When you compare London with many other alpha cities, what often stands out is the UK capital’s much-loved open spaces. The parks and gardens of this metropolis are often referred to as the lungs of the city, and they do indeed cover almost fifty percent of the capital.
Although London does have plenty to offer serious urbanites or out of towners who might travel to the city looking for specific restaurant, café or nightlife experiences, there are plenty of well-known or hidden green spaces that offer a whole other side to any visit here.
From royal expanses to private gardens or newly-designed areas, this city is bursting with nature, and here’s a roll call of just ten parks that exist alongside hundreds of other gorgeous green spaces that are spread right across the four corners of London.
One of South London’s finest green spaces, Battersea Park has a number of landmarks, such as the glorious Peace Pagoda, which sits at the park’s Thameside edge in all its contemplative glory. Built in 1985 by Japanese monks and nuns in memory of Hiroshima Day, it has stood in the same spot ever since in order to encourage world peace.
Brockwell Park is a popular option for local residents, which means, by nature it’s a fairly low key place to hang out most days when regular joggers and dog walkers make use of the moderately sloped hills and paths. It’s when July rolls around that the annual, family-oriented Lambeth Country Show packs out the park for all manner of rural experiences in a specifically urban setting.
Crystal Palace Park
There’s so much history packed into this 200-acre space in southeast London. The site of the original nineteenth century Crystal Palace exhibition building, the park has a mini museum that features the story behind the 1936 fire that gutted the showpiece venue. Now, the grounds are far more famous for being the site of the National Sports Centre as well as the famous pond area with Grade I-listed dinosaur sculptures.
One of London’s Royal green spaces, Greenwich Park is the site of the annual London Marathon Race. It’s also one of London’s best spots for huge, expansive flat and spectacularly hilly areas. It’s a maritime park in that its neighbours include the University of Greenwich (the former Royal Naval College), the Old Royal Observatory and the Planetarium, which is touted as being like ‘the tour bus of the universe’.
A beautiful park, in a well-heeled area. Located between Notting Hill and Kensington, this park has a host of idyllic spots within it. Head for the Japanese Garden wit its Koi carp-filled pond or the Orangery Gallery, a grand building within the park, that’s surrounded by a fragrant rose garden.
A huge green space that dominates a great swathe of northwest London. Most famous for its Zoo, Regent’s Park is perfect for hanging about by its central riverside café, or catching its wonderful open-air theatre season, that happens every summer.
Thick with oaks and hornbeams, Highgate Wood has been a well-tended treasure of the Corporation of London since 1886. Organised wildlife walks are perfect for spotting new plant species and wildlife, and if you have the stamina, the 52-acre Queen’s Wood sits across Muswell Hill Road, which divides these two nature areas.
Alexandra Palace Park
Back in the day, the Alexandra Palace building was set to be north London’s answer to the Crystal palace exhibition centre. It wasn’t to be. It had its own issues with fire in the late 1800s, but the building still exists as a conference and live gigs centre. The parkland that surrounds it is a wonderful conservation area, although if you experience the park from the edge of the Palace building you’ll be rewarding with one of north London’s most breathtaking panoramic views of the city.
Nestling between office buildings in the heart of the city, this is one of London’s quirkiest green spaces. Not far from St Paul’s Cathedral, the park first opened in 1880, and by 1900 was officially named as a memorial space for those who’d made human sacrifices. Set with benches, trees and flowers, you can still read the dedications to heroic humans on the tiled walls within.
Thames Barrier Park
Surely one of London’s most futuristic-looking green spaces, the surprisingly peaceful Thames Barrier Park sits in what was once an undeveloped riverbank. It has a meadow area, a fountain and impressively sculpted hedgerows. It also overlooks the awesome metal fins of the powerful Thames Barrier flood works.