Discover our guide to London’s Royal Parks and the many urban forests in the heart of the capital. From the history to activities, explore our guide here.
When planning a city break, scenes of soaring skyscrapers and bustling streets immediately spring to mind. London however has another side: a greener, more tranquil side. The capital famously has something for everyone, with each of its 32 boroughs offering a different experience to its visitors and residents: from futuristic Canary Wharf to historic Mayfair, and from the serene boulevards of Kensington and Chelsea to the artistic haven of Hackney. But one feature that all the boroughs boast is an abundance of green space, open for all to enjoy a breath of fresh air and an opportunity to get back to nature. .
In 2022, an in-depth study by NerdWallet named London as Europe’s greenest city, with the capital topping the list of Europe’s 30 most populated cities as the place to go for green space. With over 3,000 parks and gardens, London comfortably came out on top in comparison to cities such as Marseille and Rome in the 9th and 10th positions, with just 68 and 63 green spaces respectively.
As the city also takes great strides in improving its air quality, London is increasingly becoming an attractive eco-tourism destination with plenty of sustainable tourist activities to enjoy. Let us take you on an insightful amble through the famous parks in London, unlocking the secrets of not only the eight Royal Parks but also the secluded pockets of nature which hide within Mayfair’s winding streets, just moments away from your suite at The Ritz.
The Royal Parks of London
Have you ever wondered why London’s great parks are often located next to palaces? The origin story of the Royal Parks of London is not quite as benevolent as the charity is today. As the name suggests, the Royal Parks were once the playgrounds of Kings and Queens, as the green spaces were historically land owned by the Royal Family, used for hunting, horse riding and idle recreation.
King Henry VIII is said to have commandeered land owned by Catholic monks in the 1500s to have more space to roam and hunt for himself. Thankfully, King Charles I opened Hyde Park to the public in 1637, and well, the rest is history.
Colloquially known as the ‘lungs of London’, the Royal Parks play host to millions of visitors each year, with children prancing in fountains, families enjoying sunny picnics, couples taking romantic walks through the forests and friends competing in marathons. We invite you to explore the beauty and biodiversity of London’s Royal Parks for a moment or two of blissful respite before a trip to the theatre or a day’s shopping during your trip to the capital. Here is our guide to the eight Royal Parks of London:
Arguably the most famous park in London, Hyde Park has it all. Historically the home of society events, including the Great Exhibition of 1851, some things never change. Today the park hosts events that are the capital’s most sought-after tickets, such as the British Summertime Festival. Events aside, Hyde Park boasts the stunning Serpentine Lake, perfect for pedalos, swimming or simply gazing into on a summer’s day. Visiting during the festive season? The warming scent of Christmas spices fills the air as the trees are adorned with twinkling fairy lights for the arrival of Winter Wonderland, one of London’s must-do Christmas activities.
The Green Park
We lovingly consider The Green Park an extended garden of The Ritz. While the view of The Green Park from your suite may be as pretty as a picture, we implore you to switch your Ritz slippers for walking shoes to explore its natural charm. Wildflowers abound during a peaceful post-breakfast stroll. Or perhaps take a moment of quiet contemplation at one of its three war memorials: the Canada Memorial, the Bomber Command Memorial, and the Memorial Gates.
At first glance, it is difficult to believe that Richmond Park is in London at all. With scenes of golden woodland, red and fallow deer roaming freely and wild wetlands as far as the eye can see, a walk in Richmond Park truly feels like an escape to the country. Introduced by Charles I when he used the land as a hunting park, today the wild deer graze the land at leisure, playing a key role in maintaining the landscape as nature intended. While happy to feature on your Instagram feed, the deer like their own space so don’t be tempted to get too close!
An area steeped in rich history and home to stunning skyline views, whether visiting on a family day out or for a romantic sunset stroll, Greenwich Park is certainly one to tick off your London bucket list. Discover the history behind Greenwich Mean Time and stand with one foot in the eastern hemisphere and the other in the west at Longitude 0°. Or bask in the views of the historic Old Royal Naval College, across the Thames to Canary Wharf. We recommend a hearty English breakfast beforehand as the walk up to the observatory will soon clock up your step count.
St James’s Park
Today it is known as the place to be for any royal or state event, from admiring the weekly Changing of the Guard ceremony outside Buckingham Palace to jostling for a space along the Mall to catch a glimpse of a royal carriage at a jubilee. However, St James’s Park had humble beginnings as an area of wild marshland. Across the centuries, a series of royals have polished the park with formal landscaping, creating water features and winding paths for a park worthy of its royal neighbours.
Idyllically located next to Hampton Court Palace, Bushy Park is just the place for a relaxing weekend in peace in nature. Allow your to-do list or travel stress to float away as nature performs a spectacular display before your eyes; kingfishers majestically swooping into the wetland ponds, wild deer idly grazing on grassland and swathes of native wildflowers swaying gently in the breeze. And breathe…
The Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill
Come October, The Regent’s Park comes alive as London’s number one artistic destination as the contemporary art fair, Frieze, arrives in the park. Even if you aren’t in the market to build your collection, sculptures appear around the park from mid-September until mid-November, free for all to admire. In need of date night inspiration? Look no further than a sunset promenade up Primrose Hill for the ultimate skyline view of central London.
Kensington Gardens is filled with magic and wonder, especially for younger visitors. Author J. M. Barrie used to live in the local area and was inspired by the gardens to write the classic novel, Peter Pan. Since 1912, a statue of Peter Pan has stood to the west of The Long Water, inspiring all the children who visit him to never grow up!
The Local Neighbourhood Parks
London not only boasts great expanses of green space such as the Royal Parks, but also each neighbourhood is lucky enough to enjoy small havens of nature, even in the most urban areas. The Ritz is perfectly positioned for a walk to the beautiful Mayfair gardens, located just minutes away from the hotel. The ideal way to enjoy some sunshine before a delicious English breakfast or some fresh air after an indulgent lunch in The Ritz Restaurant, discover the Mayfair parks that are sure to add a touch of natural beauty to any Ritz stay.
Mount Street Gardens
Situated a ten-minute meander from The Ritz, Mount Street Gardens is a green oasis in which to appreciate the sweet sounds of bird song and the rustling of leaves. Peaceful and picturesque, it’s just the spot to take a mindful moment on one of the benches lining the gardens before continuing your day in Mayfair.
Just a couple of streets away sits Grosvenor Square, the second-largest square in London. For literary enthusiasts, this will be a must-visit spot as it is name-checked several times in the works of Oscar Wilde, who lived in Grosvenor Square in the 1880s. Whether visiting for its history or its charm, Grosvenor Square is a beloved feature of Mayfair for residents and tourists alike.
As the famous song goes:
‘That certain night, the night we met,
There was magic abroad in the air,
There were angels dining at the Ritz
And a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square’.
The Ritz and Berkeley Square will always have a place in the hearts of many of our guests who have enjoyed our resident pianist playing the classic tune while enjoying afternoon tea in The Palm Court. Mere moments from 150 Piccadilly, no trip is complete without a visit.
St James’s Square
Featuring a striking equestrian statue by John Bacon of William III, St James’s Square welcomes visitors to enjoy its peaceful surroundings for some much-needed relaxation during a Jermyn Street shopping trip.
From meadows as far as the horizon reaches to hidden green gems, London is home to an impressive and varied collection of parks and gardens. No matter where your next trip to London takes you, be sure to take a moment to get back to nature even right in the heart of the capital.