Kick off your heels at these 5 London parks
When you’re done with all of London’s shopping and nightlife, why not enjoy some of this city’s best parks and forget you’re even in a cultural capital. On a summer’s day, masses of locals get together in these tranquil green spaces to soak up the sun – you might as well kick off your heels and join them!
London has no shortage of local parks to choose from. Each area has its own unique open space; some are smaller than others, but all have the usual amenities that a park offers. Many have renovated their Victorian lidos – outdoor swimming pools – so if the British weather allows, you can even have a dip in the sunshine; but be warned, they’re not usually heated.
1. Hampstead Heath is one of the most famous green spaces in London. Situated in West London, the sprawling terrain offers ancient forests, gardens, lakes, grassland, a zoo and beautiful walks that make you feel as if you’re in the heart of the countryside. There are also three ponds: one for women, another for men and one that is mixed. All are very popular on hot days, but you might want to watch out for the regular nudist swimmers!
2. For a superb view of the London skyline, take a walk up nearby Parliament Hill and see how many landmarks you can spot! Kite flying is very popular here, and be sure not to miss the huge refurbished lido with its reflective interior to help conserve heat for the water.
3. One of the largest and most central green spaces is Hyde Park. The park features a rose garden, several thousand trees, a boating lake and a number of monuments, including the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. If you’re feeling energetic, there are plenty of sporting areas to keep you busy; tennis, swimming and horse riding are all available to try out for a fee. If you’re passing through on a Sunday morning, don’t miss the famed Speaker’s Corner. You can listen to people’s passionate perspectives on anything from art to politics or religion. You’re even free to join in if you have something to say!
4. The oldest of London’s royal parks (there are eight in total), St. James’ Park is also found in the heart of the city. Surrounded by three palaces, including Buckingham Palace, St. James’ Park is playing host this week to several Olympic events including the women’s volleyball competition. Whenever you visit there’s a good chance you’ll catch a glimpse of some of the ceremonial royal parades, which are popular with both tourists and locals. Alternatively, grab yourself a deckchair, bask in the sun and listen to free music from the bandstand.
5. Away from the well-kept gardens and parks is Lee Valley Regional Park, which was created as a “green lung” for London, as well as for neighboring Essex and Hertfordshire. Spanning 26 miles in all its natural glory, it offers farms, gardens and sports, while also serving as wildlife habitat. Take a boat ride along one of Lee Valley’s canals; alternatively, explore one of the many trails by bicycle, on foot, or even on horseback. If you’re a sport lover, try your hand at hockey, tennis, ice skating or one of the water sports on offer, such as water rafting, which isn’t as scary as it may sound. Additionally, many summertime events cater to families with free activities for children. And if you end up enjoying the relaxation of the natural reserve a little too much, you can always book a night in one of the park run riverside chalets.