My Favourite Freelance Cafes in London ☕️✨
Updated: Oct 13
When you freelance, you get to be your own boss! YASSSS!!! You can go wherever you want. Do whatever you like. Eat whenever you fancy. But there is an awkward catch... You have to get all your work done. And you don't have much money. D'oh. The tried-and-tested way to solve this is to carry your laptop from (affordable) coffee shop to coffee shop ... and enjoy the moments in between! ☀️ ☀️ ☀️
After four years of freelancing in London, here are a few of my all-time FAVOURITE working day trips around the city. This is how I treat myself to a cultural day out, get my work done AND keep costs down. 👇
Freelancer day trip to...
Upper Street = Freelancer CITY🕺. It's my favourite street in the whole of London. There's so much beauty in the antique market stalls around Camden Passage and gloriously grand bookshops. There is even a statue of a street cat named Bob.
You can spend the whole day winding your way down Upper Street cafes. This is a big part of why I love London. Here are two of my favourites...
This is a good one! Head inside, order lunch and coffee, then venture up the narrow staircase to an upstairs cave of near-empty tables! It's almost like a kind of co-working space, which is perfect. I like the bagels. There are two options, Brie and chutney, or smoked salmon with cream cheese. The coffee is good, and - if you're in the mood - the Aperol spritz is to DIE FOR (aka, it's strong)! Coffee and a bagel cost around £10.
You can get a really good chunk of work done here. And you can spend hours. The wifi is quite good. The music is calm and characterful. And if you get the window spot (as I am now), you can feel the breeze while you gaze down at the marketgoers on the street below. Five stars.
Address: 13 Camden Passage, London N1 8EA
Website: Frequency Coffee
Nearest tube: Angel
Redemption Roasters ☕️
A charming coffee and lunch spot, about a minute's amble from Angel underground station. It's an amazing location, super close to Chapel Market, Camden Passage, Upper Street and the tube. Reassuringly, there are zillions of laptop workers here clogging up all the tables, so you won't feel out of place at all. I am here right now as I type this and I can count 11 others on laptops. The tables are easy to work on, spacious and not rickety. It has an amazing outside space with Wifi too, which is a rare treat for freelancers. Plus, it's super light and airy. You can get a good hour of work done here, no problem.
BUUUTTTT.... it's not totally perfect. Truthfully, it's a tiny bit expensive (coffee and toast came in at £9.20, which is DOUBLE Vanilla Cafe below). The music is a bit "Alexa, play study lounge music", rather than an eclectic mix of somebody's authentic taste. Call me an old fart, but I prefer the chilled Fleetwood Mac vibes of Jacksons Lane. Another tiny little thing I've noticed is that Redemption can feel a bit pretentious. I feel bad writing that, but it's true. I got a few looks from both staff and customers, probably because my backpack is cringe 😅. It shouldn't really be called redemption, it should be called "JUDGE!" 😂 But, whatever, it still gets four stars from me! 👌
Address: 96-98 Islington High St, London N1 8EG
Website: Redemption Roasters
Nearest tube: Angel
While you're in Angel, there are so many things to do. If you need to work late, I recommend catching up with some friends at the Bill Murray, they do a really affordable comedy show every night (£5-9) ... and sometimes there are VERY famous faces there!
If you're ready for a break, you can also trot over to Chapel Market. You feel like a character in a soap opera as you weave in and out of atmospheric stalls... plus the fruit and plants are really cheap. Best of all, you get to head some PROPA LANDAN AKSANTTTSSS!!!!! STRAWBERRIES A PAAAAANNDD!!! STRAWBERRIES A PAAAANNNDD!!
Freelancer day trip to....
If you haven't discovered the freelancing heaven that is Highgate yet, get yourself on the Northern Line and pop on up! It takes just 20 minutes from Kings Cross, and you'll find yourself immersed in the gothic-romantic neighbourhood that inspired work both Frankenstein and Dracula ... You can even drink in the same pubs as Shelley, Byron, and Keats themselves (the Spaniards Inn and The Flag haven't redecorated for literally centuries). It's especially atmospheric around Halloween. For some reason there are crows and mist wherever you go. Creeeeepppyyyy... Deeply Tim Burton.
Note: Highgate tube is not in the centre of Highgate, you need to take a five-minute walk!
Jacksons Lane, Highgate ☕️
Highlight: The affordable feast changes daily and costs just £5. Today it's butternut squash and dhal curry. The best day is when it's Mac n' Cheese. Sometimes the nicest servers will add a side salad for free too. Bosh.
How to describe Jacksons Lane? Well, as a copywriter, the lack of apostrophe reads like nails on a blackboard sounds. But once you can get over the signage, and set foot inside this church-turned-theatre, a real treat awaits. Super fast wifi, plentiful tables near plugs, melodic but upbeat music - think Fleetwood Mac vibes - and a gorgeously bright space ☀️.
The food is excellent value, especially the £5 affordable feast, which changes daily. It's also healthy and often vegan.
But the best thing about Jacksons Lane is probably the eccentric theatre crowds that convene here. This is a space where circus performers train, elderly ladies do wobbly pilates and serious drama students try their luck at becoming stars. Expect incredibly posh accents, elaborate hairstyles and philosophical conversations. I frequently find myself lost in their musings. It's lovely.
Address: Jacksons Lane, 269a Archway Road, London, N6 5AA
Website: A la mesa
Nearest tube: Highgate
Vanilla Cafe, Highgate ☕️
Highlight: The carrot cake. Oh and the bread (which they make themselves). I come in for toast, beetroot juice and oat latte, which costs £10.20. But if you took off the juice, it would be half the price (I am a sucker for beetroot juice, even though everyone else thinks it tastes like mud, I just love it).
Vanilla has everything you want in a cafe. Like everything. Anna, the owner is incredibly kind and friendly. The food is delicious - especially the breads, which will send you into another universe. The music will make you remember songs you used to love. But maybe avoid coming at lunchtime or too early in the morning because it can fill up quickly. Expect to sit next to an eclectic mix of builders and business tycoons. It's a real neighbourhood gem.
NOTE: Plug sockets are not available here anymore, so you will need to charge up beforehand (maybe in Gail's or Jacksons Lane).
Address: 395 Archway Rd, London N6 4ER
Website: Vanilla Cafe
Nearest tube: Highgate
Gail's Highgate Village: Great wifi, yummy food, good plug access. But it can get very crowded and it's not cheap! You get some extremely loud mum and baby groups too. Like, really loud. With singing.
Kenwood House: I've heard good things but never been myself. The cafe feels a bit too touristy for me, so I am not sure if they would welcome freelancers. Could be worth a try, and the grounds are breathtaking, it's a mansion on Hampstead Heath, so pretty impressive! Plus the museum is free.
Lauderdale House: Lovely cafe set in a beautiful park, affordable, and there are free musical concerts on Tuesdays. The only thing that puts me off is that it is also a haven for dog walkers and sometimes the wet smell makes my articles angry. Also, a lot of posh men in coats.
Archies': Ok, we're straying a little into Archway here now, but Archie's is very good for food and wifi. It does get crowded though.
Taking a break around Highgate:
Quick break: Highgate Wood is opposite Archway Road. Dip in quickly to get a burst of nature and admire the incredibly well-groomed dogs of Highgate and Muswell Hill
Medium break: Take a five-minute stroll to the picturesque Highgate Village. Check out the gothic churches around Pond Square, via Britain's most architecturally-diverse street, North Hill.
Mega break: UUUUUHHHHH... Highgate cemetery!!! Ok. I don't know how to prepare you for this. It is creepy. There are two. The one with Karl Marx is sort of dishevelled and beautiful. But manageable. And the other one, with the Freud family in it ... that one is HAUNTING. I wouldn't go on my own to be honest. Even with a bestie, I start to get a bit creeped out after the Egyptian-style vaults. I always scream at some point. But it is amazing too. For any financial writers, you can see the grave of Julius Baer. Which is massive. And scary. You can see tombs shaped like pianos, sleeping lions and loads of angels. Headless angels too. Gahhh....
Something weird: If you fancy a super long walk, amble down Bishops Avenue, to see rows and rows of derelict mansions and ogle at the homes of the super-rich.
Freelance day trip to .... WATERLOO 🚂 & LONDON BRIDGE 🌉
I wasn't sure whether to include Waterloo, because I am basically just going to write about one coffee shop... But this coffee shop is so good, it's earned it. My suggestion is to spend the day ambling from Waterloo to London Bridge, working in various coffee shops along the way. (This is basically how I live my life btw!).
YES. YES. A million times YES. Right next to Waterloo station. It's great. Freelancers welcome. Plugs available. Coffee good. Location ideal. Vibe nice. Somehow I lost my pronouns along the way there, which is never ideal for a copywriter. The Glitch is so perilously banging that it should come with a disclaimer: Grammar is at risk.
I haven't tried the food, because I got shy (which I know is stupid). But the whole ambience is perfect, so I have faith. 👌
Address: 134 Lower Marsh, London SE1 7AE
Nearest Tube: Waterloo
WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA...
There are some nice things to see around here. My favourite bookshop in London The Calder - is just a two-minute walk away. Let me ask you something... Do you like the sound of a sleepy black cat dozing on the complete works of Shakespeare? Obviously yes, right? Then you MUST get yourself to The Calder. This is where you can find the oldest and most fascinating editions at rock-bottom prices. Last time I bought myself a 150-year-old book on the essays of Sir Francis Bacon (very insightful)... and it was only £3.
If you fancy walking down that same road for a bit longer, eventually, you will get to Cross Bones Graveyard in Southwark. For women with their own businesses (like freelancers), it is especially poignant. Back in the Medieval days, the only business that women (including Transwomen) could run was ... well... being a prostitute. And that was that. Wife. Nun. Prostitute. Take your pick! Prostitutes paid tax but could not be buried in a grave inside London, hence Cross Bones. Today, it's a soft and quiet oasis filled with ribbons. It will make you feel grateful to be born in these times! If you keep walking ... you will find yourself at...
Kings' College - Science Gallery Cafe 👑
Ok, so I SHAMELESSLY stole this hot tip from all-round legend Lucy O'Boyle. Walk straight through the gates of Kings College, turn left and BIMBA ... a lovely cafe!! ☕️
DEVASTATINGLY close to London Bridge station and The Shard. So if you have an event around there later, it is PERFECT.
Everything here is pretty good, especially the table sizes. I wasn't in love with the carrot cake, but the spacious toilets more than compensate for it! (A strange sentence in any other context!). I am a fan! The only thing is that it can be hard to find a good plug. But you know, occupational hazard!
Address: Science Gallery, Great Maze Pond, London SE1 9GU
Nearest tube: London Bridge
Is that it?
No, it is not.
Not even a little bit.
London is a wildly beautiful tapestry of adventure and history. Next time you're at Bank, you could be working in an underground crypt underneath a church (Cafe Below). Or cross the street for a sumptuous snack at The Ned, where you'll be greeted with bowler hats, bands and the best toilets in the whole goddam City!
You can lunch and learn on the fifth floor of Foyle's iconic bookshop at Tottenham Court Road. Or munch on eye-wateringly good mushrooms on toast in local garden centres - my all-time favourite is probably W6 in Hammersmith. But Clifton Nurseries in Maida Vale is not bad!
The secret to finding the best spots in London is to dip and dive into new experiences. Don't just stick to the chains. The chains will keep you shackled to boring routines. Support other small businesses like yours! You will never know the magic that you can find on a narrow boat, or converted church. Fuck normal. Fuck Pret. You're a freelancer. You're free.