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A perfect day in Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens – London

Read about a perfect day in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens

Do you hear London calling? I recently took a walk around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens on a spare day, while visiting my parents who live in London. I was struck by how much fun it can be to be a tourist in your own backyard, seeing familiar places that you probably wouldn’t spend much time in, unless you happen to be showing a visiting friend around. In this guide on things to do in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, I’ve teamed up with London Connection, who offer luxurious apartment stays in Central London, that let you experience London like a local.

Rose garden in Hyde Park

Rose garden in Hyde Park

The Rose Garden in Hyde Park

Let’s start our walk at Hyde Park Corner where there’s a convenient tube stop. Just inside the park gates we’ll find the Rose Gardens, a beautiful area enclosed by yew hedges, filled with shrub roses and herbaceous borders. Many people don’t even realise it’s there as they walk along the broad path from the Queen Elizabeth gates towards the Serpentine. The climbing roses are trained along chains between the pillars, surrounding the central statue of a boy with dolphin, and you can find a quiet benches to sit and enjoy the bees buzzing among the lavender.

Flowers in the Rose Garden Hyde Park Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Flowers in the Rose Garden Hyde Park

The circular rose garden gives way to another garden with a fountain of Diana the huntress, the tinkling of water from the fountain reflecting in the pool below. Beyond there are arched arbours covered with roses and clematis, as well as teardrop shaped beds filled with colourful begonias and seasonal planting.

A little further you may come across areas of wildflowers, that create a meadow of yellow and white daisies, more reminiscent of Alpine pastures than a London park, creating a haven for bees and insects.

Wildflowers in Hyde Park Photo:Heatheronhertravels.com

Wildflowers in Hyde Park

The Serpentine Bar and Kitchen

Our walk brings us to the eastern end of the Serpentine lake, created by Queen Caroline in 1728, following the fashion of the time for creating landscapes that followed nature, a break from the formal gardens of the past. The Serpentine now forms the hub for much of the activity in the park but if you want to find a quieter spot for a picnic there are plenty of grassy spots under the trees on the north side.

If you’re in need of a coffee let’s stop at the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen – Patrick Gwynne’s glass sided restaurant floating over the edge of the water that provides a great vantage point to watch the swans, geese and other wildfowl. It has plenty of seating both indoor and outside but it’s also very popular, so you need to find a table before you order. The service is divided into three areas, a café selling cakes, sandwiches and drinks to take out or eat at the tables (cold drinks £2-3, Sandwiches £5, cakes £3-4), a hot food section that sells pub style food that will be brought to your table (Mains £9-13), and a large outdoor BBQ area where you can buy burgers, pulled pork sandwiches and hot veggie sandwiches for £9. View the menus here

Serpentine cafe in Hyde Park

Serpentine cafe in Hyde Park

Boating on the Serpentine

This part of the Serpentine is popular with families and if you’ve remembered to bring some crusts of bread we can stop to feed the geese, ducks and swans that congregate here. We could also go boating from here on bright blue pedal boats, or rowing boats that are lined up on the pontoon. A little further along the northern shore are the old Victorian boathouses that were used for pleasure boating in the past. To hire: pedal boats £12 Adults, £5 Children for 1 hour.

A detour to Speaker’s corner

If you fancy a detour from the Serpentine, we could walk up to Speaker’s Corner which is on the north-east corner of the park close to Marble Arch. This area is designated for anyone to freely make a speech on any topic so long as it’s lawful, with impromptu orators standing on ladders or plastic crates to draw a crowd of curious onlookers.

Serpentine Sackler Gallery

We’ll continue our walk to the Serpentine Sackler Gallery beside West Carriage Drive, the only road that cuts through the park. The gallery is located in an old gunpowder store and features work by leading and emerging contemporary artists – luckily entry is free, so it’s always interesting to pop in an see what’s on. This summer you can see an exhibition A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions by Arthur Jafa, an acclaimed US film-maker whose photography and video installations examine black life and culture.

Serpentine Sackler Gallery Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Serpentine Sackler Gallery

Magazine Restaurant

Next door to the Serpentine Sackler Gallery is the sinuous building designed by Zaha Hadid housing the Magazine Restaurant – more of an elegant gourmet destination than a gallery café. If you’re ready for lunch this could be a great choice, although it’s the sort of place to relax and enjoy the food rather than a place for a quick bite on the go. That said, they do serve everything from coffee and cakes, through brunch, lunch, and afternoon tea with cocktails.  Prices: Tea/ coffee £3-4, Breakfast dishes £5-8, Lunch dishes £12-24, Afternoon tea with cocktail £25. In the evening the restaurant is mainly used for private events.

Looking for a place to stay in London? Check out the luxurious short-stay apartments offered by London Connection that let you experience London like a local.

Magazine Restaurant in Hyde Park Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Magazine Restaurant in Hyde Park

The Lido Cafe

If you prefer a refreshment stop that’s a bit more informal, we might cross the bridge to the Lido Café on the south side of the Serpentine. It’s set in a beautiful old pavilion overlooking the water with some indoor seating and lots more outside when the weather is fine. You need to order at the counter and then hot dishes will be brought to you. Brunch dishes £7-9, Main dishes £10-15, Pizza £10-11, Salads £11-12

Beside the Lido café is the entrance to the Serpentine Lido itself, an enclosed area surrounded by trees with grassy sunbathing area, childrens’ paddling pool, playground and access across a footbridge to a stretch of the Serpentine that’s designated for open water swimming. This could be a great option if you have children and want an enclosed and more private place to relax with them. Prices: Adults £4.80 Children £1.80 Family ticket £12

Lido Cafe in Hyde Park

Lido Cafe in Hyde Park

Princess Diana Memorial Fountain

Now we’ve crossed the bridge to the south side of the Serpentine, let’s take a while to enjoy the Diana Memorial Fountain, a loop of water that’s great for for kids of all ages to dabble in. Created from Cornish granite, the fountain was opened in 2004 as a memorial to the People’s Princess and I think she would have smiled to see all the children enjoying a paddle in the flowing water. The fountain wells up from the highest point, creating a water table from which it flows in both directions, running over ridges and cascades, through channels with bubbling jets until it reaches the calm pool at the bottom.

Princess Diana Fountain in Hyde Park Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Princess Diana Fountain in Hyde Park

The Serpentine Gallery

Crossing West Carriage Drive we’re now in Kensington Gardens and pass by the Serpentine Gallery which was opened in 1970 in a Victorian pavilion to showcase contemporary art and architecture. The Gallery is free and hosts exhibitions of well known contemporary artists like the Grayson Perry Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! showing until September.

Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park

Beside the gallery is a striking pavilion designed by Smiljan Radić which is open for summer refreshments as an outdoor cafe – serving tea, coffee, cakes and a few snacks which you can have at seats around the pavilion. It’s a stylish place for a quick refreshment stop when the weather is fine. Prices: Hot drinks £2.50-3.50, Cold drinks £1.50-3, Cakes around £3, Sandwiches £3-4.50.

Kensington Palace

As we walk west through Kensington Gardens, the round pond and Kensington Palace come into sight. The palace was created by Christopher Wren, the architect of St Paul’s Cathedral for King William and Queen Mary in 1689 and is now the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as it was for Princess Diana before her death. Inside you’ll find the lavishly decorated galleries that were created for King William III and the apartments of King George I, as well as an exhibition about Queen Victoria who grew up at Kensington Palace. The special exhibition of Princess Diana’s dresses: Diana Her Fashion Story includes the outfits by top designers that she wore to public appearances. The exhibition is proving popular so it’s best to book your tickets online in advance. If you go: Adults £15.50 Children under 16 free (prices for online advance booking)

Looking for a place to stay in London? Check out the luxurious short-stay apartments offered by London Connection that let you experience London like a local.

Kensington Palace in London Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Kensington Palace in London

Princess Diana Memorial Gardens

We could easily spend the whole afternoon at Kensington Palace, but it’s worth making time to see the beautiful sunken garden which has been transformed into a White Garden to mark the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death.

Diana gardens at Kensington Palace Photo by Heatheronhertravels.com

Diana gardens at Kensington Palace

The garden that Diana loved has been planted with white roses, daisies and lilies around the reflective pool in the centre and is designed to be viewed from the surrounding path, as you can’t go down into the sunken garden itself.

Diana Gardens at Kensington Palace Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Diana Gardens at Kensington Palace

Tea at the Orangery at Kensington Palace

For an elegant end to our afternoon let’s stop at The Orangery, which was designed for Queen Anne as a place of relaxation and entertainment for the court. The light and airy room is now a restaurant and an oh-so-English place to treat yourself to afternoon tea and feel that you too could be a princess in London. Afternoon tea includes finger sandwiches of smoked salmon or egg and cress, scones with clotted cream and jam and tea cakes served on a traditional cake stand. This is certainly one of the most beautiful locations in London to experience the English afternoon tea tradition.

Our walk around the park comes to an end for today although there are a few more things you may want to see. I hope you’ve enjoyed a local’s view of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens with me, it’s just one of the beautiful green spaces in London.

The Orangery in Kensington Gardens Photo; Heatheronhertravels.com

The Orangery in Kensington Gardens

Where to stay in London

London Connection offer luxurious short-term apartment rentals at the best central London addresses, so that you can experience London like a local. Staying with London Connection is the perfect mix between a hotel and a home-stay because they own dozens of individual private apartments throughout London that are serviced regularly like a hotel.

London Connection apartment in Mayfair

London Connection apartment in Mayfair

With a wide choice of apartments in Kensington, Knightsbridge and Mayfair, you’ll be within walking distance of Hyde Park and close to all that London has to offer. All the properties are part of London Connection’s own portfolio and you have the support of their team to settle you in and deal with any queries during your stay, as well as their own housekeeping and maintenance services. For more information or to book your stay in London visit the London Connection Website

See more photos from this trip to Hyde Park

Transport to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens

Underground stations: the closest to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are;

  • Hyde Park South side: Knightsbridge, Hyde Park Corner
  • Hyde Park North Side: Marble Arch, Lancaster Gate, Notting Hill Gate
  • Kensington Gardens: High St Kensington

Public cycles for hire: Santander cycles are available around London and in the park – there are stands close to the Serpentine Sackler Gallery and Princess Diana fountain, as well as at park entrances on the south side of the park. Cost is £2 for 24 hrs bike hire + first 30 mins free then each extra 30 mins £2 – so a 2 hr hire would be £6 per bike. More information on bike locations and how to hire here

Parking: There is limited parking on either side of the Serpentine Bridge including disabled parking – more information on costs and locations here. However as other transport options are so easy it is recommended you use these rather that bring your car for a less stressful experience.

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Read about a perfect day in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens

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3 Comments

  • Reply
    Izy Berry
    August 24, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    What a great combination of nature and amenities! I love Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
    Izy Berry´s last blog post ..5 Travel Essentials You Need Before You Go

  • Reply
    London Airports Transfers
    November 14, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    London is so lucky to have their Royal Parks. Hyde Park in particular is a great place to get away from it all. Visited with family and had a great day! Lovely sunny day. We also visited the Princess Diana memorial garden/fountain while we were there

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