Don’t spend so much time visiting museums and the other landmarks of London that you miss out on one of London’s best features…the outdoors! London has over 5,000 acres of green space, making it one of the greenest capitals in the world. Be sure to get some fresh air every few days and visit some of the parks…you never know what you might stumble upon!
- I could go on for days talking about London’s parks. There are over 3,000, and they’re all special in their own way. My favorites are Hyde Park, St. James’s Park, Regent’s Park, and Holland Park. Hyde Park is probably the most famous, and it’s easy to forget that you’re in the middle of central London when you’re there. There are lots of little parks and gardens within Hyde Park, so give yourself plenty of time to see it all. Don’t miss Speaker’s Corner on Sundays, the Italian Gardens, Peter Pan, Kensington, and the Diana Memorial Fountain. St. James’s Park is between Buckingham Palace and the Horse Guards Parade and runs along the Mall. You can get some beautiful pictures of Buckingham and the Westminster area on a sunny day in St. James’s. Regent’s Park is another huge park and is home to Primrose Hill and the London Zoo. It also has Queen Mary’s garden with thousands of beautiful roses. Holland Park is in my old borough, Kensington and Chelsea, so I have a special place in my heart for it. It’s on the grounds of an old castle, which is really neat. There’s a wildlife centre there, and the Kyoto Garden is beautiful.
- Highgate Cemetery is a famous landmark that also happens to be outside, so on a nice day you get the best of both worlds! Probably the most visited grave at Highgate is Karl Marx’s, but there are other important people buried here too. There are tours of both sides of the cemetery during the day, and you’ll definitely leave knowing something you didn’t know before!
- If you want to spend some time on the water, take a ride on the Thames! The Thames Clippers will take you all over London, dropping you off near different landmarks. It’s a fun way to get from Point A to Point B and spend some time above ground. It’s also a great way to get some pictures of landmarks like the Eye, the Globe, Tower Bridge, and the Shard.
- I can’t say for sure because I haven’t done it, but I’ve heard that Boris Bikes are really fun. They’re actually called Barclay’s Cycle Hire, but everyone calls them Boris Bikes after the mayor Boris Johnson. Several of my friends used to ride them around the Parks and to and from school. They built a bike portal right outside our dormitory, which made it convenient. I think I’ll try one out this summer and let y’all know how it goes!
- If you’re looking for a really peaceful way to spend the day, Kew Gardens is definitely a good choice. The gardens are massive, and it’s so nice to walk around and appreciate nature every once in a while. If you aren’t afraid of heights, check out the Treetop experience, where you can walk around a platform at the level of the treetops. Kew Palace is inside the garden, and there’s a Pagoda that my brother is obsessed with. If you go on a colder day, hang out in the Glasshouses, which house the tropical plants and are always warm and humid. The first time I went in the glasshouse I immediately felt like I was back home in South Carolina.
- The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is reopening to the public soon, and I can’t wait to walk around it! I went to visit it when it was still under construction, but haven’t seen it since 6 months or so before the Olympics. I’ve heard that they built some playgrounds and adapted some of the Olympic venues. This will be a really fun afternoon outing in the summertime.
- My favorite running spot gets it’s own mention aside from all the others, and that’s Battersea Park. Right across the river from Chelsea, it’s one of the most interesting of all the parks in London. My favorite feature of Battersea is the London Peace Pagoda, but there is so much to see and do. Feed the ducks while you’re there…they’re so cute!
There are a ton of other outdoorsy options than what I listed here…that’s just the tip of the iceberg. No matter what time of year you find yourself in London, try to enjoy the outdoors. It’s magical even in the winter.