Just when we thought our hopes for a British summer may have been dashed completely, the sun has decided to show its face.
The forecast for next week may not predict heatwave-worthy temperatures, but with highs in the mid-20s predicted across the UK, it’s still hopefully going to be sunny enough to enjoy some time outdoors.
As bustling and built-up a city London may seem, it’s actually home to a wide variety of parks, woodlands and nature reserves, and summer is the perfect time to get out there and check out all those spots you’ve been meaning to visit.
So, whether you’re looking for a new park to enjoy a picnic with friends, fancy mixing up your daily walk or just want to immerse yourself in nature, here’s our pick of the best free outdoor spaces and parks across the city.
There’s a reason why you’ll often hear Londoners waxing lyrical about Hampstead Heath. Besides the great views from Parliament Hill and the famous swimming ponds, the wild park is home to a variety of woodland and meadows, so there’s plenty to explore.
It may not be the biggest of London’s eight royal parks, but if you’re going to talk about parks in London, then Hyde Park is a pretty good place to start. Stretching from Kensington Palace to Mayfair, the park encompasses plenty of must-see spots, including the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and the Serpentine lake.
If you’re looking for a park with plenty to explore, look no further than Battersea Park, located south of the Thames in Wandsworth. Not only does it have a fully-fledged boating lake and children’s zoo, which houses a collection of smaller animals including otters, monkeys and lemurs, it’s also home to the London Peace Pagoda, which features four gilt-bronze statues which represent the most significant stages of Buddha’s life.
Although a bit further out than most of the spots on this list, Walthamstow Wetlands is definitely worth the trip. The 211-hectare site is home to a variety of creatures including kingfishers, herons and swifts, as well as a Victorian-era Engine House which houses the site’s visitor centre and cafe.
Primrose Hill is home to a decent amount of grassy, open space, but it’s most famous for its summit, which provides views across London. It’s normally pretty busy, but if you can claim a good spot, it’s the perfect place for a picnic with friends – the area surrounding Regents Park Road to the east of the park is home to plenty of great cafes and restaurants offering takeaways if you don’t want to bring food from home.
Victoria Park isn’t the quietest of spots (it’s known as the People’s Park and is one of the most popular outdoor spaces in London), but it has lots to offer. Whether you fancy perusing it’s variety of gardens and lakes or taking a walk around the Victoria Park Market on a Sunday, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
If you fancy a trip outside of central London, then Richmond Park is a must-visit. The largest of the city’s eight royal parks, the 2500-acre site not only boasts its own golf course and 40-acre woodland garden but is home to several herds of deer, which roam freely.
St Dunstan in the East
This secluded park in the middle of the City Of London is a hidden gem just waiting to be explored. Set within the ruins of St Dunstan Church which was severely damaged during WW2, St Dunstan In The East is home to a series of benches from which you can sit and admire the greenery which wraps itself around the ruins’ walls.
Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park
Although visiting a cemetery may not sound like the most appealing way to spend a weekend, stay with us. Besides being one of London’s ‘magnificent seven’ cemeteries, Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park was closed to burials in 1966 and is now a public park that is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including birds, butterflies and plants not often seen in London.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park may not be as old as some of the other parks on this list, but it’s no less impressive. Located in east London between Stratford and Hackney Wick, the park offers a series of impressive gardens, waterways and buildings joined by wide, open pathways, making it perfect for a weekend cycle.
Just south of Primrose Hill lies Regent’s Park, another of London’s eight royal parks which is home to Regent’s Canal and London Zoo. It’s a treat for flower lovers, too – Queen Mary’s Rose Garden, which is located within the park’s inner circle, is home to London’s largest collection of roses.
If you thought Richmond Park was the only place to spot deer in central London, think again. Besides being home to stunning views across London and the Royal Observatory, Greenwich Park also has its very own deer park called The Wilderness, where Red and Fallow deer are left to roam.
The Phoenix Garden
In the heart of Soho lies The Phoenix Garden, a small, community wildlife garden that offers an escape from the business of the city around it. The last of the Covent Garden community gardens, The Phoenix Garden opened to the public in 1984 and is the perfect place to spot some urban wildlife.
If you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet among the hustle and bustle of central London, then head to Bunhill Fields. The former burial ground, which is home to the graves of notable names including William Blake and Daniel Defoe, is the perfect spot for some quiet reflection on a sunny afternoon.
Barbican Lakeside Terrace
Although the Barbican is famed for its concrete façade and brutalist architecture, the Lakeside Terrace, which lies at the heart of the estate, is surrounded by nature. There may not be any grass to lay your picnic blanket on, but with the Barbican Kitchen located on its edge, it’s still a great spot to kick back and relax with a refreshment.