While everyone assumes it rains all the time in London, spoilers: it doesn’t! In fact, London has some great weather during certain seasons, especially late spring, summer, and early autumn. Similarly, everyone assumes London is all urban – but there are huge swaths of green space, thanks to wise city planners and the formerly extensive lands held by the Royal family.
For these reasons, Londoners all know that on a sunny day, the perfect place to go is to one of the best London parks across the city.
In this post, I’ll share my list of the best parks in London, from former Royal holdings to orderly squares and parks that stretch into the green English lands beyond the city. I highly recommend making a visit to one or two of these parks during your London itinerary, as they offer you a moment to slow down, breathe, and enjoy your bucket-list trip to one of the world’s greatest cities.
Read on to see which 20+ green spaces make my list of the best London parks.
This post was originally published in August 2021, and was updated in June 2022.
1. Alexandra Park
First up on my list of the best London parks? Alexandra Park! This 196-acre park is a haven for North London, with families, dog owners, and runners invading its winding paths in search of a retreat from city life.
While it’s not as expansive as its counterparts, Alexandra Park has a vast diversity of landscapes. Visitors will find a pitch and putt, rowing facilities, a skateboarding park, and a children’s playground. The park also hosts an excellent farmer’s market most weeks on Sundays. Last but least, Alexandra Park is home to the Alexandra Palace – a top vantage point in the city – on its highest hill.
2. Battersea Park
Did you know that Londoners actually reclaimed space from the Thames to build Battersea Park? Well, now you do.
Besides the unmatched Thames view, that Battersea Park offers, this park is much more than just a pretty face. This green space has an art gallery (The Pump House), and a family-run zoo, complete with lemurs, meerkats, wallabies, Go Ape, and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. Oh, and as if the previous spots aren’t enough, there’s a Buddhist Pagoda, too.
I’m sure you can see why Battersea Park made it to our list of best parks in London.
3. Chelsea Embankment Gardens
Nestled between Cheyne Walk and Chelsea Embankment, the Chelsea Embankment Gardens are little-known to most visitors to London.
The beautiful gardens opened in 1874 and stretch along the River Thames. There are flower beds in bloom in spring and summer, lush green lawns, numerous statues, and monuments, plus bench seating and plenty of trees to provide shade when the weather is sunny. Make sure to also peek at the handsome Cheyne Walk houses while you’re there.
4. Crystal Palace Park
A 200-acre green space, Crystal Palace Park was a pleasure ground originally designed by Sir Joseph Paxton to provide a new home to his Crystal Palace – hence the name.
Unfortunately, a fire burned the palace to ashes in 1936, but other equally delightful structures still adorn the park’s grounds. The five gigantic dinosaur sculptures are arguably the park’s most famous feature – at least among little children. There’s also a fiendish maze created around 1870 and used to be one of the biggest in the UK. An urban farm and skatepark have been the latest additions.
5. Finsbury Circus Gardens
While all London parks have a fair share of history behind them, Finsbury Circus Gardens stands out for being the first public park in the city, dating from 1607. Set within the historic surroundings of Finsbury Circus, the park is also the largest public open space in the Square Mile.
This Grade II listed garden is what remains of Moorfields. However, the present garden still showcases the original layout designed by Charles Dance the Younger in 1815. It’s well known for its mature London plane trees and fine Japanese Pagoda tree – the only one in the city.
6. Green Park
Enclosed by Charles II as a hunting ground in 1668, Green Park has long been consecrated as one of the “royal parks” in London. Unlike other parks, this Green Park is quite simple, but it’s precisely that simplicity that makes it an absolute must-visit.
This lush oasis has been open to the public since 1826, and today, it covers about 40 acres in total. Green Park makes for the perfect spot to escape the buzzing city center and maybe enjoy a quick bite before continuing your visit.
If you happen to visit Green Park on the day of a special royal occasion, look out for the Royal Gun Salute by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery. A basic salute involves 21 rounds of cannon fire, but in Green Park, 20 extra rounds are added.
7. Greenwich Park
Greenwich Park is another one of the best London parks. This one is particularly special for earning the title of the oldest enclosed Royal Park.
Throughout its 183-acre grassland, you can find deers, foxes, and over 70 species of birds.
Within the park, you can also find a child-friendly boating lake, six tennis courts, and the Greenwich Meridian Line, which represents the prime meridian. It’s also home to The Royal Observatory. Located on a hill, this place has the best panoramic views of the city. So it’s well worth the trek; there’s also plenty of other things to do in Greenwich!
8. Hampstead Heath
If you want a break from London’s manicured parks, you can visit Hampstead Heath.
The 320-hectares of the park are full of untamed nature where locals and tourists go to escape from the busy city life. Walking along the park, it’s not uncommon to see playgrounds packed with picnickers, dog-walkers flooding the trails, and nature-lovers adventuring into the woodlands.
Hampstead Heath is also notable for its excellent views of the London skyline, with the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf and the City of London easily seen. If you’re in for a bit of a workout, head to the highest hill (322 ft) and enjoy postcard views of London.
9. Holland Park
Not only is Holland Park one of the best London parks, but it is also one of the finest. What stands out the most from Holland Park are the flowers (the most beautiful in the city, some might say.) This is not by mere chance.
Holland Park used to be the land surrounding a Jacobean mansion, Holland House, named after its second owner, the Earl of Holland. It was the Earl of Holland’s wife who (successfully) first grew dahlias in England!
The dahlias are still grown within the park’s 55 acres and now are accompanied by Japanese-style Kyoto Gardens, the new addition to the park’s landscape. In summer, open-air theatre and opera are staged in the park.
10. Hyde Park
Arguably one of the most famous parks in London, Hyde Park sprawls 1.5 miles long and about a mile wide. Inside Hyde Park, you’ll find London’s oldest boating lake, The Serpentine, which is home to ducks, coots, swans, and tufty-eared grebes. Hyde Park also hosts the most various cultural events, mostly on the Speaker’s Corner. There you can see people present on various topics as well as witness open-air rock shows of infamous bands, such as Queen.
If you’re in for a spooky visit, on Hyde Park’s northwest corner is a hidden Victorian pet cemetery, where around 300 furry Londoners from the past are buried.
11. Jubilee Park & Garden
Jubilee Park and Gardens are one of the newest additions to the park scene of London. Located on London’s South Bank, Jubilee Park & Garden is a landscaped park with mature trees and lawns, all designed in 2012 by landscape architects West 8, a cutting-edge practice that delivers ground-breaking urban parks and public spaces worldwide.
Jubilee Park & Garden has an enclosed adventure playground for children aged up to 11 years old, which makes the green space a favorite hangout for local families and children.
The tranquil atmosphere is amazing to unwind and take in the vibrancy of this city.
12. Kensington Gardens
Located in Central London, Kensington Gardens is one of the best parks in London. As the name suggests, the 270 acres of grassy sprawl used to be the gardens of Kensington Palace (which still sits in the middle of the park.)
Kensington Gardens is known for having a strong connection to Princess Diana. Inside, you can see the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground. Besides the playground, there’s also a memorial fountain dedicated to the Princess, which attracts thousands of visitors all year round.
13. London Fields
London Fields is a handy little park at the top of Broadway Market. With a vibrant and hipster atmosphere, this London Fields has it all, vibrant local pubs, a thriving street market, a permanent ping pong table, a wildflower meadow in the spring and summer, and a lido!
The best way to make the most of London Fields is to bring a picnic. You can buy first on Broadway Market (they have some posh picnic food there) and then find your spot. You won’t regret it!
NB: London Fields is a popular hangout among young people. So, maybe, if you have kids, this won’t be the best park to come to.
14. Lincoln’s Inn Fields
Located in Central London, Lincoln’s Inn Fields is the largest public square in London.
Before being a park, London’s Inn Fields was used for grazing cattle, and it was architect Inigo Jones who conceived Lincoln’s Inn Fields as the square that it is today. However, locals had to wait until 1985 for Lincoln’s Inn Fields to open as a Victorian public garden.
Along its 7.25 acres, you can find lawns, trees, public tennis courts, and a bandstand. Right next to Lincoln’s Inn Fields is Sir John Soane’s house, a museum of antiquities very well worth visiting.
15. Postman’s Park
While Postman’s Park’s beautiful gardens attract locals looking for a secluded place to enjoy their lunch, this park is actually more than a hideaway from the hustle and bustle.
Postman’s Park is a poignant reminder of the beauty of humankind. Quaint and beautiful, Postman’s Park is home to the touching Memorial To Heroic Self-Sacrifice. The memorial was devised in 1887 by artist George Frederic Watts who wanted to honor “ordinary” people who sacrificed their lives to save others and might otherwise be forgotten. It contains 54 plaques, each with the person’s name and a detailed account of the feat.
The park is located just a short distance north of St Paul’s Cathedral.
16. Potters Fields Park
Set next to Tower Bridge, Potters Fields Park offers visitors impressive views of the Thames river and a quirky past.
The history of this unique green open space with spacious lawns and whispering trees dates back to the 17th Century. Originally, Potters Field Park was a space where poor people were buried; in biblical times, priests would buy clay-rich land owned by pot-makers (hence, the name Potter Fields) for their burial grounds.
Luckily, the park’s subdued past has been left behind. Today, Potters Fields Park is a colorful wildlife-friendly garden, standing as a true oasis in the middle of London.
17. Primrose Hill
Not to be confused with Regent’s Park (it’s set just above it), Primrose Hill is one of the prettiest parks in North London.
Like many other parks, Primrose Hill used to be one of the many hunting venues of Henry VIII. Today, however, the park is far from royalty. Primrose Park boasts a simple neighborhood feel – no fancy bandstands or tropical gardens here– that attracts locals and tourists alike.
It’s also home to the best views of the city, with a summit of 63 meters above sea level located inside.
18. Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
One of the youngest members, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was purpose-built for the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in London. The park has pretty much everything a green space can: lopping paths, waterways, sporting venues, play areas, promenades, splash fountains, landscaped gardens, deer herds,… phew! That was a long list.
In a few words, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a great escape outdoors, especially on warm summer days. It’s just a stone’s throw away from central London and easily accessible from Stratford train station.
19. Regent’s Park
With 410 acres in northwest London, Regent’s Park is one of the most popular parks in London. The park is a work of art with brimming flowers all over. Of course, there’s plenty to do in Regent’s Park. From the brilliant ZSL London Zoo to its enchanting Open Air Theatre to the gorgeous Japanese Garden Island, which is full of winding paths, ornamental shrubs, and flowers.
Regent’s Park is also home to various food and music festivals during summer. On warmer days you can also hire a boat to meander gently down the river while having different views of the park.
20. Richmond Park
Covering 2,500 acres, Richmond Park is the largest of London’s Royal Parks. More than a park, Richmond Park seems to be a wildlife sanctuary in the urban sprawl of London. Inside, there are hundreds of red and fallow deer roaming freely. From the park’s highest point, there are unobstructed views of St Paul’s Cathedral, over 12 miles to the east.
Besides the wildlife, Richmond Park is home to one of the prettiest flower gardens. Head to the Isabella Plantation, a 40-acre woodland garden bursting with bright blooms of azaleas, rhododendrons, and camellias in the spring and summer.
21. Russell Square
Russell Square is Central London’s second-largest square, located to the northeast of the British Museum in Bloomsbury. It is named after the surname of the Earls and Dukes of Bedford and was laid out in 1801 by Humphry Repton on land earlier called Southampton Fields, and subsequently Long Fields.
Russell Square could be an interesting park for literature lovers, having appeared in Virginia Woolf’s Night and Day and in the early chapters of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. The surroundings of the park are worth visiting as well with the southern side of Russell Square including Grade II listed 19th Century houses.
22. Southwark Park
Opened in 1869 in South East London, Southwark Park is a sprawling green area encompassing a bowling green, cafe, boating lake, and bandstand. Beautiful and large, Southwark Park is excellent for adults and kids who want to enjoy a day out in nature.
There are plenty of things to do, such as visit the art gallery, do outdoor gym, play tennis, cricket or football, feed the birds and swans and ducks near the pond, and why not, have a lovely picnic in the grass.
23. St. James’s Park
St James’s Park is hands down one of London’s best parks. It was founded as a deer park for the royal occupants of St James’s Palace, and remodeled by John Nash on the orders of George IV.
The park is surrounded by some of the most important sites in London: Buckingham Palace to one side; The Mall, Westminster, and Horse Guards Parade to the others. Despite its crowded location, the park is surprisingly calm with its peaceful and picturesque 56 acres. Inside, you can find the central lake with numerous water-loving birds. The park is also home to the Blue Bridge, which offers spectacular views across St James’s Park Lake to Buckingham Palace.
24. Victoria Embankment Gardens
A few steps away from the River Thames on Victoria Embankment, and just outside of Embankment Tube Station, are the wonderful Victoria Embankment Gardens.
Like many other parks in London, Victoria Embankment Gardens has been around for a long time. Opened in 1865, Victoria Embankment Gardens was made from land reclaimed from the River Thames as part of the development of the Victoria Embankment, which was considered to be the finest thoroughfare in Europe at that time.
Today, these series of gardens are home to several statues, a memorial to the poet Robert Burns, war memorials commemorating the Second World War, and the newest for Iraq and Afghanistan.
There’s also the Embankment Cafe, a charming garden pavilion with a park-side terrace to grab breakfast or lunch on a summer’s day while people watching.
25. Victoria Park
Victoria Park started life as a Royal Park. Thankfully, it became open to the public in 1887. While it is less pompous than its counterparts, Victoria Park still has its own charm, with deers, moorhens, grey and Canada geese, and squirrels roaming around. By the lake, you’ll find The Pavilion Café, a waterfront park pavilion serving organic produce breakfasts, lunch specials, and sandwiches.
As London’s most popular Park, Victoria Park attracts around 9 million visitors a year, which is why it’s been dubbed People’s park by the locals. The park is famous for hosting popular festivals and events. So check out the cultural calendar to see if there’s something of your interest.
While this list is long – it’s not exhaustive; there are many more picturesque and small parks across London. Have you been to any other great London parks? Or have questions about these ones that made my list? Let me know in the comments!