemes for reduced rents in co-working spaces and had trouble with all of them: they either want too much of your time or money in return or don’t actually live up to their promises.
That said, Work.Life seem to have found a good compromise. Their new Flex membership - essentially, pay-as-you-use access to any of their co-working spaces - means you can use an office for an hour for about £6 across London, which is perfect for when you want an afternoon away from home but don't want to commit to a pricey monthly contract.
That membership also gets you a discount on meeting rooms, use of the WiFi and refreshments, and access to their community events. Not bad.
As a freelancer, your mental health is paramount.
Even if you don’t have any conditions or neurodiversities, freelancing can take a toll on your mental well-being. It can be tiring, lonely, and difficult to maintain a meaningful work-life balance when your office is also your living room.
That’s why it’s so important to have rituals and routines that give you some outdoor time, some time away from screens, and some old-fashioned human interaction (even if it’s just with the cashier when you buy coffee to keep your fingers warm).
The best way to do that, in my opinion, is to investigate your local parks. London is one of the greenest cities in Europe and has some great parks, even in the city centre: big ones like Hyde Park; tiny ones like Finsbury Circus; oddly shaped ones like the Olympic Park; and even some that are mostly flowerbeds, like Leathermarket Gardens.
Victoria Park is my local park and I love it– it’s big, green, full of interesting trees, and has a huge pond with lots of waterfowl.
Better yet, it contains two amazing cafés – the Hub and the Pavilion. The latter is my favourite because they do amazing Sri Lankan food. When you go, try their oat milk chai. Not to sound like a hipster or anything, but it is very good.
Where would you put on your list?