Despite being a pretty large, sprawling city London does have a lot of greenery. In fact, it’s said that around 47% of London is green space! How cool is that? Almost half of this busy city is actually a park with trees and wildlife. There’s so much green space in London that some people are campaigning to make London an Urban National Park.
It’s easy to forget that London is so green when you spend your week walking from your home to the tube, then tube to office. I’m fairly sure that for most of you, your journey into work doesn’t include walking through one of London’s beautiful parks. I know it doesn’t for me! But, then again, I do live across the road from a tube station so that doesn’t help!
However, whenever I have a weekend in London I always make sure it includes a park visit. They’re the perfect way for me to get outside, get some air (I’d say fresh but it’s still London…) and some exercise.
If you’re a London dweller, or looking for something a bit more relaxing to do during your visit to London, make sure to check these ones out! This is no means an exhaustive list of London’s parks, but it’s a list of tried and tested ones!
My favourite. I almost didn’t want to put Brockwell Park on here as I was to keep it as my little secret. When I do mention this park to people, assuming they’ll be well aware of this gem, people always ask me where it is. The only people that I’ve spoken to who do know it are those who live in Brixton (and not even all of them) or Herne Hill.
Brockwell Park is huge at 50.8 hectares. It’s got a lido, a cafe, a live band on Sundays, holds several music festivals during the summer, has a community garden which produces all sorts of fruit and vegetables, a paddling pool, tennis courts, BMX track, and a little secret walled garden too. An incredible view of London and holds a park run if you’re that way inclined. There’s bound to be something else I’ve missed in that list!
Do yourselves a favour and go visit. It’s never that busy and it’s absolutely lovely.
Nearest station: Herne Hill, or Brixton
Fan of Made in Chelsea? Um, yeah…me neither ? Well if you are then you’ll have probably seen “the boys” playing rugby in Dulwich Park one several episodes throughout the series.
Dulwich Park splits into two sections, there’s the playing field where you’ll see people playing rugby, football and all sorts and then the prettier bit where kids race around on bikes.
Whichever part you go to, make sure to stop off at La Gastronomia Deli just outside the park. They do the best paninis in the area and chocolate cannoli – so good!
Nearest station: North or West Dulwich, or take the bus!
Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens
Perhaps the most famous of London parks is Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. I’ve combined the two here as you’ll commonly come across people referring to both of them as just Hyde Park when in fact, Hyde Park becomes Kensington Gardens once you cross the the road running between the two. Both parks are counted as ‘Royal Parks’, of which there are eight dotted around the city.
If you’ve ever been to London, chances are you’ve strolled around Hyde Park and been accosted by the cheeky squirrels (one climbed up my leg once – I didn’t even have food…).
One of the big attractions of Hyde Park is the Serpentine: a 40 acre lake in the middle of the park. It’s great for boating on, or even swimming in! Whilst I haven’t done either of those in Hyde Park, I have hired a Boris Bike/Sadiq Cycle and rode between the two. If you do the same just remember to dock your bike back in every half an hour to keep it free!
Hyde Park Corner or Green Park for Hyde Park, High Street Kensington or Notting Hill Gate for Kensington Gardens.
I visited Greenwich Park for the first time recently and couldn’t believe I hadn’t been before. Greenwich Park used to be a hunting park and it’s still one of the largest single green spaces in south-east London covering 74 hectares. It’s even included as part of Greenwich’s World Heritage status.
Make sure you take the time to climb up to the top of the park as you’ll be rewarded with amazing views. You’ll get a view of the River Thames, the Isle of Dogs and the City of London as well as the beautiful buildings of the University of Greenwich; an old Royal Naval College. Oh, and if you strain your neck a bit you can add the London Eye to that list!
Besides the park, there’s also the Royal Observatory which has free exhibitions as well as London’s only Planetarium a deer park and not forgetting Greenwich Markets at the bottom of the park. They’re great if you need some lunch or tasty snacks. You can honestly eat around the world. There’s Ethiopian, Chinese, Vietnamese, British and much more!
Nearest station: Cutty Sark tube, Maze Hill or Greenwich
This used to be the park I’d walk to in my lunch break when I was working in Kentish Town. It’s huge and has some pretty steep hills (Parliament Hill) but the climb is worth it for the views and the fact you’ll feel like you’re somewhere outside of London, not just 15 minutes away from bustling Camden.
Hampstead Heath has a lovely cafe which locals fought fiercely to protect from being turned into a chain, a lido, running track and ponds too. Along the east of the park are a chain of ponds which include three open-air public swimming pools.
It’s a bit wilder than some of the other parks and in the winter you’ll definitely want your wellies. In fact, it’s probably one of the few places in London you can really get away with wearing wellies and that’s probably why I like it so much.
Small (hopefully entertaining) aside: Don’t try and take any short cuts over the grass in winter if you’re not wearing wellies. I slipped and fell smearing mud all over my black jeans and then had to go back to the office for the rest of the afternoon… Not. Cool.
Nearest station: Gospel Oak, Hampstead Heath, Hampstead
AKA “The one with the deer”. If people know one thing about Richmond it’ll be that it has deer. Yes, Richmond is full of deer who stroll freely through the park and cropping up in tourists selfies.
Do remember though that whilst they may be used to people, they are still wild animals and I HATE it when I see people trying to get to close to them. Just leave them be. Please.
Anyway, besides the deer, Richmond can also be characterised by lycra clad cyclists whizzing through the park trying to beat their PBs. It is a great place to cycle it must be said.
It’s not just cyclists though, on Sundays you may hear a funny rolling sound, some pumping music and look around to see a hoard of rollerskaters coming towards you! Yes, there’s a weekly rollerskating session through Richmond Park accompanied by music. It’s quite the sight and they’re very speedy, you’ll struggle to keep up if you’re on a Boris Bike.
Nearest station: Richmond
Wimbledon Common, just outside of Wimbledon (surprising, right?), actually has three parts to it making it a super park!
There’s Putney Heath, Putney Lower Common and Wimbledon common which all add up to total 460 hectares. That’s HUGE!
In the summer you’ll find people sprawled out on blankets with picnic hampers and families having birthday parties for their kids. Besides grasslands there are also wooded areas to explore, nature trails to walk and even a windmill!
Nearest station: Wimbledon or East Putney
Another South London gem is Burgess Park. Not only is it one of the few parks in London you can legally have BBQs in come summer, but there’s just so much going on in it!
You can learn pottery at Art in the Park, watch the super cool dudes on the BMX track, or guess at how many fish the fishermen that are ALWAYS there must catch in a day. My answer? Not many.
Unlike other London parks, Burgess Park is pretty new. It was developed between 1950s and 1980s and then given a huge regeneration in 2012 when it was reopened. Maybe that explains why Google hasn’t yet mapped it out as a green space…
Nearest station: Queen’s Road Peckham, Elephant & Castle
St James’ Park
St James’ Park was a fairly recent discovery for me too. I’m in the area a fair bit but normally find I want to get out of there as soon as possible as there’s just too many people. I didn’t get that feeling with St James’ Park; it’s like a little haven on the back of shopping mania in Central London.
St James’ Park is another of London’s Royal Parks, and perhaps the Royalest since Buckingham Palace is within its boundaries! Also included in the 23 hectares of St James’ Park are The Mall, the Horse Guards and Birdcage Walk.
There’s a lovely looking cafe in the park that serves up breakfast if you’re there early enough and if you go in Spring you’ll love the daffodils and baby ducks filling the park!
Nearest stations: St James’ Park, Green Park, Victoria and Westminster
Battersea Park is the perfect park for a Sunday stroll. There’s the fancy, landscaped bit (where they hold Formula E), the huge field (where they hold spectacular bonfire and fireworks displays I’ll have you know) and the strange, unexpected parts such as the Pleasure Gardens, a zoo, a sports arena and the Peace Pagoda. The park also backs onto the River Thames which I imagine makes it a pretty nice spot to run in. Although I wouldn’t personally know…
Oh and if that wasn’t enough there’s also London’s first (and only) GoApe in the park. So now you can swing from the treetops in London too!
Nearest station: Battersea Park, Queenstown Road
Victoria Park isn’t really the prettiest park in London but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. It has it’s moments and there’s some pretty cool looking pubs around the outside of it.
Regent’s Canal and Hertford Union Canal run along the southern sides of the park and there’s a great lake for boating on too. Hire a pedalo and, if you’re like me, get competitive by racing the others out on the lake.
Make sure you stop by the Chinese pagoda, it’s a pretty unusual site for a Central London Park and well worth taking a look at!
Nearest station: Cambridge Heath, Homerton
This one’s also walkable from my flat and, because of that, it’s one of my faves.
There are tennis courts, a paddling pool, bandstand and a conservation area with loads of different tree species. It’s a pretty calming place and there’s also a good view of London’s skyline from here!
Nearest station: Denmark Hill
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
In some ways it feels weird calling this a park as it’s not covered in grass. But, I’m doing it anyway because it does have park in the name and I have fond memories of it from my time volunteering as a Games Maker at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Despite the fact that they’ve got rid of a lot of the Olympic buildings and removed my beloved spotty bridge, the stadium, swimming pool and velodrome still stand. There are still grassy areas to sit in the summer, and a few cafés throughout the park to stop off at for lunch or afternoon snacks.
AND they built a slide on The Orbit which is a good enough reason as any to go visit the park.
Nearest station: Stratford
Markfield Park, Tottenham
I bet you didn’t see this one coming. Markfield Park is up near Tottenham Hale and borders along the River Lea.
(Have you noticed a theme? I seem to like parks with water in or near them…)
The actual park itself isn’t anything too special, but there’s one thing in it that makes it very different from other London parks. That thing is the Markfield Beam Engine and Museum. The site is basically the remains of the Tottenham sewage treatment works and pumping station. That sounds gross and it probably was, but it’s not anymore as, thankfully, it’s been cleaned.
The works were busy pumping sewage for over 100 hundred years until 1964 when the sewers were diverted. Then the building was all boarded up and forgotten about until locals got together and uncovered it. They’ve also got the pump working (don’t worry, still no sewage!) and the volunteers at the museum are very keen to tell you more about it. It sounds weird, and maybe it is a little, but it’s also pretty cool and you won’t find much else like this in London!