Visit London with our free London guides and find the best and most interesting free London attractions. We all know that London can be an expensive place to visit, especially for larger families, so let’s celebrate the fact that there are many fabulous things to do in our wonderful capital city that won’t cost you a penny!
The many marvellous parks, big and small.
When it comes to free London attractions, the many marvellous parks, big and small, are hard to beat. These fabulous and magical green open spaces are many and impressive, each with it’s own character and charm. There’s a park or garden for every mood in London, it seems. Whether you are strolling through at your own pace, getting some exercise, picnicking in the summer, or enjoying a crisp winter morning walk, spending time in them is restorative and relaxing. People are usually familiar with the eight Royal Parks, most of which are dotted around the centre of London like emeralds, but read on to find out more about some of the lesser known parks, perhaps a little further afield, that are worth a visit.
Enjoy the vast expanse of popular Hyde Park with it’s fountains, statues and and horse-riders. Speaker’s Corner is up near the Marble Arch end of the park and the great space all around is ideal for the many festivals and concerts held throughout the year. You will find a fun and festive Winter Wonderland to entertain and delight the whole family in the winter time.
Kensington Gardens run into Hyde Park and this lovely park has a tranquil, pleasant feel to it. This park, perhaps more than any other in London, is associated with the delights of childhood. Enjoy the pretty boating pond, the Serpentine Gallery, the Albert Memorial and the famous statue of Peter Pan. Visit the beautiful Kensington Palace with it’s gardens, galleries and royal apartments.
Regent’s Park has not only London Zoo but a popular open air theatre. This is a wonderful, large park divided into outer and inner circles, ideal for walking or playing sports in. Primrose Hill on the north side of the park has spectacular, open views out over London. William Blake wrote: “I have conversed with the spiritual sun; I saw him on Primrose Hill.”
Battersea Park has a fabulous children’s play park, tennis courts and of course, The River Thames! Enjoy the ancient trees dotted throughout the park and ample open space to walk in. There is a lovely old fashioned bandstand and the famous Pagoda for Peace.
St James Park is pretty and pleasing with plenty of old fashioned charm. It is the oldest of the Royal Parks and is home to The Mall, The Horse Guards Parade and hosts the annual Trooping the Colour. Rent a striped deck chair and enjoy the wildlife all around you, especially the many ducks and geese gliding carelessly on the pond, ignoring the bustle around them.
The Green Park lies very close to St James Park, by Buckingham Palace. It is the smallest of the Royal Parks and this little gem has character and charm all it’s own. It is known for its peace and tranquility and has some fine, mature trees. Some Londoners walk through the park on their way to work and it is a popular spot for sunbathing and picnicking in fine weather.
Holland Park is magical, with lots going on. There are two Japanese Gardens to visit, a lovely children’s playground, a giant chess set and plenty of squirrels and peacocks around to keep an eye on. You can play tennis here and there is a cricket pitch. The Belvedere Restaurant inside the park is attached to The Orangery.
Beautiful Bushey Park lies to the north of Hampton Court Palace and this wondrous space has a rural charm all of it’s own. The famous statue of the goddess Diana lies on Chestnut Avenue, which is equally well known and well named. There are woodland gardens, water gardens, a playground, sports facilities and lots of wildlife all around you to enjoy.
Kew Gardens needs no introduction. This world famous botanical garden lies just half an hour from the centre of London, and it is astounding. Marvel at the landscape, the glass houses, the historic buildings and of course, the incredible range of rare and wonderful plants, flowers, trees and herbs. Children love the Treetop Walkway and the Sackler Crossing Bridge.
Jubilee Gardens is right by The London Eye on the Southbank, not far from the Houses of Parliament. This small and attractive spot is perfect for picnicking on in the summer by the children’s play area. The local street artists perform in the background, adding to the fun and vibrant atmosphere of the area, while the great River Thames rolls peacefully alongside.
Victoria Tower Gardens are in Westminster, by the River Thames, close to the Houses of Parliament. This small park is known for it’s charming children’s playground and two memorials to freedom. The Buxton Memorial celebrates the abolition of slavery and there is a wonderful statue here of the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, who campaigned for women’s right to vote. This sculpture is by A.G. Walker, who also sculpted Florence Nightingale, who stands in Waterloo Place.
Lambeth Palace Gardens belong to Lambeth Palace, which lies on the Southbank of the river and is the home to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Spreading out over 10 acres, they are the oldest cultivated gardens in London. The public are admitted to view the gardens on certain days of the year only, so it’s worth checking before you head off.
The wild and mesmerising Hampstead Heath is a popular destination and no wonder. This huge ambling open space lies high up in north London. It’s undulating countryside is rich in wildlife, with two famous swimming ponds, plenty of sporting and recreational opportunities, as well as a small zoo and other facilities for children. Historical poets and artists were always in love with the Heath and it’s surroundings, just as Londoner’s still are today.
Talking of large, enclosed spaces, Richmond Park is the largest of the Royal parks and it is magnificent. With it’s glorious woodlands and ancient oak trees, unchanged for centuries, this park is a nature reserve and a site of special conservation. Happy herds of red and fallow deer call this beautiful place home. Take your pick between two children’s play areas and a range of sports and leisure activities.
Brompton Cemetery is a mystical, magical cemetery managed by the Royal Parks. Stroll around and find the monuments and graves of the famous and infamous, surrounded by ancient trees and wildlife. This is one of London’s so called Magnificent Seven Historic Cemeteries and it is the oldest. The intention was for these 40 acres to be a place for public recreation as well as a place of burial, and this end has been achieved most wondrously. A real haven for people and nature.
Greenwich Park has a rich and impressive Royal history. It can trace its origins back to Roman Times and was enclosed in 1433. It is one of the eight Royal Parks and is home to the Prime Meridian Line, The Royal Observatory, The National Maritime Museum and The Olde Royal Naval College. There are beautiful gardens and landscapes to enjoy here, such as The Herb Garden, The Queen’s Garden and the Royal Orchard. Also 13 acres of grasslands which are home to foxes, deer and birds.
SOME CHARMING SQUARES AND A GARDEN IN THE CITY
We can’t talk about free London attractions without mentioning London’s many squares. They add immensely to it’s unique charm and character, especially the garden squares with their benches and greenery. These little urban havens are usually located in fashionable areas and while some of them are still private, most of them are open to the public and serve as small parks to rest in. Any tourist or visitor walking around London will come across one of these squares quite by chance and it’s a delightful thing to pop in to have a look around. Can’t you just picture Virginia Woolf sitting, deep in thought, on a bench in Bloomsbury Square? There are scores of square, garden or otherwise in London and we can’t mention ’em all, but here are some of the better known to whet your appetite.
Granary Square is an impressive public space, created as part of the regeneration of Kings Cross. Whilst there are a number of restaurants available, you are equally welcome to lunch al fresco on the grassed steps overlooking Regents Canal. The renowned fountains are fun for the young and young at heart plus there is a year-round programme of events.
Bloomsbury Square and Russell Square are two of the most well known London garden squares and Bloomsbury Square is the oldest. Lying close to the British Museum and The British Library, this area and both squares will always be associated with culture and art. Russell Square has fountains and a cabman’s shelter, a small building where hansom cab drivers could rest in days gone by.
Belgrave Square and Eaton Square in Belgravia conjur up visions of the rich and privileged and old English nobility. The white buildings and architecture that surround both of these noble squares are beautiful indeed.
Soho Square is popular with locals and tourists and it plays host to free open air concerts in the summer. There are many well known media corporations that have their offices on the square, such as Sony Music, 20th Century Fox and Paul Mc Cartney’s MPL offices.
Grosvenor Square in London’s prestigious Mayfair has been associated with America in modern times and the US Embassy lies here/ During the 2nd WW, Eisenhower established military headquarters here, and the US navy now uses this site. There is a memorial here to Franklin Roosevelt and The September 11 Memorial Gardens. Oscar Wilde lived on this square in 1883 and refers to it in quite a bit in his writing.
The Inner Temple Gardens are definitely worth a mention. These lovely gardens lie by the Royal Courts of Justice in The City and it is pleasing to find such peace and tranquility in London’s judicial heart. The Inner Temple is just one of the famous Inn’s of Court. Neither a park or a square, this delightful garden is seeped in history and famed for it’s roses and a rookery. Shakespeare chose this very place as the setting for the beginning of The War of the Roses.
Nearby is the largest garden square in London – Lincoln’s Inn Field. Here you can lounge on the grass, play tennis or sup al fresco at Benugo’s. The surrounding buildings are equally impressive and include the LSE, Royal College of Surgeons, Sir John Soanes Museum and of course, Lincolns Inn.
We hope you have enjoyed our guide to some of the best free London attractions, all of these in the great outdoors. Our aim is to inform and inspire and remind visitors of the many delights and benefits of London’s green spaces. We certainly are spoiled for choice when it comes to parks here. Another post in this free London guide is about London’s canals and river walks.