A Guide to the Best Parks and Gardens London Has to Offer

Planning a walk, run, or snooze in the sun? We've tried and tested the best parks and gardens in London for you

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Pond at Hampstead Heath

There’s nothing like visiting a London park at 2pm on a hot Tuesday afternoon to make you ponder the city’s rate of unemployment. No, it’s not an economic crisis, it’s the phenomenon of a ‘beautiful day’. Any Londoner knows, to let such a rare occurrence idly pass by is a cardinal sin. Instead, it’s imperative that all plans are relocated to the city’s parks and gardens, providing a crowded peaceful escape in the bustling capital.

Dog walkers and nature lovers rejoice, as surprisingly, despite London being one of the world’s most densely populated cities, there’s over 400 open green spaces to enjoy.

So, if you find yourself unexpectedly witness to the ‘beautiful day’ phenomenon, we suggest you save any planned visits to the London Dungeons for a rainier one – here are the best parks and gardens London has to offer.

Hyde Park

If you have absolutely no knowledge of London and are unable to find England on a map, you’ve probably still heard of Hyde Park. Being the most famous of London’s parks, it’s arguably the most touristy, but you won't see anyone it's huge. Hyde Park stretches across 350 acres of royal expanse, where visitors can enjoy a spot of boating, tennis and even horse riding. Feeling guilty about foregoing the gym for sunshine? No problem, get your cardio session in at the ‘senior playground’, for the young at heart. Take a dip in the Serpentine Lido (if you happen to have your swimming kit with you), or enjoy a glass of wine looking out over the open water at the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen.

Kensington Gardens

If you’re feeling particularly sprightly (and have managed to tear yourself away from the Serpentine Bar), you can continue your walk onto Kensington Gardens. Originally part of Hyde Park, the royal gardens boast beautiful surroundings and monuments that can be enjoyed whatever the weather. Perfect for children, Kensington Gardens helped to inspire J M Barrie's stories of Peter Pan – your little ones will love the ornate statue magical garden and giant pirate ship playground (found in the Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground and opened in memory of the late Princess).

Kensington Gardens, London

St James’ Park

Located in Westminster by Buckingham Palace, St James’ Park is 57 glorious acres of royal history, landmarks and gorgeous city lookouts. Enjoy the the vast lake and the seventeen resident species of birds from the comfort of an old fashioned stripy deckchair (boater hat optional). The Queen lives just up the road but you’re more likely to catch a glimpse of the squadron of pelicans (yes, really) that reside within the park.

Richmond Park

It’s advisable to take a map when visiting Richmond Park. Firstly, to get there (Richmond is in zone four, at the end of the District line), and secondly, to ensure you don’t get lost in the sprawling 800 acres of green. The famous wildlife – especially the herds of deer – will make your pilgrimage, and the possibility of being declared missing, worth it. Pembroke Lodge sits at the top of Richmond Park (and even has free parking), where you will can enjoy a traditional English tea in elegant Georgian dining rooms.

Deer grazing in Richmond Park at Sunset

Clapham Common

Despite Clapham Common’s lovely surroundings (Georgian mansions, three ponds and a bandstand), this south London hotspot is probably best avoided if you’re over 25 and/or don't own a pair of roller blades. Here lies London’s Generation Z: crowds competing for optimal speaker volume and personal trainers humiliating encouraging their sweaty clients.

Hampstead Heath

Put aside anything you may or may not have heard about quick frisks in the bushes, and instead focus on everything wonderful this immense space has to offer. It’s hard to believe that tucked away amongst the built up surroundings of Hampstead lays 800 magnificent acres of fields and woods. The Heath is ideal for lazy picnics, long rambling dog walks, or even a refreshing swim in your choice of three swimming ponds and a lido. There’s an abundance of traditional pubs nearby for a well-deserved roast dinner and pint(s).

Alexandra Palace

Affectionately known as ‘Ally Pally’ by locals, this 1873 grade II listed events venue is situated between Wood Green and Muswell Hill. This is one of the best parks and gardens London has to offer for kids; from skateboarding in the skate park to zip wiring through an urban tree top jungle at Go Ape. The more demure visitors can call on Alexandra Palace's garden centre or treat themselves to homemade pies at the (overpriced) farmer’s market.

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