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Only have an hour? The best things to do on your lunch break

If you’re one of the 82% of workers who don’t take a full lunch break then the blog below will hopefully inspire you to take an hour out of your day and explore the amazing things in and around the City. From free exhibitions to the best green spaces in the city, we’ve got the perfect guide to getting the most out of lunch.

Peaceful Parks

Everyone knows about the traditional London parks: Hyde Park, St James’ Park, Victoria Park, Green Park, Richmond Park the list goes on. However these parks are often full with tourists; not great for a relaxing lunchtime away from your desk.

City workers need not fear, there are plenty of options located much closer to home. One of most Instagram-perfect places right in the heart of the City of London is St Dunstan in the East, a bombed-out church that has been left to overgrow in the most beautiful way possible. The church was damaged badly during the Great Fire of London in 1666 and then was partially rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren and stood proud until 1941 when a WWII bomb destroyed all but the tower, steeple and north and south wall, which are the only visible parts today. With plenty of benches and a peaceful atmosphere, it’s a great place to relax with a book or a podcast for an hour.

St Paul’s Cathedral offers a welcome slice of green for those working in and around the Bank area. Whilst it might only be small, it’s full of trees, squirrels and birds, and of course the beautiful architecture of St Paul’s.

For Canary Wharf workers, a real favourite is the Crossrail Roof Garden. This 300m rooftop garden is predominantly enclosed, however with certain panels deliberately missing, it offers wildlife the chance to fly in and enjoy the various different types of flora that have been planted. Drawing on the heritage of Canary Wharf, many of the plants are native to the countries visited by ships of the West India Dock Company, who unloaded their cargo in the exact same spot over 200 years ago. Amongst the ferns and tropical palms you can find wooden and stone benches and even a discreet amphitheater, where performances for adults and children alike are hosted throughout the year. Both Giant Robot and Big Easy are conveniently located within the garden, Yum Bun anyone?

Opposite Reuters Plaza, Jubilee Park offers a calm oasis above Canary Wharf Station. City workers are often found here on a sunny day, however despite being a small space, it never feels overcrowded due to the clever design of the winding paths and patches of green. Running through the main space are several cascading water features, culminating in a small pond with goldfish that are positively hypnotising, especially when the sun is shining. During the winter the park plays hosts to part of the Canary Wharf light show and also has exhibitions and displays running throughout the year.

Retail Therapy

Whether it’s Christmas, a birthday, summer holiday or even just payday, city workers have some of the best shopping available on their lunch breaks.

With five shopping malls, plenty of restaurants and cafes, there’s something for everyone at Canary Wharf. From big brands such as Coach and Polo Ralph Lauren to smaller highstreet labels such as Zara, Mango and Topshop, you can find everything you need in one easy place.

If you’re worrying about fitting in food shopping after work, you can head to the three-floor Waitrose where alongside all the usual essentials they also have a huge range of beauty and home products, so if you rip your tights or spill coffee on your shirt, there’s no need to panic!

Certain stores such as Jo Malone offer express pampering services completely free of charge, for example their signature hand and arm massage using layering of their best-selling products. Book a lunchtime slot and head back to the office in a more blissful state of being.

One New Change is the sleek and sophisticated shopping center only a short walk from Bank Station. The shops might be a bit more high-end, however there is a large Marks and Spencer with an in-store café which serves tasty lunch options to eat-in or takeaway. Perhaps the real jewel in the crown of One New Change is its view. Take the lifts to the very top of the shopping centre and admire an unparalleled view across the London skyline. Whilst it might be busy at weekends, in the week the space is somewhat calm. It’s a great place to finish that book you’ve been meaning to, or just grab a coffee and take a moment to yourself above all the hustle and bustle of the city.

Inspiring Exhibitions

If you want to enjoy a bit of culture on your lunch break, you don’t need to battle the school groups and tourists in the National Art Gallery, instead why not enjoy one of the exhibitions a bit closer to the office.

The Canary Wharf Group puts on a variety of different modern and traditional art and also photography exhibitions throughout the year. Across the estate you can find intriguing and slightly unusual sculptures that form ‘Art on the Estate’ – one of the UK’s largest collections of Public Art. From Helaine Blumenfeld’s Fortuna, to Henry Moore’s Draped Seated Woman (or as it’s more affectionately known Old Flo) which will remain in Cabot Square until 2022.

Head to the Crossrail Place Roof Garden before the end of May to enjoy not only the nature on offer but also Cartographic Colour, a photography exhibition by Giles Reverell, who reinterprets the colours of well known flowers to imagine them as only pixels and shapes, removing the petals and leaves. Against the lush backdrop of the roof garden, these photos really stand out as a beautiful piece of artwork.

Less than a 20-minute walk from Bank station and you’ll find yourself at the Tate Modern. This industrial looking building houses some of the best in UK modern art. Whilst some of the pieces might have you scratching your head, it’s a great place to wander and absorb the various cultural nuances on display. Head up to the top floor of the Blavatnik building and enjoy 360-degree views across the London skyline to Canary Wharf, Wembley Stadium and the River Thames.

Quick Fitness

Sleep in late? Out for drinks after work and wondering when you’ll squeeze in a workout? If this all sounds familiar then consider a quick lunchtime class or gym session and head back to the office full of energy and with a smug smile on your face.

Spending all day hunched over your desk is not good for your posture or all of the various muscles that stay in passive flexion all day. To help counteract this, head to an express yoga class; many of these time-friendly classes are only 30-40 minutes long, meaning if you’ve got time for a quick sandwich and a shower and still be at your desk at 2pm. Canary Wharf has three yoga studios: Bikram Yoga London, Yoga Creation and Yoga Therapy. Each studio offers different styles and length of class, so get your stretch on and enjoy the meditative aspect of moving through your asanas (just try not to fall asleep in Savasana!).

If your morning has been filled with back-to-back meetings and you’re feeling all kinds of stressed out, a HIIT or boxing class might offer the perfect solution to expel any pent up energy. Another Space at Bank offers a speedy mix of both of these with half the class spent on the punchbag and the other on the floor doing bodyweight exercises. 1Rebel’s Reshape class will have you seriously out of breath, but it offers great results in a short space of time and their bathrooms are some of the best in the business (chilled towels, heated benches and vanity mirrors).

For a more leisurely lunchtime sweat grab a Santander bike and try a short route around the office via as much green space as possible to avoid the polluted roads. Transport for London has a section on their website dedicated to the best cycle routes; from a leisurely 30 minutes to routes finding the best markets in London. Plan your route here and enjoy your lunch in a pretty park or different part of the city to what you’re used to.

If you have any other top tips for making the most of your lunch hour let us know via Twitter!

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