London: A Visitor’s Guide
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St. James’s Park is our pick for London’s prettiest park. It is bordered by Horse Guards Parade and The Mall, and is within easy walking distance of Big Ben and Trafalgar Square. It has some wonderfully colourful flowerbeds and a very preety lake with plenty of ducks and geese. You can also stand on the bridge for a celebrated shot of Buckingham Palace.
Regent’s Park has some beautiful rose beds and landscaping, and is home to London Zoo on its northern edge. It also has a boating lake with ducks and geese. During the summer you can enjoy performances at the bandstand, and plays at the Open Air Theatre. Another favourite way to pass a few hours is taking a canal boat from Camden to Little Venice, which passes through the park’s north-western edge.
Take a stroll through Greenwich Park and walk up the hill (it’s quite a climb!). The view that greets you will take in a vista that stretches from The O2 to the City. You can also spend an afternoon at the Royal Observatory and National Maritime Museum.
Hampstead Heath is a short train journey north of central London, but is well worth the trip for the views on Parliament Hill. The park is actually a huge rambling, rolling heath, where you can stretch your legs for hours. It is also home to Kenwood House, with its collection of paintings by Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Vermeer and Stubbs.
Spending the afternoon in a cemetery might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, but a guided tour of Hightgate Cemetery is a magical experience. The overgrown tombs and Victorian headstones transport you to a spooky, spiritual world miles away from the hustle and bustle of London. Some of the architecture is monumental, and it’s home to famous names like Michael Faraday and Lucian Freud.
Hyde Park is probably the most famous park in London, and occupies a massive open space between Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Bayswater. There is plenty of things to do – why not take a paddle boat out on the Serpentine Lake? Or listen to some speeches at Speaker’s Corner? After that you can have a sit-down and relax in Christopher Wren’s Italian Gardens. The space is so vast that it’s sometimes easy to forget that you’re still in central London.
At 203-feet Primrose Hill is a bit of a climb, but it’s well-worth the effort – the view that greets you at the top is one of the best in London. Its position north of Regent’s Park gives you a fine view of London Zoo, the City skyline, and the distant skyscrapers of Canary Wharf. We would have preferred it if there was a burger van on top for some light refreshments (and after that climb, you will need it!), but at least they’ve got some well-earned benches.
Kensington Gardens is right next door to Hyde Park, on the other side of the Serpentine Lake. It is worth a visit for the Round Pond, the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and Queen Victoria’s childhood home – Kensington Palace. You can also visit the Serpentine Gallery and Albert Memorial.
Holland Park is one of London’s lesser-known parks, and can be found east of Kensington. It boosts some of the capital’s most beautiful flower gardens, and is famous for its open-air opera in the summer. It is also home to the once spectacular Holland House – half destroyed by the Luftwaffe during World War II.
Green Park itself is actually not that interesting… it’s mainly green grass, trees and a few rolling slopes. But it ranks highly because it is bordered by Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly and Wellington Arch, and therefore makes a great place to have your lunch.
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