London's best green spaces, parks and gardens

London’s Most Beautiful Parks, Gardens, and Green Spaces

From beautiful gardens to historical parks, London has many inviting green spaces to visit. In fact, 40% of London is green spaces – you just need to know where to go! In this post, we list everything from the best wildlife walks and woodland trails, to enchanting flower beds and grand parks.

London is an exciting city on the surface, filled to the brim with history and the architecture to match, and the best contemporary activities have to offer too. But – speaking from experience – the big city can also be overwhelming and tiring, especially if your job comes with a classic ninety-minute London commute.

This environment can get stifling – especially in current times – and it’s really important to make sure we spend time outdoors. Green spaces have a wonderful impact on our mental wellbeing – and thankfully, London has a lot of them!

I created this post at the same time as putting my list of Best London Day Trips together. Depending on the suburb you live in, it can take a long time to get into central London before even getting on a train to take a day trip! So I wanted to make this list in the hope it would inspire fatigued Londoners to explore beautiful places within London itself.

(A side note to any anxious Londoners: I barely left my flat when I lived in London, so I totally get how hard it can be to will yourself onto a bus or tube after a busy week at work. But you can do it! Just this once. I believe in you! Though if you spend your weekend in bed watching Netflix again… heck, I’m right there with you!)

KEW GARDENS

by Emma from Travel on a Time Budget

When considering the best gardens in London, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew must be high on that list. Located close to Richmond upon Thames, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site that covers over 300 acres and that has so many attractions you could easily stay for the whole day.  

The outdoor spaces are simply wonderful. There is a range of different gardens, all different and unique, with some amazing plants and flowers within them.  This includes the Rose Garden, with over 170 different species, the Bamboo Garden with 130 species from various regions of the world, and the Japanese Gardens with its nearby temple.  There is also the Children’s Garden which spans the area of 40 tennis courts.

Within the gardens are several glasshouses that recreate the living conditions in which different types of plants need to survive. The most spectacular is the Temperate House and Palm House which definitely should be visited.

Kew Gardens is home to the smallest royal palace, which was resided in from the early 18th century.  In addition, there’s an 18th-century pagoda and a Treetop walkway; climbing to the top of these is a great chance to look out over the vast expense of greenery. 

There are also art galleries to browse in, cafes for refreshments, and plenty of outdoor seating where you can take the weight off your feet and admire your surroundings.

Kew Gardens can be reached by train, with a journey time of around 20-30 minutes. You can also take the London Underground to Kew Gardens station on the District Line. 

The gardens are largely flat and so generally accessible (some of the indoor attractions are not, however, accessible to wheelchairs and mobility scooters). Some wheelchairs are available at the entrance gates, and mobility scooters can be booked in advance.

RICHMOND PARK

by Miriam from Miry Giramondo

Among the different parks or green spaces in London, I recommend not missing Richmond park. Located outside central London in the west of the city, near the London suburb of Richmond upon Thames, near Kingston upon Thames and Wimbledon, it is easily accessible by train, metro or bus.

It’s the largest park in the city and the largest urban park in Europe. It was named Richmond after the reign of Henry VII. In 1625 Charles I brought his court to Richmond to escape the plague and turned it into a park for deer and fallow deer by fencing it, then it was opened to the public.

Within the park, there is lush vegetation, impressive plants, and wildlife. The deer is its most famous inhabitant, there are about 200, but also birds, toads, and squirrels. Man and wildlife coexist in perfect harmony in Richmond.

One of the most famous attractions is Isabella Plantation, opened in 1953 the 40 acres of international forests and wildlife are preserved as a site of special scientific interest. If you are in London I recommend you visit this beautiful park.

HOLLAND PARK

by Rose from Where Goes Rose

One of the best things to do in Notting Hill is to take a walk in Holland Park. 

This peaceful 22-hectare park is made up of several sections, the best being the Kyoto Gardens. This was funded to the UK by Japan to celebrate the friendship between the two countries. Gentle waterfalls and bridges characterize the garden, and there are live peacocks strutting about! It’s truly an oasis of calm in busy London.

You can also spot wildlife in the woodland, meander through the Dutch Garden, entertain kids at the adventure playground and finish with tea and cake at Holland Park Cafe.

It’s a bit of a hidden gem but Holland park even has its own opera auditorium! Opera Holland Park host shows year-round but the highlight is most definitely the two-month summer festival that runs from June to August. Why not enjoy this green space with music and wine?

The closest underground station is Holland Park and several buses drop off outside. Alternatively, walk from Notting Hill in less than 15 minutes. There are several level accesses to the park for those with disabilities.

KENSINGTON GARDENS

by Martina from PlacesofJuma

One of the most beautiful gardens in London is definitely the Kensington Gardens. It is one of the city’s royal parks and is located right next to the famous Hyde Park, with Queensway being the nearest underground station. Many visitors believe that these 2 parks belong together, but West Carriage Drive separates the two parks from each other. The history of Kensington Gardens goes back to 1689 when King William III bought the grounds because of his asthma condition.

A walk through the park reveals several interesting attractions. The Albert Memorial, the Serpentine Gallery, but also the Italy Garden with its historic water basins, fountains, and sculptures are interesting. Families with children should also visit the Diana Memorial Playground, where a large wooden ship invites them to play.

The absolute highlight, however, is Kensington Palace with its beautiful garden setting. The most breathtaking flowers in the entire park bloom here and are therefore a popular photo motif that should not be missed on any visit!

QUEEN MARY’S GARDEN, REGENT’S PARK

by Suzanne from Meandering Wild

In one corner of Regents Park is a pretty garden, surrounded by high hedges with a feel of entering a magical world.  Named after the wife of King George V it was opened in 1932 with the rose garden completed in 1934. 

This area has the largest collection of roses in London with around 12000 plants and at least 85 different varieties.  There is everything from large scented tea roses to delicate climbing roses and the fragrance in the summer months is amazing. 

As well as the roses there is a huge multi-coloured delphinium border, Mediterranean areas, and a colourful begonia garden.

This garden is located close to Baker Street Station with the Sherlock Holmes Museum and Madame Tussauds nearby.  Regents Park is a large area, but Queen Mary’s Garden is within the Inner Circle close to the Open Air Theatre and the Ice Cream Kiosk.

The garden is flat and paved with benches tucked away making it accessible for all visitors.

ST JAMES PARK

by Kerry Hanson from VeggTravel

A trip to London will not be complete without a visit to the stunning St James Park in Westminster. Inspired by the gardens of French royal palaces, this park is one of the best green spaces in London. Not only has ample space for relaxing on the grass with a picnic, but it also has beautiful lakes and unique features to discover and enjoy.

There are two small islands on the lake, Duck Island and West Island and they are adjoined by a blue tree-lined bridge. The view from here is incredible as you can see the tip of the London Eye Ferris wheel above the trees in the distance.

St James Park is easiest to get to from Westminster tube station, but it can also be reached from St James’ Park, Green Park, or Victoria stations. A lot of people get here by foot from Green Park or on route to/from Buckingham Palace. There is also a large mall across the road, so this park makes a great stop off after a hard day shopping!

ST DUNSTAN IN THE EAST CHURCH GARDEN

by Helen from Helen on her Holidays

The garden at St Dunstan in the East is one of London’s most unusual green spaces and one of the capital’s best quirky attractions. The garden is in the ruined nave of the old St Dunstan in the East parish church, which was bombed and almost completely destroyed in 1941, during the London Blitz.

The church was originally built in the 1100s but was rebuilt a number of times, most notably in the late 17th century when a steeple was added. The new steeple was designed by Sir Christopher Wren (designer of nearby St Paul’s Cathedral) and luckily this part of the church escaped serious damage in the World War 2 bombing.

After the war, it was decided not to rebuild the church, turning it into a garden instead. Today, sitting in the garden gives some welcome peace from the busy streets around. The nave is filled with trees and shady places to sit, and fragrant star jasmine grows around the old arched windows.

St Dunstan in the East is open every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day from 8 am to 7 pm, or until dusk in the winter. The gardens are relatively accessible and there’s a ramp for wheelchair users. The nearest Tube stations are Tower Hill and Monument, while London Bridge station and Cannon Street station are both close by. 

DALSTON EASTERN CURVE GARDEN

by Cecily from Groovy Mashed Potatoes

In the hip Dalston neighbourhood, you’ll find Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, a funky community-led garden sitting on a former railway line. This urban forest is where you’ll find stylish locals meeting up with friends or relaxing with a book. The garden has a creative feel that matches East London’s alternative vibe. It’s a great way to see London off the beaten path, away from the city’s typical tourist joints.

Grab a coffee or a beer at the onsite cafe and cool off in the shade at a table under the trees. If you visit on a Saturday or Sunday, you can treat yourself to some delicious wood-fired pizza served right in the park.

To get to Dalston Eastern Curve Garden take the train to Dalston Junction Overground. From there it’s a two-minute walk to the entrance at 13 Dalston Lane.

The garden is wheelchair and stroller friendly, however, there are some wood-chip paths.

GREENWICH PARK

As someone who lived South of the river, you can’t have a list of the best London parks and neglect Greenwich!

This 183-acre park encompasses a great deal of royal history, demonstrated by the historical buildings on-site, including the Queen’s House and The National Maritime Museum. But the best thing about Greenwich Park has to be the view over London – my favourite vantage point from which to look over the city.

Greenwich is also home to some of the best claim’s to fame out of all the London Parks. The ‘Prime Meridian’ line marks Time itself: specifically, Greenwich Meantime. Find it next to the Observatory, from where you can also visit the Peter Harrison Planetarium.

For nature and wildlife, explore the rose gardens, orchard, and the Greenwich park deer. For more excuses to visit this gorgeous green space, there are many more things to do in Greenwich too.

THE GREEN CHAIN WALK

The Green Chain Walk is the perfect escape for anyone wanting to explore London beyond the tourist traps and a great way for South Londoners to unwind.

So, what does the Green Chain walk entail? Well, the full trail is actually a 50-mile walk snaking through unexpected greenery and attractions hidden between London suburbs. The real draw of this walk is that is built for locals, not tourists, so it gives visitors a chance to see an authentic part of London that isn’t just lived in by millionaires. Most importantly, this is a welcome retreat for city-dwellers.

The walk is split is to 11 connected sections so you can choose which point you want to start from. The maps for each section can be found here.

Plan your route depending on which of the many visitor attractions most takes your fancy. Do you prefer deer parks, 12th-century abbeys, colorful graffiti, or going deep into the woods? Don’t miss the medieval Eltham Palace and Gardens, which was renovated into an art-deco mansion in the 1930s, the local gems at Horniman Museum, and the dinosaurs at Chrystal Palace Park.

Warning: Squirrels may attack you. No, seriously. I made my friend promise to never share the video of my bushy-tailed nemesis chasing me through Dulwich Park. I still have nightmares.

EPPING FOREST

by Bridget from The Flashpacker

For ancient woodlands and pastoral landscapes, visit Epping Forest in the north-eastern corner of London.

It offers a huge choice of year-round walking trails, including nine circular waymarked trails, covering a distance between 1.25 and 6.6 miles. Epping Forest can be enjoyed year-round but it is spectacular in autumn when the fall foliage is glorious shades of red and gold. Come spring, parts of the forest are blanketed with bluebells.

Epping Forest has multiple entrances but there is level access from the main entrance to Connaught Water, one of the most beautiful spots in the forest and home to ducks, geese, and swans.

Travel to Epping Forest by London Underground (to Chigwell, Roding Valley, Buckhurst Hill, Loughton, Debden, Theydon Bois, and Epping), London Overground (to Chingford), or local bus. If you are driving, you’ll find pay-and-display car parks close to the forest.

There are a number of places to eat and drink in and around Epping Forest, including tea huts, cafés, pubs, and restaurants.  

SKY GARDEN

by Sophie and Adam from We Dream Of Travel

Escape the hustle and bustle with this tranquil jungle oasis in the most unlikely of places, atop one of the most famous landmarks in London.  Located in the heart of the city, Sky Garden is London’s highest public garden on the 43rd floor of the Walkie Talkie building.

Within this skyscraper are three tiers of landscaped gardens with different themes.  Immerse yourself in a prehistoric forest comprised of tree ferns and fig trees, as well as flowering plants from the Mediterranean and South Africa.

In addition to a lush urban jungle, Sky Garden boasts spectacular 360° views of the city and is a fantastic spot for watching the sunset.  It’s worth noting that Sky Garden is naturally ventilated, with the exception of the restaurants, therefore expect the temperature inside to be similar to outside and dress accordingly.

There are two restaurants and three bars within Sky Garden where you can enjoy a bite to eat or cocktail with a view.  Advanced reservations for dining are recommended as they are often fully booked, particularly at weekends.

One of the best things about Sky Garden is that it’s free.  However, most tickets are allocated online in advance so it’s worth ensuring you book tickets to avoid disappointment.

The entrance to Sky Garden is located on Philpot Lane, on the southwest corner of 20 Fenchurch Street and the nearest tube station is Monument.  Sky Garden is also accessible for wheelchair users and those with mobility issues.

6 Comments

  1. I’ve been to London a few times, and I’ve only been to maybe two of these places! I’m blown away, especially since I love green spaces so much – I’ll have to add pretty much all these green spots to my list for next time.

  2. I have wandered through so many parks in London, jetlagged and waiting to check into my hotel room. But now I see there are so many parks that I still need to explore. I can’t wait to get back to London. Great article!

  3. I’m always so busy when I go to London that I never have enough time to chill in one of the many green spaces the city has to offer. I have been cycling through a couple of the ones on your list though!

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