When summer finally comes around and the sun decides to grace us Londoners with its presence, you can count on us to take full advantage of the opportunity, and what better way is there than a good ol’ picnic in the park! Whether it’s a quick lunchtime bite, or a long day out over the weekend, here are some of the city’s best green spots to head to.
St James’s Park
Encompassing The Mall and Horse Guards Parade, this 57-acre park offers lush greenery, a lake with two islands and even a colony of pelicans that have been around for nearly 400 years! If that’s not enough, St James’s Park is also surrounded by some of the most famous British landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and Whitehall. The Blue Bridge across the park’s lake affords a view of some of these features, and if you decide to move westwards, you’ll walk along a near-continuous chain of parks which includes Green Park and Kensington Gardens.
Greenwich Park is one of the largest single green spaces in Southeast London, and it is an amazing mix of natural landscape, architecture and rich history. When it comes to summer strolls, this one is up there with the best! Be sure to check out my footprint on the LikeLocals app for a guide on various indoor attractions to visit while you’re there. That will come in handy in the event of rain because you can never be too sure when it comes to British weather!
This is the perfect spot to spend your day if you’re looking to welcome wildlife into the mix. The park has a huge wetland area which is home to around 100 species of wild birds and also a population of hedgehogs. For something slightly more exotic, you can visit the animals at ZSL London Zoo, which happens to be within the area. This park is also known for its picturesque gardens like Queen Mary’s Rose Gardens which has over 12,000 rose bushes and plenty of benches to rest on. To top it all off, end your day with a stroll up Primrose Hill to catch the sunset and take in the lovely city skyline.
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s largest park is a great collection of lush gardens, sports zones and children’s play areas. One striking feature of Holland Park is the tranquil Kyoto Garden, a Japanese garden donated by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto in 1991. Although this enclosed space isn’t the best for laying out your picnic blanket, it’s definitely worth a visit to see a pond full of koi fish, tiered waterfalls, maple trees and maybe even a peacock or two if you’re lucky.
Covering an area of 2500 acres, setting foot in this enormous park will make you feel like you’ve been transported out of London and into some distant countryside with huge wide-open spaces and grasslands where wild deers roam about freely. A firm favourite in the area has to be Isabella Plantation, a Victorian woodland garden that is especially mesmerising around early May when the azaleas planted there are in full bloom, making it a picnic spot unlike any other.
The Heath is one of London’s best-loved green spaces, and rightfully so! It boasts a remarkable range of natural surroundings including woodlands, swimming ponds and enough grassy space to make you feel like you have finally escaped the city. Don’t leave without a visit to the stunning Pergola and Hill Gardens, braving a cold swim in one of the outdoor swimming ponds, as well as catching a glimpse of the view from Parliament Hill.
Of course, no list of London’s best parks would ever be complete without mentioning the iconic Hyde Park. Set right in the heart of the capital, this one offers plenty of grassy spots to unwind over a great picnic spread. If you’re hoping for a more active day out here, then you’re in luck because Hyde Park has it all! Visitors can rent pedalos by the hour, have a refreshing dip in the Serpentine Lido, or splash about in the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. Some other outdoor activities on offer include tennis, boating and also horse riding, so you really are spoilt for choice here!
Our London insider Isabel has been scouring the streets to uncover some more amazing places for you to discover. Check out her Guide to Notting Hill and stay tuned for some exciting content on the way. Can’t wait? Be sure to follow her escapades on Instagram: @bels_trails, or follow her footprint on the Like Locals app. Available for free on iOS and Android.