Sometimes, you just need to escape from the present moment for a few minutes. YouTube gets a lot of criticism for the way it deals with content and creators, but there are still so many talented people producing wonderful short-form videos. These are a few of my favorites when I need an oasis of relaxation during a busy day or something soothing to help me drift off to sleep.
Travel Back in Time with Mrs. Crocombe
If you haven’t yet encountered Mrs. Crocombe, the steely-eyed cook who presents “The Victorian Way” for the English Heritage YouTube channel, then you are in for a treat. The videos, which are set at Audley End House in England, are reminiscent of Downton Abbey meets The Great British Bake Off.
The videos aren’t exactly a practical way to learn how to cook. She makes a lot of unappetizing Victorian food—the squeamish among you might want to skip the episode about pigeon pie—but there’s something deeply entertaining about the way historical interpreter Kathy Hipperson embodies the character. She’s got quite a cult following online!
Learn About the History of Food with Max Miller
I’ve been a fan of Tasting History with Max Miller since (almost) day one, and his videos never fail to deliver. Miller cooks dishes from different periods of history around the world, but there’s so much more to his channel than cooking. Miller so clearly loves history that it’s hard not to get caught up in his enthusiasm.
Miller has said that his inspiration for starting the channel was because he loved the history segments from the old BBC version of The Great British Bake Off. As with The Victorian Way, you might not want to cook most of these recipes at home. But it’s still fascinating to see him sample dishes that are hundreds—and sometimes thousands—of years old. His hardtack (clack clack) episode is a classic.
Escape to a Simpler Way of Life with The Cottage Fairy
Paola—AKA the Cottage Fairy—offers her viewers a glimpse of a simple, gentle way of living in harmony with nature. Her soft voice narrates videos of nature in the Pacific Northwest, along with the occasional video about crafting, gardening, and art. Every video is steeped in wisdom, and Paola’s philosophy toward life is inspiring.
I recently purchased a print from her Etsy shop, and she included a lovely note along with a card featuring watercolor flowers and a quote from Anne of Green Gables. Paola herself is a bit like Anne Shirley as she wanders through the breathtaking landscape that surrounds her home.
Drift Off with Nemo’s Dreamscapes
While I’ve never been a fan of the kind of ASMR where someone whispers into a microphone, I’ve recently fallen in love with Nemo’s Dreamscapes. The concept of the channel is simple: take a historical image and add a little animation, then pipe in music from the 20s, 30s, or 40s. Some of the videos last over 10 hours, providing enough background music and ambiance to get you through a long day or a sleepless night.
Some of the videos also include ambient noise, such as the one above. The titles of the videos are always evocative: “1930s Evening on a Terrace by the Ocean.” Who wouldn’t want to go there? There is also a series of videos set on trains, as well as rainy nights and coffee shops.
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Cook Tiny Food with Ann Reardon
How to Cook That is a great channel hosted by Australian food scientist Ann Reardon. She dabbles in historical recipes, debunking viral video hacks, making stunning desserts, and occasionally roping her family into trying terrible food. Her husband is always a great sport—even when she serves him a plate of TikTok fails. Ann also released a bestselling cookbook last year!
If you just want to chill, however, I highly recommend her mini kitchen series. Ann built a fully functional kitchen, including a working stove and sink, and uses it to cook the tiniest food imaginable. It’s all edible, though! She even makes miniature eggs that truly look like they’re out of a fairy tale.
Get Primal with Primitive Technology
The beautiful thing about YouTube is that it allows you to encounter stuff that you might never have seen otherwise. Did I know that I wanted to watch a man make pots in a grass hut until I saw this video? No, I did not. Thanks, algorithm!
There’s no talking in these videos, which I think makes a big difference. You don’t always want a narrator—especially when the subjects are as self-explanatory of Primitive Technology. The videos are shot in the wilds near Queensland, Australia, though host John Plant has reassured his viewers that he lives in a house and gets his food from the supermarket like a normal person.
Sew a Piece of History with Morgan Donner
Morgan Donner is a historical sewist and part of the thriving “costube” community of YouTubers. She creates incredible garments (and sometimes accessories) with gentle humor and calm professionalism. I love her 16th-century spin on Lisa Frank in the video above.
Her most viral video is a history of hairstyles where she actually cuts off her waist-length hair. It’s educational but also low-key scandalous—exactly how I like my YouTube content.
Restore a Painting with Baumgartner Restoration
My particular jam is all about watching competent people use their skills to accomplish wonderful things. And if there’s a dash of history or crafting involved, then I simply can’t resist. Baumgartner Restoration shows Julian Baumgartner, a second-generation art restorer working in Chicago, as he rescues paintings from the ravages of age.
I love seeing things get cleaned—I will literally watch people pressure-wash old rugs for fun—so this channel is very satisfying. It doesn’t hurt that Julian Baumgartner is a great narrator whose voice has an “NPR podcast” quality that soothes even the most frazzled nerves.
Explore the World with Kraig Adams
Kraig Adams allows his viewers to journey across the globe without leaving home. The intrepid hiker and videographer presents his treks without commentary. Just soothing music and the sounds of nature as he walks through incredible vistas. Some of his other videos take the same approach to exploring cityscapes, which have their own kind of beauty.
If nothing else, watching Kraig’s videos will make you want to get out and see some of these places for yourself. Until then, you can enjoy the virtual experience of hiking around the world with him.
Get Spooky with Christine McConnell
Although Christine McConnell’s Netflix show didn’t last long, she’s still going strong on YouTube. People have different ideas about what it means to relax, and Christine McConnell’s happy place is definitely haunted. Her on-screen persona is a mix of Morticia Addams and Martha Stewart. Her videos are deliciously goth but also quite crafty—aspirational for someone like me, who wants to live in a Victorian cabinet of curiosities.
Her aesthetic might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you can’t deny her commitment. Like many YouTubers, she also has a Patreon for dedicated fans who want to support her work and get an extra helping of creepy delights.
Live Big in a Tiny House with Bryce Langstrom
Who among us hasn’t dreamed of building a tiny house? With real estate prices still skyrocketing, it seems like an even more appealing dream. Bryce Langstrom travels the world interviewing tiny house dwellers, but he also lives in a custom-built home off-grid himself.
The best part of this channel is Bryce’s enthusiasm for the tiny house movement. He’s always delighted to tour other people’s homes and never passes judgment. You can get inspired by his home tours and learn about how to set up a tiny home yourself. The videos have a really high production value, on par with anything you’d seen on cable TV. The channel has been going since 2013, and every video is filmed and edited by Bryce and his partner, Rasa.
Turn Wood with Andy Phillip
Would you guess that a woodturning video would have 72 million views? Andy Phillip creates beautiful bowls and other vessels in his workshop, often incorporating resin. And trust me: there’s something really satisfying about watching him chisel away streamers of resin on his lathe.
The videos have no narration or music. The sped-up sounds of his tools provide a little ASMR, but they might not be soothing to everyone. I grew up in a woodworking shop, so I find it nostalgic. Your mileage may vary! Andy is based in North Yorkshire, England, but other than that, we don’t know much about him. Other than his hands, we rarely see him in the frame. The focus is on the work. I think these videos are so popular because of the mesmerizing effect of the spinning lathe—what do you think?