London’s Best Parks And Green Spaces

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London might be a huge sprawling metropolis, but it’s also famous for the sheer number and quality of its parks and open spaces.

Whether you are making a day of it with family or friends or just escaping the office for a spot of lunch, these are the best parks in London for a bit of tranquillity.

Best for: views

Greenwich Park

Greenwich Park

Need to know:

So important are the unparalleled views from the oldest enclosed Royal Park across the River Thames that it’s actually a Grade 1 listed landscape. As the only hill overlooking the eastern river approach to the city, the area’s historic importance dates back to Roman times; it was the birthplace of Henry VIII, Mary I and Elizabeth I.

Greenwich Park is in fact part of a World Heritage Site and is home to the Old Royal Observatory, the Royal Naval College, the National Maritime Museum as well as the Greenwich Mean Time line.

You can bring your dog here, go jogging, have a picnic or do a bit of boating. But the main draw is the view.

The most ancient of London’s numerous deer parks, Greenwich has been home to Red and Fallow Deer since it was enclosed in the C15th.

  • Sports / Activities: Cricket, tennis, cycling (on designated paths) running, football, boating
  • Monuments / Attractions: Roman remains (AD43 – AD c.410), herbaceous border (largest in London), one of the oldest bandstands in Britain – plays live music, summer open air cinema
  • Cafés: The Pavilion Café (near the Royal Observatory), White House Bakery (near Greenwich Village, Coffee Cabin (even has a dog menu). Contributions go to the park.
  • Dog Friendly
  • Picnics
  • Public Toilets: Three, with one in the centre of the park
Website and Facebook
Opening times: 6am-6pm (winter) and until 8-9pm in the summer
Getting there: Greeenwich, London, SE10 8QY. Nearest DLR is Cutty Sark or Greenwich (also mainline)

Hampstead Heath

Hampstead Heath

Need to know:

A firm favourite with film and TV directors thanks to its panoramic views. Part heath, park, wildlife sanctuary and heritage hotspot; it’s hard to believe you’re only a few miles out of central London.

There are also 30 lakes and ponds (3 of which you can swim in), as well as multiple wildlife and flora and fauna habitats.

At the north end, you’ll find the neoclassical Kenwood House built in 1764, while to the east and south west are the ponds. 

  • Sports / Activities: Athletics, tennis, cricket, bowling, cycling (designated routes only), croquet, football, orienteering, rugby, bird watching, putting, petanque, Parliament Hill Fields playground, paddling pool (summer), adventure playground, fishing, angling (permit only).
  • Swimming: Four swimming facilities on the Heath, the outdoor Parliament Hill Lido, Ladies’, Men’s and Mixed Bathing Ponds.
  • Monuments / Attractions: Zoo, butterfly house, pergola, Kenwood House: 10am–5pm, free, artists on display include: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gainsborough and Turner.
  • Cafés: Parliament Hill café: 9am-9pm (latest) in the summer, between the tennis courts and bandstand. Golders Hill Park café: 9am- 8pm. Kenwood Brew House restaurant: 9am-6pm.
  • Dog Friendly (there are also five children-only play areas where dogs are not allowed)
  • Barbecues are banned
  • Seven public toilets
Website and Twitter
Opening times: Golders Hill Park: 7.30am-dusk, The Pergola & Hill Garden: 8.30am-dusk. The rest of the Heath is open 24-hours.
Getting there: Hampstead Heath, NW1, London. Nearest Tube’s include; Hampstead, Golders Green and Kentish Town

Best for: wide open spaces

Hyde Park

Hyde Park Boating Lake© Andy Lane

Hyde Park Boating Lake© Andy Lane

Need to know:

One of London’s most famous Royal Parks, Hyde Park was “acquired” by Henry VIII back in 1536 and used as a hunting ground. The Serpentine lake (which stretches across 11.34 hectares) was built by Queen Caroline, wife of George II, in the 1730s and has become an attraction in its own right.

It’s now one of the capital’s most popular outside music venues too, with huge gigs a massive feature of the summer season.

The park is home to the Serpentine Swimming Club, which is the oldest in Britain.

  • Sports / Activities: boating, bowls, cycling, tennis, horse riding and open water swimming
  • Monuments / Attractions: Diana Memorial Fountain, Speakers’ Corner, Serpentine Lido – open June, July and August
  • Licensed cafés:  The Serpentine Bar and Kitchen, which also has a pop up BBQ and gin bar in the summer, is in the middle of the park by the lake. The Lido Bar and café is at the south of The Serpentine. Both have large outdoor dining areas.
  • Dog Friendly
  • Picnics: alcohol is fine in plastic glasses
  • Public toilets

Website and Facebook
Opening times: 5am-midnight
Getting there: Hyde Park, London, W2 2UH. Nearest Tubes include: Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch, Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge

Clapham Common

clapham bandstand

Need to know:

The area we know as the Common first got a mention in the Doomsday Book back in 1086 as land for the parishes of nearby Battersea and of course Clapham. The Friends of Clapham Common are actively seeking to improve it, and there’s a great community feel to the place as a result (although residents are less likely to graze their sheep on it now).

Jam packed on long summer days and nights with picnickers who then head to the nearby pubs and restaurants when the sun sets, or teeming with music festival goers, this is one of South West London’s best open spaces.

  • Sports / Activities: Aussie rules, basketball, bowling, cricket, fishing (permit required), football, rugby, netball, skateboarding, softball, tennis, touch rugby (some sports have a charge – see website)
  • Monuments / Attractions: Largest bandstand in London and a Grade II Listed Building, three ponds – Mount Pond is a favourite for duck feeding, along with a paddling pond.
  • Cafés: There are a few cafes both on and off the common, with La Baita being a particular favourite.
  • Dog Friendly: 2 playgrounds are dog free
  • Toilets
Website and Twitter
Opening times: 24 hours a day
Getting there: Windmill Drive, Clapham Common, London, SW4 9DE. Nearest tubes: Clapham South or Clapham Common.

Best for: outdoor sports

Regent’s Park

Regents Park

Need to know:

This Royal park was once a favourite hunting ground of Henry VIII. Originally called Marylebone Park, it was more home to the organisations like the Zoological Society and the Royal Botanic Society until it was transformed in the 19th century by Regency architect John Nash.

While it still has a huge link to science, animals and nature (it’s home to London Zoo after all), nowadays its also good for outdoor sports like running (they even had special routes).

Regent’s Park is also home to “The Hub”: the largest outdoor sports facility in the capital, along with a giant boating lake. Flowers feature heavily here as well, with more than 12,000 roses of several hundred varieties in Queen Mary’s Gardens.

  • Sports / Activities: Cycling, rugby, softball, football, cricket, lacrosse, tennis, netball, boating, pedalos
  • Monuments / Attractions: ZSL London Zoo, bird walk, Queen Mary’s Gardens, open air theatre.
  • Cafés; The Hub Café (360 degree views of park), The Garden Café, The Espresso Bar, The Boathouse Café, The Regent’s Park Tennis Centre Café & various kiosks.
  • Dog Friendly
  • Picnics: no barbeques allowed
  • Toilets: Five across the park
Website and Facebook
Opening times: 5am-midnight
Getting there: Regent’s Park, London, NW1 4NR. Nearest tubes; Great Portland Street, Regent’s Park, Baker Street

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Queen Elizabeth Park

Need to know:

Henry VIII might cast a long shadow over the majority of London’s oldest parks, but its our reigning monarch who gives her name to the newest. One million people have visited the site of the 2012 games since it officially re-opened in July 2013.

At 560 acres, it’s the same size as Hyde Park (or equal to Green Park, St. James’s Park, Victoria Park and Alexandra Park put together.

It might be quicker to list the sports that are not available at the site, but with a huge area to explore, including wetlands and canals, this is the perfect purpose-built park in East London.

  • Sports / Activities: Track cycling, road racing, BMX, mountain biking, football, basketball, hockey, tennis, rugby, boxing, swimming, water polo, diving. table tennis, badminton etc
  • Monuments / Attractions: The stadium, Aquatics Centre, Lee Valley VeloPark ArcelorMittal Orbit, the UK’s tallest sculpture (you can climb it). Tumbling Bay playground (rock pools, sand pits, treehouses, and wobbly bridges).
  • Cafés: Timber Lodge (next to Tumbling Bay Playground), Copper Box Café (in the Arena), Lee Valley VeloPark Café, EastTwenty Bar and Kitchen at The Podium
  • Dogs: Must be on a lead at all times
  • Toilets: Two complexes and toilets in the venues.
  Website and Twitter
Opening times: Open 24-hours. Please note some venues have specific opening times
Getting there: Stratford, London, E20 2ST. Nearest Tube: Stratford

Best for: wildlife

Richmond Park

Deer - Richmond Park

Need to know:

Famous for its herds of red and fallow dear (630 at last count), Richmond Park is actually a National Nature Reserve and the largest enclosed space in London. The deer have roamed freely since 1529 and continue to delight thousands of visitors each year.

“The deer are wild animals – please keep at least 50 metres away from the deer and be aware of your surroundings so that you do not come between two rutting stags (Sept – Oct) or a mother and her calf (May-July).”

The park’s commitment to conservation was cemented by the creation of The Attenborough Pond, officially opened in July 2014 by Sir David Attenborough.

“I am thrilled to have the pond named after me but, more importantly, to be part of the continuing conservation project to improve and upgrade ponds and streams, the lifeblood of Richmond Park.” – Sir David Attenborough

The 30 ponds in the park support everything from the azure damselfly to the common toad and smooth newt as well as natural holes for the deer and over 100 species of birds. Thanks to its woods and hills, this is the ideal place to “get your outdoors on”, with biking, orienteering and cross-country running popular.

“DID YOU KNOW? St Paul’s Cathedral is connected to Richmond Park through the protected 10 mile view of the cathedral from King Henry’s Mound- which is why tall buildings can’t be built in that sight line and tend to be in the city or on the Southbank.”

  • Sports / Activities: Running, cycling, orienteering, football, fishing, horseriding, golf, cricket, Kingston Gate playground (under fives), Petersham Gate playground
  • Monuments / Attractions: The exotic and colourful Isabella Plantation (part of the Richmond Park Site of Special Scientific Interest.) “The Way” gates, which can be viewed through the King Henry’s Mound telescope. The Attenborough Pond.
  • Cafés: Roehampton Cafe (9am-5pm), Pembroke Lodge (this listed Georgian mansion is a popular wedding venue as well as providing refreshments with a view).
  • Dog Friendly: However please read <a href=”http://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond-park/visiting-richmond-park/deer-advice-for-dog-walkers-in-richmond-park” target=”_blank”>advice for dog walking around the deer</a>.
  • Toilets: There are 8 facilities dotted around the park
Website and Facebook
Opening times: 7.30am-9pm
Getting there: Richmond, London, TW10 5HS. Nearest tube: Richmond

You can hire deckchairs at the following parks: Hyde Park, The Regent’s Park, Kensington Gardens, St James’s Park and The Green Park.

Best for: peace and quiet

Green Park

Green Park  © The Royal Parks

Green Park © The Royal Parks

Need to know:

Now a popular lunch and central London sunbathing spot thanks to its close proximity to Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly, this small park was once the site of a rebellion in 1554.

You’re more likely to see people enjoying the peace and quiet than duelling these days, so it’s definitely worth a chilled stroll though.

  • Sports / Activities: Cycling
  • Monuments / Attractions: The new Bomber Command Memorial and Canada Gate.
  • Dog Friendly
  • Picnics: Popular, especially with workers.
  • Public Toilets – None, nearest are at Green Park station

Website and Facebook
Opening times: 24-hours-a-day
Getting there: London, SW1A 2BJ, nearest Tube includes: Greeen Park or Hyde Park Corner

There are currently around 135,000 trees, of more than 250 varieties, in the eight royal parks.

Best for: woods and forests

Highgate Wood

Highgate

Need to know:

If you go down to the woods today, you’ll be in for a big surprise. This ancient woodland is very much thriving thanks to concerted conservation programmes and a lot of enthusiasm.
Given a Green Flag Award (10 years +) and the Green Heritage Award, you’ll find scenic walks and tours as you potter through the woods, which are predominantly made up of hornbeam coppice and oak standard trees.

The woods were once the site of Roman kilns with pottery made there for about 150 years from cAD43. These were then sold into the City as “Highgate Ware” and pots were discovered under the Guildhall Yard in 1988.

There is plenty of wildlife to take in with 900 insects, more than 300 different types of moth and fungi species, around 70 types of bird and seven recorded bat species; great for taking the kids on a nature stroll. Also make sure you have a chat with the friendly wood keepers who are a font of all knowledge.

  • Sports / Activities: Walking (including guided walks), football, cricket and a children’s playground (U15s)
  • Cafés: Highgate Wood (in the centre) opens 9am
  • Dog Friendly
  • Picnics: Teddy bears optional
  • Barbecues are banned
  • Toilets: 2 public toilets (one in the centre, one near Archway Gate)ADD_LIST_CONTENT

 

Website and Twitter
Opening times:
Getting there: Nearest Tube: Highgate

Epping Forest

Beech Pollards in mist

Need to know:

Few places have such a rich history. There’s evidence of trees at this site from at least 3,000 years ago, although with tribes and wild animals roaming around, the “nature walks” might have been a bit hairy. The forest was also rumoured to be a hideout for highwayman Dick Turpin in the 18t century.

DID YOU KNOW? Following WWII lakes and ponds were created out of bomb craters

Now Epping Forest is London’s largest open space, covering around 6,000 acres (more than 3000 football pitches).

The forest, which is run as a charity by the City of London, is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC); and there are no bears, tribes, wolves of highwaymen anywhere to be seen now.

  • Sports / Activities: Horse riding, walking, running, cycling, football, golf, angling
  • Monuments / Attractions: Seven listed buildings, including Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge (commissioned by Henry VIII). Wanstead Park has a temple and grotto and there is also the Ordnance Survey obelisk at Pole Hill among others. The four Forest Centres will help you get a real feel for the area.
  • Cafés: The newly refurbished Butler’s Retreat sells locally sourced produce and there are also refreshment huts dotted about.
  • Dog Friendly
  • Barbecues are banned
  • Toilets: All the centres have facilities

Website and Twitter
Getting there: See the website for a map, as the forest stretched from Epping in the north down to Wanstead in the south

Best for: a park transformed

Clissold Park

Renovated Clissold House and St Mary's Church in the background(c) Damian Walker

Renovated Clissold House and St Mary’s Church in the background(c) Damian Walker

Need to know:

A community park in the heart of Stoke Newington which was formerly a country estate; visit the stunning Grade II* listed building in the middle, Clissold House.

With a Green Flag and after a lot of tender and loving care from Hackney Council and The Clissold Park User Group, including restoring the house, the fountain and the skate park, the area is now rightly proud of their park.

Kiddies can’t get bored with animals, playgrounds and open spaces to explore.

  • Sports / Activities: Tennis, table tennis, games area and a new skate park.
  • Monuments / Attractions: The Butterfly Dome (open May-September). Mini “zoo”; with birds, chickens and goats. There are also a small number of deer. Paddling pool and a river runs throughout.
  • Cafés: Clissold House, a wonderful licensed café with function rooms for private parties with stunning views. There are also kiosks
  • Dog Friendly (some areas are dog free; please check)
  • Toilets

Website and Twitter
Opening times: 7.30am till dusk (depending on the season)
Getting there: Clissold Park and House, off Church Street / Green Lanes, N16 9HJ. Nearest tube: Arsenal or Finsbury Park; but best access is via bus

Discover more

If you are keen to learn more about the history and development of London parks; then these websites are a pretty good resource.

Barbecues in parks have become a “hot” topic in recent years, with disposable ones now readily available. Make sure you check out the park rules to avoid any fines and for barbecue etiquette; this barbecue feature by the BBC might help with the latter!

What are your favourite parks in London?

We would love to hear your favourite green spots for a little sport and leisure, especially if they are not listed here. Have you got a favourite picnic place or is there somewhere you love to get in a spot of sunbathing? Either leave a comment below or get in touch on our Twitter or Facebook pages.

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About Author

Kirsten Beacock

Kirsten is the chief blogger here at lastminute.com. A former newspaper journalist (don’t hold that against her), having taken extensive trips to China, America and Australasia, she is now pouring her passion for travel into writing blogs and features for the lastminute.com website. Arriving in London via exotic Scunthorpe, Kirsten has made it her mission to try out as many pubs and restaurants as she possibly can in the capital.

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