Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens
Former Royal Hunting Grounds Now London's Largest Park
|Speakers Corner Hyde Park|
Hyde Park Official Web Site
Hyde Park became a Royal Park in 1536 when the land, which was excellent for hunting, was acquired by King Henry VIII.
For many visitors its slightly confusing as Hyde Park seamlessly merges into Kensington Gardens at its west end without any apparent boundary. We shall treat Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park as one park. Because of the size of the park you can have a major headline concert going on in one part of the park whilst in another you'll find a sleepy scene of people chilling out in a quiet corner.
|Royal Park Overview|
|Hyde Park &
|St James Park
& Green Park
The eastern end of the park is more open and 'playing field' grass. It tends to be a place where you will find impromptu games of soccer and people generally chilling out. The eastern end towards Park Lane tends to be where any big events are staged ranging from large concerts to fun runs.
At the north eastern corner by Marble Arch is Speakers Corner. Since 1872, people have been allowed to speak at Speaker's Corner each Sunday on any subject they want to. Anybody can bring a box, stand on it and preach without fear of arrest.
There is a wide range of subjects but you can always count on a good proportion being religious and politically driven.
Much of it is good natured, much of it reflects minority thought. Heckling provides more entertainment. If you are American, you may not feel among friends.
Most of the park is pedestrian only, though there is a road that crosses the park north - south. There are extensive tracks for horses and it is possible to hire horses from the stables. As you can imagine it is also a favourite place for joggers.
|Typical Serpentine Scene|
The Serpentine is a large lake in the middle of Hyde Park that stretches westwards into Kensington Gardens finishing at the parks northern boundary by Lancaster Gate Underground Station.
The Serpentine has a nice cafe at its eastern end that overhangs the water (in the background of picture left). There is a lot of birdlife no doubt attracted by the constant stream of people throwing them titbits.
In the Hyde Park section of the Serpentine you can hire rowing boats, you get the picture?
At the southern edge of the Serpentine by the bridge that carries the north-south road across the Serpentine is the controversial Princess Diana Memorial opened by Her Majesty The Queen on 6th July 2004.
The design aims to reflect Diana's life, water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom.
|Princess Diana Memorial Fountain|
Princess Diana used to live in Kensington Palace at the extreme western end of Hyde Park / Kensington Gardens.
At the north west corner of Kensington Gardens is the Princess Diana Memorial Playground, this is just inside the park gates opposite Queensway Underground.
The playground is also the north west point of the Princess Diana Memorial Walk. The seven-mile-long walk crosses St James's Park, Green Park, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
|Peter Pan Statue
From the walk visitors can see three palaces and two mansions which figured in the life of the Princess: Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, St James's Palace, and Spencer House, the one time London house of the Spencer family.
At its western end, Kensington Gardens is more 'wild' relatively to the playing field landscape of much of Hyde Park to the east.
Scattered around Kensington Gardens you will come across many statues and pieces of art. One of the most popular is the bronze of Peter Pan. J M Barrie, the author who created Peter Pan used to walk in this area and was inspired to write Peter Pan by his relationship with the Llewelyn Davies family that began in Kensington Gardens.
On the subject of art, along the park railings of Kensington Garden's northern boundary between Lancaster Gate and Bayswater you will find amateur artists displaying their work on a Sunday, though there is a lot of tourist tat as well.
At the southern end of Kensington Gardens is the Albert memorial opposite the Albert Hall. You can walk through to the South Kensington Museums and Harrods beyond that from here (see our Kensington walk below).
Getting to Hyde Park
There are a number of Underground Stations that face Hyde Park.
Hyde Park Corner is at the south east corner, near Buckingham Palace. Marble Arch is at the north east corner by Oxford Street and Speaker's Corner. Lancaster Gate and Queensway are along the northern border, convenient for Kensington Gardens and Kensington Palace.
The very popular hop on, hop off tour buses also of course stop at various points around Hyde Park.
|Self Guided Kensington Walk Including Kensington Gardens/Hyde Park|
Join us on our step by step self guided walking tour of London's Kensington district.
We start with a walk in the park through Kensington Gardens visiting Kensington Palace then on past the Albert Hall to South Kensington Museums before ending in Knightsbridge for Harrods and Harvey Nichols Department Stores.
Simple to follow instructions and street map and best of all its FREE!
Harrods Department Store Knightsbridge