One of the many beautiful things about this city is its greenery – thanks to the numerous parks in London which are delightful for a visit as part of a sightseeing day. All also provide a lovely walk, or the chance to relax for a few hours, possibly with a nice picnic basket (although perhaps best limited to the summer months). You will find that some are very close to other top attractions (for example, the proximity of St. James’s Park to Buckingham Palace) whilst others have quite a number of attractions within them (Kensington Palace is in Kensington Gardens, and there are also several other sights within this and the adjoining Hyde Park).
The best parks in London
Underground: High St. Kensington or Holland Park
The most western of the parks mentioned here, attractions include the Japanese Gardens and the Opera Holland Park which has performances in June and July. There’s also a playground for the younger kiddies, as well as an adventure one for the slightly older set.
Underground: High St. Kensington, Gloucester Road, Queensway or Bayswater
Home to Kensington Palace (you can tour the state apartments, and view the Royal Dress Collection, although there is an admission charge) and the Orangery, which is a perfect place for a tranquil afternoon tea. The park also presents a pleasant walk between Kensington High Street and Bayswater, and there’s a route suitable for cycling and rollerblading. The Round Pond towards the centre of park provides a nice location for a summer picnic. Other attractions in the park include the Albert Memorial, the Peter Pan statue, the very pretty Sunken Gardens (near Kensington Palace) and the Italian Gardens.
Underground: Knightsbridge, Hyde Park Corner
Kensington Gardens in fact merges directly into this park. There’s the Serpentine lake in the centre, in which you can swim during the summer months or hire a row boat for, and there’s also the Serpentine Gallery which usually houses modern art exhibitions. Summertime sees a number of (ticketed) large scale concerts and mini-festivals take place (past names appearing include Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Rihanna, Jay-Z and Kings of Leon) whilst the free (to enter) Winter Wonderland takes place every…winter!
St James’s Park
Underground: St. James’s Park
London’s smallest and oldest Royal park, its central location and proximity to a number of other attractions mean that you’ll probably walk though this park anyway. Duck Island, in the park, is home to various breeds of bird life including ducks (of course!), geese, pelicans and slightly more exotic types. There are also bandstand concerts during lunchtime and in early evening from May to August.
Underground: Green Park, Hyde Park Corner
Very close to St. James’s Park, this park is quieter with less to see and do. Nevertheless, it provides for a pleasant walk and is a nice contrast to the bustling Piccadilly (the road leading down to Piccadilly Circus), which runs alongside part of the park.
Underground: Regent’s Park, Great Portland Street or St John’s Wood
Towards the northwest of Central London, one of the main sights within it is Queen Mary’s Gardens. There are also free lunchtime and evening concerts performed at the bandstands, and the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre (highly recommended) which is the home of the New Shakespeare Company. Also a great park for a bit of exercise: the vast open space centred around The Hub lends itself to various sports games (even I’ve been know to participate in touch rugby games in the summer), or you could simply join the countless joggers in and around the park.
Underground: St John’s Wood, Camden Town or Chalk Farm
Just north of Regent’s Park (see above) is the very pretty Primrose Hill, which is most famous for its spectacular view of central London’s skyline. Definitely worth a trip to see this view – it’s also a very pleasant place for a picnic in summer. Alternatively, if there’s snow in London in winter, the hill definitely lends itself to sledding! Primrose Hill itself is a very nice area, and is home to a number of celebrities – so don’t be all that surprised to see a paparazzi-trailed celeb or two when you’re here.
Underground: Hampstead or Overground: Hampstead Heath or Gospel Oak
One of London’s gems! This very large park in North London is simply wonderful with its many different areas and parts, with some of the wooded areas almost taking on a forest-like feel. There are two ponds that are open to swimming year-round (one for men, one of women – very quaint), and the park is also home to the famous Parliament Hill which also has a tremendous view of central London. Once again, as with Primrose Hill (see above), Parliament Hill is one of the famous places that Londoners come to should there be a bit of snow for a bit of sledding.
Underground: Bethnal Green
A great park out in East London with a real local community feel. Perfect for summer picnics and a spot of frisbeeing or light excercise. The park also hosts concerts – Radiohead played a couple of one-off concerts here in 2008, and Lovebox is one of the mini-festivals that takes place over a weekend every summer.