Parks are often taken for granted when visiting a city, and it might seem strange to create a complete guide to visiting London Parks and Gardens. But London’s parks are special and represent a lot more than just stretches of greenery that you pass on your way through the city.
Why is it that London can boast of more green space than any other major capital? After all, London is not particularly known for being very environmentally focused. It all goes back to the kings and queens of England, and their sacred hunting grounds in areas surrounding their palaces. Under the protection of the crown, huge chunks of land remained unchanged and protected for centuries. Today, you’ll find eight well maintained Royal Parks in addition to the numerous other green spaces in the capital.
London parks by area
London parks for kids
London’s parks are very family-friendly, with most of them offering dedicated play areas for kids. A little planning goes a long way: In big parks like Greenwich Park and Richmond Park, it can be quite a walk to reach the playground if you’re entering from the opposite side. It also makes sense to check the recommended age-group of the playground to avoid disappointment. For more details check our overview of playgrounds in London.
What’s your favourite park?
Feel free to share your favourite park experiences in the comments section section below the article!
In Central London, you’ll find a large green belt of connected parks running between Westminster and Kensington consisting of Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, St James Park and Green Park. The other big lovely park that should be on your radar is Regent’s Park, where you’ll find London Zoo. All of these major parks in Central London fall under the Royal Parks (yes, they are actually owned by the Queen).
Among war memorials and old oaks
- Take a moment to reflect on the history behind the war memorials in Green Park
- Rent a Boris-bike and go for a circular family-cycle trip through Central London’s green belt
- Go to the top of Wellington Arch while the cavalry is on its way through as part of Changing of the Guard
- Take a break and enjoy a picnic among the old oak trees; Green Park is a lot less busy than St James Park
Green Park is not just a stretch of greenery between Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park. If you take the time to stop by the many monuments and memorials you might also learn a thing or two about the British Empire’s eventful history. For the best views, buy a ticket to walk to the top of Wellington Arch where you’ll have a wonderful view of The Mall, London’s parade street.
Read our full post about Green Park
The classic Central London park experience
- Like New York’s Central Park, Hyde Park is the main green lung in London’s city centre
- Even if it’s on the main tourist route, the park is big enough to not feel totally crowded
- Our favourite feature is the beautiful Diana Fountain where you can dip your toes on hot summer days. If you’re brave, you can also go for a swim in the outdoor Lido!
- There’s a decent playground in Hyde Park (next to South Carriage Drive), but nowhere near as impressive as Kensington Garden’s Diana Memorial Playground
Hyde Park is one of the largest green spaces in Central London and is by far the most visited one since it’s within walking distance from so many popular areas like Mayfair and Knightsbridge. If you don’t mind being surrounded by tourists and just need a patch of green space to relax or go for a walk, Hyde Park is a good choice. By the way, for the best photo opportunities, we recommend the Diana memorial fountain and the Serpentine Bridge. There’s also plenty to do for kids with activities like boating, tennis, cycling, skating and even horse riding available.
Check out more pictures in our main review of Hyde Park
A public park with a real prince and princess
- The main feature in the park is Kensington Palace, home to Prince William and Kate
- Our favourite spot is the brilliant Peter Pan inspired playground dedicated to the late Princess Diana
- The giant pond in front of the palace is a classic place to feed ducks, swans and geese but be warned; there’s a fair bit of poop around!
Kensington Gardens is a beautiful park with plenty of space to play games and have a picnic. If you feel like a bit of culture, you can always pop along to the Serpentine Gallery situated within the park which always has free contemporary art exhibitions. And if you’re exhausted from shopping along Kensington High St Kensington, the park is a lovely place to unwind.
Read more about the highlights of Kensington Gardens
Home to London’s amazing zoo
- One of the oldest zoos in the world, a visit to London Zoo is high up on the list for many families visiting London
- The elegant Victorian terraces lining the park’s outer edges
- Outdoor theatre open from May to September
- The perfectly manicured Rose Garden is a must-see
- Keep an eye out for cyclists racing at high speed on the Outer Circle road
Regent’s Park is another classic Royal Park offering different types of events, sporting facilities, an open-air theatre, bandstands and a puppet show! There are four children’s playgrounds and a boating lake in addition to London Zoo making it a family favourite. The Rose Garden is the perfect place to have a picnic if you enjoy manicured gardens.
Where the ducks have their own island
- Since 1612, St James Park’s ducks have enjoyed their very own sanctuary on Duck Island
- Since 1664, a famous gang of Pelicans have resided in St James Park
- For that classic London photo opportunity with Buckingham Palace in the background, head to Blue Bridge
- Check for events taking place along The Mall, London’s ceremonial route running alongside the park
St James Park is part of London’s green belt that you can follow from Westminster towards Buckingham Palace. It’s a small park, but with a surprising amount of features like a great little playground, a Duck Island, exotic pelicans as well as a very active colony of parakeets. The pelicans came to the park in 1612 as a gift from the Russian ambassador, but nobody really knows how the colourful parakeets came to London in such great numbers.
For more photos and information, check our post on St James Park
South West London Parks
South West Londoners are spoiled when it comes to access to green space. This is the area where you’ll find Richmond Park and Bushy Park, both beautiful natural parks with woodlands and lots of wildlife. And the worlds biggest botanical park; stunning Kew Gardens.
Wandsworth, South West London
Spoilt for choice
- A small animal’s children’s zoo with a nice playground
- Go-Ape treetop challenge (ticketed)
- Several free playgrounds for children in different age-groups
- Wide and flat shared footpaths, great for family cycling
- Boating lake
Battersea Park is one of the most popular green spaces in London thanks to a number of activities across the park. There is something for everyone at this park. Families are spoilt for choice and can choose from several free play areas, a small animal zoo, a treetop-challenge, bike-hire and a boating lake. You can easily spend the day here. Walk along the riverfront, see the fountains, stop off at a cafe and just hang out and have fun.
Check our main review if you’d like to read more about Battersea Park
Explore the wonders of the natural world in Kew Gardens
- The world’s largest and most diverse collection of plants
- The largest Victorian glasshouse on Earth
- Challenge yourself in the Treetop Walkway
- Take the kids to the beautiful Children’s Garden
- Visit beautiful Kew Palace
Kew Gardens is more than just a garden. Just like the British Museum presents you with the man-made wonders of the world, Kew Gardens will show you the botanical wonders of the planet. From tropical plants in the rainforest to cacti in the desert, Kew Gardens will take you on a journey through the world of plants like no other place. It’s also more than just a static display of plants; you’ll be able to experience the elements of nature first hand through activities like the treetop walkway.
Read our full review of things to do with kids in Kew Gardens
London’s best wildlife experience
- The number one activity in Richmond Park is to go for a woodland walk feeling like you’re far out in the countryside
- You’ll almost guaranteed to see wild deer visiting the park, but be careful not to get too close during the rutting season
- The circular cycle route around Richmond Park is great for traffic-free family cycling
- Go to King Henry’s mound and admire the protected view towards the City of London
Richmond Park is the biggest park in London with 650 deer roaming free. The landscape has changed little over the centuries and is made up of hills, woodlands, ponds, gardens and grasslands set amongst ancient trees. There is plenty to do at Richmond. Cycling, fishing, wildlife watching and horse riding are all possible. You can also fly kites on windy days and set up your own outdoor games. The magical thing about Richmond Park is that you’ll feel as if you’re in the countryside, so if you are feeling cooped up in the city it is the perfect place to go.
Read more about Richmond Park and some of the attractions you’ll find in the same area
West London Parks
Living in West London, you have easy access to the Parks in Central London like Kensington Gardens as well as the parks in South West London like Kew Gardens and Bushy Park. But you also have Holland Park, which is a local favourite with lots of activities for kids.
Kensington, West London
A classy West London Park
- The park surrounds a Jacobean mansion, Holland House built in 1605 and largely destroyed by the nazis during the Blitz
- Far enough from Central London to have a distinct local feel
- Excellent options school-children, with a state of the art adventure playground
- Toddler playground with large sand-area separate from the older kids
- The beautiful and serene Japanese “Kyoto” garden
Holland Park is a lovely local park just off the busy shopping area of High Street Kensington. This is a charming local park with everything you might need for kids. You can take a stroll through the wooded paths and spot peacocks and rabbits running around, walk through the Japanese garden and picnic on the lawn in front of Holland Park House.
There is a One O’Clock club (a drop in area for Under 5s) which is open from 1pm to 3pm on weekdays, an adventure playground for older kids and a large sandpit and play area for younger kids. You can find out more about wildlife in the park at the Ecology Centre or you can just relax and have a piece of cake at the cafe.
Read more about what you can do in Holland Park with kids
North London Parks
In North London you have some of the biggest parks in London including Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath. These are parks that are big enough to feel like you’ve totally escaped the city without any signs of cars, high-rise buildings or pollution.
Great for long woodland walks
- London’s largest green space with ancient woodland, wild deer and great fishing lakes
- Easily within reach from Central London
- Horse riding available for young beginners
- Several waymarked trails through the woods
- There are four visitor centres where you can pick up maps of the area and suggestions of where to walk
Epping Forest in North East London is a great place to get a woodland experience without having to go far out of the city. If you’re new to the area, take a look at the marked woodland trails choosing from 9 different routes. The area is also really good for cycling, with flat gravel paths completely traffic-free and safe for children.
Read more about the cycling routes and woodland walks in Epping Forest
Hampstead, North London
Go kiteflying on the Heath
- From the top of Parliament Hill or “Kite Hill”, you can enjoy a great panorama of Central London
- It’s almost always windy on the Heath, so perfect for kiteflying
- Taking the 7 km long Heath Circuit Walk is one of the best ways to spend a day out in fresh air in London
- Get a ticket for Kenwood House, a former stately home
- Enjoy ancient woodland and old oaks
Hampstead Heath is the highest natural place in London and offers great views. The park is only 4 miles from Central London but it feels much further when walking through the natural woods. It is a great place for children to enjoy the outdoors, playing in the woodlands or kite flying on the hill. Excellent Parliament Hill Playground has loads of play equipment including slides, a sandpit and even a paddling pool. There’s also an adventure playground with rope swings and more challenging climbing frames.
Read our full review of Hampstead Heath
London’s most exclusive hilltop
- One of the best panoramas of Central London
- The perfect slope for snow sledging in winter
- A great view of New Year’s Eve fireworks
- A decent playground with public toilets and baby-change
Primrose Hill is just about far enough from Central London that it feels more local than touristy. This green patch in North London is a local favourite surrounded by exclusive neighbourhoods like St Johns Wood. In the Primrose Hill area, you’ll find picturesque streets with independent shops and cafes. A nice way to arrive at the park is to walk along Regent’s Canal from Little Venice and Maida Vale.
Read more about Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill
East London Parks
In East London, you’ll find a diverse mix of green spaces from classic Victoria Park to modern ones like Queen Elizabeth II’s Olympic Park and Thames Barrier Park. You’re never far away from a park in East London!
Tower Hamlets, East London
Take a break at a charming city-farm
- Built on derelict land from the former docks on the Isle of Dogs, this park is a local gem
- Enjoy the sight of farm-animals juxtaposed next to Canary Wharf’s high rise buildings
- A separate accessible area for young kids to get close to small furry animals like rabbits and guinea pigs
- Sign up for beginner horse riding classes at the farm
- Stop by the charming farm cafe for a hearty lunch
Mudchute Park and Farm offers 31 acres of parkland and a working farm, smack dab in the middle of the Docklands! It’s not many places in the world where you can see a flock of sheep grassing on a hill, juxtaposed next to skyscrapers. An equestrian centre provides riding lessons, educational programs are carried out and there is a garden centre, shop and cafe.
Mudchute is the biggest of all the city farms in London and the one we have rated the highest. Located on the Isle of Dog, it’s loved by local Islanders as well as visiting families travelling from other parts of London to see the adorable farm animals.
Read more about the activities on Mudchute Farm
Tower Hamlets, East London
Get active in the Olympic Park
- Take a swim in the Olympic Swimming Pool located on the south side of the park
- You’ll find a Hockey and Tennis Centre on the north side of the park
- The “Pleasure Gardens Play Area” (see photo), is great for toddlers and young children
- Tumbling Bay Playground on the north side of the park is featuring more challenging play equipment
- Go on a family-friendly cycle route starting at the Olympic Park going north following River Lea and the reservoirs towards Waltham Cross.
Olympic Park is East London’s most modern park, purpose-built for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London containing several sports venues, like London Stadium which is home to West Ham United. In the aftermath of the Olympics, the park has become a driving hub in the redevelopment of this part of East London.
There are lots of opportunities for locals to stay active taking advantage of the many sports facilities in the park. If you would like to test yourself swimming in an Olympic swimming pool, the London Aquatics Centre is open for everyone. To the north of the park, you have the Hockey and Tennis Centre offering state of the art facilities. Older kids can test their courage going down the slide in the Orbit, while younger kids can choose between two playgrounds with modern play equipment.
Read more about family-friendly Olympic Park
Newham, East London
Check out a wonder of modern engineering
- Admire the impressive structures in the Thames preventing London from getting flooded
- Explore the sunken ornate garden deigned on a maritime theme
- Relax on the grass and watch life on the Thames
- There’s a well-maintained playground best for toddlers and young kids
- Go plane-spotting and check out the flights taking off and landing at London City Airport nearby
Thames Barrier Park is a public park in East London based on a contemporary design. It’s a nice place to stop for a picnic while gazing at the futuristic-looking structures in the Thames constructed in 1984 to prevent London from getting flooded. If you want to see the Thames Barrier in action, there’s a test taking place once per month. Note that you won’t be able to walk on the barrier itself, and the information centre is located on the south side of the river in Woolwich.
See more photos from our visit to Thames Barrier Park
Tower Hamlets, East London
London’s best playground slides
- Arguably the best selection of playground slides in London for children of all abilities
- Great play area for toddlers and younger kids with a large sand area
- Great selection of cafes and pubs nearby
- Check out the music festivals during summer
Victoria “Vicky” Park is the historically most important park in East London. From festivalgoers to families with kids, the park is still one of the most popular green spaces in East London. With lots of charming neighbourhoods and Regent’s Canal floating by, it’s an area where you can easily spend a full day.
Read more about the long slides in Victoria Park
Redbridge, East London
Listen to the birds sing
- Less busy than the parks in Central London, it’s perfect if you seek peace and quiet
- Great for birdwatching, don’t forget your binoculars!
- Reportedly one of the very few places in London where you can hear the skylark sing
- In springtime, the meadows are filled with beautiful bluebells
Wanstead Park is one of several parks in East London with a grand history linked to the aristocracy. In 1812 the widowed owner of a grand manor house re-married to the nephew of the Duke of Wellington who promptly squandered her fortune on his extravagant lifestyle. The house and grounds were sold off to repay his debts. Today, all that remains are the decaying remnants of the formal gardens, dating from the early eighteenth century.
Read more about activities in Wanstead Park
South East London Parks
In South East London you’ll find a range of great green spaces including our favourite, Greenwich Park. There are also several local gems like Stave Hill Park and Greenwich Ecology Park to get your nature fix.
Enjoy a picnic with an epic view
- Climb up and admire one of the 4 great viewpoints in Greenwich Park
- Visit one of the many attractions in the park, like the Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum
- Admire the flowers in the Rose Garden during springtime
- Take the kids to Greenwich Park’s excellent playground
- Book a ticket for the Planetarium and go on a journey in outer space
Greenwich is one of the most family-friendly areas in London, with activities ranging from interactive galleries in the National Maritime Museum to water sand play in Greenwich Park Playground. Within the park itself, you can go and see Queen Elizabeth’s Oak which has been around since Tudor times. Or visit the old Royal Observatory and stand on the meridian line. But first and foremost, Greenwich Park is a fantastic place for a picnic on top of a hill while enjoying great views across London.
Read more about where to find the best views in Greenwich Park
Get your nature fix in North Greenwich
- Walk on raised boardwalks and enjoy the marshland’s wildlife
- A nice place to take a break if cycling on the Thames Path
- Learn about the historic wildlife in the area, and use the hides to take some great photos
- Volunteer to get hands-on helping out with the maintenance of the park
- Explore the adjacent Southern Park
Greenwich Ecology Park represents an example of how the Greenwich marshes looked before the peninsula was developed. If you are cycling along the Thames Path, this is a great place to take a little break and see a well-managed piece of local wildlife. There’s also a nice little playground in the adjacent “Southern Park” with a slide and a climbing frame.
Read more about Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park
Ancient woodland and a folly castle
- Ancient woodland that has remained unchanged for thousands of years in the middle of South East London
- Take the 5km circular walk through the area and get a sense of how this part of London used to be before it was developed in modern times
- Serverndroog Castle offers a fantastic panorama across South London (open on Sundays and bank holidays)
- Oxleas Meadows is a beautiful patch of green space perfect for picnics
- Stop by the Woodlands Farm on Shooters Hill nearby
Oxleas Woods has remained unchanged for as long as 8000 years, which is a pretty cool fact considering how close this patch of land is to Central London. The unusual word “oxleas” is an old Saxon word by the way and means “a pasture for oxen”. Today this woodland area is a great example of conservation in action; retaining a historically important green space for the enjoyment of future generations.
Read our full review of Oxleas Woods
Experience the great outdoors in Rotherhithe
- Take a walk through woodlands built on top of the former Russia Dock in Rotherhithe
- Look for maritime objects from when the docks were in use
- Climb on top of Stave Hill and enjoy a great panorama of South East London
- Enjoy the many duck ponds and go bird spotting along the many nature trails
Stave Hill Park and Russia Dock Woodland intertwine and form a green belt on the Rotherhithe peninsula, popular with locals as a place for kids to play and go for woodland walks. If you walk the Thames Path and take a shortcut through the Rotherhithe peninsula, it’s an excellent spot to take a break and have a picnic.
Read our full article on Stave Hill
What’s your favourite park?
Let us know in the comments if you have a favourite park in London! Which playgrounds did we miss out on? Any feedback welcome :-)