Your guide to the best parks in London

The Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park

If you’re looking for some fresh air, great scenery and interesting visitor attractions, London has an impressively large number of green spaces to choose from.

From the sprawling Hyde Park to the charmingly small Chelsea Physic Garden, and the royal gardens of Kensington Palace to the wilder open spaces of Richmond Park and Hampstead Heath, there’s something for everyone in this list of the best parks in London.

So pack a picnic lunch, grab your camera, and get ready to explore! There are 20 beautiful London parks to choose from on my list.

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The best parks in London

Kensington Gardens

Kensington Palace Gardens is one of the eight royal parks in London and surrounds Kensington Palace where Queen Victoria was born.

It has more recently been home to Princess Margaret, the Queen’s late sister, and Princess Diana, who lived there after marrying Prince Charles. It is now the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The gardens cover 265 acres and contain some interesting things to see. Nearest to the palace is a late 19th-century statue of Queen Victoria sitting regally in front of it. 

Kensington palace and the Queen Victoria monument sitting in front of it
Kensington palace and the Queen Victoria monument

Not far away is the Round Pond, an ornamental lake constructed in the 18th century. Kids will no doubt love it as it always has crowds of ducks and geese wandering around the path surrounding the lake.

They’ll also enjoy the Princess Diana Memorial Playground with its huge pirate ship that they can clamber onto. 

There are also Italian Gardens, the design of which was apparently based on similar gardens in Osborne House on the Isle of Wight where Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert used to visit.

The Italian Gardens
The Italian Gardens

Other things to see in Kensington Gardens include the Serpentine Gallery, a free art gallery, the Albert Memorial, and the Peter Pan statue.

The nearest station to Kensington Palace is Kensington High Street station on the Circle and District underground lines.

From the station, it’s about a 10-minute walk into Kensington Gardens and then a few more minutes up to the path to the palace itself. You need to enter on the Hyde Park side.

Other tube stations near the palace include Queensway, South Kensington, and Gloucester Road.

For more information on visiting Kensington Palace, see my separate post.

Hyde Park

Hyde Park, another London Royal Park, is on the other side of the Serpentine from Kensington Gardens. It covers an area of 350 acres.

The Serpentine lake flows through the park, where you can go boating. If you’re brave enough, you can also take a dip in the water – the Serpentine lido is open every day during the summer months, and you can pay to go open water swimming and cool off when central London becomes a bit too stuffy.

There are public tennis courts, including floodlit ones for evening sessions, if you fancy a game. The Hyde Park stables are here, so you can also go horse riding.

Near the Serpentine is the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. This modern structure was opened in 2004 and has a path alongside it to wander along.

Further on and towards Green Park and near Buckingham Palace, you can go to the famous Speakers’ Corner. This is where people come to debate and discuss politics and is said to be the oldest living free speech platform in the world”.

There are several tube stations near the park that are served by different lines: Lancaster Gate, Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch, and Knightsbridge. Various bus routes run past different sides of the park.

St. James’s Park

Another of the Royal Parks, St James’s Park is one of its most attractive ones. It’s well worth a visit if you’re sightseeing in this part of the city (it’s near both the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Cathedral).

The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including pelicans, ducks, and swans. In addition to its animal residents, the park also features some lovely flowers and lush greenery.

It’s a beautiful green space to wander around with its small bridge across the large lake, a fountain, and a view of part of Buckingham Palace at one end.

At another end, there is a view of Horse Guards Parade and you get a glimpse of the London Eye.

St. James's Park lake with Horse Guards Parade and the London Eye
St. James’s Park lake with Horse Guards Parade and the London Eye

There are benches dotted around and plenty of open areas if you fancy taking a picnic to the park and having your lunch there. If not, there is a cafe to eat at.

To visit the park, head to St James’s Park tube station, which is just a few minutes’ walk away. Westminster tube station is also nearby.

Green Park

In between Hyde Park and St. James’ Park is another public park, Green Park. If you walk from Hyde Park Corner, past the Wellington Arch, and down Constitution Hill, you will reach Buckingham Palace. It is a beautiful walk.

The park has fewer sights to see, but is nonetheless a very popular place to visit. And if you’ve visited either Hyde Park or St. James’ Park, it’s worth walking for a bit longer to pop into Green Park.

There are 40 acres of park where you can take a leisurely stroll, relax, and enjoy some peace in the heart of London. You can also look at the Canada Memorial, which is dedicated to members of this overseas military force that served with the British during the world wars.

The Bomber Command Memorial is nearer to Piccadilly on the Hyde Park side of Green Park. This honours over 55,000 men who died as part of this command in World War II. 

If you’re travelling to the park by tube, you can choose to alight at two underground stations: Green Park and Hyde Park Corner.

Kew Gardens

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is a little further out than some of the parks and gardens already covered on this list (it’s about half an hour on the train from central London), but if you go, you won’t regret it.

In my earlier post, I said I thought it was one of the top things to do in south west London – but it’s arguably also one of the best parks and gardens in London full stop.

Kew Gardens is a UNESCO World Heritage site that covers over 300 acres. There is an excellent selection of different types of gardens to explore, which showcase some attractive plants, flowers, shrubs, and trees.

The gardens include the Mediterranean Garden with pines, cypresses, and lavender plants. You will also find a Rose Garden, Winter Garden, and Rock Garden. The Japanese garden has three sections: a Garden of Peace, Garden of Harmony, and Garden of Activity. 

Aside from the actual plants and flowers, there are several attractions to head to on a visit here.

Kew Palace is a modest (as royal palaces go!) 17th-century red building. In the early 18th century, George II and Queen Charlotte took up residence in the palace. You can visit it during the summer months.

There is also a Treetop Walkway, where you can walk 18 metres above the gardens and look down. The 18th-century Great Pagoda is 50 metres high. You can also climb this if you fancy tackling 253 steps…

The Great Pagoda at Kew Gardens
The Great Pagoda at Kew Gardens

Last, but certainly by no means least, there are two spectacular glasshouses that you must see when you visit Kew. The Temperate House is the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse and houses over 10,000 plants from temperate zones around the world.

The Temperate House in Kew Gardens
The Temperate House in Kew Gardens

By contrast, the Palm House houses tropical plants. It is described on the website as an “indoor rainforest,” and the tropical heat inside makes it a perfect place to pop into if you visit during the winter months.

To book tickets to visit Kew Gardens, click here.

And to visit the garden by public transport, head to either Richmond or Kew Bridge mainline train stations from London Waterloo. You can also take the London Underground to Kew Gardens station on the District Line.

Chelsea Physic Garden

In contrast to Kew Gardens’ massive 300-acre area, the Chelsea Physic Garden is a mere four acres in size. However, this makes for a much more intimate garden experience and a much more manageable visit, especially if you are short on time.

The garden was founded in 1673 and is the oldest botanic garden in London. It’s located near the banks of the River Thames near Sloane Square underground station.

As with the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden, the Chelsea Physic Garden started as a place to grow plants for medicinal purposes. It’s now home to a wide variety of plants – some 5,000 medicinal and edible plants – and houses an olive tree, the largest fruiting one in the UK.

The gardens are open to the public to go in and enjoy the colourful plants. There is a cafe here for refreshments. You can also book evening events, including supper clubs, where you’ll be served seasonal produce outside in the garden.

Richmond Park

Covering an area of over 2,500 acres, Richmond Park is the largest royal park.

Unlike some other parks and gardens in London, Richmond Park is much wilder and less manicured. It’s a 17th-century deer park, with wide-open spaces with scrubby vegetation and large forested areas with ancient trees.

The park is home to over 600 Red and Fallow deer, which roam freely throughout the extensive grounds. If you find a spot where groups of them are grazing together, they are a real sight to see.

The deer in Richmond Park - this is one of the best parks in London
The deer in Richmond Park

As well as admiring the park’s beautiful surroundings and wildlife, some individual attractions are worth seeing. Isabella Plantation is a 19th-century Victorian woodland garden with beautiful plants, flowers, and shrubs, as well as streams and small lakes.

Colourful plants, flowers and trees in Isabella Plantation
Isabella Plantation

Pembroke Lodge, a Georgian Mansion is also worth visiting. There are lovely gardens here and a terrace where you can have tea and cake outside on a fine day.

And if you want some spectacular views across London, head for nearby King Henry’s Mound. 

There are several gates into Richmond Park. The most popular entrance is the Richmond entrance which you can get to via the London Underground (District Line) or National Rail to Richmond Station. From the station, you can catch a bus (look for the number 371 or 65 buses) to Richmond Gate.

If you choose to drive, there are several car parks available.

Hampton Court Palace Gardens

Another gorgeous garden can be found in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace in south west London. The gardens cover 60 acres and were originally built for King Henry VIII in 1529. There are several different sections, all with beautiful manicured formal gardens.

One of the main highlights is the Privy Garden, the king’s private garden, with the River Thames flowing past at the end. To the west are several delightful, smaller gardens, notably Knot Garden and Pond Gardens.

An ornamental garden which is part of Hampton Court Gardens
Part of Hampton Court Gardens

There’s also an Orangery and glasshouse containing the Great Vine, apparently the largest known vine in the world. 

The Great Fountain Garden is a grand semi-circle, complete with gravelled avenues and fountains. One of its most notable features is the triangular yew trees lining the avenues.

Nearby is Home Park, notable for its great canal (The Long Water). It contains several hundred deer and a single oak tree dating from the original park.

Part of Hampton Court gardens with the yew trees and a flower bed on the lawn
Part of Hampton Court gardens

Hampton Court also has the famous maze, which was planted at the turn of the 18th century.

The part you can visit is the only remaining part of the original layout, but still covers a third of an acre. According to the palace’s website, it has a trapezoid shape and takes 20 minutes to complete (if you don’t get lost!).

The Tiltyard, originally an area used for jousting and other tournaments, now houses the Rose Garden. Nearby you’ll also find the Royal Kitchen Garden and the Magic Garden, opened in 2016 as a children’s play area.

To visit the gardens, you need to buy a ticket to the palace as well (my separate post outlines all the things you can see in the palace). But this is worth it; it’s a great day out.

Head to Hampton Court train station from London Waterloo to get here. It’s then a five-minute walk to the palace.

Bushy Park

Bushy Park is the second largest of the royal parks of London (it covers 1,000 acres), and is located in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in southwest London. It is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike; part of it borders Hampton Court Palace, so you can easily pop into the park for a stroll while you’re visiting.

It’s a wonderful place to go for a long walk. You can stroll through different sections, including the Woodland Garden with its small stream flowing through it and the Upper Lodge Water Gardens. The striking Diana Fountain, a statue of a goddess on a fountain, is on Chestnut Avenue.

Being another wild deer park, similar to Richmond Park, you can often see these beautiful animals roaming around. There is also a variety of other wildlife in Bushy Park (it’s a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest because of its “internationally significant populations of rare invertebrates” and the ancient woodland here).

Go from London Waterloo station to Teddington, Hampton Wick or Hampton Court stations to visit Bushy Park. It is then a short walk to the park. You can also catch buses to Bushy Park.

Regent’s Park

Regent’s Park is another royal park and one of the most famous parks in London. It covers an area of just under 400 acres, and there are a number of attractions and events worth coming for.

These include ZSL London Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the world which is home to almost 20,000 animals in a 36 acre area. It has been open to the public since the mid 1800s.

The creatures you can see here come from all over the world. There’s giraffes, gorillas, and hippos; lions, tigers, and monkeys; penguins, flamingoes, and tortoises. The zoo also has separate sections for different creatures, including ‘Butterfly Paradise’, ‘Giants of the Galapagos’, ‘the Farmyard’, ‘Bird Safari’, and ‘Reptile House’.

There are several ways to enjoy the zoo, from simply walking around and admiring the animals in their enclosures to taking part in one of the guided tours or experiencing one of the animal encounters. The zoo also has several restaurants, cafes, and shops, as well as a play area for children.

You can book tickets for London Zoo here.

If you enjoy theatre, you can have a great evening in Regent’s Park in the Open Air theatre. The theatre has been running since 1932 and puts on various performances. There are often Shakespeare plays running, so it’s an ideal place if you’re a fan and want a unique experience during the summer months.

The beautiful gardens within Regent’s Park are pleasant areas to wander around and are beautiful in all seasons. These include Queen Mary’s Rose Garden, which has 12,000 roses, the biggest collection in the capital. There is also an Allotment Garden.

The Rose Garden in Regent's Park
The Rose Garden in Regent’s Park

The park also has playgrounds for children to run around in and a boating lake.

If you do decide to visit Regent’s Park, you’ll find it’s also ideally located for visiting other London sights. Madam Tussauds and the Sherlock Holmes Museum are close by.

The best tube stations to access it are Regent’s Park, Baker Street, Great Portland Street, and St. John’s Wood.

Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill borders Regent’s Park so it’s easy to visit both within one trip (the nearest underground stations are Swiss Cottage, Camden Town, and Chalk Farm). It’s another of the royal parks.

Primrose Hill is smaller than some of the parks and gardens in this guide, but it’s worth visiting for the views you get of the city’s skyline. These are best from the top which is over 60 metres above sea level.

A view from Primrose Hill with the London skyline in the distance
A view from Primrose Hill

The hill is a popular spot for a picnic on a sunny day, and it’s easy to see why – the greenery and tranquillity of the area make for a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. If you’ve had a busy day of sightseeing in London and are nearby, this is a lovely place to head to for some down time.

Battersea Park

Battersea Park is an ideal attraction for anyone visiting central London and looking for a green space right next to the River Thames. It’s one of the most popular and best parks in London.

Unsurprisingly, for a park that covers 200 acres, there are lots of things to do here.

Across the entire site, there are more than 4,000 trees and several different gardens to explore. These include the Rosery Garden, the popular Old English Garden, and a Subtropical Garden. The Russell Page Garden is named after a famous 20th century landscaper and is especially impressive in its layout. And for those looking for a great view along the River Thames, head for the Promontory Garden. 

Battersea Park is also a perfect spot to cycle around, and many cyclists are drawn to it to ride around Carriage Drive’s roughly 3 kilometre circular route. If you fancy doing this and don’t have your own bike, you can hire one in the park (see London Recumbents or you could hire one of the Santander Cycles that you’ll find docked throughout central London).

The park also has the stunning London Peace Pagoda overlooking the river. It is over 33 metres high, with bronze statues of the Buddha on the outside and a large staircase leading up to it. 

The Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park
The Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park

There is also an attractive boating lake in the park, where you can hire pedal boats if you fancy a change from cycling. You can then stop off at the cafe alongside the lake for refreshments.

For children, there’s a small zoo, a mini golf course, and a ‘Go Ape’ course. The park also has a small art gallery that you can pop into.

Battersea Park is well serviced by public transport and is easy to get to by bus, train, and underground. The nearest overland station is Battersea Park Station which can be reached from London Victoria and Clapham Junction.

Alternatively, go to Sloane Square tube station on the District and Circle lines.

Greenwich Park

Greenwich Park is another of London’s royal parks and is located in Greenwich in south east London. It is a popular tourist destination that overlooks the River Thames.

The park was originally established in the 15th century as a hunting park. It now contains a number of notable landmarks, including the Royal Observatory.

This houses one of the world’s largest telescopes, Flamsteed House where the royal astronomers once lived, and a planetarium. The Greenwich Mean Time meridian line is also here.

You can also visit the National Maritime Museum.

Greenwich Observatory on top of the park
Greenwich Observatory

There are several gardens to explore. There’s a rose garden with a Georgian villa, the Queen’s Orchard growing fruit and vegetables, a herb garden, and the 200-metre long Herbaceous Border.

After exploring Greenwich Park, you can stop off at the pretty octagonal Pavilion Cafe. This is near the Royal Observatory at the top of the hill.

If you’re travelling by tube to Greenwich Park, catch the Jubilee Line to North Greenwich station. Overland trains also go to Greenwich, Maze Hill, and nearby Blackheath.

You can also catch the Docklands Light Railway to Cutty Sark station.

Alexandra Park

Alexandra Park is another north London park. It covers an area of 196 acres and is a popular place for visitors who come to enjoy its gardens, lakes, and open spaces. There is also a wide choice of activities to occupy you on a day out here.

Many of these activities are part of the Alexandra Palace complex, a 19th century historic building that is now a centre for sports and entertainment. There is a garden centre, a boating lake with pedaloes to hire, and several areas for children to play in. On Sundays, there is a farmer’s market.

Alexandra Palace
Alexandra Palace

The park also has a ten-hole pitch and putt course, an ice skating rink, and a skate park. And if this is not enough or you fancy a bit more of a thrill, there is a ‘Go Ape’ course here. You can walk between the trees or swing between them on a zip wire.

There’s absolutely loads to do here and it’s a great place if you want a bit more exercise than a leisurely walk around a park would give you.

The nearest overland station to the park is Alexandra Palace station. You can also get here by tube; alight at Wood Green station.

Victoria Park

Victoria Park is a park in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in Bow in East London. It was opened in 1845 and is one of London’s oldest and most visited parks.

The park covers an area of over 200 acres, so there’s plenty to do here. It is split into the East Park and West Park.

The East Park part has a boating lake and the East Fishing Lake where people go to fish. There’s also a bandstand in this section. If you visit on a Sunday during the summer, you may be lucky enough to catch one of the free concerts that take place here.

The Old English Garden in this part is a beautiful place to wander around with its trees, lawns, and flower beds.

The Burdett Coutts Fountain is also worth seeing. This gothic octagonal structure has benches nearby and is a pleasant place to take a break if you need to take the weight off your feet.

The West Park is smaller than the East Park, but there is still a lot to do here to occupy your time. It too has a boating lake; cross the small bridges to see the 19th century Chinese Pagoda sitting in the lake. The Pavilion Cafe also sits on the waterfront.

This part of the park also has a rose garden and a floral sunken garden.

If you want to take a trip to Victoria Park, Mile End is the nearest underground station, about a 15-minute walk away. It is served by three tube lines: the Central Line, District Line, and the Hammersmith and City line.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

If you visit Victoria Park, you could also combine this with a trip to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which is only a few stops away on the tube or a half an hour walk.

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a more recent addition to the list of London parks, having originally been built to host the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. It is now a popular spot to visit and is home to a number of different activities. If you’re sporty and want to experience something a bit different, this is one of the best parks in London to visit.

The things you can do include a visit to the Aquatics Centre, where you can swim. You can also go to the Lee Valley Velopark to cycle.

Thrill seekers may also want to give the ArcelorMittal Orbit a go. At over 114 metres tall, this bills itself as the ‘UK’s tallest sculpture”. There is an observation deck at 80 metres where you can take in some amazing views across the area.

It has “the world’s longest tunnel slide”, a 40-second descent that winds 12 times around the tower; the website says “it’s not for the fainthearted”! The Orbit also gives you the opportunity to experience the “UK’s highest freefall abseil”.

 The ArcelorMittal Orbit lit up at night
The ArcelorMittal Orbit lit up at night

More traditionally, the Olympic Park has gardens to walk around, a playground, and restaurants, cafes and bars to eat and drink in. 

Holland Park

Holland Park is one of the most popular and beautiful of London’s parks and can be found in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, not far from Notting Hill Gate. The 54-acre park is home to extensive woodland and some varied gardens that you can stroll through and see the wildlife roaming around.

One of the most notable parts is the beautiful and peaceful Japanese Kyoto Garden with a lake and bridge.

The Japanese Garden in Holland Park
The Japanese Garden in Holland Park

Holland House was badly damaged during World War II and the remains of it are in the park. Part of the house now hosts open-air theatre and music during the warmer summer months.

London’s Design Museum is also located next to Holland Park and is one of the most popular museums in London. The museum is dedicated to design in all its forms, from fashion and architecture to graphics and product design.

The permanent collection includes items from some of the most famous names in design, such as Christian Dior, Zaha Hadid, Vivienne Westwood, Sir Terence Conran and Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Other features are an adventure playground, a cafe and restaurant, a wildlife enclosure, as well as a selection of different sports facilities.

The nearest tube stations to Holland Park are Holland Park and High Street Kensington. There are also several bus routes that run to the area, and that drop you off nearby.

You can also catch the overland train to Kensington Olympia Station.

Brockwell Park

Brockwell Park is a 19th century park near Brixton in south London. The nearest station is Herne Hill, and it’s then a short walk to the park.

The 125-acre park is home to the Brockwell Lido, a grade II listed open-air swimming pool. This is 50 metres long and is unheated.

Brockwell park is beautifully landscaped and is a popular place to have picnics in the summer. It has a walled garden that contains shrubs and plants as well as ponds where you can sit and watch the ducks paddling around.

There is also a miniature railway that you can ride. This travels 240 metres from the gate at Herne Hill to the lido. It is open at weekends between April and October.

Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath is a large, 790 acre, open space in north London. It’s another natural, wilder space with lots of woods and grassy areas.

It’s on one of the highest points in central London, so is one of the best places to get some fantastic views of the city’s skyline. From Parliament Hill, you can see all sorts of famous landmarks, including The Shard, The Gherkin, and St Paul’s Cathedral.

Besides walking around the heath and taking in the wonderful views, there are lots of other things that you can do.

There are three famous bathing ponds. These are open during the summer months and offer a much more natural swimming experience than traditional swimming pools. The ponds are unheated, however, so the website warns that the water can get very cold and you should be a strong swimmer to visit.

There is also a 60 metre lido (again, this is not heated).

A bathing pond in Hampstead Heath park
A bathing pond in Hampstead Heath park

The other ponds on the heath include the Lily Pond, Bird Sanctuary Pond, and Model Boating Lake.

The popular Parliament Hill area is also home to several things that are worth seeing as you wander around. There’s a small viaduct by a pond, the pretty Hampstead pergola, and a bandstand. There are a few cafes and restaurants in the area if you want to make a day of it and are looking for refreshments.

While here, you can stop by the late 17th century Kenwood House, a neoclassical mansion on the heath. It has a wonderful interior, an art collection, a gorgeous garden, and a cafe. Entry is free.

Kenwood House with a big lawn in front
Kenwood House

To get to Hampstead Heath, you can go by overland train to Hampstead Heath station, or by tube to Hampstead, Golders Green, Tufnell Park, or Kentish Town stations. These are all on the Northern Line.

Clapham Common

Clapham Common is a large park in south London. It is around 200 acres in size and is a short walk from Clapham Common tube station (on the Northern line) and around a 15-minute walk from Clapham Junction mainline station.

The common is a large open area with many grassy areas for walking, cycling, and generally lazing around. It has an attractive Victorian bandstand in the middle, which has music performances during the summer months. There are also three ponds.

There is a cafe in the common, and the Windmill Pub on the south side. This has a beautiful garden which has covered areas if you visit on a wet and windy day.

The best parks in London

As you can see, there are plenty of places to choose from in this green city if you want to get away from it all or try out some outdoor activities. My guide has listed some of the best parks in London to focus on.

Good luck choosing which of London’s parks you’ll visit!

Other ideas for things to do in London and UK short breaks

There are plenty of other places to choose from for a day out in London and the south east of the UK. You may therefore be interested in some of my other posts:

I also have a range of other posts on short breaks in Europe on my website – click here for more information.

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