When describing London, let’s face it, you probably use words like ‘big’, ‘crowded’ and ‘noisy’. The city of course has beautiful spots too – and there’s a whole host of pretty walks to enjoy – but calling it tranquil might be a bit of a stretch.
Not according to one new study, though. Research by parking provider SkyParkSecur has analysed factors such as the number of spas, nearby beaches, nature and wildlife tours and pollution levels, concluding that London is the sixth most tranquil holiday destination in the entire world.
The ‘nearby beaches’ category probably wasn’t London’s strong suit, but when it comes to spas and tranquil venues, you gotta hand it to the capital – it’s got both in abundance. London scored particularly well thanks to its high concentration of yoga and pilates studios. If you’re after some inspo on where to relax, here’s Time Out London’s roundup of our favourite spas.
Ever wondered what it’s like to live inside Kew Gardens? Or on a canal boat, for that matter – but not ready to commit to the nautical lifestyle? Look no further, as for the first time ever, you’ll be able to stay in what is essentially a kind of floating greenhouse in London on Airbnb.
The official name of the rental is The Floating Terrarium. No idea what a terrarium is? We don’t blame ya. Terrariums are essentially mini ecosystems of soil, stones and plants, usually incubated in decorative glass enclosures.
So, imagine one of those but on a human size and with fewer creepy crawlies – that’s what London now has. The Floating Terrarium, which is the first of its kind in the world, is moored on a canal in Hackney and features 180 plants. With all those CO2-guzzling leaves, just think how pure that air is.
The concept was brought to life by designer Mia Powell, who collaborated with paint company Lick and horticultural suppliers Patch to create a zen escape in the middle of busy Hackney. The inside was apparently designed using a soothing, natural colour scheme which harmonises with the plants. Sounds cool, eh? Here are some pics of the place.
The Floating Terrarium is also super eco-friendly, with solar panels, a compost loo and harvested and filtered canal water. The project was the result Airbnb’s $10 million OMG!Fund, which we covered way back in 2022 and essentially saw the company give out $100,000 lump sums to help bring some of the world’s most ‘out-there’ Airbnb rental ideas to life.
In practical terms, the Floating Terrarium has one bedroom, one bathroom, space for two guests and a lot of plants. It costs £250 per night – though has a two-night minimum stay – and you can book and find out more on Airbnb here.
When it comes to the variety of destinations to jet off to, us Londoners sure are lucky. With several massive airports (two of which are among the biggest in the world), there are very, very few places around on the planet that aren’t served by the capital’s air hubs.
And now British Airways, the UK’s national carrier, is launching flights from London to one of the world’s trendiest places. İzmir in Türkiye, which was recently named a must-visit destination in 2024 by Lonely Planet, will soon be served by one BA flight per week from Heathrow.
İzmir, for those not in-the-know about Turkish city break spots, is a city on the Aegean coast and Türkiye’s third-biggest metropolis. It’s got a broad sort of appeal, boasting everything from sprawling beaches and reliable sunshine to buildings crammed with Ottoman history.
Lonely Planet’s 2024 ‘best in travel’ guide praised İzmir for its ‘seaside location, fresh Aegean cuisine, and blend of rediscovered heritage and revitalized contemporary culture’. The travel guide company said it’s ‘a city that prides itself on living the good life’.
BA’s Heathrow-İzmir route will kick off in May 2024 and they’ll run throughout the summer. Currently, Londoners wanting to get to İzmir have summer services run by the likes of Tui, easyJet and Pegasus.
Over Christmas, Londoners tend to flee the city, schlepping back to their family homes in far-flung parts of the UK with much worse public transport, and not a natural wine bar in sight. But what if we told you that the Big Smoke is the most desirable spot worldwide for Christmas tourism? Perhaps Londoners would think twice about heading home for the Yuletide break with all this festive glory right on their doorsteps.
We know the world can’t wait to see you again, and we can’t wait to get back out there either. So, we rounded up 18 locals-only secrets in some of the world’s most beloved cities to help you feel like an insider, no matter where your travels take you.
### Los Angeles
– Explore a different Malibu by hitting one of its breathtaking hiking trails. Topanga Lookout Trail is perfect for all ages and is a top spot to watch a magically golden sunset. And while you’re in the hiking mood, Clouds Rest at Runyon Canyon offers one of the best views of the city. – The legendary Sunset Strip is more than its rock ‘n’ roll legacy. It’s home to Book Soup, one of LA’s largest independent bookshops. Stop by to uncover rare finds and autographed releases, or check the shop’s upcoming events for high-profile readings or celebrity happenings.
– Head to the Japanese garden of the Guimet Museum for a moment of serenity. A well-kept secret, the garden is hidden behind the heavy doors of the Hôtel d’Heidelbach. It’s home to gorgeous Japanese cherry trees, azaleas, horsetails, dwarf bamboos and even a tea pavilion. – Get a little taste of England at the Villa Léandre. While plenty of tourists visit Montmartre, it’s only those in the know who venture towards Avenue Junot-the hiding place for this Art Deco gem. The colourful, oh-so British facades will have you longing for Notting Hill in no time.
### Mexico City
– While foodies will be hard-pressed to find a disappointing meal in Mexico City, an absolute must is to eat on Paseo de la Reforma or in one of the exclusive restaurants in Polanco. The tree-lined Reforma is particularly glorious on Sundays when the boulevard is closed to motorised traffic. – La Condesa is one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in the city with its hip boutiques, five-star restaurants and beautiful parks. Don’t over-plan your visit-instead, take your time meandering through the colourful streets and green spaces to enjoy making a discovery or two.
– One of the many favourite outdoor pastimes of locals is to picnic on the banks of the River Spree. There is hardly a better place than the Insel der Jugend, and there might even be free live music if you’re lucky. – Keeping with the watery theme, you can also get a little of that Venice feeling without having to leave the city. Grab a kayak or canoe and paddle from Stößensee via Little Venice to the Havel Canal. Just don’t forget the sun cream.
– Yonge Street may be the longest street in the world, but if you’re feeling really ambitious, strap on your best walking shoes and conquer the nine miles of Scarborough Bluffs. The waterfront is home to nine remarkable parks and endless views of Lake Ontario. – Toronto is one of the world’s most multicultural cities, and its diversity opens up many delicious opportunities to appreciate all its different cultures. Take your tastebuds on a global tour through Little Italy, Chinatown, Little Portugal, Greektown, Little India, Koreatown and many more.
– Street art fans will adore Le Cours Julien. The neighbourhood is a collection of impressive public art pieces, super trendy bars and cafés, charity shops and boutiques of all kinds. Bonus: Since it’s a pedestrian zone, you can have a pastis or a beer right in the middle of an alley. – The Antiquaires District in Vauban is central, but tourists often bypass this pretty area in the shade of the Bonne Mère. Still, its picturesque alleys and staircases make for the perfect place to discover the city from another angle as it offers the most beautiful views of the city from the Jardin du Bois Sacré.
– Join the locals either relaxing or exercising alongside the historic Lachine Canal. The site is a paradise for walkers, joggers and cyclists, with more than eight miles of pathways and parks to enjoy, plus plenty of options to stop for a bite to eat or a drink along the way. – Spend an afternoon on an art and curiosities’ scavenger hunt in Old Montreal. From vintage posters to contemporary sculptures, don’t be surprised if you walk away with a unique souvenir of your trip. Start with Rue Saint-Paul Ouest.
– Get your steps in at Treppenviertel (literally the ‘stair quarter’) in Blankenese. There are approximately 5,000 steps in and around the district’s beautiful winding alleyways, but conquering them rewards you with a wonderful view over the Elbe River.
– Spending the day in Winterhude is like taking a little trip away to a charming lake district. Just north of the city centre, the area shines with villas and picturesque canals. Hop a relaxing boat tour and let your mind wander.
### New York City
– It’s estimated that nearly 800 different languages are spoken in NYC, so chances are you’ll hear a new accent around every corner. One of the best ways to celebrate the city’s diversity is by heading to Chinatown-one of the largest and oldest in the world.
– For a flower-filled hideaway and colourful photos, visit the vibrant NYC Flower District in Chelsea. This hidden gem does require a reasonably early start to your day, but getting to spend a morning surrounded by plants and petals is sure to boost your mood for hours to come.
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