Parks in London
One of the greenest capitals in the world, London is home to some of the most beautiful parks in the country. Whether you’re looking to wander, settle down for a picnic lunch, or just wanting to feed the birds, take a peek at our list of London’s best parks – all of which are free to enjoy!
St. James’s Park
Named after a leper hospital that stood on the site in the Medieval period and stretching over 23 hectares (53 acres), St. James’s Park is the oldest of all the Royal Parks of London – having been open to the public since 1603. Before it was a public park, St. James’s held the royal aviary where King Charles II kept birds given to him as gifts – such as the pelicans brought here by the Russian ambassador in 1664. In fact, there are still pelicans in the park today that are said to descend from these original birds (some of whom have developed a taste for meat..! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1CTngj8zwE) In the centre of the park is a stretch of water spanned by a bridge that provides stunning views of Buckingham Palace, and that contains Duck Island, home to beautiful and varied waterfowl, and the Tiffany Fountain.
Nearest Underground Stations: St. James’s Park, Charing Cross, Westminster
Designated as a Special Area of Conservation as well as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Richmond Park, located in the Southwest of London and the largest of all London Parks, spans an impressive 955 hectares (2,360 acres). Originally a hunting park for King Charles I in 1625, Richmond Park is still home to an estimated 630 fallow and red deer, and in places it appears more of a wooded forest rather than a park. Designated paths criss-cross the park with lanes designated entirely for cyclists, pedestrians, and horse riders. Park-goers can take afternoon tea or a spot of lunch in a number of Lodges in the park, the most notable of which is Pembroke Lodge.
Margaret’s Top Tip: Climbing to the top of the hill in the park (King Henry’s Mound) will reward you with a view of over 10 miles that leads all the way to St. Paul’s Cathedral and is so beautiful it has legally been protected by an act of Parliament!
Nearest Underground Stations: Richmond
(Trains also depart out of Waterloo and Clapham Junction to Mortlake and Sheen Stations)
The Regent’s Park
Designed by architect John Nash (also responsible for Regent’s Street) in 1811, The Regent’s Park is 166 hectares (410 acres) and is home to the London Zoo and an open-air theatre, as well as the largest outdoor sports area in London, holding facilities for cricket, softball, football and rugby. Park visitors can also hire row boats and pedal boats to use on the pond. When visiting be sure to check out Queen Mary’s Gardens – created in the 1930’s this beautiful floral garden is the highlight of the park’s agriculture.
Nearest Underground Stations: Regent’s Park, Great Portland Street, Camden Town, St. John’s Wood
Right in the middle of London lays Hyde Park, a lovely stretch of green spanning 253 hectares (625 acres), boasting cycle, pedestrian and equestrian paths. Originally part of a hunting park created by Henry VIII, the Park was opened to the public in 1637 by King Charles I. Hyde Park boasts numerous sites of interest including Speakers’ Corner, the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial, the Holocaust Memorial, the Serpentine Art Gallery, an animal cemetery, Italian Fountains and a number of statues scattered throughout. Hyde Park also plays host to concerts, and has seen performances by Pink Floyd, Queen and the Rolling Stones – just to name a few!
Nearest Underground Stations: Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge, Marble Arch, Lancaster Gate
Founded much more recently than the other parks on the list, Battersea Park was created in 1858. The Park spans 83 hectares (200 acres) and is situated right on the picturesque south bank of the River Thames, just opposite the Chelsea area. Recently refurbished in an £11million project, the park is host to a boating lake, a children’s zoo and a number of outdoor sporting venues. In fact, it was in Battersea Park that the first ever modern association football game was played! Also of note are the Nature Areas, home to over 20 species of butterfly.
Nearest Underground Stations: Clapham Common
(Trains also depart from Victoria Station to Battersea Park Station)
Located along one of the highest points in London (440ft), Hampstead Heath (or just “The Heath” to use a London phrase!) is 320 hectares (790 acres) of parkland in the north of the capital. The Heath consists of rambling woodlands, paths and ponds, a lido and a Georgian villa, as well as providing one of the best views in the capital (again, protected by Parliament!) atop Parliament Hill. The Heath has been on record since 986 (!!) and it has been a public park since the early 19th century. Wildlife abounds as the Heath is a refuge for various types of wildlife including rabbits, bats, snakes, frogs, and fish – just to name a few! When at Hampstead Heath, it is easy to forget that one is still in London.
Inside Info: It is at Hampstead Heath that Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed!
Nearest Underground Station: Hampstead, Highgate, Golders Green
(London Overground Services also run to Hampstead Heath Station)