City Skills: The best public places in London to have a sleep
By Mike Pollitt
5 September 2012, 13:09
If you need to sleep during the day in London, but find yourself far from the soft pillows and immaculately-clean sheets of home, where should you go? Here are a few ideas. Some are the product of personal experience, others the fevered imaginings of fitful afternoon dreams. I’m always on the look out for new locations, so please supplement the list in the comments or tweet me your top snoozespots.
Any park, square, or open space
The obvious solution – the only requirement is that the ground be dry. There is no shame in a park snooze, and as long as you avoid the sunny-day lunchtime rush then space and peace are plentiful. I won’t list the many options – your local knowledge will guide your nodding head. But some places are better than others. Lincoln’s Inn Fields I find particularly amenable. It’s relatively secluded from major roads, birdsong is varied and plentiful, the ground is neither too stony nor too lush. There’s even a little hollow in the North East corner which perfectly supports, as if by design, the curve of the human spine. It’s what dreams are made of.
If a grassy public square is the ideal setting for a pleasant snooze, the museum toilet is its wretched antithesis. Be warned, for this is the resting place of the damned. Only seek it out in extreme states of drowsiness, and even then with caution. For there is a good chance you will come out more tired than you went in, and with far less dignity.
And yet, if all else fails, if the weather is so bad that outdoor sleep is impossible, these cubicles may be your only hope. The benefits are few but important: they are free and private, and the larger galleries allow a touristic anonymity that will cloak your shame. My advice is to seek out the quietest toilets in the furthest corner of the largest buildings. Basements are good, so if in doubt wander down. Tate Britain, the British Museum and the V&A are all reasonable bets. A self-imposed nap limit of 15-minutes is wise, for no other reason than basic self-respect.
People sleep on the tube every day, and it’s easy to see why. Nab a seat next to a plexiglass support and let sweet Morpheus do the rest. To an exhausted wanderer, the motion of the carriage can recall the gentle rocking of a childhood pram. The ever-changing cast of fellow-travellers whirl before your eyes like a baby’s mobile. The dulcet tones of the train driver float like a lullaby…
Perhaps I go to far. But a tube carriage is probably the most accessible, reliable place for a nap wherever you are in the city. And no matter where you wake up, you can always hop back the way you came. The safe option.
A county championship cricket match
Not the spot for an ad hoc kip, perhaps, but there are few better places for a pre-meditated summer-time snooze. You can get into the Oval for £10 and Lord’s for £16 to watch a County Championship match. That makes this the luxury option, but the rewards are great: comfortable seating, a perfect level of background noise, and the dream-inspiring romantic associations of the game itself. Take a pillow, a blanket, a novel, and a flask of horlicks. No one else will care, they’ll all be sleeping too.
Napping pro tip 1: Wherever you go in London, always have a cardigan about your person. In addition to their aesthetic charms and practical uses as a layering garment, they can be quickly transformed into a makeshift pillow or a small blanket depending on local conditions.
Napping pro tip 2: Earplugs are an indispensible aid to the urban snoozer. A good quality pair is a sound investment.
Image: By Jeffhubbard on Flickr under Creative Commons
More indispensible Snipe city skills: