As a London family with young children, we have reviewed some of the best playgrounds in London. Not just the celebrated well-known play areas, but several local hidden gems as well. Whether you’re a local or just visiting, make sure to take advantage of London’s many excellent playgrounds!
Table of Contents
Criteria used when reviewing the playgrounds
- Play Elements: What’s the quality of the equipment? Are they safe and secure? Are there play elements for toddlers as well as for school-age children? Are they separated?
- Fun factor: No fun with fancy equipment if the kids have to queue up for a long time. Is the play area layout making sense or is it just for show? Are kids inspired to use their imagination?
- Facilities: How are the nappy-change facilities? What about wash stations?
- Parents friendliness: Plenty of benches and coffee within a short distance are essential criteria!
– inspirational for young pirates
Pros and Cons:
- Inspiring play elements like the pirate-ship encourage children’s imagination
- Challenging but safe equipment suited for toddlers as well as school-age children
- On-site staff only allow adults with children into the play area
- On the tourist-trail of London, it gets very crowded during school holidays and weekends
- Many small sections divided by hedges, making it hard for parents to keep a constant eye
The Diana play area in Hyde Park is a fantastic offer for children in central London, free of charge and with lots of great play areas to explore. After a long day of sightseeing, museum visits or shopping I’m sure most children will appreciate a break from the big city. The centrepiece that all the children flock to is the Pirate Ship, which also acts as a climbing frame.
It looks like it’s designed for school-age children, but there is nothing stopping toddlers from climbing up. The result is a mix of children of different age-groups playing alongside, which is both positive and negative. On the one hand, it’s nice that siblings can play together, but on the other hand you run the risk of older children trampling on top of the youngest ones.
Read our full review of Diana Memorial Garden
– play areas well matched with the elements of nature
Pros and Cons:
- State of the art play equipment, safe and well maintained
- Educational with focus on nature’s elements
- Wide range of play-areas for all abilities, great for toddler aged children
- The different areas are divided up, making it hard for parents to keep oversight
- Hard to predict and plan for the time-slot you will be assigned
If it wasn’t for the high price-tag for a family of four to enter Kew Gardens, Children’s Garden would probably be our favourite play space in London. Pricey or not, Kew Garden can boast of one of the absolutely best playgrounds in London.
We love how they have focused on natural elements when building the playground around the key elements of earth, air, sun and water. Playing in Kew’s Children’s Garden feels natural surrounded by lush vegetation and with natural materials used for the play elements. On the other side, we also experienced that it was hard to keep an eye on the kids when the sections are so much divided, especially if you have kids with different interests and ages (which is often the case).
– suitable for both toddlers and school-age children
Pros and Cons:
- A clear divide between areas for toddlers and older children
- Open landscape, easy to keep an eye on the children
- Nice cafe and parent-friendly
- The treehouse can be risky for inexperienced climbers
Peckham Rye Playground ticks a lot of boxes in our book, and we think it’s one of the best local playgrounds in London. It’s both safe and challenging for toddlers, and we especially love the sand and water area. The play area is really well planned out, easy for parents to keep an overview while drinking coffee relaxing on one of the many boulders.
The climbing forest for school-age children is at a good distance, but it’s still possible for parents to keep an eye from the toddler section. One word of caution, though. Parents should be aware that the treehouse is high up, so children should be constantly supervised when climbing.
Read our review of Peckham Rye Park Playground
– just perfect after a walk on the Heath
Pros and Cons:
- Good selection of solid and well-maintained play equipment and a large sandpit
- Sections divided for children of different ages
- A great play area for local people, one of the best playgrounds in London
- No wow factor in terms of play structures inspiring imaginary play
Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath is what we would call a no-frills play area, with a range of very solid and well-maintained run of the mill play elements like swings, slides and climbing frames.
You get what it says on the tin, which means it’s not necessarily the most inspiring park sparking children’s imagination. On the other side, being so close to Hamstead Heath is a big plus as you can combine a visit to the play space exploring the beautiful woodlands.
Read our review of Parliament Hill Playground
– play time around Tudor palaces
Pros and Cons:
- Excellent sand and water play area
- Very popular mound with built-in tunnel slide
- Inspirational for kids interested in history
- Very crowded, despite the limitation on visiting time
- Some of the elements like the royal towers seem mostly for display purposes
The Magic Garden is spectacular to look at a distance and an inspirational place for children that just visited Hampton Court and are starting to learn about Tudor history. It’s a truly unique play space, combining modern play equipment with historical elements making it one of the best playgrounds in London.
On the other side, it also gets very crowded during summer and weekends, which came as a surprise since the entry fee is quite steep for what you get. We also felt the layout was confusing, and that it was tough to supervise two kids in different sections of the park at the same time.
Read our in-depth review of Magic Garden
– happy toddlers in water and sand
Pros and Cons:
- An inclusive play space that feels safe for toddlers as well as school-age children
- Open landscape, easy for parents to supervise
- Lots of engaging play areas for the youngest age-group 1-6
- Very crowded during summer without on-site staff
- Limited play options for school-age children
Yet another amazing playground from Royal Parks! We love the water and sand area where children can play and collaborate using basic natural elements. There is also plenty of old school play equipment available like slides, swings and climbing frames. Greenwich park itself is not very far away with its beautiful green landscape to have a picnic.
The biggest negative side of the play space is that it gets very crowded around the most popular area. Looking at the amount of space available behind the cafe, it will hopefully be possible to expand the playground to include more equipment for older school-aged children which sill spread the crowds out.
Read our full review of Greenwich Playground
– play in a royal neighbourhood
Pros and Cons:
- Small, but well-planned play space Natural elements like wood, sand and rocks
- Easy for parents to relax and watch (when free boulders are available)
- On the tourist trail, meaning huge crowds during weekends and holidays
- Kids will get fed up quite quickly (it’s really small)
Young children will quickly get fed up with sightseeing in the city, and a central play space like in St James Park offers a chance for parents and kids to take a break to relax for a bit. This might also be the most prominent playground in London, right next to Buckingham Palace and the Queen herself.
Despite being the small play area, we really like it, especially the boulders and sand area. All in all, one of the best playgrounds in central London to keep on your radar for your visit.
Read our in-depth review of St James Park Playground
– a solid local park
Pros and Cons:
- Challenging and safe for both toddlers and school-age children
- Toddler section fenced off separate from the main play area
- Easy for parents to keep an overview
- Having to cross heavily congested roads to access the park
The Southwark Park play area received a makeover not long ago and features two separate play areas; one for toddlers and young kids and one more challenging area for older kids. At the same time, it’s straightforward for parents to keep an eye on both areas, which is part of the reason why we like this park so much. Definitely among our favourite parks, and best play areas in London.
Read our review of Southwark Park Play Area
– get active in Olympic surroundings
Pros and Cons:
- We like the huge rubber surfaced mounds safe for kids of all ages to climb
- Innovative climbing elements challenging school-age children
- Lots of space to run around without kids bumping into each other
- Except for physical activity, more functional than an inspiring play area
- Quite hard to get to from public transportation/parking
We really like the Pleasure Gardens on the south side of the Olympic Park. The climbing frames are really solid feeling safe, and it’s easy to keep an eye on the children since the playground is designed to be very open and fully covered with rubber surface. This means kids can explore and play freely, which is important for us.
Read our full review of the Olympic Park Play Area
– excellent for dinosaur fans
Pros and Cons:
- We love the dinosaur skeletons and bones sticking up from the sand
- Lots of other things to do in the area makes for a full day out
- A nice cafe for parents to pick up their boost of caffeine
- Except for the sand and dinosaur area, the equipment is pretty basic and well used
- Not a lot to challenge school-age children
Crystal Palace play area is a winner, even if quite limited in terms of the variety of play equipment. It’s really spacious allowing kids to run around with parents relaxing and enjoying their coffee. The dinosaur theme of the play area in combination with a visit to the 1850s dinosaur statues is making it a winner for many children.
Read our in-depth review and see more photos of Crystal Palace play area
FAQ Playgrounds in London
What is the best playground in London?
Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens, Children’s Garden in Kew Gardens and Magic Garden at Hampton Court are among the most celebrated playgrounds in London.
Having said that, your best choice is often your local community playground. That’s where you’ll find the friendliest parents and where kids meet friends.
Are playgrounds in London free?
Yes, playgrounds are usually public and free of charge. The exceptions are usually play areas that are part of attractions with paid entrance, like Kew Gardens and Hampton Court.
Are playgrounds in London safe?
The big public playgrounds are not considered dodgy in any way; these are places where most people are comfortable going during the daytime. Having said that, you run the same risk as everywhere else in London when it comes to robberies and getting your mobile nicked.
What types of play areas are there in London?
A) Free public playgrounds with swings, slides etc. B) Free adventure playgrounds with more challenging equipment C) Indoors/outdoors paid for play areas
What is the most popular playground equipment?
Climbing frames, slides, swings and sandpits are usually among the most popular play areas.
Why are playground so important for kids?
With kids spending more and more time in front of screens, publicly available play areas are more important than ever. Not only does playgrounds provide opportunities to stimulate fine motor skills developing balance and coordination. They also help children develop social skills through collaboration and increase their self-esteem by challenging and mastering physical skills.
What are adventure playgrounds?
These are play spaces with less static elements like swings and slides and more focus on letting children explore on their own. With natural materials available, children can use their imagination to create and build structures for their adventures. In London, many adventure playgrounds started as play spaces in second world war bomb sites that developed into more organised activities over time.
What is a soft play area?
You can find big and small soft play areas pretty much everywhere. Either as stand-alone facilities or part of shopping centres, museums or leisure centres managed by local councils.
Are playgrounds in London supervised?
Local public playgrounds in London are usually not supervised.
Are playgrounds in London gated?
Yes, playgrounds are usually gated.
Are there toilets and baby change facilities at playgrounds in London?
Yes, when it comes to the bigger playgrounds you usually find facilities either inside the playground or close by.