In this post, we go over the top things to do in Hyde Park, one of London's great public green spaces. We also list nearby attractions and things to do.
- What is Hyde Park?
- Top Things to Do
- Nearby Attractions
- Amenities and Hours
- How to Get to Hyde Park
- Free London Walking Tours
- Best London Parks and Gardens
You can virtually walk this park with us in the video below.
What is Hyde Park?
Once Henry VIII’s private hunting grounds, Hyde Park was first opened to the public during the reign of King Charles I in 1637.
Queen Caroline, the wife of King George II, heavily renovated the area in the 1730s, laying the groundwork for all that still stands here, and also created The Serpentine, a body of water that today partially marks the boundaries of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens to the west.
In addition to its beauty, the park is a place for celebrations (jubilees, the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Great Exhibition), music concerts in the summer, and the Winter Wonderland in the winter.
Popular with Londoners and visitors alike, Hyde Park is 350 acres of parkland right in the heart of the city, perfect for sporting, swimming, picnicking, boating, or just casually strolling.
Top Things to Do in Hyde Park
This section covers some of the best landmarks and most historic sites to see in Hyde Park. We'll also include fun ideas for activities, details for museums you might want to visit, and other ways to experience the park.
Visit Marble Arch
Located right on the northeast corner of Hyde Park sits Marble Arch, a 19th-century white marble triumphal arch.
Designed by esteemed architect Sir John Nash (who also laid out Regent’s Street and much of Regent’s Park), in 1827, the arch was originally built to serve as an entrance to Buckingham Palace.
In fact, Marble Arch used to be located in what is now the forecourt of Buckingham Palace, where the famous balcony on the East Front sits today.
The Arch was moved to its current location in 1851 when Buckingham Palace was expanded to accommodate Queen Victoria’s growing family. There are three small rooms inside the Arch which were used as a police station from 1851 until 1868!
Following the widening of Park Lane in the early 1960s, the site the Arch now stands on was separated from the main body of the park, turned into a traffic island at the junction of Oxford Street, Park Lane, and Edgware Road.
For more information, read our post on Marble Arch.
Listen Up at Speakers’ Corner
Next to Marble Arch stands Speakers’ Corner, a traditional site for public speeches and debates since the mid-1800s. After a number of protests and demonstrations in Hyde Park, Parliament set aside this corner of the park for public speaking in 1872.
Any member of the public can speak here, at any time, however, police can intervene if the speech is said to be “unlawful” or “profane.”
Today, most speakers here are preaching on religious and political matters, and both topics have actually caused riots to break out here in decades gone past!
Notable people who have spoken here include Vladimir Lenin, George Orwell, and Karl Marx, just to name a few.
Hire a Boat or Take a Swim in The Serpentine
A 40-acre recreational lake, The Serpentine was created in 1730 at the behest of Queen Caroline.
Named after its snakelike shape, the Serpentine has two parts: the Serpentine, which is the part that is in Hyde Park, and The Long Water, which lies within the boundaries of Kensington Gardens. In fact, the Serpentine Bridge, spanning this body of water, marks the official division between the Park and the Gardens.
The Serpentine was created to not only be beautiful, but also provide a location for leisure activities such as boating, and later, swimming. In fact, in the 2012 London Olympics, it was the venue for the men's and women’s triathlon and marathon swimming events!
Even if you’re not an Olympic athlete, you can still swim in the Serpentine at the Serpentine Lido, a designated and marked area of the water that is open to the public from May to early September. Or, you can rent a rowboat or pedalo to take out onto the water from April to October.
Tour Apsley House and See the Apsley Gate
Originally built in 1771, and boasting the illustrious address of “Number 1, London,” Apsley House has been home to the Dukes of Wellington for well over 200 years.
A little-known gem in the heart of London, Apsley House is situated in a prime location at Hyde Park Corner, symbolically marking the boundaries between the City of Westminster and the boroughs of Belgravia and Kensington & Chelsea. Run by English Heritage, the house is now open to the public as a museum and art gallery.
Find out more about Apsley House, check out our blog post HERE.
Adjacent to Apsley House sits Apsley Gate, a classical stone gateway with scroll-topped columns designed by Decimus Burton. Built between 1826 - 1829, the portland stone gateway replaced a tollgate that had previously stood on the site. Built to provide an ‘official’ entrance to the park, it is sometimes also known as the ‘Hyde Park Screen.’ Decorative elements of the gate include columns and friezes by John Henning, which were copied from the Elgin Marbles. The classical-style lodge house just inside the gates was also designed by Burton. As was our next item on the list...
Stand Under The Wellington Arch
Here we find another triumphal arch in the middle of a traffic island! Constructed between 1826 - 1839, the Wellington Arch was created at the behest of King George IV, who wished to commemorate Britain’s victories in the Napoleonic Wars. The idea was that the Arch would provide a grand entrance into London from the West. There had previously been a turnpike gate at this location - now known as Hyde Park Corner - so this location was often considered by Londoners and visitors to be the beginning of London (hence Apsley Houses’ address of Number 1, London).
Originally, the Wellington Arch lined up with the Apsley Gate but owing to increased traffic, the arch was moved to its current location in 1882 and now lines up with Constitution Hill, the road that runs from Hyde Park Corner to Buckingham Palace.
Find out more about the Wellington Arch on our blog post HERE.
Admire the Queen Elizabeth Gate
Installed to commemorate the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, these highly decorative gates are made from stainless steel and were designed by Giuseppe Lund. The loose and scrolling nature of the forged steel reflects the Queen Mother’s love of flowers and the central screen, which was designed by David Wynne, features the unicorn of Scotland and the Lion of England. The gates were officially opened in 1993 (3 years after the Queen Mothers birthday!) by Queen Elizabeth II.
Explore the Serpentine Galleries
The Serpentine Galleries actually consist of two separate buildings, each one on either side of the Serpentine Bridge. The Kensington Gardens side was the first, established in 1970 and located inside a former 1930’s tea pavilion. The second was opened in 2013 and is located inside a former gunpowder store from 1805. The Gallery features contemporary art by both well-known and up and coming artists and is completely FREE!
Find out what’s on when you visit HERE.
Wander Through the Rose Garden
Situated in the southeast corner of Hyde Park sits the spectacular Rose Garden. Opened in 1994 and designed by Colvin and Moggridge Landscape Architects, the garden not only features roses but also herbaceous plants and other seasonal flowers.
It’s a charming little slice of Hyde Park, and a popular place for photography as well as quiet reflection. Featured within the garden is a grand pergola and two fountains: the Boy and Dolphin built in 1862 and the Diana the Huntress fountain built in 1899.
The best time to visit the Rose Garden is in early summer, but regardless of which time you visit, there is always something beautiful to see!
Walk Along the Diana Memorial Fountain
Designed by an American landscape artist, Kathryn Gustafson, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain was opened to the public in 2004. The fountain is easily accessible to the public to reflect Diana’s “inclusive” personality and the fact that she was seen as an “accessible” figure to the public. Made up of 545 separate pieces of granite from Cornwall, the fountain is really more of an oval-shaped stream.
It’s circular, and the stream is around 3m - 6m (10ft - 20ft) wide at different points. The fountain bed is not smooth, consisting of numerous cuts, elevated steps of different sizes, false rocks, and occasional smooth pieces, all meant to reflect the wildly tumultuous, but also occasionally happy, parts of Diana’s life. Today it’s a popular place for children to splash in (and there is a playground nearby) as well as for visitors to walk along, or cool their feet on a hot summer's day.
Find out more about the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, including opening hours, in our blog post HERE.
Visit the Holocaust Memorial and 7 July Memorial
A garden of boulders, surrounded by white-stemmed birch trees, this Memorial was Britain’s first memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. Situated just east of the Serpentine, the memorial was constructed in 1983 and was designed by Richard Seifert and Derek Lovejoy and Partners. The memorial features an inscription from the Book of Lamentations on one of the boulders, inscribed in both English and Hebrew. Today, Hyde Park’s Holocost Memorial is the setting for yearly remembrance services every April.
Unveiled on the 4th anniversary of the 7 July 2005 London Bombings, the 7 July Memorial is located in the south east corner of Hyde Park near the statue of Achilles. The memorial comprises 52 stainless steel pillars, representing each of the 52 victims. The pillars are grouped together in four interlinking clusters which represent the four locations of the incidents. At the eastern end of the memorial is a stainless steel plaque that lists the names of each victim.
See the Statue of Achilles
An 18ft statue of Achilles, the Greek hero of the Trojan War, stands near the Queen Elizabeth Gate at Hyde Park Corner and represents Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Ordered by King George III, and unveiled in 1822, the statue was made by Sir Richard Westmacott, created from 33 tonnes of bronze from cannon captured in Wellington’s military campaigns in France. The head of the statue is said to be based on the Duke himself, although the body is that of a Roman figure on Monte Cavallo in Italy.
At the unveiling of the statue, there was much outrage at the completely nude figure so a small fig leaf was added shortly after it was installed!
Visit the Reformers Tree
In 1866, an oak tree in Hyde Park became the focus of protests by the Reform League, a group campaigning to give all adult men the right to vote. The tree became known as the Reformers’ Tree and, during one protest, was set on fire, leaving nothing behind but a charred stump. However, that stump became a rallying point and notice board as well as a popular symbol of the right of people to assemble in the park.
Not long after, in 1872, Speakers’ Corner was officially designated by Parliament, and that then became the location for public speaking and protests. In 2000, on the site of the original Reformers’ Tree, a black and white mosaic was unveiled by Tony Benn, placed there to commemorate the history that took place on that site.
Take a Virtual Tour
If you can’t make it to Hyde Park on your own, let Free Tours By Foot take you there virtually! Check out our guided tour of the park HERE.
This section will list off a few of the most notable landmarks, historic sites, and popular attractions to visit in the vicinity of Hyde Park. If you have some extra time after visiting the park, consider walking over to one of the following locations.
Just to the northeast of Hyde Park, and adjacent to Marble Arch, sits Oxford Street, Europe’s busiest shopping street. With around half a million daily visitors and around 300 shops, this is a popular destination for both Londoners and visitors alike.
The street itself is the main thoroughfare that links western and eastern London and is served by multiple bus stops and 4 separate Underground stations.
The street is especially popular to visit during the holiday season as it is home to some of the biggest and best displays of Christmas lights in London! For more information on Christmas lights in London, check out our blog post HERE.
Kensington Gardens and Kensington Palace
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 is a great place to explore.
Located within Kensington Gardens is Kensington Palace, largely designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built during the reign of King WIlliam III and his wife Queen Mary II in the 1680’s. Throughout the years, many royals have both arrived and departed this earth right here at Kensington Palace. King William III, Queen Mary II and her sister Queen Anne all died in the Palace, and our current Queens’ grandmother was born here in 1867. Most famously of all, it was at Kensington Palace where Queen Victoria came into the world in 1819 and where she lived until her accession to the throne in 1837.
In more recent times, it also served as the home of the Queens’ sister, Princess Margaret, and perhaps most famously, the Queens’ former daughter-in-law, Princess Diana, as well as the home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their three children.
For more information on Kensington Gardens, check out our post, with all the information you need, as well as a self guided tour, HERE.
For more information on Kensington Palace, including tips on getting cheap tickets, check out our blog post HERE.
Or, tour Kensington Gardens virtually with Sinead HERE.
Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall
Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s beloved husband of 21 years died unexpectedly in 1861 at the age of 42. Victoria, who never recovered from the loss, commissioned a memorial dedicated to her husband and the Albert Memorial was eventually opened in July 1872.
The memorial consists of an ornate canopy, sheltering a statue of the Prince, covered in real gold leaf (!), who is looking south, to the Royal Albert Hall and the Victoria and Albert Museum. The entire structure is incredibly ornate with friezes, sculptures and references to allegorical tales.
Named after the ill-fated Prince Albert, the Albert Hall is a beautiful concert hall just a stone’s throw from Kensington Gardens. Opened by Queen Victoria in 1871, the building quickly became one of the most high-profile musical venues in the country - and later, the world - hosting more than 350 events each year. It’s possible to tour the Hall with a paid-for-guided tour but it’s completely free to walk the entirety of the outside and admire the beautiful construction, carvings and decorations that surround it.
Museums (V&A, Science, Natural History)
Just to the southwest of Hyde Park sits three of London’s biggest and best museums: The Victoria & Albert, the Natural History Museum, and the Science Museum. Best of all, they are all FREE!
The V&A Museum was established in 1852 and is the world’s largest museum of applied arts, decorative arts and design as well as owning the world’s largest collection of post-classical sculpture. The permanent collection contains over 2.27 million objects displayed throughout 145 galleries.
The Natural History Museum was established in 1881 and now holds over 80 million items within its five main collections, which include botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology and zoology.
The Science Museum was established in 1857and focuses on subjects such as space, the modern world, medicine, and mathematics (just to name a few). With hands-on exhibits and a continually changing array of activities and events, this is a good place to bring the kids!
For more free museums in London, check out our blog post HERE.
Perhaps the most famous department store in the world, Harrods is located in the upmarket London neighbourhood of Knightsbridge. Founded in 1834, the store has been an international shopping destination for decades and continually boasts an annual revenue upwards of £650million. Spanning a 5 acre site and holding over one million square feet of selling space, Harrods is easily the biggest department store in Europe - with over 330 different departments inside.
For more information on Harrods, including the dress code (!), check out our blog post HERE.
Animals at War Memorial
Located just outside the Park, near Brook Gate, stands the Animals in War Memorial. This unique memorial commemorates animals that died in wars and conflicts. Unveiled in 2004, on the 90th anniversary of the start of World War 1, the monument features animals from mules (who were used during World War II, their vocal cords cut to ensure their silence), to glow worms (used by soldiers as a source of light in World War I). Designed by David Backhouse, the memorial consists of a Portland stone wall, numerous carvings, and bronze statues.
It’s only a 10 or so minute walk from Hyde Park Corner to the gates of Buckingham Palace, London’s most famous royal home. Originally built in 1703 as Buckingham House, the palace has been a home for the royal family since the reign of King George III, who purchased the house in 1761. Throughout the years the palace has been expanded and updated into the building that stands today, becoming the official London residence of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837.
For more information on the history of Buckingham Palace, and information on visiting, including guided tours, check out our blog post HERE.
Or consider joining us on our Royal Westminster and All in One Tours, both of which include a stop outside Buckingham Palace and the chance to take some photos! See the schedule and sign up HERE.
Not coming to London any time soon? Take the walk virtually HERE.
Toilets: There are three toilets in Hyde Park. Find out where they are HERE.
Accessible Toilets: The above mentioned toilets are all accessible.
Food & Drink: There are two places to sit and eat/drink in Hyde Park: The Serpentine Lido Cafe and the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen. In addition, there are six refreshment point kiosks in the park and two drinking fountains. Find out more HERE.
Parking: Although there is parking at Hyde Park, it is recommended to take public transport as parking is limited. The postcode for the car park is W2 2UH. Parking is pay and display and there are no parking facilities between midnight and 9:00 am. Find out the rates on the day you visit HERE.
Opening Times and Hours
Hyde Park is open from 5:00 am until midnight, all year round.
How to Get to Hyde Park
Nearest Underground Stations: Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch, Knightsbridge, Lancaster Gate, Green Park
Nearest Rail Station: Victoria Station, Paddington Station
Bus Routes: C2, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19, 22, 23, 30, 36, 38, 52, 73, 74, 82, 94, 98, 113, 137, 148, 159, 274, 390, 414, 436