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 for visitors and tourists – all of which are free to enjoy!
Stretching out over 47 acres, Green Park has a royal history dating back through the centuries. The land was bought by the crown during the reign of Henry VIII who demolished the hospital and used the surrounding land here as a hunting ground. Before Westminster was truly part of London, this area was essentially the outskirts of town and in the 18th century, the park became a haunt of thieves and highwaymen as well as being a popular spot for dueling!
Public access to the park has remained open since this time, and today is traversed by thousands of people each year who walk through the park to get to Buckingham Palace which sits on the southern edge of the park.
Nearest Station: Green Park Station
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. 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 so watch those fingers..!
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, including the swans - property of the Queen - who call St. James's Park home.
Nearest Station: St. James's Park, Westminster and Green Park Stations
Victoria Tower Gardens
Victoria Tower Gardens is kind of like the back yard for the Houses of Parliament! Sitting adjacent to the Royal Palace of Westminster, on a stretch of the River Thames, Victoria Tower Gardens is named after the huge tower on the southernmost edge of the Palace. This tower, 98.5 metres (323 ft) tall, holds the Parliamentary archives.
This is a little park but a pretty one, and used primarily by employees fo the Parliamentary estate. There are a few statues and memorials in the garden, with rough connections to Parliament or Parliamentary procedures including: a cast of The Burghers of Calais by Rodin, the Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst Memorial and the Buxton Memorial Fountain, commemorating the abolition of slavery.
Nearest Station: Westminster Station
NOTE: If you want to see more royal palaces make sure you check out our post on London's Castles and Palaces!
The gardens here are the final remains of the once great Palace of Whitehall (read more about that HERE), one of Henry VIII's finest creations. In the 16th and 17th centuries courtiers would arrive to the Palace by boat and disembark here, and you will still see heavy boat traffic from the nearby piers across the road. Today these beautiful little gardens are flanked by the River Thames on one side and the stunning Royal Horseguards Hotel.
Nearest Station: Westminster or Embankment Stations
Victoria Embankment Gardens
Further East along the River from Whitehall Gardens come Victoria Embankment Gardens. Surprisingly, this charming little park was initially built to cover a new sewer system that had been built in the 19th century alongside the Thames! Although small, it's a relatively popular spot for workers in the area during lunch time, which is when it is busiest. There are seasonal flowers, carefully landscaped spaces and even the remains of a stne gateway entrance to a mansion that once stood on the site over 300 years ago. The recent addition of a children's playground makes this a family-friendly spot to stop and have a rest - or maybe play a game of table tennis or chess, both of which are available to the public.
Nearest Station: Embankment Station
Right in the middle of London lays London's most famous park, Hyde Park. A lovely stretch of green spanning 253 hectares, this was another park that began life as hunting grounds for King Henry VIII.
Hyde Park boasts numerous sites of interest including Speakers’ Corner, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial, the Holocaust Memorial, and the Serpentine Art Gallery.
It also has an animal cemetery, Italian Fountains, and a number of statues scattered throughout. And that is all without mentioning the beautiful green space, flowers gardens, and the Serpentine, a large body of water in the middle of the park that is open for swimming and boating. It is definitely a must-see for any visitor to the city!
Check out our post on Things to See and Do in Hyde Park.
Nearest Station: Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch or Knightsbridge Stations
Once the private gardens of Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens are now part of the Royal Parks of London and are open to the public. Sitting adjacent to Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens is one of THE most beautiful parks in the city.
Containing a palace, an art gallery, numerous statues, picturesque fountains and two bodies of water, Kensington Gardens are a great place to explore.
Check out our post on Things to See and Do in Kensington Gardens!
NOTE: We run a family friendly Royal Kensington Tour that includes the Gardens!
Nearest Station: High Street Kensington, Notting Hill Gate or Lancaster Gate Stations
This little park, sitting on the south side of the River Thames is a modern park that is overlooked by the London Eye. Built in 1977 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, the park was completely overhauled in 2012, commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II! This pretty little park also features a memorial to the casualties of the International Brigades of Spanish Civil War.
NOTE: Jubilee Gardens is where we meet to take our London Night Tour and is passed by on our Sunday Southbank Stroll! If you want to ride the London Eye, find out more info on our Cheap London Eye Tickets page.
Nearest Station: Waterloo Station
NORTH LONDON PARKS
Regent's Park and Regent's Canal
One of London’s Royal Parks, Regent’s Park is 166 hectares (410 acres) of green space right in the middle of London. The park is also a home for wildlife with around 100 species of wild birds as well as a breeding population of hedgehogs!
The Park 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. Don't miss the beautiful lake (pedalo's for hire!) or the stunning Queen Mary's Rose Gardens.
Oftentimes less busy than the more central St. James’s Park and Hyde Park, Regent’s Park is a beautiful oasis and fabulous place to spend a few hours - or even the entire day.
Check out our post on things to see and do in Regent's Park.
No trip to Regent's Park could be fully complete without a visit to the beautiful Regent's Canal. Truly one of the most beautiful parts of London, the stretch of the Regent’s Canal that curves around the northern edge of Regent’s Park seem like a different world. No traffic, picturesque views of colourful boats, the draping leaves of trees, and glimpses of beautiful Georgian buildings all come together to make a truly magical experience.
Nearest Station: Regent's Park, Camden Town, Baker Street or St. John's Wood Stations
Once a place where duels and prize-fights took place, Primrose Hill was purchased from Eton College in 1841 to provide further open-air space for the poor people of North London. Ironic today that the area is known for being home to some of the most expensive properties in the city!
But what makes Primrose Hill worth the visit, is the stunning view. One of the six protected viewpoints of London, the summit is 63m above sea level, and the trees surrounding it are deliberately trimmed low so as not to obscure the view of London’s iconic skyline.
Nearest Station: Camden Town or St. John's Wood Stations
Located along one of the highest points in London (440ft), Hampstead Heath is 320 hectares (790 acres) of parkland in the north of the capital.
The Heath consists of rambling woodlands, paths and ponds, a lido, a beautiful Georgian villa (Kenwood House), as well as providing one of the best views in the capital (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!
Hampstead is beautiful any time of the year but in the Autumn it is truly spectacular!
Nearest Station: Hampstead Station or Hampstead Heath Overground Station
SOUTH LONDON PARKS
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 Station: Battersea Park Rail Station
Clapham Common is a popular spot for Londoners to meet, play sports, picnic, or just stroll along. Since it isn't in a central location and there aren't many big 'attractions' nearby, it's not that popular for tourists which means a visit here is a visit to a local's park!
The common is huge, 89 hectares (220 acres) of green space, boasting three ponds - two of which can be fished from; a paddling pool; football, rugby, cricket and Australian rules football pitches; a skateboard park and a church.
Nearest Station: Clapham Common or Clapham South Stations
Crystal Palace Park
If you've ever wanted to walk with the dinosaurs, then Crystal Palace Park is the place for you! The park itself is 200 acres (81 hectares) of beautiful parkland. It boasts an English Landscape Garden, a maze, multiple lakes and a concert bowl. It's a great place to explore regardless, but the dinosaurs are the real draw.
Commissioned in 1852 for the Great Exhibition, they were the first dinosaur statues in the world (hence why some of them looking nothing like we would recgonise today). They have been lovingly restored throughout the year and represent 15 different types of dinosaur, These unique statues make Crystal Palace Park a particularly great place to bring the kids!
Nearest Station: Crystal Palace Overground or Rail Stations
Stretching over 74 hectares (180 acres), Greenwich Park is part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, designated by UNESCO. Yet again parkland that was used for hunting by King Henry VIII, the park has been opened to the public for centuries. In fact, on public holidays in the 18th century, the big hill in Greenwich mark was used for mass tumbling, as men and women rolled down the hill for fun!
Sadly this no longer takes place but a beautiful stroll through Greenwich Park is entertainment enough on it's own! While here, make sure to check out the Queens House, Royal Observatory (and the Prime Meridian), Old Royal Naval College, Cutty Sark, and the incredible (and FREE) National Maritime Museum.
Nearest Station: Greenwich or Cutty Sark DLR Stations, Greenwich or Maze Hill Rail Stations
EAST LONDON PARKS
Nicknamed "The People's Park," owing to the fact it was one of few public amenities accessible to the working class (for some East End children, this would be the only greenery they would ever see!), Victoria Park is 86.18 hectares (213 acres) of parkland and one of London's most visited green spaces. The largest park in East London, it's a popular spot for families, meet ups and picnics, as well as numerous concerts held here throughout the year.
Within the grounds you will find fountains, sculptures, sporting pitches, and the oldest model boat club in the world (which is a lot more interesting than it may first sound!).
Nearest Station: Cambridge Heath or Hackney Wick Overground Stations
WEST LONDON PARKS
Holland Park never seems to get as much attention as some of the other parks on this list which is lucky for us because that means it's somewhat of a local 'secret'. Tucked away on the western edge of the city, Holland Park features formal gardens free roaming peacocks, the Kyoto Garden and a waterfall!
Covering 22 hectares (54 acres), Holland Park gets it's name from a Jacobean mansion that stood here centuries ago known as Holland House. The remains of that house form part of the backdrop for the open air theatre within the park. There's an orangery and cafe for those who want a bite to eat and there's also a children's playground for the kids.
Nearest Station: Holland Park or High Street Kensington Stations
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 (not Henry VIII this time!) 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. While here, it's hard to believe you're in London.
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.
When visiting the park, try to climb to the top of the hill in the park (King Henry’s Mound) which 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 Station: Richmond Station (from there you will need to get a bus!)
Overlooked by the stunning Hampton Court Palace, Busy Park is the largest of London's parks at 445 hectares (1,100 acres)! The park is marked as a site of special scientific interest owing to the large variety of flora and fauna that call it home. Similar to Richmond Park, the distance from the city centre and the vastness of the space make a visit to Busy Park feel like you are in another world, far away from the bounds of London.
The park is filled with many things to see and enjoy including water gardens, sporting pitches, numerous lodges and cottages, boating ponds, horse rides, and herds of roe and fallow deer. (We are sure it won't surprise you to hear that this parkland was previously hunting ground for King Henry VIII - among others!).
Nearest Station: Hampton Wick or Hampton Court Palace Rail Stations