It’s an unavoidable truth that on a bright sunny day, the pavement and industry of even the greatest city can be unbearable. That’s why when a warm breeze is in the air and the clouds disappear from the sky, it’s time to escape the urban grit and head for where it’s green.
The Europeans understand this; most of their large cities have vast and beautiful public parks. London is no exception. In fact, London has scores of terrific public parks which act as “green lungs” for the city. On a sunny day there is nothing better than to hang out in one of these parks, relax and maybe forget you are in a city for a little while.
Hyde Park is iconic, it’s most likely the most famous of London’s many parks. It’s also absolutely enormous (combined with Kensington Gardens it’s larger than the country of Monaco). It’s been a public park since 1637. The giant expanse is divided by a snake-like river known as the serpentine.
Conjoined with Hyde Park, but still it’s own separate entity, this park is best known for two things: Peter Pan and Princess Di. A small statue celebrates JM Barrie’s character Peter Pan who once called Kensington Gardens home. Princess Di also called the park home- she lived in Kensington Palace until her death. The Gardens are also home of the opulent Albert Memorial, built by Queen Victoria for her dearly departed husband.
Hampstead Heath actually makes Hyde Park look young. References to the area go back over a thousand years, and archeological and historical sites dot the vast park. Today it’s a huge rambling piece of wilderness, where grass grows long over rambling hills and overgrown thickets hide deer and foxes. many of the more-manicured parks, the Heath feels like a true escape from London, at least until you make your way to Parliament Hill for the famous view.
Just a quick boat ride down the Thames are the vast green fields of Greenwich Park, which, along with the Royal Observatory and Queen’s House, is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Greenwich. The Observatory sits in the park, and it’s here where you can straddle both sides of the Prime Meridian. From the top of the hill you can also get a great lookout of Canary Wharf.
Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew
It’s almost certainly well out of the way of your accommodation in London, but Kew is worth the journey. More than just a park, Kew it a giant horticultural display. It’s home to the world’s largest collection of living plants, laid out over vast grounds which also include a pagoda, a dutch influenced castle, a treetop walkway and more. The perfect afternoon away from the honking horns of downtown London.