The 10 best Royal Parks and gardens in London

Did you know that 47% of London is green? While the capital is famous for towering skyscrapers and winding canals, the lush gardens and parks dotted across the city are often forgotten. As Emmie Harrison-West writes, it’s time to step back from the hustle and bustle, and into our favourite, leafy havens...

Kensington Gardens

A succession of queens living in Kensington Palace between 1689 and 1837 acquired parts of Hyde Park for their palace gardens. Since opening in 2000, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground has proved a hit with children thanks to its huge pirate ship and Peter Pan sculptures. The park is also home to the Serpentine Galleries.

Open 6am-dusk daily /

St James's Park

London’s oldest and arguably most elegant park was redesigned by British architect John Nash in 1828. Its lake is home to some 15 varieties of water-fowl – a little less exotic than the crocodiles and elephants King James kept in the park during his reign. The park has an attractive restaurant and lunchtime concerts are given at a bandstand throughout the summer.

Open 5am-midnight daily /

Hyde Park

One of the most popular features of this huge London park is its lake, the Serpentine, with boats for hire and a swimming area. If you want to cross the park in style, horses can be rented and ridden. On Sunday mornings at Speakers’ Corner, near Marble Arch, you can get up on a soapbox and address the crowds who gather there. Hyde Park has a long history as a home for peaceful protest and political expression, once honouring guests like Karl Marx and George Orwell.

Open 5am–midnight daily /

Green Park

Originally called Upper St James’s Park, it was enclosed by Charles II in 1668 to create a link between Hyde Park and St James’s Park. In summer, there are deckchairs for hire - perfect for people watching behind an ice cream from a refreshment point at Ritz Corner or Canada Gate.

Open all day, year-round /

Regent's Park

Home to London Zoo, an open ­air theatre and a boating lake, Regent’s Park is surrounded by John Nash’s Classical terraces. Tree-lined paths lead the way to the fragrant Queen Mary’s Garden, home to more than 12,000 roses.

Hours vary / 

Richmond Park

Covering an area of 10 sq km (4 sq miles), this is by far the largest Royal Park. Herds of red and fallow deer roam freely across the heath. In late spring, the Isabella Plantation is a delightful blaze of colourful azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons, plus many rare shrubs.

Open 7am–dusk daily (7:30am in winter) /

Grosvenor Square

The hub of high society from the early 18th century until World War II, Grosvenor Square is the second largest square in London. Once home to the imposing American Embassy (until very recently), the square features a statue of F D Roosevelt. The houses surrounding the pristine lawns were once home to Oscar Wilde, with the gardens featuring in a number of his works. 

Open 7:30am–7pm daily / / As a note, although still considered by us to be a royal park, in 2018 management of the park was passed to the private owner, Grosvenor Ltd. 

Primrose Hill

North of Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill offers spectacular views of the city skyline from its 63m (207ft) summit. The grassy hill is one of six protected viewpoints in London, and trees are cut low to preserve the view. Once a popular venue for duels, this small park was purchased by the Crown in 1841 to provide outdoor space for the poor of North London.

Open 5am–dusk daily /

Bushy Park

May sees the return of Bushy Park’s Chestnut Sundays, when visitors and locals gather to celebrate the blossom on the park's magnificent horse chestnut trees. The Park, near Hampton Court, was formerly used as a US air base in World War II. Now, highlights include the bronze Diana Fountain and the Upper Lodge Water Gardens, which is great for birdwatching. Wild deer also freely roam this park.

Hours vary /

Greenwich Park

The 0° longitude meridian passes through the iconic Royal Observatory Greenwich, located on a hill in this sprawling 183-acre (74-hectare) family park. There are great views of the Old Royal Naval College, the River Thames and skyscrapers across London.

Hours vary / 

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