We’ve all heard tell of the British capital’s famous green spaces, which stretch over 4,900 acres (1980 hectares) in total throughout Greater London. Hyde Park, which used to be Henry VIII’s personal hunting ground, is probably the most well-known, and the largest of four royal parks in the area.
Near Hyde Park is a popular area for London boutique hotels, with Knightsbridge to the south, Mayfair to the east, Bayswater and Paddington to the north and Kensington to the west.
The park provides the perfect respite after the madness of London’s city streets, and the list of things to do in Hyde Park and around it is endless. The problem is it’s so vast at 350 acres (140 hectares) it can be hard to know where to start, so we created this list.
Things to do in Hyde Park
1. Speakers’ Corner
Speakers’ Corner is an area in the northeast corner of Hyde Park, London. It’s a historically significant spot, being the site of open-air public debates and speeches since its creation in 1872. It’s the world’s most well-known free-speech zone and has been frequented by the likes of Karl Marx, George Orwell, Vladimir Lenin, and William Morris among many more.
Today it is still a creative space for people to talk freely and passionately. Head to the site on Sundays from midday onwards to see people speaking on any number of subjects – always a fun activity.
2. Marble Arch
Next to Speakers’ Corner is Marble Arch, a large white marble structure built in 1827 by John Nash. It was originally the state entrance to the courtyard of Buckingham Palace but was moved to its current location in the 1960s. It now stands at the junction of Park Lane, Oxford Street, and Edgware Road, and anyone can walk beneath its arches.
3. Animals in War monument
While you explore this corner of the park, make sure to check out the Animals in War monument, on the edge of Park Lane. A unique installation created by sculptor David Backhouse and unveiled by Princess Anne in 2004.
The site commemorates animals that have died or suffered during British wars throughout history. It remembers the dogs that sniffed out mines and dug out bomb-victims, mules that had their vocal cords cut in the Burmese Jungle in the second World War to keep silent, and message-carrying pigeons. Even glow worms that soldiers used as a map-reading light-source in World War 1.
4. The Serpentine Lake
The Serpentine is the beautiful 40-acre lake that winds snake-like across the central section of the park. It’s long been the center of activity in Hyde Park, thronging with geese and waterfowl, surrounded by picnickers on striped deck chairs (which you can hire cheaply).
Throughout the warmer months, you can explore the lake on a hired boat or pedalo, or go for a swim in the lido.
As well as boating and swimming on the Serpentine, Hyde Park is a great place for sporting activities. From a simple game of frisbee to horseback riding, a game of tennis to hiring a public bike – the park has loads of sports facilities to make use of. There are also a putting green, and pitches for cricket and football.
6. Serpentine Galleries
Located on either side of the lake are the Serpentine Galleries, open for visitors to explore every day except Monday with free entry. Each gallery showcases cutting edge artworks from internationally famous artists, as well as a new temporary pavilion structure each summer by a different architect. This temporary pavilion hosts a series of music, performance, and film called Park Nights during its three-month opening. As well as the gallery space, you can also visit the restaurant and shop.
7. Hyde Park Bandstand
The oldest bandstand in England exists in Hyde Park, built in 1869. It was originally located in Kensington Gardens but was moved in 1886 to its current location in the southeast extremity of the park near the area called Hyde Park Corner.
Because of its octagonal top, it has excellent acoustics and concerts would take place here three times weekly during the 1890s.
8.Festivals and Events
Hyde Park is famous for its action-packed calendar of events. From November to January, Winter Wonderland takes place. The park is transformed into a free-entry magical Christmas market complete with fairground attractions, ice-rinks, circuses, ice-sculptures and heaps of Bavarian food and drink to enjoy.
Plenty of other concerts and events take place throughout the year, as well as the large eclectic line up of British Summer Time Hyde Park with comedy, live music, film, food and much more. If you’re attending one of these events, it’s best to get your booking in early to a nearby hotel such as the Bayswater Hotel London so you’re right near the action.
9. Kensington Palace
Strictly speaking, Hyde Park is only on one side – the area on the other side of the Serpentine lake is known as Kensington Gardens. This is where you’ll find Kensington Palace, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge along with a number of other members of the royal family.
Some parts of the palace can be explored by visitors, and there are museum exhibitions including one on the life of Queen Victoria. While you’re here, get high tea at The Orangery, a grand 18th-century building created for Queen Anne.
10. Princess Diana memorial sites
Kensington Palace was the former home of Princess Diana, and there is a series of memorial sites to the late Princess of Wales throughout the gardens and park. The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain was designed to reflect her life and personality, and visitors are allowed to paddle in the water.
There’s also a giant wooden pirate ship playground inspired by the stories of Peter Pan, to remember her love of children and encourage childhood imagination. As well as this, a seven-mile walk passes through Hyde Park and three other royal parks in memory of Diana, that you can find if you follow the plaques on the ground.
11. Albert Memorial
One of the many statues and memorials in the park is a particularly ornate one you can find just in front of the Royal Albert Hall on the south side. It is dedicated to Prince Albert, who died aged 42 of typhoid fever. Gilded bronze statues, decorative friezes, and marble sculptures adorn the top of this decadent representation of Albert’s life and passions, designed by George Gilbert Scott.
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