London Parks

Richmond Park

Richmond Park is the largest park in London. Its 1,000 hectares provide a haven for a wide variety of species (deer, fallow deer, grey squirrels, swans, etc.). There are also some very old oak trees and other unique plantings.

Richmond Park is in fact a nature reserve owned by the Queen. Originally it was used for short hunts, but as time went on it was opened to the public to the delight of the local residents. Richmond Parc closes at dusk so that the animals can rest in peace. The park is also closed during the mating season.

Richmond Park: deer and hinds in total freedom.

Although a little out of the way from central London. Richmond Park is beautiful. It is relatively hilly and has a lake at its centre where swans and wild geese come to drink. It is also very impressive to see deer and hinds crossing our path without seeming to disturb them.

Pembroke Lodge in the park is not to be missed either. A magnificent Georgian Mansion set in 2500 m2 of land and partially open to the public. It offers a breathtaking view over the valley! Its typically English gardens are beautiful, especially in spring. For the little tip, don’t forget to take some almonds or walnuts as there are many squirrels.

St James’s Park

London’s oldest royal park, occupies 58 acres (23 hectares) of prime central London land.

The western end of the park stretches from the edge of Horseguards Parade and the Foreign Office to Buckingham Palace. The park is bordered to the north by the Mall and to the south by Birdcage Walk.

St James’s Park offers a haven of tranquillity after visiting Westminster and Buckingham Palace. On Sundays, the Mall on its northern side is closed to traffic, making it an even greater respite.

A lake runs almost the entire length of the park and the Blue Bridge that crosses it offers magnificent views of Buckingham Palace, the Horseguards Parade and the London Eye. The lake attracts a large number of birds; as well as rare tawny owls and huge tame white pelicans, there are nesting sites around the lake for 15 different types of waterfowl, including well-fed geese and ducks.

The park is busy with walkers and joggers, but there are benches along the paths in case you want to rest. Alternatively, deckchairs can be hired from March to October, weather permitting.

St James’s Park also has a play area for small children and toilet facilities for disabled visitors.

The park is open from 5am to midnight, all year round. St James’s Park, Charing Cross and Green Park are the nearest tube stations.

London SW1A 2BJ, United Kingdom

Green Park

Green Park is just across the Mall from St James’s Park, but has a very different layout: in the shape of a triangle, it is essentially 47 acres (19 hectares) of undulating lawn with dozens of mature trees (mainly London plane and lime), many of which are planted in straight rows along long avenues.

Established as a deer hunting ground in 1668 by King Charles II, the original woodland appearance of Green Park has remained almost entirely intact. There are no flowerbeds, but in spring, around 250,000 daffodils bloom on the lawns.

Green Park is criss-crossed with paths for walking and jogging. The gentle gradients and long stretches should allow any fitness-conscious visitor to get some exercise in the area. The Green Park website offers 10 different routes for guided walks in the park.

The park is also a pleasant place for a picnic in good weather, with plenty of shade. From March to October, deckchairs are available for hire near the Green Park Metro entrance, and the park itself is home to two snack bars.

Bordered by Constitution Hill, Piccadilly and the Broad Walk, Green Park leads to Buckingham Palace through its own Canada, Africa and Australia gates. The park is open from 5am to midnight.

London SW1A 1BW, United Kingdom

Regent’s Park

Regent’s Park is a 410-acre (165-hectare) meandering idyll that begins at the north-west end of Marylebone.

Located halfway between the borough of Camden and the City of Westminster, it includes some of the city’s finest gardens, a navigable canal, London Zoo, a theatre, restaurants and a lake large enough to row across.

Regent’s Park was originally one of Henry VIII’s exclusive hunting grounds, but it was not closed to the public until 1812. The then Prince Regent commissioned the famous British architect John Nash to design and lay out the entire park.

Nash’s plans include the magnificent terraces and nine large villas that surround the park, as well as a lake and canal for boating. Regent’s Street was originally created to link St James’s Palace and a summer palace planned for the Prince Regent, which was never built.

The park has two ring roads: the Outer Circle, which runs around the entire perimeter of the park, and the much smaller Inner Circle, which surrounds the southern part of the park.

The inner circle surrounds Queen Mary’s Gardens, a magnificent series of formal plantings, tree-lined walks, fountains and hedges. Known for their spectacular roses, Queen Mary’s Gardens contain over 30,000 plants, representing around 400 different varieties. As the gardens are quite far from the main roads, the inner circle is generally very uncrowded and can be very peaceful; with many secluded areas, it is the ideal place to escape the crowds.

Nearby on the west side is Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, opened in 1932 and home to the oldest fully professional theatre company in the UK. This 1,200-seat open-air theatre, open from May to September, is famous for its summer productions of Shakespeare’s plays (including its annual performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream), but it also offers musicals, children’s plays and a Sunday night concert series.

Just to the west is the start of the willow-lined Boating Lake curve, whose small islands are home to flocks of waterfowl. Next to the lake, from May to October, you can hire boats and deckchairs.

Opposite the northern edge of the lake is the magnificent Central London Mosque, opened in 1978. A cultural and spiritual centre for much of the city’s large Muslim population, the mosque can accommodate up to 1,800 people and has a huge comprehensive reference library of Islamic texts.

Moving away from the lake to the north-east, the park is filled with sports fields for football, rugby, hockey and cricket. The park is also home to the London Softball League, the largest in the UK, with 19 pitches laid out on weekday evenings in the summer.

At the edge of the sports fields, a circular glass-clad building called The Hub contains a sports centre with changing rooms and a restaurant with 360° views. Both are open seven days a week.

To the east of The Hub is one of the city’s biggest attractions, London Zoo. Home to over 600 species of animals, the huge zoo is crossed by the Regent’s Canal, which can be crossed by the London Waterbus.

Nearest tube lines: Camden Town, Baker Street, Regent’s Park, Great Portland Street.

Holland Park

The 54 acres of woodland in Kensington’s Holland Park offer a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of West London. Bordered by Kensington Palace to the east, trendy Notting Hill to the north and Kensington High Street to the south, the park has many fine attractions.

On the north side of Holland Park, the woods are carved with small clearings and uneven, stony walking/jogging paths. This is where Lord Holland’s pond is located, with a central statue of Henry Richard Vassall-Fox, the third Baron Holland and namesake of the park. Its pond attracts a lot of wildlife, including foxes, some types of bats, over 30 species of birds and even a few peacocks.

The park also includes a Japanese garden called the Kyoto Garden, created in 1991 by the Kyoto Chamber of Commerce and dedicated by Prince Charles to mark the friendship between Japan and the UK. The centrepiece of this garden is a tranquil waterfall.

In the centre of the park, the former grand Holland House is now a youth hostel called YHA London Holland Park. Surrounding the building are large formal gardens with clipped box hedges and park benches that offer many quiet places to sit. Nearby are an open-air restaurant and café, the house’s former orangery (a kind of greenhouse) and an ecology centre.

Also within the grounds of Holland House, Opera Holland Park is known for its summer open-air theatre and opera performances, which take place from early June to mid-August.

The southern part of the park has tennis courts and a large cricket/sports ground, and on the eastern side there is a large children’s playground.

Nearest metro stations: Holland Park (north) and High Street Kensington (south).

Ilchester Pl, London W8 6LU, UK

Greenwich Park

The oldest of the Royal Parks, Greenwich Park is full of history, attractions and wildlife. Set atop a huge hill, it also offers some of the best views in the city across London.

While the Roman remains of a temple and several ancient artefacts were discovered in the eastern part of the park in 1902, the modern history of the park begins closer to the 15th century.

In 1427 Greenwich Castle, the residence of Henry VI’s uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, was built on the 183 acres (74 hectares) of parkland. In the reign of Henry VIII, they were enclosed as a hawk and deer hunting ground, and James I formalised them with a high brick wall. Descendants of the stags and much of the original wall still remain.

The huge park is now home to the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory and Queen’s House, as well as a statue of the British founder of Canada, a series of popular tennis courts, a children’s sailing lake and, at its heart, the charming Pavilion Tea House. On a warm sunny day, sit outside and enjoy tea, British treats and a great view of the city.

In the north-east corner of the park you will find the Wilderness Park (home to most of the park’s deer) which adjoins the large Blackheath green space, as well as the Flower Garden Lake, filled with small fountains and water birds. In the northwest corner, a community orchard that was first planted in 1666 has been revived and replanted with apple trees. In the south-west and south-east corners you will find a small herb garden and a rose garden of 100 varieties.

Greenwich Park is open from 6am to dusk all year round. You can get to Greenwich Park by boat, bus, tube or Docklands Light Railway.

London SE10 8QY, UK