No matter the weather or the season, there’s always something to see and do in the many green spaces that London has to offer. And sure, some of them are more green and peaceful than others, but all the parks below have something unique to entice you to go and explore them.
When you think of London’s parks, Hyde Park is probably the first one that will come to mind, and that’s no surprise, as it’s Central London’s largest park. In addition to its large green spaces, its main attractions include the Princess Diana Memorial, the Rose Garden, the Serpentine Lake (swimming and boating) and Marble Arch with the famous Speaker’s Corner.
I always feel Kensington Gardens is part of Hyde Park as it’s right next to it, but it definitely has its own look and feel. Despite being a bit smaller than its neighbour, there’s still lots on offer, such as Kensington Palace, the Italian Gardens, the Peter Pan Statue, the Serpentine Gallery and the Albert Memorial.
Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill
Regent’s Park is home to the Queen Mary’s Rose Garden, the Open Air Theatre and London Zoo. But the main reason you really want to go to Regent’s Park is Primrose Hill, located on a hill (which you might have already guessed) and the hilltop offers a view of the London skyline. Also a popular place to watch the NYE fireworks.
Green Park & St James’s Park
Green Park and St James’s Park are located next to each other with Buckingham Palace in the middle. St James Park is known for being one of the oldest royal parks in the country and is famed for its Blue Bridge with its rather impressive views. And Green Park is known for the lack of flowers (well flowerbeds, as wild flowers such as daffodils do grow there).
One of Holland Park’s main draws is its Kyoto Garden, a tranquil Japanese-style garden with traditional plants and trees and a water feature. Elsewhere, the remains of Holland House play host to the Holland Park Theatre, while the Design Museum is located at the southern end of the park by Kensington High Street.
Richmond Park is the largest park in Greater London. Way back when it was the hunting ground of the English kings, and today you can still see lots of deer grazing on the grounds. A popular spot is King Henry’s Mound, a protected viewpoint that lets you see all the way to St Paul’s Cathedral! The best thing in Richmond Park is the Isabella Plantation, a peaceful woodland garden in the middle of the park with flowers, streams and evergreen azaleas, plus lots and lots of birds.
Most people know this South London park for its towering riverside promenade Peace Pagoda, complete with four bronze sculptures of Buddha. But honestly, the bit around the boating lake is very underrated and provides a lovely stroll with ducks galore. Some of the other highlights are the beautiful Old English Garden, the Fountains and a Go Ape – a treetop rope course.
London’s Greenwich Park is a popular destination with The Royal Greenwich Observatory, the Meridian Line, the Flower & Herb Garden and its famous blossom avenue all calling it home. But I’d said recently it’s more famous for being the backdrop for a big battle by the Old Royal Naval College in Thor: The Dark World. Prepare your legs – it can get very hilly!
Bushy Park is a bit out of Central London, but it’s definitely worth combining with a day trip to Hampton Court Palace. Just like in Richmond Park you’ll find deer roaming around – remember to give them space. Another highlight is the secluded Woodland Gardens with quiet waterside paths, flowering trees and ponds to enjoy.
Sitting alongside Highgate Cemetery, this little park has impressive Lower Terrace, Old Kitchen and Rose Gardens, on top of three ponds and the 16th century Lauderdale House & Cafe.
Hampstead Heath is the best place in the near-centre of London to head to when you want to capture that countryside feel, with rolling hills, ponds and lots to get lost in. The must-see spot has to be Parliament Hill, with its far-reaching views, while many also love to head for a dip in the famous Swimming Ponds, as well as indulge in some culture at the historic Kenwood House, with its free art gallery. The adjacent Golders Hill Park (pretty much part of the Heath) is also worth popping over to, with its majestic Hill Gardens and Pergola, butterfly house and zoo.
Victoria Park is either the place you go to for a run or to visit one of the many festivals that are hosted in the park during the summer. Its more permanent attractions include the English Garden, the Boating Lake and the Chinese Pagoda to visit. You’ll also find two pedestrian alcoves from the original London Bridge.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
While you might know this place more for hosting sports, such as at the London Stadium, Aquatics Centre and VeloPark, there’s some nice walking paths alongside the River Lea, as well as the Wetlands Walk, and easy access to Hackney Marshes and beyond. If climbing a large metal sculpture and sliding down is your thing, there’s also the ArcelorMittal Orbit.
The old Brockwell Hall sits atop the hill, now home to a cafe, but the Hall’s former kitchen garden is the star attraction, with flowers, vegetables and herbs and topiary set around a small pond. There’s also a popular open-air Lido for the warmer months, and the park is also known for hosting the Lambeth Country Show.
This ancient woodland is full-to-bursting with quiet paths lined with various trees and plants and home a wide variety of wildlife, and is known for its Springtime bluebells. For a longer day out, combine it with a trip to Hampstead Heath for a proper North London park adventure.
Views, views, views is the name of the game for this North London green spot. Home to the grand Alexandra Palace, this hillside park gives panoramic views across the city, while there’s also a boating lake and a rose garden.
Peckham Rye Park & Common
This South London spot has a surprising number of adorable scenic gardens, including the Sexby Garden, Japanese Garden, the American Garden and the Ornamental Pond garden, which offer a variety of natural sites to relax in.
It’s a bit far out from central London, but the Rookery Gardens are definitely worth trekking south of the river for. This landscaped walled garden is complete with little ponds, sundials and a huge range of plants and flowers. Its nearby cafe is also worth a visit for a quick bite.
A lesser-known suburban park, this green space has a boating lake, large lawns for picnics and a hidden dog walking track along its edge, plus it’s close by Dulwich Picture Gallery, as well as the Horniman Gardens and the Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Woods.
This huge green expanse contains a lot of sports facilities, like the BMX Track, sports centre, cricket/football pitches and even fishing at the lake, while the Chumleigh Gardens has worldwide plants, the Barbecue Area offers lakeside BBQ options and there’s also historic buildings and remains scattered across the site. It also leads into the small Surrey Linear Canal Park at its eastern end.
I’ve been informed this place was home to furry kids show characters the Wombles in books and TV shows in the 1960s-1970s, but today it’s more famed for its grand Windmill and lots of sprawling paths that you can really get lost in (I have!). Combine it with walks to the neighbouring Putney Heath and Richmond Park for a rather impressive long parklands stroll. PS the cafe near the windmill is a dog spotting paradise, particularly on weekends.
This small park, hidden away next to Wimbledon Common is a true gem in South London (don’t tell anyone!). Its Italian, Water and Sunken gardens are beautiful and despite the park’s size, there’s a real sense of quiet and seclusion, especially in its hidden Retreat Area. Also, a shout out to the Dutch Herb Garden!
Crystal Palace Park
Unfortunately, you won’t find a glass Victorian exhibition palace in the park any more – it burnt down in 1936, but there are enough reasons to visit this South London gem: the maze, dinosaur sculptures and the boating lake to name a few. There’s also an incredibly ornate abandoned Victorian subway, but unfortunately access is restricted to events such as Open London.
Windsor Great Park
While not really in London, this spot definitely deserves a shout out, with Virginia Water offering sublime lakeside trails, ancient Roman ruins from Libya and ornamental Cascade waterfall, the Valley Gardens featuring some of the most beautiful flowering trees I’ve ever seen, the flower-packed Savill Garden, and the famed Long Walk – leading to Windsor Castle.
Morden Hall Park
This National Trust Park, set around the Georgian mansion of Morden Hall features two preserved watermills, ornate bridges over the River Wandle, a Garden Centre, and last but not least, a second-hand bookshop. Take it in as part of the 20 km Wandle Trail for a superb day out.
Beckenham Place Park
This South London park was expanded and remodeled to take over the former golf course and alongside walking paths, cycle tracks and gardens, it offers wild swimming in London’s first purpose-built swimming lake.