It may come as a massive surprise to many, but London is an extremely green city. As someone who grew up a short drive from the magnificent Peak District, the prospect of grey tower blocks and busy streets terrified me. However, there are so many beautiful parks to be enjoyed in the capital, transporting you from chaos to tranquillity.
So, from the deep woodlands of Richmond Park to the Hipster London Fields, here’s your complete guide to the best parks in London.
As an east Londoner, this review may be slightly biased. However, Victoria Park is one of London’s best and most beautiful parks. It is the largest park in the area, covering a whopping 213 acres. The park offers expansive manicured lawns to relax and enjoy a picnic. Additionally, there are multiple playgrounds for those visiting with little ones.
Victoria Park is a regular hang out spot for the city’s best rollerbladers and skateboarders, which are simply incredible to watch. However, my favourite part of the park is the large boating lake where you can rent a Pedalo or Rowing boat – a great alternative way to explore. But, if you’re looking for something a little more relaxed, head to the Pavillion café to grab a coffee, the perfect people-watching spot.
Be sure to visit this east London hotspot on a sunny Sunday afternoon where visitors are treated to an excellent food market. Vendors join from across the city, providing culinary delights from around the world. In addition, Victoria Park regularly hosts gigs, making it a firm favourite with young people from across London.
Just up the canal is another east London gem – London Fields. There is a thriving community here, so plenty of people will be working out, enjoying picnics and walking their dogs in the area. There are also table tennis tables and a small children’s playground, so this park is very popular with the local families. Check out the fabulous London Fields Lido, my favourite place to swim in the city. The water is warm, and the venue is very private.
At the north end of the park is Broadway market, lined with trendy coffee shops and plenty of places to grab a bite to eat. If you fancy something a little stronger, the Dove and the Cat and Mutton are popular pubs. If you visit on a Sunday, Columbia Road flower market is just a twenty-minute walk away. A beautiful way to spend a morning and grab yourself a bunch of bargain blooms.
Hampstead Heath covers a spectacular 320 acres and is popular with people from every corner of the capital. Whenever I’m at Hampstead Heath, I feel as though I’ve been transported from the chaos of London and ventured deep into the countryside. Three bathing ponds, sprawling meadows, sports areas and endless grassland.
Expect to see Londoners in their hundreds soaking in the sunshine and enjoying a picnic on a weekend. My favourite thing about the park, however, has to be the spectacular view of the city of London from Parliament Hill.
Richmond Park – London’s Largest Royal Park
Southwest London’s Richmond Park is far more than a park. Instead, 2500 acres of woodland create the largest Royal Park in the city and one of the most visited green spaces in the country. The rolling hills and dense trees take you from the city to a countryside delight.
Aside from the miles of green space to walk, run and cycle, the Isabella plantation sits at the heart of the park. These gardens are an explosion of colour and ideal for those looking for a little more polished spot to relax.
People travel from far and wide to visit some of London’s most loved residents, the Richmond Park deers. Over 600 wild deer call Richmond Park their home, which is a true sight to behold. Visitors should stay at least 50 meters from the majestic beasts, which can be particularly fierce during the summer months when protecting their offspring.
Richmond itself is a picturesque village packed with plenty of pubs and restaurants. I would thoroughly recommend making the most of your day and enjoying a spot of dinner after you tire of stomping around the parks.
Of course, Battersea is best known for its world-famous cats and dogs home, but, for some crazy reason, Battersea Park is often overlooked when discussing the best parks in London.
There is a maze of trails around the park, which makes it extremely popular with cyclists, runners and walkers. But the Buddhist London Peace Pagoda forms a great focal point of the park, with beautiful views of the river Thames. Additionally, Battersea Park also has its own Art Gallery, Pump House Gallery, situated inside an incredibly beautiful Victorian water tower. As if that wasn’t enough, Battersea Park has its very own onsite zoo!
Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
Of course, no guide to the best parks in London would be complete without mentioning Hyde Park. Nestled between Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace, the park is regularly frequented by a vibrant mix of tourists and locals.
You will find a trip to Hyde Park firmly at the top of almost all London itineraries, and for a good reason. Hyde Park is a great place to start the day for those wanting to explore the big smoke, ideally located to access the city’s best.
The park wraps around the central focal point: the stunning Serpentine Lake. This Lake is one of the most popular swimming spots in the city and a great way to blow off the cobwebs. However, if open water swimming sounds a little too strenuous for you, rent one of the deckchairs by the Princess Diana monument and spend the afternoon watching the world go by.
Be sure to check the calendar before attending. Hyde Park is home to many annual festivals, including the famous Winter Wonderland.
Just a 15-minute walk from Hyde Park sits its smaller and slightly more humble counterpart, Holland Park. The park is packed with dense woodland, and Peacocks roam freely around the park, adding to the area’s beauty. In addition, the Kyoto Garden and the Fukushima Garden provide a Japanese oasis in the heart of Kensington.
You will rarely find a slice of serenity this deep into central London, but Holland Park magically manages to achieve this. So, if you’re looking for the perfect picnic spot, be sure to head to Holland Park.
Clapham is a trendy area for young professionals in London. It has ample open space with plenty of walking and running trails, three huge ponds, and London’s largest bandstand. There are plenty of coffee shops and quirky pubs nearby, be sure to check out The Bread and Roses and the Bobbin. Clapham is a little out of the way for tourists, so expect to be surrounded by the local residents relaxing, exercising, and generally enjoying this beautiful slice of greenery.
Just half an hour’s walk from Clapham Common is Brockwell Park. Brockwell Park provides a much-needed area of green space just outside of Brixton. Here, there is a walled garden and a children’s play area, so the park is hugely popular with families. However, my favourite part of this area is the fabulous Brockwell Lido. Open until 9 pm on weekdays, providing the perfect spot for an evening dip.
Greenwich Park – South East London’s Best Green Space
Another one of my favourites! Despite essentially being a very large hill, Greenwich Park is one the best parks in London.
The steep incline offers spectacular views of Canary Wharf and is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a coffee. Aside from the expansive lawns, Greenwich Park is home to tennis courts, ponds, a rose garden, and extensive running routes. The Royal Observatory forms the focal point at the top of the hill, famously the home of Greenwich Mean Time. Greenwich itself is a beautiful area, packed with lovely cafes, shops and architecture.
Finsbury Park is rarely frequented by tourists, primarily due to the fact that it is tucked away in north London, way from the usual tourist path. However, it is a lovely place to soak up some rays on a sunny day. There are football pitches, a skate park and a bowling green all within the grounds. As well as expansive lawns and many walking and running routes. The area is lively, with plenty of places to grab a coffee or enjoy something to eat.
Nestled just behind Buckingham Palace, Green Park is a beautiful open space in the heart of London. Considering its proximity to royalty, Green Park is relatively modest compared to some other parks across the capital. There aren’t any lakes or sports pitches here – but it’s a great spot to escape the hustle and bustle in such a central location.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – London’s Best New Park
2012 was an incredible year for London, where it was granted the privilege of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The city saw massive regeneration, but this was especially prevalent in east London. The Olympic Park is now best known for being the home of West Ham United men’s football team. But the surrounding park is stunning. There are heaps of different walking, running and cycling trails. If you fancy visiting this park as part of a longer walk, you can easily follow the canals down to Greenwich. This park is most recognisable by the ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture, one of the many art installations now in this area.
If you’re into shopping, look no further than the Westfield shopping mall at Stratford. The shopping centre is packed with high street favourites and many popular restaurants.
Kew Gardens requires slightly more planning than many of the other parks listed, as it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in London. Amazingly, Kew Gardens is a UNESCO world heritage site and boasts over 50,000 living plants. During the peak months (February to October), tickets will set you back £15 but are well worth the price. From tranquil Japanese gardens to the high altitude Alpine house, there is so much to explore in the beautiful area of west London.
The Regents Park and Primrose Hill
The Regents Park is perhaps the most loved park in central London; just a stone’s throw from the famous Camden Town. You can easily spend hours at this beautiful park, exploring all of its attractions. Many sports pitches, a large boating lake, and incredibly, Regents Park is home to London Zoo.
To the north of the park is Primrose Hill, widely considered one of the best viewpoints in the city. Head here just before sunset, bring a bottle of wine if you’re feeling extra fancy, and watch the horizon melt into the incredible London skyline.
The Sky Garden
OK, so this final one might not technically be a park, but it is one of the best (free) things to do in London. And, it’s the highest garden in the capital, which is unsurprising at a staggering 160meters high. The gardens are an exotic mix of Mediterranean and South African species, explicitly chosen as they flower all year round. Meaning, that there really is no wrong time to visit this fantastic venue.
Aside from the garden itself, the views over London from the 13th tallest building are simply unbeatable. Tickets can be booked in advance but are entirely free. There is no pressure to spend any more inside. However, if you fancy a treat, there are two restaurants and three bars.