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London's best parks, gardens and rooftop spots for lunchtime sunbathing

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As a few rays of sunshine beckon invitingly through our office blinds, all we can really think about right now is where to spend our lunch break.

With an hour at the most and London's larger parks too crowded or out of reach, finding a good sun spot come 1pm can be tricky. You want to make the most of every precious minute in the sun (who knows how long it will last... ?) but at the same time you don't want to end up wedged between the park entrance and a litter bin, sacrificing your favourite spring jacket to a wet patch of grass.

With that in mind, we've rounded up our favourite central and lesser known parks, gardens and rooftop spots for lunchtime sunbathing in the capital. Grab your SPF 50 and get set to hit up one of these hidden gems of urban greenery for a moment of calm in your workday chaos:

The Garden Museum, Lambeth

This lush and beautiful spot in the centre of London is the burial plot of great plant-hunters, gardeners and collectors. It's a gorgeous place to explore, from its 17th Century-inspired landscape architecture to unusual plant species such as the scarlet runner bean and red maple and tulip trees. Grab a sandwich from the museum cafe, with herbs and veg homegrown in the on-site kitchen garden.

gardenmuseum.org.uk

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, Old Street

A cemetery might not seem like the most obvious place to hang out come lunch but Bunhill Fields Burial Ground is so filled with history, you can't fail to be seduced by it. William Blake, Daniel Defoe and John Bunyan are all buried here, so you can soak in the literary ambiance as well as cutting an escape from the City's square mile just south of the park.

cityoflondon.gov.uk

Temple Garden off Victoria Embankment

This serene three-acre garden is hard to come by unless you know about it, although it's very central. Located at the heart of the Inner Temple law courts between Temple and London Blackfriars, it sweeps towards the River Thames, with a rare collection of trees and spectacular herbaceous borders all around. It's open every weekday from 12.30 - 3pm.

innertemple.org.uk

Red Lion Square, Holborn

This lovely, shady square can be found just off High Holborn and Theobald's Road - two of London's busiest roads. Celebrate escaping the roar of traffic by grabbing yourself a flat white and a sandwich from the Cafe on the Green (inside the park) and settle in for half an hour's peace and quiet.

allinlondon.co.uk

The Phoenix Garden, Soho

Even Soho die-hards may not know about this hidden delight of a park just behind the junction of Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue. A community garden and registered charity, the Phoenix Garden is managed by volunteers and aims to provide a green retreat from the pace of urban life, as well as a habitat for urban wildlife.

thephoenixgarden.org

Barbican Lakeside Terrace, Moorgate

With world-class exhibitions and performances, you don't really need an excuse to visit the Barbican. But if you just want some time out from the office, its Lakeside Terrace is a truly great spot with water fountains and sunny stretches of patio to lie out on. Grab some food from the nearby Whitecross Street Market.

barbican.org.uk

Chelsea Physic Garden, Chelsea

The Physic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in London (it was founded in 1673) and is home to largest outdoor fruiting olive tree in Britain and the world’s most northerly outdoor grapefruit tree. If that isn't enough to tempt you, it also boasts 5,000 species of edible and medicinal plants, with lunch and afternoon tea options at the garden's Tangerine Dream Café.

chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk

The Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden, Southbank

This beauty of a rooftop garden is a little off the beaten track, despite its prominent location at the very heart of the Southbank Centre. Designed by the Eden Project, it comes with panoramic views of London's river landscape and a cafe that serves up snacks such as chocolate trickle popcorn and sparkling wine.

southbankcentre.co.uk

Cavendish Square Garden, Oxford Street

Sometimes Oxford Street can become just too much, especially in the heat of summer. When that moment comes, take solace in Cavendish Square Garden, a sprawling and surprisingly large green space just behind John Lewis and Debenhams. The space dates back to 1717 and actually has a car park underneath but you'd never guess it from the lovely big trees, lawns, shrubs and flower beds.

westminster.gov.uk

Postman's Park, City of London

This picturesque patch of green just moments from the hustle and bustle of the City used to be a popular lunchtime garden for workers at the nearby old General Post Office back in the day (hence its name). Within its grounds, you can find the famous Watts memorial (built in 1900 by Victorian painter and philanthropist GF Watts), with tiles that commemorate acts of bravery in the city in years gone by. There's also a sundial, a water fountain and a dove tree.

cityoflondon.gov.uk

Photos: Rex Features

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