Not quite here yet, but spring is definitely in the London air with flowers already blooming, daylight lasting a little longer into the evening, and a general mood of cheer on the streets. With all the great public green space that this city has to share with its residents and visitors, the prospect of a sunny spring coming soon is a very good thing indeed. Although it may seem exhaustive, the list below hardly scratches the surface with respect to all the outdoor access in London. It is however a more than adequate guide suggesting some of the best bits of London to be experienced al fresco. Bookmark it!
Yes, there’s an ancient forest with a London Underground station in the northeastern corner of the greater London area. There’s also an Olympic white water centre, beautiful gardens, plenty of walking trails and lots more. For details go to visiteppingforest.org.
Boasting some of the city’s oldest trees, a great stretch of open grassland and the entrance to Buckingham Palace, Green Park is one of London’s most cherished open spaces. More at royalparks.org.uk/parks/green-park.
Bisected by the Greenwich meridian, on the Thames and with historic buildings such as the Old Royal Observatory, the Royal Naval College, the National Maritime Museum and more right there in the park. The Cutty Sark, Greenwich Market and the winding, villagey streets of Greenwich are all at hand as well. A great day out! Visit the park online at royalparks.org.uk/parks/greenwich-park.
With some of London’s highest elevations and best views, this vast North London parkland offers the chance for a taste of the “country in the city.” There’s swimming, walking, cycling, historic pubs and lots more to check out along with the Heath’s own ever so quaint village to meander through. Find out more at cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/hampstead-heath.
As tranquil as any place you’re apt to come across in London, Holland Park is one of West London’s largest parks and home to Kyoto Garden, a serene and traditional Japanese garden featuring a waterfall (about 15 feet at a guess) and a koi pond. The park is also home to its own flock of peacocks and lots and lots of big fluffy bunnies. Every summer, Holland Parks hosts an opera season. Discover Holland Park online at rbkc.gov.uk/leisureandlibraries/parksandgardens/yourlocalpark/hollandpark.aspx.
If it’s good enough for Peter Pan and Mary Poppins, you should probably at least consider paying this large and world famous park a visit. Hyde Park is historic and massive, spanning the museum quarter of South Kensington through to the upscale neighbourhoods of Knightsbridge and Mayfair and the edge of shoppers’ mecca of Oxford Street with paddle boats, a gallery, cafes, monuments and plenty more along its merry and bucolic way. See for yourself at royalparks.org.uk/parks/hyde-park.
Hyde Park’s next door neighbour and home to Kensington Palace with the Albert Memorial, The Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Playground and more for your outdoor satisfaction. For more information click on royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens.
The Royal Botantic Gardens at Kew in West London is an expansive ode to one of England’s greatest traditions: gardening. Founded in 1759 and now a Unesco World Heritage site, lush Kew Gardens is as relevant and contemporary and it is historic. Go to kew.org for more information.
From some of London’s best graffiti to bobbing canal boats moored alongside the path, from impressive views of the modern London skyline to an amazing range of waterfowl, the Lea Bridge to Three Mills walk is one of London’s most varied wanders. Lots more info at walklondon.org.uk/route.asp?R=4.
Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park
London’s newest green space – and also one of its most impressive – Olympic Park offers visitors the opportunity to revel in the sports history; marvel at architecture wonders (including Britain’s largest piece of public art, Anish Kapoor’s ArcelorMittal Orbit observation tower); or enjoy an event or festival scheduled in its active calendar. See what’s on at queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk.
Running from Paddington in the central west of town to a Thames River outlets at Limehouse in the east, much of the Regent’s Canal is walkable and very much worth it with great restaurants, pubs, street markets and more along the merry way. Mind the cyclists! And the hipsters! Find out about Regent’s Canal at canalrivertrust.org.uk/canals-and-rivers/regents-canal.
One of London’s largest and most centrally located parks, Regent’s Park is home to the London Zoo, Primrose Hill, an open air theatre and more than 100 species of waterfowl and wild birds. To learn about the park, go to royalparks.org.uk/parks/the-regents-park.
This old growth forest is the largest of the Royal Parks. Here’s a challenge, try to visit scenic Richmond Park without spotting a deer! Visit royalparks.org.uk/parks/richmond-park for details.
St James’s Park
Essentially just across the street from Green Park, St James’s Park is home to arguably London’s most beloved view (from its Blue Bridge) some of Britain’s prettiest floral beds, and oh yeah … pelicans! An English garden on a grand scale in the heart of town for everyone to enjoy, check out St James’s Park online at royalparks.org.uk/parks/st-jamess-park.
From its bucolic source in the Cotswolds to its mouth at the Channel with a whole lot of London in between, the 180 mile Thames Path traces one of the world’s most famous rivers. Who’s up for a historic hike? Learn about the path at nationaltrail.co.uk/thames-path.
This large and historic East London gem is a great spot for all sorts of outdoor activities. With plenty of excellent shops, restaurants and pubs nearby – not to mention the canals, the artsy community of Hackney Wick and easy access to the Olympic Park – it’s an easy place to recommend. Come summer, the park hosts a number of the Europe’s most popular music festivals. More at towerhamlets.gov.uk/victoriapark.