One of London’s eight Royal Parks and in close proximity to many of central London’s tourist attractions, Hyde Park is one of the city’s most popular parks, set around the vast Serpentine lake and home to a number of poignant monuments like the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and the 7th July Memorial in honor of the victims of the 2005 London bombings.
Originally built as one of Henry VIII’s deer hunting parks in the 16th century, in 1637 Charles I opened Hyde Park to the general public and since then it’s been one of Londoners’ favorite picnic spots. Hyde Park is 350 acres (142 hectares) and the adjacent Kensington Gardens is 270 acres (111 ha), giving a total area of of 630 acres (253 ha) of parkland – still smaller than Central Park in New York but bigger than the country of Monaco!
A popular spot with walkers and joggers, the park has a network of dedicated walking, skateboarding and cycling tracks, but there are plenty of other activities on offer. Open-air swimming in the Serpentine is a popular pastime during the summer months, while rowing boats and pedal boats make a pleasant way to enjoy the lake. The sports field, located at the southern end of the park, hosts a number of small-scale sporting events, with the Hyde Park Tennis and Sports Centre offering tennis courts, lawn bowls and putting facilities. Horseback riding is also a hugely popular activity, with five miles of riding trails, including the famous Rotten Row, where people have ridden out for over 300 years. Hyde Park Stables and Ross Nye Stables offer lessons and horse rides in the park.
As well as offering welcome respite from the urban sprawl of central London, Hyde Park finds itself at the center of a number of year-round events. Throughout the summer months, the park hosts a variety of music concerts and festivals, as well as broadcasting many major sporting events and city celebrations live from its giant screens. And there’s no rest come wintertime – the park’s ‘Winter Wonderland’ festival is one of the most popular events of the festive season, with a huge Christmas market, fairground, Santa’s grotto and an open-air ice skating rink transforming the park into a landscape worthy of its name.
Hyde Park is easy to get to, with Hyde Park Corner the closest tube station and both Knightsbridge tube, outside Harrods, and Green Park tube, by the famous Ritz Hotel, about 20 minutes walk away.