With summer in full swing, what better time is there to write about places to enjoy in London under the sun?
I think many people have an impression that London is rather like a concrete jungle, I often hear people say they couldn’t live in the capital because it’s too busy, too big and too exhausting. On the surface I can see why some have that opinion if they take the tube everywhere and never leave Zone 1.
In reality there’s an abundance of green spaces where you can retreat. These places are perfect for enjoying the good weather when it falls over London. They’re great for picnics, dog walking, going on dates, and something I’m guilty of avoiding all too often: exercise.
Since London is so big I thought it would be useful to highlight various parks that can be easily reached within North, South, East and West London.
Primrose Hill/ Regents Park
Although Primrose Hill and Regents Park are technically separated from each other by a road, Primrose Hill is usually seen as an extension to Regents Park since they are situated side by side. Primrose Hill offers stunning, panoramic views across the city so you’ll often find people at the summit all hours of the day, especially couples and the odd professional photographer. In contrast, Regents Park is sprawling with various sections, including the Avenue Gardens and Queen Mary’s Garden.
Tip: You can easily walk to Primrose Hill/Regent’s Park from Camden so it’s a great opportunity to combine both of these popular areas. Alternatively, if you’ve already visited Camden (which I’m assuming a lot of you have) then I recommend having a bite to eat around one of the many nice cafes around Primrose Hill.
Hampstead Heath is wilder than many of the other parks, but its association with many of London’s intellectuals is what gives this park its legacy. It was supposedly a favourite of Karl Marx and Colin Wilson slept rough in the park before he became famous with The Outsider. Nearby you will also be able to visit the beautiful Georgian villa where John Keats lived and found inspiration.
Tip: Looking for somewhere else to go before or after? Why not visit the Freud Museum? Inside you’ll find lots of Freud’s personal belongings, including a bookshelf with his favourite books, and the star of the museum is considered to be the couch, where the father of psychoanalysis famously conducted his diagnostics from!
My favourite of all the parks! I love this park so much, however, because Greenwich isn’t served by an underground there’s a frequent assumption that it’s really difficult to reach. Want to know the good news? it isn’t! Greenwich is fed by not one, but two stations. You can either get the DLR to Cutty Sark or the train to Greenwich Station – essentially both are exactly the same as using the tube but above ground level so you have the added bonus of a view.
Apart from all the birds and squirrels, what I like most about this park are the various compartments to it, from long and wild grassland to perfectly planted flowers in a myriad of colours and patterns. If that’s not enough to get you excited, the park is surrounded by a wealth of museums including the Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory and the truly delightful Fan Museum (a museum doesn’t get much more niche than that does it?)
To top everything off is the prized view at the top of the park, there really isn’t another view quite like it in London. It’s beyond beautiful.
Tip: Whilst in Greenwich don’t miss the food market, it has an amazing atmosphere where you can find food from all corners of the world. After you’ve grabbed your food, where better to savour the taste than inside the park? Sorted.
London Fields & Broadway Market
While much smaller than the other parks, this place transforms at the weekend when Broadway Market lines the long street adjacent to the park. I went a few weeks ago and the whole place was basked in sunshine, and the poppies and buttercups were in full bloom. Like many places in East London, this area is more hipsterish so bearded men sporting Trilbys and sleeve tattoos are now part of the furniture, you’ll see.
Tip: As well as Broadway Market which offers sumptuous food for you to enjoy in the park, there’s also Colombia Flower Market less than a 15-minute walk that’s opened on a Sunday, the whole street overflows with flowers, it’s worth seeing but go early if you want the best stuff.
The city’s first public park has a place in London’s history. Opened in the East End in 1845 and presented to Queen Victoria, it has been loved for many years. Spanning across a huge area, I was recently there at a festival with thousands of people and yet it only occupied part of it. Ensure you stroll around to see the different sections, with some areas being more decorative than others with pretty ponds, pavilions, and sculptures.
Tip: Regent’s Canal stretches right across London so it’s an enjoyable way to cut out the chaos of the city. It runs across Victoria Park as well as Broadway Market so it’s super easy to get on to. Nearby this area you might be able to spot some strange faces (shown above) peaking out from the walls. All in all, it’s a really enjoyable stroll, passing lots of canal boats, cyclists and selection of riverside eateries.
This is the only green space on this list you have to pay for, but your entrance fee helps support scientific research and the conservation of many unique species of plants. If you have the spare cash it’s certainly worth it – Kew Gardens is an area where outdoor beauty stretches as far as the eye can see.
If I lived in West London I’d probably buy a yearly membership as I’d want to visit all the time. It’s opened all year round but the best time to come is certainly during the summer when wild meadows are in full bloom and the Chinese and Japanese Garden are looking their best. One thing that stays the same throughout the year are the Victorian palm houses, each of the glasshouses has a different, maintained climate, designed to nurture everything from the world’s largest water lilies to delicate Alpine flowers and tropical plants to cactus.
Tip: Don’t miss the Tree Top Walkway where you get a bird’s eye view of the whole park. Standing heads and shoulders across centuries-old trees, you might want to give it a miss if you’re scared of heights though!
The largest of the capital’s eight Royal Parks and the biggest enclosed space in London. The park is a National Nature Reserve and a European Special Area of Conservation so expect to see all kinds of wildlife. It’s most well known for its deer which freely roam and graze across the grassland.
Tip: If you’re taking a dog along, you might want to keep it on its lead… or this could happen!