London Stories and Tips

London Parks: Central Area

St James Park Photo, London, England

Majority of the most famous London parks are in Central London.

*Hyde Park*

One of the larger Central London parks, at 350 acres, old and perhaps the most famous of London parks, mostly due to the "Speakers Corner" where on Sundays a variety of preachers, fanatics and mentally disturbed shout out their stuff.

But apart form that, it's an OK park to visit, with a lot of open grassy space, used for picnicking oat weekends, a lake called Serpentine with boating (and a swimming lido and paddling pool), cafes and numerous refreshment stalls; a bandstand and a Holocaust Memorial garden. Dead princess' fans will find a rather strange Diana memorial fountain here too.

There are tennis courts, playing fields, a bowling and putting greens, riding area called The Manege, as well as two bridleways. It used to be a place to show off your horses and carriages in the olden days and the name of the Rotten Row - one of the main tracks in the park - is probably a corruption of Route du Roi.

Best for: lazing about on the grass or deckchairs, boating on the Serpentine, showing off your riding skills.

*Kensington Gardens*

Almost as large as the Hyde Park, at 275 acres, it contains one of the royal residences (Kensington Palace) and iconic spots like the Peter Pan statue.

This is really a part of the Hyde Park in anything but name, separated from it by The Serpentine and Long Water lakes. The Serpentine art gallery (a good and fashionable one) is technically in Kensington Gardens, and the facilities include two playgrounds and children's entertainment (during school holidays) and bandstand music.

Many visitors flock to the famous Peter Pan statue, and fittingly, a giant pirate ship is the centrepiece of a wonderful (and manned) adventure playground located near the Kensington Palace.

Best for: romantic walks in tree-lined avenues, kids' playgrounds.

*St James's Park*

It covers 58 acres and is the oldest, and most venerable of the Royal Parks in London, it also sits at the centre of the pageantry of the Empire, with the Mall being the setting for many ceremonial parades and events, the Whitehall at one end and the Buckingham Palace at the other.

It's also a surprisingly pleasant and sheltered place to spend some time, less grand than some other parks, with lots of trees, shrubbery and a lake with ducks, geese and pelicans.

Best for: leisurely walk from the Whitehall to the Bucks House, having an ice cream on the bench as squirrels run around you, meetings with spies on the bridge over the lake.

*Green Park*

It's located across The Mall from St James's, on the other side from the Buckingham Palace. It's relatively small, covering only 47 acres, and doesn't have any particular facilities.

Essentially, a large grassy area bordered by tree-lined avenues, it's lovely in the autumn and a walk through it is a great way to get from The Buckingham Palace to Piccadilly.

Best for: sunbathing during your lunch break.

*Regent's Park*

This rounded-shape park is on the edges of what might be considered Central London. Relatively large, at 410 acres it has both with open parkland and formal sections - the rose gardens (Queen Mary's Gardens) feature 400 different varieties and are a sight to behold in the flowering season. The plant life is very varied, from open playing fields to woodlands and grassland.

It's perhaps the most lavish and purposefully designed of the London parks, designed by John Nash in this wonderful flourish of British town planning that was the Regency period, and the buildings contained within and around it give a distinct impression of what the life of the "ton" must have been like.

The open air theatre is an attraction in its own right, and the park also contain a major London attraction that is the London Zoo. There are also sporting facilities, bandstand and puppet shows. There are quite a few cafes too.

North-west of and adjacent to the Regent's Park is the Primrose Hill, a Victorian open space worth climbing up for the view in its own right.

Best for: strolling stylishly, open-air theatre performances, the Zoo.

*Coram's Fields*

This is a strange park/green space in Bloomsbury, enclosed by walls and devoted to children's needs, adults (anyone over the age of 16) only permitted to enter if in a company of children (under 16). There is a children's playground, sandpits, half-sized football pitches, basketball court, a duck pond, a pets corner, caf and a nursery.

Best for: kids

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