The summer season is nearly here, and you know what that means: Longer days, warmer afternoons, and more opportunities to have a picnic in a charming London park. (Weather permitting, of course).
Not only is picnicking in a park on a sunny afternoon a great way to explore some of the most famous parks in London, it's also a great option to save money on meals if you're visiting London on a budget.
London's parks are famous all over the world, from parks with open-air theatres and outdoor chess boards, to even parks who host their own music festivals and concerts that draw people from all over the world. But out of all the parks to choose from in London, these are the ones most frequented by picnick-ing lovers in the city.
1. St. James's Park
Nearest station: St. James's Park
Nestled between Buckingham Palace, The Mall and the Churchill War Rooms, this beautifully-landscaped park is the perfect spot to have a picnic either before or after you do a hardcore session of sightseeing around London. Plus St. James's Park is also one of the eight Royal Parks in London - so you can bet that it certainly won't disappoint in terms of finding a pretty spot for a picnic.
With lakes, ducks, swans, trees, squirrels, and herons - St. James's Park is a nature lover's paradise where the pelicans roam free and the squirrels consider visitors their friends. There's even snack kiosks scattered around the park as well as toilets which cost £0.20 per use, and also benches to sit on if the ground is wet as well. (You can also rent a deckchair which costs cost £1.50 per hour, or £7 for the entire day). If you can, try to organize your visit so you can see the resident pelicans get fed their daily meal by the park staff, which takes places every day at 2:30 p.m.
For the best picnic spots: Head to the northern section of the park so you can enjoy stunning views of Buckingham Palace.
2. Hyde Park
Nearest station: Lancaster Gate (north), Hyde Park Corner (south-east), Marble Arch (north-east) and Knightsbridge (south)
It's no secret that Hyde Park is the most popular of the royal parks in London. With countless picnic spots to choose from, not to mention a ton of outdoor activities (like rowing around The Serpentine, horseback riding, swimming pools, football pitches and many, many more). Visitors can also rent deck chairs for as little as £1.60 per hour or £8 for the entire day.
For the best picnic spots: Stick to the area around the Round Pound (near the western side of the park), by the Italian fountains near Lancaster Gate, or on the eastern side of Serpentine Lake (which runs throughout the park). For a quieter spot, try the north, west or south sides of Hyde Park.
3. Hampstead Heath
Nearest station: Golders Green, Hampstead, Kentish Town, Hampstead Heath or Gospel Oak
With forests, lakes and hills, and a Victorian mansion, and even lakeside concerts and stunning views of the London skyline from the top of Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath has it all.
Given its massive size (a whopping 320 hectares) , picnickers can easily find a quiet spot to sit underneath the park's towering trees for a pleasant afternoon picnic in London - plus if it's a particularly hot summer day you can cool down by taking a swim in the park's swimming ponds as well. There's plenty of benches to choose from, and spots that boast views of some of the most recognizable landmarks in London (on a clear, sunny day, of course). You can also download a Trails Map off Hampstead Heath's official website if you feel like exploring the massive park in its entirety.
To find the best spot for a picnic, head to the ground surrounding the Pergola (located in the western part of the park), or the area in front of Kenwood House (towards the northern edge of the Heath).
4. Victoria Park
Nearest station: Cambridge Heath, Mile End
Known to locals as "the People's Park," or "one of London's best kept secrets," Victoria Park has been around since 1845, and unlike London's eight Royal Parks, it is normally frequented by locals rather than tourists.
Victoria Park boasts everything from cherries trees, hawthorns, Kentucky coffee trees, oaks, not to mention fountains, sculptures, ponds, bandstands, and gardens - there's even a deer's enclosure and old stone alcoves which were taken from the Old London Bridge!
The park regularly hosts sporting events and festivals, and there's even a small lake you can row around (rowing boats can be hired between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. any day of the week). On the park's official website visitors can download different Tree Walk maps which outline some of the most picturesque trails which wind around the park as well.
For the best picnic spot, head to the pagoda or the area by the river.
5. Holland Park
Nearest station: Holland Park
All it takes is one visit to Holland Park to see why so many people have fallen in love with it over the years.
Woodland trails, ponds, waterfalls, Japanese-style gardens and even open-air opera concerts during the summer months aren't the only bonuses this popular park has to offer. In Holland Park there's also various sporting areas for football, golf, netball and cricket, and they even have a massive outdoor chess board if you're feeling up for a friendly game of chess before or after your picnic. (A word of warning though: Always keep an eye on your food during your picnic as wild foxes are known to frequent the park in search of leftover crumbs!)
For the best picnic spots: Head to the grassy area south of Holland House, next to the flower garden, or north of the Kyoto garden.
Interested in learning more about London's many royal parks? Our London Landmarks (West) Tour passes through St. James's Park, and our Ghost Tour educates visitors on the ghosts that haunt both Green Park and St. James's Park; (click on the links for more info on our departure times/meeting points!)