Green spaces are the perfect way to escape London’s busy streets and towering skyscrapers – no matter the season, you’ll always find a beautiful garden to explore. Parks and gardens cover approximately 35,000 acres of London and the surrounding areas, so a calming stroll will never be too far afield (pun intended). Unlike many of London’s other attractions, it’s parks are open to the public and entrance free of charge. Whether you fancy a picnic, an open-air performance, a gentle stroll or a more intense workout, London has no shortage of spaces to satisfy your needs.
From some of the most famous Royal Parks to other more secluded areas, here are our top outdoor spaces to explore in London:
- 1. Hyde Park, Kensington
As one of the largest Royal parks, the 142 famous acres of greenery please thousands of visitors each year. With over 4000 trees, many winding lakes and a rose garden, Hyde Park is perfect for a stroll, cycle or some rowing. The massive Serpentine lake, popular for swims with swans and ducks in summer, and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain shouldn’t be missed either.
- 2. Kensington Gardens, Knightsbridge
Originally opened in 1841 alongside its neighbour, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens is ideal spot to unwind in central London. The vast green grasses make for the best picnic spots and the Princess Diana playground is sure to keep children entertained for hours in the summer.
- 3. Regent’s Park
This Royal park is the home to the London Zoo, an open-air theatre and proudly offers London’s largest outdoor sports ground. There’s always something to see here, from giraffes and tigers to some classical Shakespeare, to a football or cricket match.
- 4. Greenwich Park, Greenwich
Not only is Greenwich park the oldest Royal Park, but it’s probably the most well known. More than 30 movies have used Greenwich’s iconic hillsides as the perfect London backdrop; walking to the top of the hill reveals breathtaking views of the Thames and the cityscape below. Apart from being a movie destination, the 183 acres are a haven to deer, fox and over 70 types of birds. In addition, this park is home to the Greenwich Meridian Line which defines Longitude Zero (0° 0′ 0″) which divides the earth into 2 hemispheres.
- 5. St. James’s Park
This park is a wonder for sightseers as it provides picturesque views of Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the London Eye. St. James’s Park also provides superb bird watching opportunities – in 1664 a Russian ambassador donated pelicans to the park, which now have formed a celebrated colony which are fed daily at 2:30 pm.
- 6. Hampstead Heath, Dartmouth Park
Only 4 miles from central London, the view from the top of Parliament hill is so beautiful that is protected by law. Between the hills, ponds, woodlands and playgrounds, Hampstead’s unmanicured grasslands are unique and welcomed among dog walkers and outdoor enthusiasts.
- 7. Isabella Plantation, Richmond
The distinctive and unusual rhododendrons and azaleas bloom into bright shades of pink and red in April and May, creating a shocking contrast against the deep greens of the surrounding woodlands. If an icey swim in the ponds seems unappealing, a climb up King Henry’s mound is well-worth the trek for the spectacular view of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
- 8. Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington
For a more gothic and spooky experience, the damp and overgrown woodlands surrounding the Abney park cemetery are great for exploration. If the 200-year-old, derelict chapel in the centre isn’t of interest, guided tours and woodworking courses are also on offer.
- 9. Hill gardens & Pergola, Hampstead
For a fairytale experience, the luxurious and immaculate gardens and pergolas give a peek into 20th-century garden parties. In the 1900s famous politicians and philanthropists would make use of this space to host grand events for the super-rich. Now, slightly overgrown, a gentle stroll between the exotic fauna transports you to another time.
- 10. Chiswick House & Garden
The regal flowers and pathways which surround Chiswick house have been the inspiration of other famous gardens around the world like Central Park in New York. Every January, the park comes alive at night with brilliant lanterns and illuminated sculptures in the Magical Lantern Festival which celebrates art, heritage and culture.