Whilst London is famous for its major tourist attractions, theatres, clubs and pubs, it also has some fantastic green spaces. London’s parks are great places to relax with a picnic on a sunny day and offer the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of the city’s streets. Here are details of three of London’s top parks.
Top London Parks – Hyde Park
London’s 350-acre Hyde Park originally belonged to Westminster Abbey, but was acquired by King Henry VIII in 1536 and became a royal hunting ground. Although the public could access some of the park during the reign of James I, it remained largely private until 1637, when King Charles I opened it to the public.
A number of changes were made to Hyde Park over the centuries, but one of the most significant was made by Queen Caroline, the wife of George II, who arranged for the Westbourne Stream, which ran through the park, to be dammed in order to form a natural-looking lake, which was named the Serpentine. You can now take a stroll around the Serpentine or enjoy the views of it from one of the cafes in Hyde Park.
Other notable features of Hyde Park include Speakers Corner where, since 1872, members have the public have been able to talk about any subject that they feel strongly about, and the Hyde Park Lido, which was constructed in 1830.
You can also see the controversial Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. Opened by the Queen in 2004, the fountain attracted much criticism, but it is now extremely popular with tourists and attracts more than one million visitors each year.
Top London Parks – The Regent’s Park
Originally known as Marylebone Park, The Regent’s Park was, like Hyde Park, one of Henry VIII’s royal hunting grounds. It was later developed by the architect John Nash, but wasn’t opened to the public until 1836.
The Regent’s Park covers 410 acres and is now home to London Zoo. It also has an open-air theatre, where you can see performances during the summer. There is a boating lake, tennis courts and a multi-sports venue known as “The Hub”, and there are also several cafes in the park.
The park also attracts many types of wildlife, including hedgehogs, squirrels and bats, and gardeners will enjoy the Queen Mary Gardens and the Rose Gardens, which contain more than 30,000 roses.
Top London Parks – Kensington Gardens
Kensington Gardens was originally part of Hyde Park, but is now a London park in its own right. When King William III and his wife, Mary II, bought Nottingham House in Hyde Park, and changed its name to Kensington Palace, the section of the park now known as Kensington Palace became the palace’s gardens. The gardens were expanded by Mary’s sister, Queen Anne, and later by Queen Caroline, the wife of George III, during the 18th century.
Highlights of Kensington Gardens include the Albert Memorial, which was created in memory of Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, following his death. The memorial is stunning and is in the Victorian Gothic style of architecture.
You can explore the Italian Gardens, see the famous Peter Pan statue or visit the Serpentine Gallery, where you can see modern and contemporary art works. If you are visiting London with children, don’t miss the Diana Memorial Playground, which was opened in 2000 and features a huge pirate ship, tee-pees and a sensory trail.
You can also enjoy the seven mile Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Walk, which will enable you to explore St. James’s Park, Hyde Park and Green Park, as well as Kensington Gardens.