A Guide To London’s Parks And Green Spaces

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A Guide To London’s Parks And Green Spaces


Photo by Marc Barrot via the Londonist Flickr Pool

From elegant Victorian gardens to rugged woodland, London boasts an impressive variety of green spaces. Below we’ve included everything you should know about the best-loved parks and commons in all four corners of the capital.

Can’t choose between them? This self-guided weekend walk takes in four of London’s Royal Parks.

Central London

Green Park

The verdant triangle between Piccadilly and Buckingham Palace may lack the flowerbeds and lakes boasted by other Royal Parks, but it’s probably the most tranquil of the lot — and there’s plenty to discover here if you know where to look.

Take, for instance, the circle of plane trees pictured above: a rumoured Druidic landmark that hiding in plain sight.

Other secrets of Green Park include the buried River Tyburn, one of London’s last porters’ rests and — possibly — several ghosts.

Nearest tube stations: Green Park, Hyde Park Corner.

Hyde Park

Photo by Marco Chilese on Unsplash

One of London’s largest Royal Parks, Hyde Park is home to the vast Serpentine Lake (which you can swim in), the majestic Wellington Arch and even a hidden pet cemetery.

With 350 acres to explore, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to picnic spots, and there are three cafes (including a stingray-shaped one) where you can replenish your supplies.

Other points of interest include the Diana Memorial Fountain, the Hyde Park Rose Garden, and the Achilles statue, which actor Laurence Olivier once called “the best arse in London”. See the park in all its glory here.

Nearest tube stations: Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge.

Kensington Gardens

Photo by Richard via the Londonist Flickr Pool

Once the private gardens of Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens is now open to all. The picturesque Royal park was the setting of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan and is now home to a much-cherished statue of the boy-who-never-grew-up, which once fell victim to a messy art war. Other notable sights include the Grade II listed Elfin Oak, the Esme Percy Fountain, and the parakeets that will perch right on your hands.

Nearest tube stations: Lancaster Gate, Queensway, Bayswater, High Street Kensington.

St James’s Park

Trio of pelicans. Photo by Jenny.

Named after a hospital for people suffering from leprosy, St James’s is perhaps the most regal of all Royal Parks — home to both The Mall and the Horse Guards Parade, and flanked by Buckingham and St James’s palaces.

However, the real stars of the park have got to be  Isla, Tiffany and Gargi, the three pelicans who live here. Other attractions include vibrant flower beds, two cafes, and a possibly haunted statue of Queen Anne.

Nearest tube stations: St James’s Park, Charing Cross, Westminster, Green Park, Victoria.

North London

Hampstead Heath

View from the top of Parliament Hill. Image: Shutterstock

Part of what makes Hampstead Heath so special is its wild beauty — check it out in all its rugged glory here.

The other part is the stunning views of the capital it boasts, which makes the heath perfect for picnics, as does its proximity to some stellar delis and bakeries.

It’s also a cracking choice for a weekend ramble — these two take in much of the Heath.

Landmarks include a beautiful old viaduct, a hidden stately home, and some incredible bathing ponds.

Nearest tube stations: Hampstead, Golders Green, Gospel Oak, Tufnell Park.

Regent’s Park

Photo by Laura Gilchrist via the Londonist Flickr Pool

An abandoned garden, a secret garden and an ornate mosque that took 37 years to build — these are just some of the hidden gems that await you at Regent’s Park. This gorgeous Royal Park is the largest grass area for sports in Central London and also houses bits of London Zoo. It also hosts the annual Frieze Art Fair and accompanying al fresco sculpture trail every October.

Nearest tube stations: Regent’s Park, Great Portland Street, Baker Street, St. John’s Wood, Camden Town.

Finsbury Park

Image: dweller88 via the Londonist Flickr Pool

Finsbury Park benefitted from major renovations during the early noughties and now boasts tennis courts, a running track and play area, as well as a full-blown gallery specialising in the intersection between art and technology.

It’s also part of the Parkland Walk pedestrian and cycle route — follow this scenic route from Ally Pally and finish up with a picnic in Finsbury Park.

Nearest tube stations: Finsbury Park, Manor House.

South

Brockwell Park

Image: Matt Brown via the Londonist Flickr Pool

This 19th century beauty boasts tons of stunning period features, including a charming ‘Old English’ walled garden, an 1897 clock tower, and ornamental ponds. There are also more modern additions, including a BMX track, a miniature railway and — our personal highlight — a lovingly-restored art deco lido for you to cool off in.

Nearest stations: Herne Hill, Tulse Hill.

Clapham Common

Image: Matt Brown via the Londonist Flickr Pool

One of south London’s many commons, this vast triangle of verdancy dates as far back as 1086. Amenities include three ponds and a pretty Victorian bandstand.

Look out for this mysterious drum-shaped structure while you’re there — it’s actually a passageway to a cavernous shelter used during the second world war.

Nearest stations: Clapham South, Clapham Junction, Clapham High Street.

Peckham Rye Park & Common

Photo: Laura Reynolds

The most striking feature of Peckham Rye Common? It’s got to be the beautifully-carved wooden totem pole that sits at its border. Head south from here to access the main part of the park, which boasts a cafe, an adventure playground and a skate park.

It’s also home to the hidden  Sexby Garden, which is one of the best places in London to see wisteria in bloom during the spring. Hidden treasure include the (mostly buried) River Peck and the remnants of a second world war POW camp.

Nearest stations: East Dulwich, Honor Oak, Nunhead.

East

Greenwich Park

Photo by Mark Ramsay via the Londonist Flickr Pool

Home to one of London’s most stunning viewpoints: a dramatic sweep of lawn looking out onto the 17th century marvel that is the Queens House, with the River Thames and Canary Wharf’s gleaming skyscrapers beyond. The Royal Park boasts a rose garden, an orchard, and a kids’ playground, and even the home of Greenwich Mean Time itself, Sir Christopher Wren’s stunning Royal Observatory.

Nearest stations: Greenwich (National Rail), North Greenwich.

London Fields

Photo by D1v1d via the Londonist Flickr pool

At the bottom of Broadway Market lies one of Hackney’s most popular parks, London Fields. As well as being a perfect place to scoff your market food on a Saturday, it’s got its own lido and a pub slap-bang in the middle of it. Bucolic, it ain’t, but it’s certainly one of the buzziest green spaces in London.

Nearest stations: Hackney Central, Cambridge Heath, Haggerston.

Victoria Park

Photo by Matt Brown

Once voted the nation’s favourite park, Victoria Park is the largest green space in Tower Hamlets, with amenities including a boating lake, two cafes, a skate park and a large playground.

The flower-strewn Old English Garden is a particular highlight, as are the canine statues that guard the park gates. Make sure you drop into the phenomenal People’s Park Tavern while you’re there.

Nearest stations: Hackney Wick, Homerton, Cambridge Heath, Mile End.

West

Battersea Park

Photo by Memake

Get lost in the glorious leafiness of Battersea Park — home to many notable trees, a children’s zoo (a much cheaper alternative to ZSL) and several significant modern sculptures. Keep an eye out for the Brown Dog Statue which once caused a riot, and pay a visit to the Grade II listed Pump House Gallery if you can.

Nearest stations: Battersea Park, Queenstown Road.

Bushy Park

Diana statue, plus cormorants. Photo by Duncan.

Famed for its roaming herds of red and fallow deer, Bushy Park is a great place to experience some wildlife (just remember to keep your distance). Other attractions include the Grade I listed Diana fountain and a baroque-style water garden.

Nearest stations: Teddington, Hampton Wick, Hampton Court.

Richmond Park

Photo by Matt Brown via the Londonist Flickr pool

Want to feel like you’re in the countryside without leaving London?

Head to Richmond Park, a 2500 acre national nature reserve that’s teeming with rare species of fungi, birds, beetles, bats, grasses, wildflowers and more. Just remember to watch out for the deer — especially if it’s rutting season.

Nearest stations: Richmond Station.

Holland Park

Photo by Venesha Thompson via the Londonist Flickr Pool

A secret Japanese kyoto garden. London’s saddest statue. The tamest peacocks in the capital. These are just some of the curiosities waiting to be discovered at Holland Park, which began life as the grounds of Cope Castle — though only the front terrace of the Jacobean manor still stands today.

Nearest stations: Holland Park, High Street Kensington.

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