Ruins of an old, glass palace? Check. 60s-era sports complex including proper, upper-league English football stadium? Check. Maze? Check.
London is officially one of the greenest cities in the UK, with 23% of its land area covered by parks. And far from being barren stretches of muddy grass, with burnt patches for disposable barbeques and a rusty swing-set creaking sinisterly in the breeze, many parks are clamouring for attention. There’s so much more to enjoy in London’s parks than picking up dog-poo and avoiding stray Frisbees. Though you can do those too.
This is the park’s park. The granddaddy of massive green spaces, Richmond Park is one of the largest parks in London, and, most of the time, actually feels more like open countryside. There are wild deer roaming wooded hillsides, lakes that stretch to the edge of plantations, and much else besides. You can find the Royal Ballet School in Richmond Park, as well as the historic Pembroke Lodge and a fantastic golf course. I know, ‘golf’ and ‘fantastic’ rarely go hand-in-hand, but this one takes the biscuit. On account of its size, it’s actually also a rare place in London where you can truly feel completely alone and away from people. Plus, you’re on the edge of the truly royal Richmond, a hilly town that screams ‘film a period drama in me’.
Equivalents: For North London jaunties that are too afraid to travel, go to Hampstead Heath. It has the wildness and the history, but it’s in North London instead.
Crystal Palace Park
South London’s Crystal Palace Park is, more-or-less, a free, open-air museum. It’s huge, which is always the sign of a good park for me (it’s not an embarrassed blurt of central London greenspace, nor is it a smug, “residents-only” square in swanky West London). Ruins of an old, glass palace? Check. 60s-era sports complex including proper, upper-league English football stadium? Check. Maze? Check. Inaccurate and truly terrifying Victorian models of dinosaurs? Check. Boating lake? Check. Honestly, it’s a brilliant place in so, so many ways. Or just visit for the sheer ‘why is that in a park in South London?’ of it all.
Equivalents: North London also, predictably, has a sort-of version: Alexandra Palace Park.
Tube: Crystal Palace Station (Overground)
Holland Park, Kensington
Having just criticized smaller parks hidden in West London, I’m now going to heap praise on one. Holland Park is like wondering around the forgotten back garden of an eccentric billionaire landowner. Which it pretty much is. Not content with having actual living peacocks walking around the place, wherever they like, it also has a magnificent open-air opera house, the wonderful Kyoto Garden (a Japanese garden of trickling streams, waterfalls and Koi Carp) and, oh, an actual dog toilet. This is West London, people. Plus, don’t visit without also dropping in on the truly one-of-a-kind Leighton House Museum. Just trust me. It’s an old artist’s house that has been preserved and it’s jaw dropping.
Equivalents: The only other park like this one is Kew Gardens, and you have to pay to get in. So I’ve just saved you about £15. You can send it to me now.
Tube: Holland Park (Piccadilly Line), Kensington High Street (District Line)