Favourite London parks

A French friend of mine living in London, commented to me once that Paris had nowhere near the amount of open park space that London has and that it was one of the things that she loved most about London. Ironic really I thought, when we probably have the worst weather in Europe. Still, the London parks offer a welcome interruption from the cityscape and are free to visit. Interestingly, at the first hint of sunshine (even on cool but sunny days) they are strewn with barely-dressed Londoners desperate to have even a hint of a tan.

Hyde Park

Hyde Park is the largest in central London and is often the venue for rock concerts and summer festivals in the city. It seems to come into its own during winter though. Hyde Park hosts the Winter Wonderland between November and January each year as well as the annual Christmas Day Serpentine swim, a seriously cold event for people with a freakish ability to not run for the central heating when offered a subzero dip in the Serpentine. The Northern corner nearest Marble Arch is the home of the original Speaker’s Corner. Anyone who has something to say should head there. Or even if you don’t fancy speaking but enjoy heckling.  It is large enough that is also contains several relatively peaceful memorials including Diana Princess of Wales memorial, London’s Holocaust memorial and another commemorating the 7/7 London terrorist attack victims.

Regent’s Park

Regent’s Park is a considerable size too. It is home to London Zoo, which is enormous, with an impressive collection of animals for a city-centre zoo. Worth remembering too that if you think you saw something in the bushes, you should probably report it. (I’m joking this has Never happened to me) Regent’s canal runs through the Northern part of the park. This canal connected the Grand Union canal with the old London docks. The park is dotted with villas and lodges. In summer there is an open air theatre in Regent’s Park. Take your jumper though; the term ‘summer’ refers only to the time of year and there is no guarantee it will feel like summer.

St James and Green Parks

St James and Green Parks are conveniently near Buckingham Palace if the need for space comes upon you after a visit shuffling around with the hordes. Being so central they offer calm respite from the hectic city around them.

Battersea Park

If you are after a riverside park then head to Battersea Park on the South side of the Thames. There is a small children’s zoo, a boating lake, cafe and oodles of sports facilities. The boating lake is open to all levels of ability (so watch out for some hilarious arguments between couples whose romantic intentions have exposed their chronic inability to row a boat). Traditional rowing boats, as well as more mediterranean pedalo boats are available for hire. If all this sounds too much effort though there are plenty of benches by the waterfront from which you can take in passing river traffic, in the tranquil surroundings by the London Peace Pagoda.

Richmond Park

If you’re more the Catherine and Heathcliff types and need wild open expanses of parkland then head to Richmond Park. It is a little further out South West from the centre of town and is a vast area full of greenery and wildlife. It is a wonderful place for a remote-feeling picnic, but be careful to keep an eye on your food as you can bet the hungry deer have their eyes on it.

Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath is a vast area of park land to the North of London. Climb to the top of Parliament Hill to be rewarded with a view of the whole of London lying beneath you. Ah lovely.


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