Our guide to London parks and green spaces – oases of calm in the London metropolis…
If you’re planning on spending a few days in London, there are several ways to fill your time. Apart from cultural attractions, architecture, cathedrals, markets, and shops to visit, you can spend some time away from the crush of the city in one of London’s many parks.
There are eight Royal Parks in London, and these are the largest, most extravagant, and beautiful parks in the sprawling city, including the world-famous Hyde Park. In addition to these royal eight are dozens more smaller and more intimate parks and green spaces.
These smaller, more obscure parks are more likely to be quiet, so if you’re looking for a solitary escape from the crush of touring the city, one of the smaller parks might be more your style.
We’ve assembled a list of the 20 greatest parks and green spaces in London, including the 8 Royal Parks, plus 12 smaller parks that range from rooftop gardens to small, urban community gardens.
No matter which park or parks you choose to visit on your stay in London, you’re sure to find beauty, culture, and a quiet space to breathe deeply and relax. Bring a book and relax against an ancient tree or spend an hour or two in quiet contemplation at one of many memorials. Either way, you’re sure to enjoy a quiet, nature-filled afternoon.
1. Regent’s Park
The Regent’s Park is one of the Royal Parks of London, and lies partially within the City of Westminster. It’s most often visited for the London Zoo, but also features beautiful rose gardens. While visiting, you can also see the Regent’s University London.
2. Hyde Park
Hyde Park is one of the most famous Royal Parks, and has a wealth of sites that are of interest to visitors and tourists. See the Speaker’s Corner, which is close to the site of the Tyburn Gallows and Rotten Row.
Also of note is the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial, the London Holocaust Memorial, the 7 July Memorial, and a number of sculptures, including the Jelly Babies family.
3. Green Park
Green Park is another of London’s Royal Parks, but unlike many of London’s parks, it has no lakes, no buildings, no playgrounds, and only a few monuments; the few that are there are the Canada Memorial, the Diana Fountain, and the RAF Bomber Command Memorial. Otherwise, the park consists almost entirely of mature trees, grass, and naturalized narcissus flowers.
4. St. James Park
St. James Park has a large lake with two islands, West Island and Duck Island. The park is known for a colony of pelicans that have been a feature since they were donated by a Russian ambassador in 1664. A lovely blue bridge gives visitors a view towards Buckingham Palace to the west. To the east is the Swire fountain, and to the south is the Tiffany Fountain on Pelican Rock.
5. Greenwich Park
This former hunting park is one of the largest green spaces in London. It was the very first Royal Park to be enclosed in 1433, and has fantastic views of the River Thames, the Isle of Dogs, and the city of London. Of note is the Observatory on the hill, which has a statue of General James Wolfe. At the top of this hill are even more spectacular views.
6. Phoenix Garden
This small garden is a local community garden. It’s popular with visitors now, because the garden has won first prize for Best Environmental Garden in the Camden in Bloom competitions six times since 2004. The garden has regular social events, like the very popular annual Agricultural Show and volunteer work-days.
7. Hampstead Heath
This large, ancient park sits upon one of the highest ridges in London. The Heath has rambling hills, ponds, woodlands, playgrounds, and adjoins to the stately Kenwood House and grounds. The most stunning feature of the park, however, is the view from Parliament Hill, which is so beautiful that it’s protected by law!
8. Richmond Park
This park was created by Charles I in the 17th century as a deer park, but today it is the largest of London’s Royal Parks and acts as a nature reserve, a site of Special Scientific Interest. Visitors can see deer throughout the park, as well as many buildings of architectural or historic interest. The White Lodge was formerly a royal residence, and is now home to the Royal Ballet School.
9. Clapham Common
This large, triangular urban park was originally common land, but was converted to parkland in the late 1800s. It has 220 acres of green space, with three ponds and a Victorian era bandstand. The park itself is overlooked by a number of Georgian churches and other buildings that are just beautiful.
10. Battersea Park
This 200 acre green space is on the south bank of the River Thames and occupies marshland. The site was used as market gardens, but now is home to a small children’s zoo, a boating lake, a bandstand, and sporting facilities. Visitors to this park will enjoy a range of activities from tennis to hockey.
11. Japanese Roof Garden SOAS
On the roof of the School of Oriental and African Studies(SOAS), University of London, is a Japanese-inspired garden that was built during the 2001 Japan celebrations. It is a serene area above the world and the hustle and bustle below. The garden is dedicated to forgiveness, which is the meaning of the Kanji character engraved on the garden’s granite water basin.
12. Postman’s Park
This central London park is just a short distance from St. Paul’s Cathedral, and is bordered by Little Britain, among other areas of note. The park is actually on the site of the former churchyard and burial ground of St. Botolph’s Aldersgate church, as well as the adjacent burial grounds of Christ Church Greyfriars. The park is home to George Frederic Watt’s Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice, which honors ordinary people who died while saving the lives of others–those heroes who might otherwise be forgotten.
13. Skip Garden
Skip Garden is a community urban garden with wildflowers, vegetables, herbs, beehives, and even chicken coops! The garden is built using recyclable materials, and everything is done by the surrounding community. The garden offers delicious food, which is prepared in the garden itself at the Skip Garden Kitchen. You can enjoy the park even on rainy days–take shelter in The Hide, a cozy Moroccan yurt with a wood burning stove.
14. Lee Valley Park
Lee Valley Park used to be quite a bit smaller, but was expanded to the River Thames, including the Olympic Park. Notable sites to see are Myddleton House Gardens, Temple Mills, Hackney Marshes, Walthamstow Marshes, River Lee Country Park, Bow Creek Ecology Park, and Lee Valley Reservoir Chain.
15. Red Cross Garden
This garden is located just south of the famous farmer’s market at Borough Market, one of the largest and oldest wholesale and retail food markets in London, and has been in existence since 1887. The garden is hailed as one of Octavia Hill’s finest environmental schemes, and continues to enrich the lives of those living in the area.
16. Kensington Gardens
These were once the private gardens of Kensington Palace, and lie directly west of Hyde Park. The enormous park covers 270 acres and includes the Albert Memorial, the Serpentine Gallery, and Speke’s monument. Also of note is the Elfin Oak, which is an elaborately carved 900 year old tree stump.
17. Victoria Tower Gardens
This public park runs along the north bank of the River Thames, and is adjacent to the Victoria Tower, the south-western corner of the Palace of Westminster. The park has a number of fantastic features, including a cast of the sculpture The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin, a statue of the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, the Buxton Memorial Fountain, and a stone wall with two modern-style goats with kids.
18. Crystal Palace Park
Crystal Palace Park is a Victorian-era pleasure ground and is used for cultural and sporting events. The park features incredible full-scale (if somewhat scientifically outdated) statues of dinosaurs in a landscape, a maze, in lakes, and a concert bowl.
19. Bushy Park
Bushy Park was originally created for royal sports, and is now home to Teddington’s rugby and hockey clubs, along with four cricket clubs. Bushy Park has fishing and model boating ponds, horse rides, wildlife conservation areas, and even herds of both red and fallow deer.
20. Grosvenor Square Gardens
This large garden square is located in Grosvenor Square and is dedicated to the 67 British victims of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks. A poem by Henry van Dyke is inscribed on the memorial stone, under which is buried a piece of the steel wreckage. Grosvenor Square Gardens is the centerpiece of the area, which is the property of the Duke of Westminster.