A visitor’s guide to London’s famous parks and gardens

A visitor’s guide to London’s famous parks and gardens

A trip to London is usually full of visits to monuments, galleries and museums, but take some time out to enjoy the city’s green spaces. No matter the season, a walk through London’s famous parks and gardens is a gentler way to soak up the city’s atmosphere.

This is my guide to London’s parks and gardens with practical information and highlights for visitors – I hope you find it useful for your next trip to London.

Famous parks in London

Laburnum Walk Richmond Park

Many of London’s green spaces developed as a result of significant events in history. Henry VIII’s succession from the Catholic church meant lands were repurposed for hunting, the Great Fire and bombing in the Second World War.

Today, London’s parks and gardens are an important part of the city’s fabric and you should make time to see them when you next visit.

London’s Royal Parks

Bandstand Hyde Park

When monasteries were dissolved during the 16th century, the land was repurposed and developed into the 8 Royal parks and gardens found in Greater London today. Once they formed an extensive joined parkland but have since made way for the development of roads and highways.

Originally, used as hunting grounds for the Royal Family, the almost 2,000 hectares of parklands were opened to the public with the Crown Lands Act of 1851.

Hyde Park London

The Serpentine - Hyde Park

One of King Henry VIII’s  favourite hunting grounds, Hyde Park is now a green haven and perhaps the most famous park in central London.

The park is bounded by Park Lane, Knightsbridge and Bayswater Road and is a popular place for running, walking and horse riding around its many paths. Hyde Park hosts several large public events throughout the year including Winter Wonderland, a favourite winter activity in London.

Highlights of a visit to Hyde Park include hiring rowing boats on the Serpentine man made lake in the park’s west, splashing in the Diana Memorial Fountain and taking part in a centuries’ old tradition by listening to the orators at Speaker’s corner.

Did you know? Speaker’s Corner was a favourite rallying spot for historical figures Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and George Orwell


Practical information – the park is open from 05:00am to midnight every day. Nearest tube stops: Lancaster Gate (Central Line), Marble Arch (Central Line), Hyde Park Corner (Piccadilly Line), Knightsbridge (Piccadilly Line)


Kensington Gardens

Kensington Palace

Home to Kensington Palace and the birthplace of Queen Victoria, Kensington Gardens is one of my favourite parks in London for a leisurely stroll.

Don’t miss the Albert Memorial, the ornate Italian Gardens featuring Carrara marble fountains, and the Peter Pan statue made in homage to the book of the same name by J.M. Barrie, part of which was set in the gardens.

Kensington Palace itself is well worth a visit and if you are hungry I recommend stopping for lunch or even afternoon tea at the Orangery in the palace grounds.

If you are visiting the park with children don’t miss the Diana Memorial Playground, one of the best children’s playgrounds in London.


Practical information – the park is open from 06:00am to dusk every day. Nearest tube stops: Lancaster Gate & Queensway (Central Line), Bayswater (District Line), High Street Kensington (Circle and District Lines)


The Green Park

Green Park London

Known to Londoners simply as Green Park, it is the smallest of the Royal Parks and where King Charles II is said to have walked his dogs on Constitution Hill.

Most of the year, Green Park is a series of small grassy hills with groves of plane and lime trees but in Springtime it bursts into colour with the sight of around 250,000 daffodils in full bloom for several weeks. The park is also a wonderful place to lounge on a deckchair when the sun is shining.

Green Park is the perfect place to picnic in central London and there are lots of easy ways to do this for visitors. You could enjoy a Wind in the Willows themed picnic from nearby St James’s Hotel or pick up a picnic hamper from Fortnum and Mason.



Tip – you can hire deckchairs by the hour for a small fee – more information


Practical information – the park is open all day, every day. Nearest tube stops: Green Park (Jubilee, Victoria and Piccadilly Lines), Hyde Park Corner (Piccadilly Line)


The Regent’s Park

Regent's Park London

Regent’s Park is named for the Prince Regent, later King George IV, who commissioned architect John Nash to reimagine Marylebone Park into a playground lined with grand houses for his friends. Though Nash’s vision was never fully realised, the park is an idyllic green space covering 197 hectares enjoyed by Londoners all year round.

Home to London Zoo and its large collection of animals from all over the world, the park itself is home to native wildlife including foxes, squirrels and some of the few remaining hedgehogs found in London.

A Bench in the Rose Garden

Don’t miss Queen Mary’s Gardens, home to an extensive collection of roses and begonias that are in full bloom throughout June. To reach them you enter through the magnificent iron and gilded Jubilee gates.

Fact – there are over 12,000 roses in Queen Mary’s Gardens – the largest collection of roses in London

If you enjoy the serenity of Japanese style gardens there is a beautiful example planted by the Royal Botanical Society in the 1850s just inside the Jubilee Gates.

Other favourite Regent’s Park activities including strolling or taking a boat cruise along the Regent’s canal and hiring boats and pedalos to enjoy on the large boating lake.


Practical information – the park is open from 05:00am to dusk. Nearest tube stops: Regent’s Park (Bakerloo line), Great Portland Street (Hammersmith & City, Circle & Metropolitan lines), Baker Street (Hammersmith & City, Circle, Jubilee, Metropolitan & Bakerloo lines), St John’s Wood (Jubilee line), Camden Town (Northern line)


St James’s Park

Royal St James's Park (London)
No park in central London quite reflects royal pomp and pageantry like St James’s Park. The park is in the beating heart of London surrounded by Buckingham Palace, Westminster, Horse Guards Parade and St James’s Palace.

Enter via the main entrance of Admiralty Arch from Trafalgar Square and make your way down The Mall which falls within the grounds of St James’s Park. This processional route is famous the world over for the Changing of the Guard parades and the annual Trooping the Colour – or the Queen’s birthday parade.

Horse Guards Parade is one of the highlights of the park where you can watch the beginning of the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony as members of The Queen’s Life Guard ride from the Hyde Park Barracks to take over guard duties. The ceremony takes place daily at 11:00am and 10:00am on Sundays – more information.


Practical information – the park is open from 05:00am to midnight. Nearest tube stops: St. James’s Park (District and Circle Line),
Charing Cross Station (Northern, Bakerloo and British Rail lines), Westminster (Jubilee, District and Circle Lines), Green Park (Piccadilly, Victoria and Jubilee Lines), Victoria (Victoria, Circle and District, British Rail lines)


Greenwich Park

Greenwich park aerial view

I always recommend visitors to London take a trip out east to Greenwich, where you find one of the city’s most beautiful parks within the UNESCO Greenwich Maritime World Heritage Site.

Greenwich was the site of a former royal palace, the birthplace of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. Sadly the palace was destroyed but in its place are the beautiful Queen’s House – designed by Inigo Jones for Queen Anne – and the stunning Christopher Wren designed Royal Observatory.

The gardens themselves cover over 74 hectares and include a deer sanctuary, impressive Edwardian flower garden and even the remains of an Ancient Roman site.

Related  Visit Greenwich - one of London's most fascinating districts

Practical information – the park is open from 06:00am to dusk. The best way to reach Greenwich is via the Docklands Light Rail (DLR) – Cutty Sark and Greenwich stations


Richmond Park

Deer in Richmond Park

For the feeling of being in the countryside, while being in the middle of one of the world’s biggest metropolises, head to Richmond Park in the city’s southwest.

The largest and oldest of the Royal Parks, Richmond Park’s history can be traced back to the 13th century and the reign of King Edward I. During Charles I reign, the royal court fled to Richmond to avoid the plague and it was then that the kind established a park for red and fallow deer. Their 650 descendants roam the park to this day.

Richmond Park has played an important part in the history of England. From King Henry’s mound you can see all the way to St Paul’s Cathedral on a clear day. According to legend, it was on this very spot that Henry VIII learnt of Anne Boleyn’s death in 1536 – notified by a rocket shot from the Tower of London.

Today the park is used for a variety of activities,  although deer spotting is perhaps the favourite.


Practical information – the park is open from 07:00am in the summer and 07:30am in the winter to 20:00pm. The best way to reach Richmond Park is via Richmond Station – National Rail or District Line you then need to catch the 371 or 65 buses to the pedestrian gate at Petersham


 Bushy Park

Fountain
Lying to the north of Hampton Court Palace, Bushy Park is home to grassy plains and the ingenious Longford River, a manmade waterway designed to bring water to the palace.

The approach to the palace via Bushy Park is a mile long avenue of horse chestnut and lime trees designed by Sir Christopher Wren during  the reign of William III and Mary II.

Red and fallow deer roam the park as they have done for centuries under the watchful eye of the magnificent Diana Fountain that stands in the middle of the park.


Practical information – the park is open to pedestrians 24 hours a day. The best way to reach Bushy Park is via mainline trains from Waterloo to Teddington/Hampton Wick/Hampton Court. It is then a  5 to 10 minute walk to the park through the Sandy Lane Gates.


More favourite parks and gardens in London

Though the Royal Parks are extensive, they are not the only green spaces in London. From council parks to private gardens, there is a patch of greenery around every corner.

Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill London

Technically part of Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill is one of the best places to go for panoramic views of the London skyline and is therefore worth a mention in its own right.

Lying to the north of the Regent’s canal, on a clear day you can see for miles in each direction. Trees in the area are kept at low heights to avoid blocking the view and the open space is used for a huge community gathering on Bonfire Night.

I have conversed with the spiritual Sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill

William Blake - poet

The neighbourhood of Primrose Hill is well worth a wander too. Home to London’s wealthy bohemian set and artistic celebrities, it is a haven for those who crave a village atmosphere in the big city. Primrose Hill has a history of being the location of duels and settling scores but if you want to find out all about the modern day intrigues of the area be sure to take a walking tour of Primrose Hill and nearby Camden.


Practical information – Primrose Hill is open from 05:00am and has irregular closing times. Nearest tube stops: Regent’s Park (Bakerloo line) and Camden Town (Northern line)


Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath

Another favourite spot for views of London is Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath. Found 6 kilometres away from Westminster and the Houses of Parliament, the Heath (as it is known to locals) covers 320 hectares of some of the highest ground in London.

Hampstead Heath is a perfect place escape the crush of the city. Its woodlands and grassy fields are where Londoners come to walk, run and even swim in one of the three open air swimming pools found in these gardens.

In fact there are over 25 ponds found on the Heath that are used for swimming, model boats and wildlife reserves for the 180 bird species known to inhabit the area.


Practical information – Hampstead Heath is always open. Nearest tube stops: Golders Green, Hampstead, and Kentish Town (Northern line). More information


Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens

Officially the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, this South London treasure is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site that manages a collection of over 40,000 species of plants.

With a 250 year old history, Kew Gardens is world famous for supporting botanical research and employs over 250 scientists and 100 horticulturists.

So, as you can imagine, there are many diverse gardens to explore within the 132 hectare site – from tropical plants in the iconic Palm House, to the collection of 14,000 trees in the Arboretum and mountainous plant species in the Alpine House.

Kew Gardens warrants many visits but if you are short on time do not miss the 18 metre high Treetop Walkway offering stunning views of the city, strolling along the Great Broad Walk Borders towards the Palm House and a visit to King George III’s summer home – Kew Palace – with its more formal gardens.

The gardens are a great place to visit as a family with fantastic indoor and outdoor playgrounds and a fantastic art installation called The Hive designed to bring the world of bees to life.


Practical information – Kew Gardens is open from 10:00am and closes at 18:30pm Monday to Thursday and 20:30pm Friday to Sunday. Reach the gardens by tube at Kew Gardens station (500m to Victoria Gate) or by train Kew Bridge station (800m to Elizabeth Gate). Adult ticket prices start from £14

More information and ticket prices


Victoria Park

Late Autumn Victoria Park
Beloved by Londoners for over 170 years, Victoria Park in Bow welcomes over 9 million visitors a year. Opened in 1845, the park was the first public park in London and was built to provide recreation facilities for people living in the East End.

Today visitors to Victoria Park enjoy wide open spaces, grassy lawns, and several ponds that are home to local birdlife. The park also has several playgrounds and plenty of facilities for families.


Practical information – Victoria Park is open from 07:00am and closes at dusk daily. The nearest tube station is Mile End. More information


Holland Park

Waterfall At Kyoto Garden - London

One of the largest public parks in west London, Holland Park covers 22 hectares and is partially covered by woodland. A popular recreation area, Holland Park is also home to more formal gardens and the Kyoto Japanese Garden where the park’s resident peacocks roam freely.

There is a fantastic children’s playground and an open air theatre where performances are staged over summer in the park.


Practical information – Holland Park is open from 07:30am and closes 30 minutes before dusk daily. The nearest tube stations are Notting Hill Gate and Holland Park (Central line) and High Street Kensington (District and Circle lines). More information


Battersea Park

Saturday in Battersea Park
Once a popular place for duelling, Battersea Park is a 83 hectare park south of the river from Chelsea. Running from Chelsea Bridge to Albert Bridge the park’s many trails and paths are used by walkers and runners.

Battersea Park is home to London’s Peace Pagoda, a large fountain lake, a contemporary art gallery and a boating lake. It’s a great outdoor area for families too with a small zoo and a recently refurbished playground next to a cafe where you can get a decent coffee.


Practical information – Battersea Park is open from 06:30am and closes at 10:30pm daily. The nearest mainline station is Battersea Park. More information


London’s Garden Squares

Many of London’s beautiful garden squares are private and open to residents only. A handful are open to the general public and offer a unique perspective on London life. The first squares were built in the early 17th century and quickly spread as an urban design feature over the next two centuries.

Berkeley Square

Berkeley Square Gardens, London
In the heart of Mayfair, Berkeley Square is a sheltered oasis of large, 200 year old plane trees and open lawns. Designed by architect William Kent in the mid 18th century, the square was once home to Winston Churchill and has featured in many fictional works.

There was magic abroad in the air
There were angels dining at the Ritz
And a nightingale sang in Berkeley square

Vera Lynn

Soho Square

Soho Square London

In the heart of Soho, just behind Oxford Street, Soho Square is a haven for local workers who can be seen relaxing on the grass here on sunny days. Dating from 1681, the square was once the hub of fashionable London and home to naturalist Joseph Banks.

Russell Square

Russell Square
A short walk from the British Museum, Russell Square is a large green space in the heart of Bloomsbury. There is a large gushing fountain at the centre of the square which is a series of grassy lawns and large mature trees.

Leicester Square

Leicester Square
Perhaps the most famous square in London, Leicester Square has recently undergone refurbishment and was restored to reveal a classic pocket of grass and large trees shading the famous statue of William Shakespeare. Once a residential area, the square is now home to world famous theatres and restaurants.

Grosvenor Square

Roosevelt Statue, Grosvenor Square, London
Originally a private garden, Grosvenor Square was opened to the public in 1946. Home to the US Embassy, the square has many references to the relationship between the American and British people including a memorial statue to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Oscar Wilde lived on the square for a short time and it appears in several of his works.

Explore London’s parks and gardens further

 

If you love gardening and exploring garden design and botany then London has a wealth of experiences for you to discover. At the recently refurbished Garden Museum at St Mary’s church the burial place of John Tradescant (c1570 – 1638), the first great British gardener and plant-hunter.

The gardens of nearby Lambeth Palace, are the oldest continuously cultivated gardens in London. Within the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, are open to the public on select days over the summer months.



The Chelsea Flower Show

Chelsea Flower Show 2015

Lastly, a highlight of each year in London, the Chelsea Flower Show is the place to go for new ideas in garden design and to marvel at the show gardens and thousands of flower varieties on display.

Held each May by the Royal Horticultural Society at the Royal Chelsea Hospital, the show has been running for over 100 years.

Learn more and find tickets for the Chelsea Flower Show


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means I may receive a small commission if you click these links and choose to make a purchase. There will be no additional cost to you. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own based on personal experience. You can read more about our affiliate policy on our disclosure page.


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London travel guide - London parks and gardens - take a break from sightseeing and visit London's famous parks and gardens - Hyde Park, Green Park, Regent's Park, Richmond Park, Greenwich Park
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35 Comments

    • 10th August 2017 / 5:19 PM

      The deer are very special Tanja – one for next time

  1. 10th August 2017 / 9:24 AM

    Richmond is my closest and favourite but I might be biased

  2. 10th August 2017 / 9:45 AM

    Thank you for this post! I have visited most of these parks at one time or other when visiting Londen, but it’s not until you see them all lined up like this to realise how lush and green a huge city like London actually is.
    #FarawayFiles

    • 10th August 2017 / 5:19 PM

      When you compare it to other European cities it does have somewhat of a green advantage 🙂

  3. 10th August 2017 / 10:03 AM

    Fabulous post and beautiful photos. You’re right, whenever we come to London it’s to do something or go somewhere, we definitely need to make time to explore these lovely green spaces. #FarawayFiles

    • 10th August 2017 / 5:16 PM

      It would take a lifetime to explore London but the parks are really worth a wander, especially if you need some space and time to reflect

  4. 10th August 2017 / 11:05 AM

    I’m n agreement with Esther – you don’t really appreciate the extent and the beauty of London’s green spaces until you read this. A fantastic post, full of practical info and gorgeous photos.
    #farawayfiles

    • 10th August 2017 / 5:15 PM

      Thanks so much Trish. I really enjoyed writing this piece

  5. 10th August 2017 / 11:56 AM

    Love London. Lived there and spent many a happy day in my local parks Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common. It is such a green city that makes other cities seem very industrial and hard surfaced in comparison. Very impressive article, must have you ages to write!

    • 10th August 2017 / 5:14 PM

      Thanks Carolyn.I enjoyed the research and got a bit carried away with the writing. I didn’t add the commons either – maybe I should update it!

  6. 10th August 2017 / 12:04 PM

    What a lovely post! I’ve been wanting to explore some of the other gardens besides just Hyde Park and Green Park! I definitely want to see Kensington Gardens again as well as some of the other ones you mentioned! Regent’s Park looks beautiful!! Pinning and Stumbled! #FarawayFiles

  7. 10th August 2017 / 12:13 PM

    This is quite am ultimate list! We are big fans of Greenwich Park. We used to live in East Kent and it was so easy for us to drive to. We loved the city view and my boys loved rolling down the grassy hills.
    #farawayfiles

  8. 10th August 2017 / 1:19 PM

    It is surprising how many parks London has to offer. thanks for the great list. we will travel to London soon and i will surely bookmark your post. #farawayfiles

  9. 10th August 2017 / 2:27 PM

    I didn’t know there were so many parks and gardens in London. This makes me love and want to visit London even more. We’re an outdoorsy family so even when we visit cities, we tend to gravitate towards the green spaces as opposed to the indoor sites like museums and buildings. Although we enjoy those, too. #FarawayFiles

  10. 10th August 2017 / 4:16 PM

    Oooh, I’ve been to all of those except for Bushy and Holland. I love that there area so many green spaces in London. It gives you the best of the city with the feeling that you’re never too far away from greenery. #FarawayFiles

  11. 10th August 2017 / 4:32 PM

    We haven’t been over to London yet, but we are planning to go next year for a mates wedding. Hoping to get to relax in a few of these parks! #FarawayFiles

  12. 10th August 2017 / 5:59 PM

    It is easy to forget how green London is – we’re lucky to have so many parks. When I used to live more centrally, I did once walk to work during a tube strike and only the last 10 minutes of the hour’s walk was outside a park. Love the facts you’ve found. #farawayfiles

  13. 10th August 2017 / 6:50 PM

    Wow! A great summary! When I lived in London, I tried to go for a 1 hour walk in Hampstead Heath almost every day. Come rain or shine. All that fresh air and exercise kept me healthy and helped combat the winter blues. And… St James is my favourite small park in the city 🙂 So peaceful, if you need to escape the crowds! #farawayfiles

    • 17th August 2017 / 10:18 AM

      What an excellent thing to do Birgit. A walk on the heath would lift my spirits even on the greyest of London days

  14. 10th August 2017 / 10:16 PM

    I wish I’d seen this a few months ago! We only managed Greenwich and to see a few from a bus or walking to elsewhere! If only we had more time

  15. 10th August 2017 / 10:40 PM

    What a comprehensive post. My last visit to London was before the kids were born so im looking forward to visting again this time with them. Some great ideas here

    • 11th August 2017 / 9:01 PM

      Laura there are so many great things to do with kids in London. The best playground is in Kensington Gardens. Let me know if you have any questions about your trip – I’d be happy to help

  16. 11th August 2017 / 4:02 AM

    What an excellent post! It is true that there are not a lot of people talking about the parks in London. I think that is what makes this post so special. I am surprised at the variety and beauty of the places you have presented in here. In a way, you cannot have a great city without nice green areas. I would love to visit some of these. #FarawayFiles

  17. 11th August 2017 / 4:14 AM

    The upside to lots of rainy days is that lush greenery in these beautiful gardens. I’d love to go back to London to visit more of these parks, especially Richmond park to do some deer spotting!

  18. 11th August 2017 / 10:49 AM

    I used to drive through Richmond Park on the way to work, I loved seeing the deer every morning. Great post #FarawayFiles

  19. 11th August 2017 / 2:15 PM

    I had no idea there was a park with deer in it in the middle of London! There are so many great choices. Parks are one of my favorite things about cities, so maybe I’m a country girl at heart.

    • 11th August 2017 / 8:58 PM

      Thanks Marina, I definitely appreciate the space that these parks and gardens provide. Coming from Australia, sometimes I find the streets of London are a little claustrophobic

  20. 11th August 2017 / 4:22 PM

    I love London’s parks! We’ve spent time in many of these, but there are still so many I’ve yet to explore! I’d love to see a hedgehog, and the winter festival in Hyde Park is on my list as well! #farawayfiles

  21. 11th August 2017 / 4:50 PM

    We’re so lucky to have so many wonderful parks and gardens in London. We love visiting them for picnics and walks all year round. A really comprehensive post here. We’re looking forward to a return visit to Hampstead Heath next. #FarawayFiles

  22. 12th August 2017 / 1:21 PM

    Wow, that’s a lot of parks I haven’t been to 🙂 I really like Richmond Park! Would have liked to gone further into the park, but we just popped by.

  23. 15th August 2017 / 8:40 AM

    Wow, so many parks and gardens in London! And rightfully so as the city is large thus we need more greenery to compensate for the concrete jungle that is taking up more space in our landscape. I bet these parks are just as beautiful during the winter as well? (though it would be freezing, lol!). Great list, Katy! #FarawayFiles

  24. 16th August 2017 / 12:29 PM

    I think it is the mark of a civilized city that prioritizes the use of green space for its citizens. So many lovely and unique options all over London. I have only been to Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park alas. I love the idea of a pre-maid picnic hamper for a slow afternoon out in London. Lovely! #FarawayFiles

    • 17th August 2017 / 9:37 AM

      I agree but sadly, the councils are leaving it up to community groups to manage many parks and gardens with drastically reduced funding. The Royal Parks are exempt but it’s still a challenge. Hopefully the civilised city prevails

  25. 17th August 2017 / 8:59 AM

    I’ve only ever been to Regents Park but these all look absolutely stunning. It’s crazy to think that London is really only 5 hours away from me on the train and I’ve only ever been once! #farawayfiles

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