17 places to work in London: Great freelance working spaces
You’ve escaped the office, either for the day or for your working life. Congratulations! But you still need Wi-Fi, a charging point, and a decent cup of coffee to get your work done. Forget co-working spaces (you may as well just stay in the office), boring chain cafés (whether it’s Starbucks or a hipster haunt, it’s a noisy, expensive cliché), or spending the day in the pub (that way lies hangovers and inefficiency – trust us, we know).
Instead, make better use of your freedom and work somewhere inspiring and interesting. Here are our picks of where to work in London for perfect views, unique experiences, cultural screen breaks, and excellent people watching. Grab your laptop, let’s go.
Working in London: Get high
Take advantage of London’s fetish for skyscrapers by working from a top floor. Forget the Shard, it costs £26 to get upstairs. Instead, head to 20 Fenchurch Street, better known as the car-melting Walkie Talkie. Its so-called Sky Garden is more a collection of potted plants than true green space, but costs nothing to ascend, has free Wi-Fi, a coffee shop, restaurants, and power points. You’ll need to book ahead here and subject yourself to a security screening, but your screen breaks will be an epic view of London. If you’re not well organised enough to book ahead but still want a view, try the Design Museum’s Blueprint Cafe, which looks out over the Thames and Tower Bridge.
Working in London: Get a room
Hotel lobbies and cafes make great workplaces: they’re normally empty mid-morning or mid-afternoon, often have free Wi-Fi (no front desk is yet to turn down our request for a login), and some are stunning. Ensconce yourself in a cosy spot by the Tower of London at the Doubletree, with its Lobby Cafe catering to guests for breakfast, but turning into a quiet cafe with free Wi-Fi the rest of the day. If you want a bit of luxury, the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel’s lobby café will make you feel posh, even if all you’re doing is fiddling with spreadsheets.
Working in London: Go outside
Every now and then, London’s weather doesn’t suck. Take advantage by working from a park or outdoor café, such as the Hub Café in Regents Park, Springfield Park Café in Upper Clapton, or the Lido Café in Camberwell, or the many pubs ringing Victoria Park. Most of London’s lovely parks have some sort of way to sell you coffee or a pint, which means most also have Wi-Fi, although you could of course just find a leafy tree and tether your phone.
Other options include the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park, which has Wi-Fi across the estate, and even Canary Wharf has green options, with its Strawberry Energy solar-powered benches, free Wi-Fi and charging points. And a hidden gem in the West End is Brown Hart Gardens, tucked behind Oxford Street. A garden and café set above an electricity sub-station – it’s an oasis of coffee, comfy benches and Wi-Fi.
Working in London: Take a cultural break
Forget Starbucks, Pret or Costa – if you need a steady supply of caffeine to keep you working, there isn’t a cultural institution in London that doesn’t have a café, offering mobile workers a more creative place to toil. The Tate Modern’s upper levels offer stonking views of St Paul’s Cathedral, but the Bankside gallery is often rammed with tourists. Try its sibling Tate Britain instead, as no-one goes to Pimlico and its café was recently renovated, offering a peaceful, beautiful work environment – not to mention a gallery full of genius to pootle through when you need a break.
The Wellcome Café, on Euston Road, is also highly rated among mobile workers, as are the Institute for Contemporary Arts and the British Library – indeed, wherever your local library is and no matter how dull the building, it’s a better place to work than a chain coffee shop.
The Barbican is also worth a look, rain or shine. Wander through the confusing hallways and you’ll discover random tables handily sited next to power points, and the free Wi-Fi reaches into most corners. If you can find your way back to the entrances, you’ll be rewarded with a decent cup of coffee, and a break wandering the beautiful walkways of the brutalist paradise. Alternatively, explore the incredible indoor gardens, if they’re open to visitors.
The Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall has floors of table space, free Wi-Fi and coffee, as well as intriguing free events. During the summer, you can snag a spot outside where the deck is covered in tables and chairs to seat punters guzzling Pimms in the temporary sunshine. If you shell out for a membership – currently £50 annually – you can access a dedicated workspace, although they ask you put the laptop away at 5pm so everyone can have some fun.
Indeed, buying a membership for your favourite gallery or museum is a clever way to get access to less busy cafes and get extra perks, such as discounts on coffee and free Wi-Fi.
Working in London: Enjoy some play time
There are co-working spaces, and then there are co-working spaces for people who don’t really want to work. That would be Ziferblat, which describes itself as a “treehouse for adults”, which will irritate you or intrigue you. You could work, or you could play the piano or a board game, pull a book off the shelf, or take in a workshop or performance. There’s even a “hideaway” room with pillows so you can nap. You’ll not be surprised to hear the London location is in Old Street, the heart of the so-called Silicon Roundabout.
Ziferblat charges 5p a minute, but that covers everything from your cup of tea to your Wi-Fi to your afternoon nap. Just don’t oversleep, or it could get pricey.
Working in London: I’m on a boat
Working on a boat may sound like the preserve of sailors or cruise-ship singers, but you too can take to the waterways. City Cruises offers £5 all-day passes until the end of March, meaning you can coast up and down the Thames, taking in the stunning views and stopping off for lunch at Greenwich, the Tower, or wherever else along the riverbank that takes your fancy.
You may need to switch ships, as the newer boats have solid, free Wi-Fi, but power points are harder to find, while the older models’ connectivity struggles. Most boats have coffee shops on board. Bring headphones to drown out the tourists and the guided tour on the PA system, and be prepared for odd looks from staff – then again, they clearly appreciate the glory of working on the water, so perhaps they’ll understand.