Visitors and locals alike can uncover stretches of greenery in London, each of the city’s parks offering a respite from the hustle of the British capital. While popular spots like Hyde Park and St. James’s Park are well-known amongst travelers, London is filled with grassy meadows and wooded expanses, some of which extend for miles. Throughout the year, London’s parks are perfect for a long walk or a quiet moment of contemplation – or even a dip in one of the bathing ponds.
Located in the heart of central London, Hyde Park is a favorite gathering place on warm weekend days. It's attached to Green Park and Buckingham Palace Gardens to the east and borders Kensington Palace to the west, and Hyde Park is considered part of The Royal Parks, making it ideal for sight-seeing. The Serpentine, a long, narrow lake at Hyde Park’s center, invites visitors to lounge in the sun or take out one of the paddle boats, while the nearby Serpentine Gallery offers changing displays. Don’t miss the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, the Italian Gardens and the Holocaust Memorial Gardens.
Regent’s Park is home to the London Zoo, as well as a long, peaceful stretch of Regent’s Canal. The expansive green space also features a picturesque boating lake, the Open Air Theatre and endless spots to settle in for an afternoon picnic. Also part of The Royal Parks, Regent’s Park is connected to Primrose Hill, which offers incredible views of the London skyline perfect for photos. As you leave, be sure to stop by The Espresso Bar, a tiny coffee shop along the park’s Broad Walk for a pick me up.
Father north, Hampstead Heath is a popular spot for locals to stroll, picnic or take a dip in one of the bathing ponds, which are separated for men and women. There’s a lot to explore throughout the park, from tennis courts to horse-back riding areas to the beloved Secret Garden. Head to the West Meadow for some sunshine, or go for a jog through the wooded East Heath. Because it’s one of the more rustic green expanses in the city, it almost feels like you’re discovering some remote woods rather than a metropolitan park.
St. James's Park
Because St. James’s Park sits alongside Buckingham Palace the small central park is famous for its colorful, perfectly manicured flower beds and dozens of swans (all of which are owned by the Queen). The Royal Park is home to many iconic celebrations, including Trooping the Colour, and the changing of the guard, which happens nearby on the Mall. Visit St. James’s Café for a daytime bite to eat overlooking the park or rent one of the deck chairs, which are available hourly throughout the grassy areas. Because it’s adjacent to many tourist attractions, the park is also perfect for a break from spending during a busy day of sightseeing.
Formerly a grazing site for farm animals, London Fields is one of East London’s most popular green expanses, especially during the weekends. London Fields Lido, located in the northern part of the park, welcomes swimmers to its heated pool year-round. On Saturdays, Londoners head to Broadway Market, a weekly outdoor food market, to grab lunch and a few beers to enjoy on the grass. There are also several pubs and local breweries along the park's borders (Pub on the Park is especially recommended).
Victoria Park, the city’s oldest public park, often hosts music festivals and yearly events, like November’s Bonfire Night, but the East London park is a great outing any random day. It’s one of London’s bigger collections of fields, playgrounds and wooded scenery, and there’s boating pond complete with a Japanese pagoda and Pavillion Café. Don’t skip the Old English Garden and be sure to stroll along Regent’s Canal, which stretches along the park’s southwestern edge, and those with kids will find endless entertainment at the Victoria Park Splash Pool (bring a towel).
You have to know where to look to seek out Haggerston Park, a relatively compact open space in the area of Hackney. It also contains Hackney City Farm, a collection of barnyard animals that offers free entry to adults and kids, and there are several play areas dedicated to families. Active visitors can find a BMX cycle track, as well as gaming areas for soccer and even table tennis. It’s often much quieter than the bigger parks, especially since it’s used mostly by locals, so visitors can easily find a peaceful bench or spot of grass to enjoy on a warm weather afternoon.
The up-and-coming area of Battersea, just south of the River Thames, boasts a charming park with a boating lake, art gallery and small children’s zoo. The Sub-Tropical Gardens, dating back to 1858, are a notable highlight, growing plants like bamboo and banana trees throughout the year. Snap a photo of the waterside London Peace Pagoda or sip a cup of tea at the Pear Tree Café. The park is located alongside Battersea Power Station, which is currently being refurbished into shops and apartments, and the nearby the glossy new American Embassy.
Uncover a lush foreign land at Kyoto Garden, a Japanese garden hidden within Holland Park (complete with peacocks). It’s the best reason for a trip to West London, although Holland Park also features several other desirable attractions, including a soccer field, tennis courts and a café. Because the park is located in the midst of Notting Hill, Kensington and Chelsea, it’s easily combined with a stroll down Portobello Road or a visit to Kensington Palace.
The vast walled Richmond Park, originally a 17th century hunting ground, can be discovered southwest of Central London and is filled with hidden corners. Part of Royal Parks and considered a Natural Nature Reserve, it’s best known as home to hundreds of deer, who roam the grounds freely. There’s also a golf course, horse-back riding stables, bike rentals and the Isabella Plantation, a wooded garden that dates back to the 1830s. It’s nearly impossible to see the entire park, so make a plan before you go (and don’t miss King Henry’s Mound, which offers panoramic views of the Thames and the city’s towering skyline).