Londoners love parks. Londoners are also experts on park life. As soon as the sun shows its face from behind the clouds, we take our books, picnics, frisbees, dogs and children and head for the green spaces. And as 47% of London is made up of green spaces there’s plenty to choose from whatever vibes you like.
So as spring is now in full swing and Easter bank holiday weekend is fast approaching (London’s apparently meant to be hotter than St Tropez! Finally! I can’t wait!) I thought what’s the better time to give you a lowdown on London parks. Due to the sheer amount of green spaces I split this guide into two so this post is focusing on south London. Next time you visit just pick whichever one of those takes your fancy and go spend an afternoon there to experience life like a true Londoner.
I’m not going to lie - Greenwich Park gets super busy, especially on weekends, but it doesn’t make it any less spectacular. Stock up on treats from the town centre market then walk to the top of the hill in the park and enjoy one of the best views of the city while you’re digging into your picnic.
After that go and explore the Royal Observatory and stand on the historic Prime Meridian where east meets west or watch an inspiring show at the planetarium. Stop at The Pavillion Cafe for some coffee and brownies before heading to the flower garden or the deer enclosure.
Set in a perfect location right by the Thames and just a short walk across the bridge from Chelsea, this is a one stunning park. There’s so much to see and do here including a petting zoo, mini golf course and a variety of landscaped gardens. But the best way to relax and truly experience the park and is to sit on the steps of the Battersea Peace Pagoda (gifted to Londoners by the founder of the Japanese Buddhist movement) and watch boats passing along the Chelsea Embankment.
Brockwell Park between Brixton and Herne Hill is probably most well known for its lido. Lidos, in case you didn’t know, are reminiscent of inter-war years when they were most popular. Over the years, through a decrease in popularity, many fell into a disrepair or were demolished but the ones that survived (at least here in London) are thriving.
This off the beaten track destination is my local and one of my favourite parks in the city. Walking through Dulwich Village you could easily forget you’re in London even though it’s just five miles from the city centre. Full of grand 18th century houses and with a traditional country style inn at the heart of the community it’s such a gorgeous area.
The park itself is super popular with the local families making the most of the small boating lake, various sport facilities and eating ice cream. Relaxing on the grass watching groups of guys playing cricket is quintessentially English way to spend an afternoon.
Although they call it a park, it’s more of an expanse of wilderness. This is the closest you’re going to get to experience London’s 18th century royal grandeur past as you look over the former hunting grounds from King Henry’s Mound. Today deer are still roaming around the park freely taking little notice of the visitors.
My absolutely favourite thing to do is to rent a bike from Parkcycle and just ride around for a couple of hours.
Crystal Palace Park
Wherever you are in South East London you can probably see this park in the distance thanks to the Crystal Palace TV transmitter, a true local landmark, being located here. But there’s more cool stuff in the park too like dinosaurs (yes you read that right!) and a national sports centre with racing and diving pools, indoor athletics track, beach volleyball courts and all sorts of other facilities.
Crystal Palace, from which the park and the area takes its name, was a cast iron and glass structure built originally for the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park and later taken apart and rebuilt in south London. Unfortunately the palace was completely destroyed by fire in 1936 and all that’s left from it today are remains of terraces, sphinxes and a small number of other features.
Did you know that there are only seven parks in all of London where you can bbq legally? Well Burgess Park is one of them which makes it a perfect spot to hang out with your mates on a hot sunny day. Stock up on some sausages, nice cold cider and bring a frisbee for a chilled out day of proper south London vibes.
And if you want a break from the sizzling hot grill, there’s also a BMX track and you can even do some fishing in the lake (you have to buy a ticket first though).
You can probably tell from this post how much I love parks. What’s park life like in your city? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!