London Parks and Gardens
Best parks for sightseeing
Many of London's gardens and parks are world-famous for their landscaping, flowers, wildlife and water features. They're tourist attractions in their own right, and are great places to appreciate another side of London life. Many of these outstanding parks can be found on Visit London's list of the capital's best parks – this is a good place to begin your exploration.
Many of the Royal Parks in particular are centrally located and thus easy to include in your visit. For instance, play sports or stroll past the lakes in Hyde Park, or pause to smell the famous roses in The Regent's Park. The Green Park is a perfect quiet corner for a picnic, while wildlife lovers will enjoy visiting the deer herds in Richmond Park or the pelicans in St James's.
For those fascinated by the diversity and usefulness of plant life, a visit to the Chelsea Physic Garden or Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is certainly in order. You're guaranteed to be dazzled by the seasonal display of colours and textures and intrigued by each plant's unique story.
If you're craving even more space, the wide-open expanses of Hampstead Heath offer a wild countryside escape within the bounds of the city, while Wanstead Park incorporates the grounds and gardens of a former manor house, including the 18th-century decorative Temple and other archaeological features.
Best green spaces for kids
Looking for a green space where your kids can burn off some excess energy? Victoria Park has several excellent children's play areas, including a Splash Playground with sprinklers and fountains, plus a great selection of family-friendly events that give kids the chance to learn about nature. Another good choice is Vauxhall Park, which features play areas, sporting facilities and a One O'Clock Stay and Play Club for children under five.
Best parks and gardens for relaxing in nature
If you're seeking a peaceful green space for a bit of lunch or quiet relaxation, the elegant Kyoto Garden in Holland Park is a tranquil oasis complete with soothing waterfalls and ponds filled with colourful koi fish. Or, head to the sustainably-run Phoenix Garden for a colourful retreat from the West End's urban bustle, or enjoy the meditative atmosphere amidst the flowers and vines that adorn the ruins of the Wren-designed church St Dunstan in the East, now a vibrant city garden.
Secret London gardens and parks
Some of the most wonderful parks are those intimate green bowers known only to local residents – hidden patches of nature just waiting to be discovered. Seek out local gems such as Chestnuts Park and Paignton Park in Haringey and Crabtree Fields in Fitzrovia – all feature pleasant play areas for children, shady tree-lined avenues and restful seating areas to enjoy a bit of sun and fresh air.