London is the most populous urban environment in Europe. When the hustle and bustle of this pulsating metropolis becomes a bit too much, take a break from it all at these carefully selected green spaces, whose peaceful settings will leave you feeling relaxed and replenished.
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Chelsea Physic Garden
If you are searching for quiet places in London, look no further. This pleasant oasis in Chelsea was established by the Society of Apothecaries in 1673 in order to promote the study of botany or, more specifically, the healing properties of plants. The location was chosen because the south-facing grounds near the Thames provide a favorable climate for foreign plants that would otherwise struggle to survive the harsh British winter. There are currently around 5,000 plants in the garden. The Chelsea Physic Garden also keeps its own bees and, in summer, sells the delicious honey they make in the shop (one jar per person only!).
Where: 66 Royal Hospital Road
Tel: +44 20 7352 5646
Nearest station: Sloane Square
In the heart of the City of London, a tiny memorial park tells a series of touching tales. One wall is covered with hand-painted ceramic tiles that honor the heroic deeds of ordinary people, who sacrificed their lives for others. One striking inscription states: ‘Elizabeth Boxall, a 17-year-old from Bethnal Green, died in her attempt to rescue a child from a runaway horse on the 20th of June 1888’. Another tells of a young priest, who lost his life in Putney in January 1885 after trying to save a man from drowning. Postman’s Park immortalizes these everyday heroes with such a poignant immediacy that warms the soul.
Where: Saint Martin’s Le-Grand
Nearest station: St Paul’s
Barber Surgeons’ Garden
The Barber Surgeons’ Garden may not warrant a special trip, but if you do happen to be in the vicinity on a warm day, try this small, fragrant garden in the middle of the city’s concrete and glass jungle. The past and the present collide here, where the ruins of London’s old city wall stand out among the modern towers. At the end of the lawn, you can find a small herb garden with a selection of medicinal plants, just as you would have been able to back in the 16th century, when the first garden was laid out. Enter from the busy London Wall.
Where: Monkwell Square
Nearest station: Barbican
One of London’s best parks, Hyde Park, stretches from Mayfair to Kensington, and is a lovely oasis with thousands of trees and acres of green space. You can go for a summer swim in the Serpentine Lido or, from April to October, rent a boat on the Serpentine Lake. Hyde Park is also home to the infamous Speakers’ Corner, located in the northeast corner of the park. Everyone has had the right to speak their mind here since 1872 – provided that they do not curse, blaspheme or incite a breach of peace. Further south, you will find 52 columns, erected in memory of the people that were killed in the London bombings of 7 July 2005.
Where: Hyde Park
Tel: +44 30 0061 2000
Nearest station: Hyde Park Corner
St James’s Park
If the family needs a break to stretch their legs and run around, take a trip to St James’s Park. A deer park at the time of Henry VIII, this is now arguably the most beautiful park in London. The view it offers of Buckingham Palace is picture perfect, and the park also contains a calming lake that offers plenty of opportunities for one to relax or take a stroll. Look out for the resident pelicans while you’re in the area – these striking birds have lived here since the Russian ambassador gifted a few of them to the English king in 1664. St James’s Park also contains a children’s playground – a welcome sight in these parts.
Where: St. James’s Park
Tel: +44 30 0061 2000
Nearest station: St. James’s Park
Day Trip to Greenwich
From the South Bank, Greenwich is a great place to go for the day. One pleasant option is to take a river bus from the London Eye Pier along the Thames and get off at the Greenwich Pier. Keep an eye open for the striking clipper Cutty Sark and visit the amazing National Maritime Museum while you’re at it. A saunter through the Royal Observatory and Planetarium will take you on a journey between two worlds, as you stand astride the famous Prime Meridian Line that divides the Eastern and Western hemispheres.
Add an exquisite view of London and an abundance of green lawns to explore, and you’re looking at a great place to spend the day unwinding in peace and quiet.
Where: London Eye Millennium Pier
Nearest station: Embankment
The area around Oxford Street is London’s busiest. If you need a break from it all, head for All Saints Church. Built in 19th-century Neo-Gothic style, today the church lies hidden between large residential areas. Once you’re inside it though, its vast, welcoming interior embraces you with bravado, offering refuge from the stress of the thriving city around it. The enormous window to the West of the building and the intricately decorated choir are particularly impressive details in its design.
At the front entrance, step outside into the yard and look up at the high tower for a glimpse of just how epic a structure this is. Visitors are welcome, but be observant of the church services that are held throughout the day. Check All Saints’ website for information on special events and concerts.
Where: 7 Margaret Street
Tel: +44 20 7636 1788
Nearest station: Oxford Circus
With its rows of elegant Victorian houses, peaceful residential streets, fine old trees and green surroundings, the Primrose Hill neighborhood is a veritable haven in this lively city. You’ll enjoy a splendid view of London from the hill itself, so bring your camera along for a lazy day on the grass. Primrose hill is the perfect location for a picnic on a warm summer’s day and the nearby shops are well stocked with food and drinks, so you won’t have to walk far to find supplies.
Where: Primrose Hill
Nearest station: Chalk Farm