I love exploring the winding streets in London; piecing together the architecture, people, roads and cafes of each area to begin creating an image of its distinct character; debating which regions merit further exploration, gold stars, or caution tape… However, being in the middle of a thriving and constantly moving urban center 24/7 is rough. Call me suburban, but I do quite enjoy the occasional greenery. So where is the best place to go when you’ve inhaled a bit too much second-hand smoke and nearly been nailed by a taxi?
SARAH’S TOP LONDON PARKS
5) Victoria Tower Gardens. The smallest of all the parks on this list, these gardens hold a special place in my heart as they sheltered me on Mega-Tourist day while I was looking for Westminster Abby, which was right across the street. Affords great views of the murky Thames, the London Eye, Parliament, and coincidentally, Westminster.
4) St. James’s Park. Triangular in shape, this park is right in the middle of Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abby, and the National Gallery/Trafalgar Square. Cute, quaint, but full of lost tourists and joggers attempting to run it’s full half-mile length.
3) Hyde Park. Although you can apparently only see debaters at the Speaker’s Corner on Sundays…the rest of the park redeems itself I suppose. Flatter and more populated than Regent’s or The Heath, there are plenty of areas to sit in the grass. The large lake, The Serpentine, is nice too, and most people paddle-boating on it seem to be enjoying themselves. Downfall: although rather large, the road that runs through it ensures that city-noise is always present.
2) The Heath. Ideal because it’s in Hampstead, mwahaha. But really, who wouldn’t love the Heath? Full of lightly rolling grassy hills, unobtrusive dirt and gravel trails wind through both open fields and tree-lined areas. So perfect, in fact, that the grand Kenwood House is located there, where they apparently filmed various movies including Notting Hill. Although the bathing pools are dubious (their own signs read: “Water is not treated, opaque, and cold”), the Heath is idea for running, walking, picnicking, or anything else. Warning: even with a map, you will end up exactly opposite of where you intend. Time your visit accordingly.
1) Regent’s Park. More precisely, the ROSE GARDEN, within Queen Mary’s Gardens, within Regent’s Park. It is a small circle of picturesque bliss. Imagine small wooden benches, just large enough to comfortably fit two, encircling the crest of a small grassy hill. Connecting and lightly shading each bench is a thick canopy of vines, trailing with delicate white and violet blossoms. Once you pass this fragile barrier into the garden itself you’ll find roses: shades of pinks, muted and bright yellows, savory peach, classic red, large petals, compact petals, aging, blossoming—each exuding a unique soft fragrance, caught by the breeze and carried around the hilltop. Due to it’s prime central location, city-sounds are nil, replaced with the rustle of the many nearby willow trees and the birds that inhabit them. In fact, the only reminder that you’re actually smack dab in the middle of London is the British cell-phone tower that awkwardly rises out of the trees in the distance. *Bonus: northeast corner of Regent’s Park: restaurant called Honest Sausage.