Things to do | Posted 08 Oct 2020

The English capital is awash with exciting things to see and do. From world-leading museums and galleries to dining and entertainment that’s sure to please even the fussiest audience, London has something for everyone.

But if you find yourself tired of crowds, queues, and stuffy city air, there’s nowhere quite like the park. And there are plenty of options to explore. You can find thousands of parks nestled among the busy streets of London, and while some are popular with tourists, lots of lesser-known spots can offer some much-needed peace and quiet.

Whether you’re new to the city or returning for a seasonal visit, stopping off at the park is always a good idea. Stroll along leafy paths with your morning coffee or plan a full day of relaxation. Whatever way you enjoy London’s parks, you’re sure to find beauty and refreshment.

Let’s take a look at some of the best lesser-known parks near central London, so you can avoid the crowds and experience London like a local.

The Phoenix Garden

Best for: a quick escape
Where: St Giles
Nearest Underground stop: Tottenham Court Road or Covent Garden

Central London is an exciting, ever-alive place to spend a day. But if you fancy a quick break from the stresses of the city, you can always head to The Phoenix Garden for a spell.

The Phoenix Garden is a community space and registered charity tucked in the heart of the West End. Take a sandwich for the perfect sunny day lunchtime, or simply stroll through the garden and look out for diverse wildlife. There are ponds, flower beds, and various trees to enjoy, making this an excellent option for nature enthusiasts. Opening hours vary but are usually from 08:00 to 20:00.

Red Cross Garden

Best for: beautiful surroundings
Where: Southwark
Nearest Underground stop: Borough

This is a beautiful Victorian garden that was initially built to give local residents a place to relax. Today, it’s been restored to its original design, featuring a bandstand, a pond, a cottage, and vibrant formal borders. The surrounding buildings are picturesque, while the glistening Shard towers above, reminding visitors of modern-day London just outside.

Queen's Garden

Best for: a woodland walk
Where: Highgate
Nearest Underground stop: Highgate

Queen’s Wood Nature Reserve is a perfect choice for a lengthier stroll or all-day adventure. The reserve has roots in the 1600s, although the woods may have been around for much longer. There’s something special about visiting this historic area from the busy streets of London. This sizeable ancient woodland is a stone’s throw from more popular Highgate Wood, but it’s often quieter.

Wander along well-marked pathways through the forest of oak, beech, and cherry trees and enjoy the company of countless small animals. There are plenty of bluebells hanging around in the warmer months, though the park is worth a visit any time of year.

Tip: the Queen’s Wood Café serves organic vegetarian bites from a beautiful remote setting, so try to time your walk around lunchtime to make the most of the area.

Holland Park

Best for: things to do
Where: Kensington
Nearest Underground stop: Holland Park

There’s no denying that popular spots like Hyde Park and Regent’s Park rank among London’s best if you’re looking for things to keep you busy. But Holland Park is a superb choice if you’re looking to explore and sightsee but away from the larger crowds of the capital’s most famous green spaces.

Covering around 22 acres of the handsome borough of Kensington and Chelsea, this park offers plenty to mix up your trip with. With a combination of wild woodland and manicured gardens, you can look forward to the beautiful, Japanese-styled Kyoto Garden and Fukushima Garden. Then there’s the Formal Gardens and Dutch Gardens wrapping their way around the charming Holland House at the park’s centre, where you’ll also find a café and The Belvedere restaurant. Any little ones will love the sprawling adventure playground, which adjoins and ecology centre offering a range of educational workshops during the school holidays – and remember to keep your eyes peeled for the resident Peacocks!

St Dunstan-in-the-East

Best for: something quirky
Where: the city
Nearest Underground stop: Monument or Tower Hill

Located right at the heart of London’s business district and just a stone’s throw from the Thames, it’s hard to believe St Dunstan-in-the-East is the secret it is. This beautiful garden is encased by the walls and spire of a Grade I listed church; one of the chapels remodeled in the wake of the Great Fire of London by legendary architect Sir Christopher Wren.

Sadly, the church was damaged beyond repair during The Blitz, but this whimsical green space has allowed St Dunstan’s to rise from the ashes. Bright vines wrap their way up the church’s windows and hang from its arches, while colourful blossoms fill the church nave in the spring. No matter what’s on your London trip’s busy itinerary, St Dunstan-in-the-East is the perfect place to stop and catch your breath.

Stave Hill Ecological Park

Best for: spotting wildlife
Where: Rotherhithe
Nearest Underground stop: Canada Water

Central London may not be the most obvious destination if you’re looking to get up close with some wildlife, but Stave Hill Ecological Park is a community-led attempt to change all that. Located out to the east and not far from the south bank of the Thames, this charming park is run as a nature reserve, with a combination of environments that include woodlands, wetlands, ponds and grasslands. The area was purposely developed during the regeneration of London’s Docklands during the 80s and 90s, to provide much needed green space to this once industrial corner of the capital. True to its name, the park contains a small manmade hill at its centre, and once you climb the stairs, you’ll be rewarded with fantastic skyline views of both Canary Wharf and The City.

If you’re planning a big trip to the capital and want to spend plenty of time exploring the outdoors, you’ll need somewhere comfortable to recharge your batteries once night roles in. Hotels like Leonardo Royal Hotel London St Paul’s and Leonardo Royal Hotel Tower Bridge put you right in the thick of the action, while offering a true escape from the bright lights and roar of the city’s streets. With on-site facilities like a contemporary bar and luxury spa, you’ll get all the rest and relaxation you need.

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