Unlike a lot of world class cities with just one confined central park upon which a whole metropolitan area's residents descend, London is a patchwork of parks in all shapes and sizes, garden squares, heaths, ancient woodlands, towpaths, riverside walks and much much more.
Indeed, if you plan your day right, it's easy to forget you're in one of the largest cities in the world … until you hop on a bus, take the Tube or hail a cab to return to more typical urban delights. Ah! The wonders of the natural world with the conveniences of modern city living. Some might call that cheating, but smart Londoners know it’s7 just a great way to take advantage of all this dynamic city has to offer.
To get started enjoying the great outdoors in London, the best bet is to get acquainted the city's Royal Parks. With a total size of 5000 acres (2023 hectares), these are some of London's most accessible and biggest green spaces. Some of London's most noted sights and attractions are at, in or incredibly close to the Royal Parks.
Here's a quick run down of London's eight Royal Parks. For considerably more information, be sure to visit www.royalparks.org.uk.
Rural charm on the edge of town. Nearby attractions include the historic Hampton Court Palace.
Closet transport: Hampton Railway Station
Massive mature trees, open grassland and Buckingham Palace. Nuff said.
Closest transport: Green Park Station
Bisected by the Greenwich meridian, on the Thames and with historic buildings such as the Old Royal Observatory, the Royal Naval College, the National Maritime Museum and more right there in the park. The Cutty Sark, Greenwich Market and the winding, villagey streets of Greenwich are all at hand as well. A great day out!
Closest transport: Blackheath Railway Station, Cutter Sark DLR, Greenwich DLR, Green Pier
If it's good enough for Peter Pan and Mary Poppins, you should probably at least consider paying this large and world famous park a visit. Hyde Park is historic and massive, spanning the museum quarter of South Kensington through to the upscale neighbourhoods of Knightsbridge and Mayfair and the edge of shoppers' mecca of Oxford Street with paddle boats, a gallery, cafes, monuments and plenty more along its merry and bucolic way.
Closest transport: Hyde Park Corner Tube Station, Knightsbridge Tube Station, Lancaster Gate Tube Station, Marble Arch Tube Station,
Hyde Park's next door neighbour and home to Kensington Palace with the Albert Memorial, The Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Playground and more for your outdoor satisfaction.
Closest transport: Queensway Tube Station, High Street Kensington Station
Herons and more waterfowl in the “wild” plus the London Zoo, a boating lake and an open air theatre.
Closest transport: Baker Street Tube Station, Great Portland Street Tube Station, Regent's Park Tube Station
This old growth forest is the largest of the Royal Parks. Here's a challenge, try to visit Richmond Park without spotting a deer!
Closest transport: Richmond Railway and Tube Station
St James's Park
St James's Park is home to arguably London's most beloved view (from its Blue Bridge) some of Britain's prettiest floral beds, and oh yeah … pelicans! An English garden on a grand scale in the heart of town for everyone to enjoy.
Closest transport: St James's Tube Station
A cheap flight to London will help you enjoy the Royal Parks even more!
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photo: Chris Osburn
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