The art of doing nothing in London

Buckingham Palace Gate, London by Expat Edna

There’s not much to say about the art of doing nothing. It’s pretty much one step, self-explanatory: do nothing.

Whatever your definition of ‘nothing’ may be — do it. Or don’t. It’s your art.

By my third or fourth trip to London, I’d somewhat mastered this. I love London, but I love it particularly because I enjoy doing none of the touristy things: no visits to the Tower of London, or going up the London Eye, or whatever it is people do in this city. I strolled around all of those places, yes, but strolling was the extent of it.

sBuckingham Palace artist, London by Expat Edna

It’s also possibly due to the fact that every time I visit England, the weather is gorgeous. Blue skies, warm temperatures; the kind of weather that causes every British friend to swear, it’s never like this. Which lends itself wonderfully to wanting to do nothing, except bask and enjoy.

Church clock, London by Expat EdnaLondon Eye by Expat EdnaLondon London by Expat Edna

So the art of doing nothing is really quite simple.

You stroll. You stop for a pint or few.

Fancy a pint? London by Expat EdnaBeer taps, London by Expat EdnaBeertown, London by Expat Edna

You wander. You stop for a bite.

Red brick, London by Expat EdnaSteel and lines, London by Expat EdnaLight breaking, London by Expat EdnaPeruvian and chicken, London by Expat EdnaCocktails, Joe's, London by Expat Edna-3Musicians mural, London by Expat Edna

Pictured: Ceviche, Chicken Shop, a cocktail joint called Joe’s, mural outside Ain’t Nothing But Blues Bar

You meander. You make your way from South Bank to Hyde Park to Islington.

Carousel, London by Expat EdnaWhirly seats, London by Expat EdnaBridge, London by Expat EdnaHyde Park, London by Expat EdnaDuke of Cambridge, Islington, London by Expat EdnaIslington, London by Expat Edna

(I personally love Islington the most because my first ever trip to London was spent here: five weeks crashing with a friend around the corner from the Duke of Cambridge organic pub while covering the Olympics.)

From Islington, you wander over for an afternoon on the banks of Regent’s Canal.

Regent's Canal, London by Expat EdnaAlong Regents Canal, London by Expat EdnaRegents Canal London by Expat Edna-2s

Then some more food, some more grub, some more drink.

Meantime beer tank, London by Expat Edna Southbank, London by Expat EdnaBrisket brulee by Expat EdnaBrisket brulee, London by Expat EdnaSummer taps in London by Expat EdnaSummer taps, London by Expat Edna

All in a couple days’ work before catching the bus back to Paris. (Or train, or plane, or ferry to wherever you may be going.)

Lights, London by Expat EdnaLondon by night by Expat EdnaParliament and Big Ben by night, London by Expat Edna

I swear, one of these days I’ll go to London and make it into a museum, or a palace, or the Eye. Maybe.

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  1. Okay, first of all my comments are becoming redundant because they all start out with, “OH MY GOD your photos are so gorgeous.” But really, you do have a great eye.

    And secondly, the weather is always perfect when I’m in London too! Maybe the English have invented this bad weather fallacy to keep us out?

  2. Ha, I wrote a similar post about a trip to London a few weeks ago. London is great for doing nothing.

  3. London is a great place to do nothing. To be fair, during our 9 days, we did actually do some touristy things, but I pride myself on the fact that we paid not a single pound or pence for any activity (apart from eating and drinking and taking the tube). There is so much to enjoy simply by having a wander around any of the many neighborhoods, why over complicate things?

  4. Couldn’t agree more! I spend a fair bit of time in London visiting friends, and although I do love catching an exhibition or a show, I also just love to wander. I think my favourite walk is from Waterloo, along the South Bank to Shakespeare’s Globe and the Millennium Bridge, past St Paul’s and up towards the old city walls and the Barbican Centre (where the foodhall does really good coffee and cakes)! Yep, definitely a big fan of the ‘do nothing’ approach to visiting London.

  5. Hah, I’ve gone both the tourist-y, see ALL the things route and the hang out/relax/eat well route on different trips to London, and I think you’re right – the latter is definitely preferable :)

  6. I just love your photography. These photos have me convinced I need to get to doing nothing in London.

  7. God, Edna. Your photos are amazing once again.
    And this makes me want to cry. I’ve been gone for about 24 hours and already miss it so much.

  8. You’re so right. I just went to London this summer and did…nothing. It was great.

  9. The British Museum! It’s absolutely wonderful. Ditto the Natural History Museum (dinosaurs!), and also the Science Museum (and I’m like the least scientific person ever). Camden Lock Market has some great street food – look for the bang bang chicken guy (you’ll hear his voice…)

    Anyhow, the art of doing nothing…I think I have it down in Taipei. Wander around. Coffee, smoothies, street food, parks, bookstores. If I have time, I likely won’t even take the MRT, instead just walking a few stations either by myself or chattering with friends.

  10. I also love doing this around London! I grew up in Lincolnshire so before moving to London I’d already done most of the touristy things as a child and a teenager. So, when I came back to England after three years of living in Australia and New Zealand and decided to move to London, I didn’t feel the need to do the museums, and the art galleries, and the attractions. Instead, I find joy in wandering around markets, checking out street art in East London (where I live) and strolling around getting lost on purpose. London is a great city to walk around – there’s always somewhere to stop off, or something to photograph :)

  11. I think nothing is probably one of my favorite things to do, and you have certainly mastered the art! Your photos are magnificent.

  12. Looks like a delicious way to spend a day in London. Your photography is excellent, love the way it seems to speak for itself :)

  13. Looks like a perfect few days to me. Does drinking all of the local ales and sampling new restaurants not count as being a tourist? If so, I’m a verry bad tourist!

  14. The art of doing nothing really does start on your feet, but it is one of the most rewarding travel experiences you can have. I was born in London and for all but a few years have spent my life here. One thing is clear, I don’t do ‘nothing’ enough. In a city where everyone is always ‘busy’, always rushing somewhere, it is often a real effort to do just nothing. The 2007 survey that puts us 12th on the list of world’s fastest walkers is wrong. We just don’t slow down. As an outsider (for now) you have a real advantage, it’s great to see you made the most of it.

    Keep up the travels, and keep doing nothing.

  15. I agree. London’s become old news for me because it’s only 3 hours away from where I grew up so there’s nothing better than just hanging out there and spending time with friends doing nothing on a nice warm day.

  16. Edna, your pictures are stunning! Love them and the story they tell of your time in London to just enjoy and be. I’ve loved the past few times I’ve been in London doing just as you describe – wandering without feeling the pressure to “see” anything in particular. I will say though, you are lucky with the weather – two weeks in January and I can tell you it’s harder to be motivated to wander about in the cold and rain!

  17. This is my kind of “nothing!” It’s actually how I spend most of my time in NYC, just wandering aimlessly and eating as much as possible with my friends. Everyone needs a place to do nothing in. Makes it feel more special somehow.

  18. I’ve been to London 3 times, and now I want to go back and do nothing! I love the photo of the boy on the boat. Fantastic.

  19. Edna! I SO want to go to London with you. You bring the good weather, I’ll bring the V&A tickets :)

  20. You and your freakishly amazing good-weather luck!
    Love the pics :)

  21. You don’t need to make into a museum, or a palace, or the Eye. You already seen the best bits. x

  22. Edna,

    Gorgeous photos. This looks like the perfect way to see London. I’ve been twice, once on an organized your about 15 years ago, and once with a group of friends who desperately wanted to see all the sights. While I loved both trips, I hope that my next one is just me wandering around, getting lost, taking pictures, and drinking some beer.