Category: Free London attractions (10)

Free London attractions – green parks

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.

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.

Finally, 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.  https://www.thelondonagent.co.uk/free-london-attractions-river-walks/Vey fitting.

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.

A brief London Guide

Which other capital city charms us as well as London does with it’s ancient history and modern cool? Where else can a visitor or tourist find such intriguing and interesting opposites and contradictions that work in tandem to suit every taste and mood?  London has it all, mate.  We hope all of you who are staying with us in one of our short term flats will enjoy this little London guide about the old and the new, the formal and relaxed, the hip and the classic…it’s all good when you visit London.

1. Cocktails or tea?

London’s cocktail scene will leave you stirred and shaken!  No spoil-sport prohibition ever kept Londoners from their gin. The Savoy Hotel’s Book of Cocktails is the most famous books on the subject.  Visit one of London’s many iconic and beautiful hotel bars for the best cocktail this side of the pond. Good examples would be The Connaught, The Savoy’s two bars, Duke’s Bar, St James or The Lobby Bar in Covent Garden. Or join a supper club or workshop where you could shake up your own!

Prefer a nice cuppa?  Don’t be fooled by the many coffee shops that have taken over the high street; Londoner’s still love their tea and you can still find some charming old fashioned tea rooms here and there.  The old world charm and sophistication of High tea or afternoon tea seems to fascinate visitors and foreigners.  Visit the Ritz on Piccadilly or any of London’s top hotels for a high tea that you wont forget. The Orangery in Kensington Palace is another good place to enjoy this much loved tradition.

2. Department store or market?

Each London department store, both specialist and general, has it’s own style, charm and fans. Visit Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Peter Jones, Liberties, Fortnum and Mason’s, not forgetting Harrods, of course with it’s beautiful food halls. Hamley’s Toy Store will have the little one’s running mad with delight and the variety of tea and chocolates for sale in Fortnum’s on Piccadilly are truly impressive.  Any London guide will insist you visit London window displays at Christmas time – they are extra special.

London’s markets: famed throughout the world for their energy and eclectic goods for sale. There’s Camden Markets for the vintage clothing, Portobello in Notting Hill for all things antique and Brick Lane for pretty much everything.  Famous food markets are Borough and Old Spitalfield’s.  There’s Columbia Road for flowers and greenery and of course, a huge favourite is Covent Garden Market, where Eliza Doolittle of My Fair Lady was “discovered.”

3.  Graffiti or gallery?

Walk the cobbled roads of the East End to see the incredible and innovative grafitti there. This vibrant and historic part of London’s rich history and modern renovation is reflected in today’s street art. Nothing grubby or tacky about this, and it comes in all sizes…from the awe-inspiring whole side of a building, to something small, fine and detailed that must be seen up close.  Take a walking street art tour to learn all about it…your teenage kids will love it and will love you for suggesting it!

Turner at Tate Britain?  Van Gogh at the National Gallery? Rothko at Tate Modern? Many of these galleries are free.  A firm favourite is the National Portrait Gallery where you can see everybody from ancient royalty to the Beatles. The Royal Academy is popular, as is the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park. Don’t forget the many smaller and less known galleries dotted around the capital that we don’t have time to get into here. A good example of one of these would be The Wallace Collection.

4. West End show or Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre?

Theatre-land around Shaftesbury Avenue in London’s West End is glittering and showey, in the best sense of the word.  This part of London is well known to tourists and visitors and many famous shows have had historic runs there, such as Les Miserable, Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Evita, etc. It seems there’s a show or a musical for everyone, including the youngsters such as The Lion King, Wicked or Aladdin.  Book a show on-line and well in advance to save yourself time and money!

How about seeing Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare’s own theatre? Or perhaps you prefer Macbeth or Hamlet?  The marvellous, historic reconstructed Globe Theatre now stands almost exactly where it did in Shakespeare’s day on the south bank of the Thames, made of English oak.  How about that for a magical blending of the old and the new! Find a London guide to take you on a south bank tour dedicated to the Bard.

5.  Fine dining or street food?

Gone are the days of foreign visitors laughing at miserable English food and joking about warm beer and dull boiled beef. There are some excellent gastro pubs and restaurants throughout London serving fabulous, top quality food. The justifiably famous English puddings are better than ever these days.  Enjoy jam tarts, crumbles and cobblers, sticky toffee pudding, Spotted Dick or a delightful summer trifle with strawberries and custard.  Get stuck in and join a foodie workshop or supper club for a truly individual experience.

Street food has taken off recently in London and the variety and quality is astounding. Delighted tourists and busy local office workers are truly spoiled for choice as they try everything from pulled pork, high-class burgers, good fish & chips, indian curry’s, burritos, wraps, po-boys, noodles, sushi and oh, so much more.  Find a street food vendor with a long queue at lunch time and you know you’re onto a winner.  Don’t worry about spilling sauce down your suit or T-shirt…it will be so worth it!

central london aprtment rental

Free London Maps

London Transport guide

If you are about to visit London you will need to orientate swiftly.  Download this very useful Hello London guide, which is a general guide to using public transport. It includes London maps for the tube, bus and river-boat services and has all you need to know about the many ticket-types available, plus useful information about walking and cycling routes.

The London Pass

The London Pass is a sight-seeing card which is used by millions of visitors to London every year. It includes free entrance to many of London’s most popular attractions and tours, fast track entrance, free sightseeing bus tours, an optional Oyster card, a free guidebook and many additional exclusive offers. Even if you do not purchase a pass you may still download the free London guidebook.

Tube maps

A London Underground map is a must! The tube map with its bright, iconic design makes travelling around London’s underground straight-forward. This map comes with every bit of useful information you could possibly need about the tube, including useful information about stairs, toilets, travelling with bicycles, etc.

Bus maps

As for the underground, having a bus map handy is also recommended. This pleasant and cheap way of getting around is a doddle once you know where to catch your bus and where it goes. These London maps show all the key routes in central London and surroundings as well as information about the night buses. Bus maps.

Docklands Light Railway guide

This DLR map helps you to find the many fabulous places to eat, drink and shop in the vibrant East End with a bit of history and culture thrown in! Get all the information you need here for Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford, the O2 area in Greenwich, London’s Docklands and Canary Wharf and so much more.

Overground trains

You can also travel around London on the Overground service that takes you further afield and beyond the tube. There are many wonderful areas to explore outside the centre. This London map has all the practical information you need about travelling on this service and interconnecting with the tube.

River services map

If you visit London a trip down the Thame is a must. There are many options for using the River Thames as a mode of transport and this map gives you all the routes, both for river-buses and river cruises. Find out which one suits you best, including how you can use your Oyster card for this form of transport. River maps.

Cycle maps and guide

When you visit London you will discover that cycling in London is more popular than ever! Find out which route suits you and your family best with this useful map and guide. It tells you all about the various cycle routes through the parks, along the river or other open spaces in London, as well as the cycle super-highways in the centre of town. This cheap and fun form of transport is faster and much safer than ever before.

Tube station toilet facilities map

This is useful information for everybody, especially visitors travelling with babies, toddlers and younger children. This map tells you which tube stations have public toilet facilities and baby-changing stations. It gives their opening hours and if there is a small fee to pay. Not all stations charge for this service, but some do. It includes the same information for DLR and the Overground networks. Facilities maps.

A walking map

Walking in London for pleasure is a wonderful thing to do anytime of year. These maps will suggest routes of all kinds and sizes, central or sub-urban and for all weathers. Plan your journey in advance and carry your London maps with you on your way. Put on your best walking shoes and see the capital as you never have before. Learn about hidden London, whilst working up an appetite!

Interactive maps

Traveltime platform offers interactive maps which allow you to determine travelling time.  You can create a map that shows where’s reachable ‘within X minutes’ and also make your own travel time map.

Accessibility guides

This is information about the range of guides in alternative formats that help you whilst travelling in London. All of these can be obtained for free, for some you will need to complete a form. Maps and guides can be in audio, large print or in another language. They include information for the disabled and older traveller.

 Apps

As for most things in life, there are now oodles of apps dedicated to London maps. When you visit London, sourcing  the nearest bus stop or taxi can all be done from your phone. Two well known maps, which will surely get you around London are Citymapper and Waze – we particularly like Wave when we are driving.

Hyde Park

holiday let in london hyde park

Wondering where to locate your holiday let in London? Hyde Park is a big, popular, sprawling park in central London where the range of activities and attractions really is rather impressive. Take your pick from swimming or boating in the Serpentine, to horse-riding, listening to music, or just lounging around and enjoying the general activity surrounding you! It is one of the royal parks and opens at 5 a.m every morning all your round, so you have plenty of time to enjoy it’s many delights. Created originally as a hunting ground for royalty…these days the pursuits here are a lot more cultured and laid-back and an excellent location for your holiday let in London.

Hyde Park offers cafes and restaurants, ice-cream in the summer or hot chocolate in the winter. There is a children’s playground, and The Lookout, which is an educational centre where people can learn about the natural world. There is a sports centre and tennis courts, boating of all kinds, and of course the much loved deck-chair hire! The park is ideal for long walks or runs, taking you all the way down into Kensington Gardens…the two parks run together eventually. Famous also for it’s music concerts, Hyde Park has seen some pretty amazing gigs of all kinds through the years, from The Rolling Stones in the sixties to more recent charity musical events. Proms in the Park is a newer addition to the musical agenda, and a very popular one with classical fans in London.

A holiday let in London near Hyde Park is sought after throughout the year,  If you think that things slow down in the winter, think again! Hyde Park hosts a wonderful Winter Wonderland with seasonal festivities and ice-skating… Speakers Corner up near Marble Arch is always well-worth a visit and is very popular with overseas visitors. It is an area at the top of Hyde Park where open, public speaking is allowed and encouraged. Here is your chance to witness English eccentricity first hand and hear what Londoners are discussing and debating.

Visit the Royal Parks webpage for all the information about this great, glittering green space near to your holiday let in London, that delights visitors and locals alike, and has been doing so for hundreds of years.