This historical capital city boasts an enviable array of bountiful parks and gardens. Admire the manicured flower gardens, take a dip in a lake, or ramble through some wild woods. London’s green spaces are some of the most beautiful and the most varied of the world’s cities and the best thing is, they are absolutely free to visit.
Although London is remarkably easy to navigate thanks to the new East London line, you might be hard pushed to hop from North to South of the river in a day - especially this Summer, with the Olympics festivities fast approaching. Pick one park destination close to home, explore the main sights, and do what the locals do – have a cold drink and a nice sit down.
St James’s Park:
St James’s Park, overlooked by three palaces including the majestic Buckingham Palace, is perhaps the most famous Royal Park and a must-see for any visitor to the capital. Founded in 1532 by Henry VIII, it started life as a deer park and wasn’t transformed into the romantic leafy idyll it is today until architect and landscaper John Idyll turned his hand to a redesign in 1827.
Spreading from Kensington to Marble Arch, this infamous Royal park is one of the easiest park locations to get to as it’s surrounded by underground stations on all sides. It’s a hive of activity and unrivalled for atmosphere, buzzing with skaters, horse-riders and dog walkers most times of the day. The Serpentine gallery sits at the heart of the park and features the work of world class artists all year round.
Best known for its connection to London Zoo, a worthy day-trip destination in its own right, Regent’s Park is also home to London’s premiere open-air theatre which hosts annual fairy-lit productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Although centrally located, the park’s perimeter spreads right up to the Camden area which means hotels near Regent’s Park are likely to be less expensive than St James’s Park or Hyde Park hotels. The rose garden is a sight to behold, with 30,000 roses and 400 varieties to be sniffed and admired.
If you need a hotel near Regent’s Park, visit www.hilondonregentsparkhotel.co.uk
Greenwich, which will hold the Equestrian competitions and modern pentathlon for the London 2012 Olympics, is the oldest of the enclosed royal parks and houses one of the lesser known most spectacular views in London. Wander up to the Royal Observatory, which houses both a planetarium and a rotating programme of exhibitions, buy an ice cream and contemplate the glittering skyline from the city to Canary Wharf and beyond. Other attractions include a budding rose garden, a boating lake and tennis courts.
This park sits at the South-Western most tip of the London Underground line but it’s worth the meandering tube journey. Hundreds of deer and rogue canaries populate this rambling green space which is large enough to get pleasantly lost in. Check out Pembroke Lodge, once the home of philosopher Bertrand Russell, and now tea room with unrivalled panoramic views.