When you think of London you might think of the famous landmarks such as Westminster, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye. London has far more than this and is one of the greenest cities in the world. London is blessed with some of the best parks in Europe in my opinion. Carry on reading to find out more about the best parks in London to visit.
Whenever I visit a new city, I always check out the parks or botanical gardens. Wherever you are, it’s a nice break from the city smog and a time to relax and appreciate the sights and smells around you.
I spend so much time walking around the various parks on this list, and each time I seem to find something new or something I haven’t seen before. These are some of the best parks in London for walks, as well as cycling, relaxing, wildlife spotting and generally just having a good time.
To make the most of your visit to London’s best Parks, checkout this guide for a great 4-Day London Itinerary.
Table of Contents
1. Hyde Park / Kensington Gardens (Best Park in Central London)
Let’s start with probably the most famous royal park in London, and the best park in Central London, Hyde Park. I’m including Kensington Gardens here too as they adjoin each other. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens combined is the largest green space in central London, at 615 acres.
Hyde Park used to be a private hunting ground for King Henry 8th after he acquired the land from the Monks of Westminster in 1536. It wasn’t opened to the public until 1637, by King Charles.
You can enter Hyde Park from so many different places, I would advise to arrive via Lancaster Gate or High Street Kensington, but it’s not too important.
If you enter the park near Lancaster Gate you will be near to the Italian Gardens, which is a great place to start. You can walk around the pond and sit on the many benches to listen as the water flows from the fountains back into the pond to complete its circle, as the local ducks are bobbing up and down for fish.
East of here you can hire deck chairs, perfect for a bit of relaxation on a warm summer’s day (there’s a few places you can do this dotted around the park). There is a lovely vintage ice-cream stall here, as well as toilets (very important!) and a coffee shop to fill up on pastries and hot chocolate to keep you going.
A lot of people have picnics around this area. Either bring your own packed lunch or I see a lot of people bringing pizza with them from nearby restaurants.
After the Italian Gardens, I suggest you follow the Long Water Lake (clockwise) to visit some of the other main attractions. As you follow the lake, you’ll come across Bluebird Boats, where you can hire a pedalo if you’re feeling active.
The Serpentine Bar and Kitchen is another place to get your daily fix, with seating overlooking the lake.
If you have kids, you might enjoy the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. You can paddle in the shallow waters and cool down on a nice day (note, you can’t swim in the main lake).
Circling back round, near to the Italian Gardens is the Peter Pan Statue. That’s ok, but if you keep walking just south of here, you’ll see loads of Parakeets, large green birds, who are not shy. Bring some seeds or an apple with you and they’ll happily sit on your arms, your head or anywhere they can.
You can even visit an art gallery in Kensington Gardens. The Serpentine Gallery is free admission, and well worth a visit if you have the time.
You may have heard of Speakers Corner, which is in the north east corner of Hyde park near Marble Arch Station. I wouldn’t recommend visiting here. If you’re (un)lucky you’ll just have some idiot ranting about the end of the world, religion or protesting about something. Just give it a miss.
If you are visiting in December, you must visit Winter Wonderland which consumes a large part of the park towards Edgeware and Marble Arch. Inspired by the German Christmas markets, you can experience beer tents, funfair games, Christmas shows and carnival rides.
2. Regents Park (Best Park in North London)
Regents Park is similar in size to Hyde Park (410 acres) and has a different feel to it, with lots of individual manicured gardens dotted all over the park. If you like your flowers and plants this is the park for you. I would vote this the best park in North London for sure.
You can easily get lost for half a day wondering Regents Park, and I highly suggest you do!
I would split the park into 3 sections that are worth a visit. Head to the inner circle which includes an open-air theatre and the Regents Bar and Kitchen Café. A must see is the wonderful Japanese garden Island with cute little wooden bridges crossing little streams shaded by overhanging willows.
Next, go for a leisurely walk around the boating lake to take in the fresh air and greenery, and watch the Swans owning the water as they elegantly glide across the water.
Finally, finish off in the English Gardens in the south east corner of the Park for water fountains, monuments, and plenty of colourful flowers. Take time to sit and chill on one of the many park benches dotted around the pathways.
Regents Park also houses ZSL London Zoo, well worth a visit if you have the time.
3. St James Park (Best park in London for Royal & City Views)
St James Park is smaller but still worth a visit for a few hours. St James Park runs alongside The Mall, leading to Buckingham Palace on one side and Westminster and the Horse Guards Parade on another, so you can tick off more than one bucket list item off your itinerary together. St James Park is one of the most beautiful parks in London, no doubt.
If you walk across St James Park Bridge and look east, you are presented with a fantastic view of the top of the London Eye and to the west is Buckingham Palace – a great place for a photo.
This is my favourite park to bring a blanket and have a picnic, with some of the famous London landmarks in the background. There are many shaded areas for hotter days and the park will usually be full of people sitting and enjoying the greenery. Keep an eye out for wandering Pelicans near the lake.
4. Battersea Park (Best Park in South London)
Battersea Park takes you south west and for some reason goes under the radar for many visitors, which is a shame. You can check out the posh areas of Chelsea and Fulham at the same time, just across the River Thames from Battersea Park. This is the best park in South London.
A great walk in the park is along the River Thames on the northern edge of the park. There are great views of the river, and the impressive London Peace Pagoda, a wonderful Buddhist temple.
Although I’ve never done it myself, an outdoor activity called Go Ape is based here, which is a treetop rope course via the forest canopy. This is definitely something I want to try myself and is a different kind of experience from what you would normally do in London.
Not strictly inside Battersea Park, but if you are visiting on a Sunday, check out Battersea Boot, a car boot sale on Battersea Park Road. There are always a couple of returning stalls here selling a mix of vintage and antique furniture and smaller items that might make for a good souvenir to take home.
5. Victoria Park (Best Park in East London)
Victoria Park is my local, so I do have an extra soft spot for it, and for good reason. The park is split in two parts by a road running through it. The east side is smaller and probably best for first time visitors. There’s a walking track that goes all around the perimeter which is ideal for walking, running and roller-skating (often you’ll see groups of Roller-skaters meeting up and playing some music). A large section of the park centres around the lake.
There are numerous cool parks in East London, but in my opinion, Victoria Park is the best park in East London.
One thing I highly recommend is hiring a rowing boat or pedalo on the lake, especially on a nice sunny day. Next to the Regal Boat Hire dock is the Pavilion Café and toilets. The Café has indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the lake. On Sundays you can visit the excellent local market, enter at Bonner Gate to find it. I like to go early in the morning (it opens at 9am) to experience the freshly baked goods on offer.
The east side of the park is huge. The walking track around the perimeter extends all the way around this section too. Here you can find another café, The Hub, as well as a skatepark and a lovely Old English Rose Garden. This side of the park also has tennis courts and sports playing fields.
6. Greenwich Park (Great Park for panoramic city views)
Greenwich Park is found in south east London, just south of the River Thames. I would incorporate a visit here along with the town of Greenwich, and possibly even Blackheath too if you have time, both are worth visiting.
Within the Park are two particularly important sites, The Royal Observatory, and the National Maritime Museum. The Royal Observatory is the home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and it’s here you can get that picture of you crossing the prime Meridian line of the world.
The park itself is 183 acres and London’s oldest enclosed royal park. It is broken down by many walking paths zigzagging across it. There is a closed off section which provides a sanctuary for deer and foxes, and many species of bird.
One thing that differentiates Greenwich Park from all the others on the list is that it is quite hilly. The advantage to this is some great views of the city from the top of the hill next to the Royal Observatory. There are spectacular views to Canary Wharf and the City of London.
After you’ve finished in the Park head to Greenwich or Blackheath. Greenwich has a great market at the weekends selling all kinds of art, souvenirs, and local handmade products.
7. Richmond Park (Best Park outside London)
Richmond Park is a nature reserve on the outskirts of London and feels completely different to all the other parks listed. Richmond Park is bigger than all the other parks combined at 2,500 acres and can be reached from Central London using a combination of Tube and Buses if you don’t have your own transportation. Richmond Park is the best park outside of Central London.
Richmond Park is great for wildlife spotting, and here you will be certain to see herds of Red Deer roaming freely around the park.
Highlights of the park include the Isabella Plantation which is an ornamental woodland garden full of exotic plants all year round.
King Henry’s Mound is a great viewpoint offering panoramic views of the surrounding Thames Valley area to the west and as far as St Paul’s Cathedral to the east (10 miles away looking through the telescope!).
The park also has many cycle tracks and cycling is an excellent way to experience more of this wild and spacious park.
Summary of the Best Parks in London
I hope you find this review of the best parks in London useful, and have an opportunity to visit as many as possible on your trip to London. There are so many green spaces in London I have only touched the surface. A few more worth mentioning are Haggerston Park, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London Fields, Holland Park, Kew Gardens, Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill. Maybe I’ll write part 2 one day!
Contributed by Wes from Walk About Wes
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