A Step-by-Step Tour of London’s Best Royal Parks
With taxis buzzing, buses rumbling, and locals dodging throngs of meandering tourists in a mad dash to catch the next tube or train, London can seem overwhelming to a first time visitor.
But, when you feel like exploring — or a tube station closure forces you — a quick detour can introduce you to a completely different and much calmer side of the city.
From expansive Royal Parks to quaint gardens, the opportunities to take a break from the bustling city are seemingly endless.
With eight Royal Parks and nearly 47 percent of the city designated as “green space,” it’s really easy to find a quick reprieve. Five parks: Regents, Kensington, Hyde, Green, and St. James are within access of Tube Zones 1 and 2, allowing you to comfortably and affordably travel between them so you can save a few dollars for pints at the pub later. Put on your walking shoes, block off a few hours and get ready to see the real London:
1) See the Sights at Primrose Hill
I’m a firm believer in a good warm up, and the steep climb to the top of Primrose Hill along Regent’s Park does just that. Coming from the Kings Cross tube station, take the Northern Line toward Edgeware to the Chalk Farm tube station, then head toward one of London’s most iconic hills in one the city’s poshest locations. The amazing views of the London skyline are more than worth the steep hike to the top and from there, it’s all downhill to the rest of the parks — in a good way, of course.
2) Smell the Roses
Near the Regent’s Park and Great Portland Street tube stations
The goal to not getting lost in The Regent’s Park is simple: stay on the Outer Circle as long as you need until you find your destination. Technically, Primrose Hill is on the north end, but crossing Prince Albert Road and Regent’s Canal to fully enter The Regent’s Park is where the true beauty unfolds. If you have kids, you’ll want to head toward the London Zoo, but the real treasures are the thousands of English roses and tulips within Queen Mary’s Gardens in the Inner Circle. Exit along the Avenue Gardens before heading toward Kensington Gardens.
3) Make Believe in Kensington
Near Queen’s Gate tube station
For centuries, London’s parks have inspired hoards of poets, writers and artists, but it’s Kensington Gardens where you’ll find the famous statue of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan from the movie Hook and Kensington Palace, home of the Royal Baby. For the ultimate Kensington Gardens experience, plot a course by the Peter Pan statue, the Italian Gardens, and the Albert Memorial toward Kensington Palace. After you’ve toured the Palace and the Gardens, be sure to stop by the Orangery and make a reservation for High Tea as a special treat for later in the week.
4) Splish Splash in Hyde Park
Near Lancaster Gate, Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner tube stations
From Kensington Gardens, it’s a quick walk toward Hyde Park. Because you’re getting closer to the Mall and Westminster, though, things in this part of London will get a little busier. If the sun’s out and the weather is just warm enough, Hyde Park is every Londoner’s favorite spot for a day out on the water with the Serpentine offering swimming and boating and the Diana Memorial serving as the perfect spot to soak your feet. Head toward the Hyde Park Corner tube station (just past the Wellington Arch) so you can easily get to the last two parks of our tour.
5) Visit the Queen in Green Park
Near Green Park tube station
While the name may lack imagination, it is accurately descriptive. Don’t expect to find any pretty flowers, but what you will stumble across is even better. The smallest park of London is where you’ll find Buckingham Palace, home to the Royal Family. Because you’ll be coming from the back, try to make a path connecting the Bomber Command Memorial to the Memorial Gates. Then, you can follow Green Park along Constitution Hill toward the Canada Memorial and Canada Gate, the grand and incredibly exquisite entrance to Green Park. If all goes according to plan, you will end up right at the Queen’s doorstep at the end of the Mall.
6) Stroll through St. James
Near Charing Cross tube station
You can never have too many pictures of Buckingham Palace, so when you’re ready, make your way toward our final stop, St. James’s Park. As the oldest of London’s Royal Parks, it should come as no surprise that the park has such prime real estate along the Mall. And because of its strategic position along the Mall, it’s the easiest to navigate. Simply weave in and out of St. James as you wish, crossing under the Admiralty Arch. Situated near Trafalgar Square, you’ll find plenty of restaurants, pubs and tube stations to celebrate your journey through London!
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