It is also a surprisingly green city, and you can hardly wander more than half a mile in any direction without coming across either one of the major parks for which 

London is famed or at the very least a square with a magnificently manicured garden in the middle of it.

The Parks of London are amazingly large, with Hyde Park covering over four hundred acres, and you can walk for miles across the centre of London going from one to another, at times feeling like you are almost in the countryside. Try starting in Holland Park, go through Kensington Gardens, onto Hyde Park, across the corner of Hyde Park Corner into Green Park and St Jamesís Park, and you will hardly feel that you are in one of the busiest and most bustling cities in the world

Hyde Park

 At 390 acres, this is the largest park in central London. It used to belong to the church but has been a royal park since Henry VIII seized it in the 1530ís.

The Serpentine, a large lake in the middle for boating and bathing, was created in the 18th century, by damming the Westbourne River.

Speakersí Corner at the Marble Arch corner of the park is an area set aside for anyone who wishes to speak or preach about anything. Always highly entertaining, speakers vary from the serious to the completely wacky. Sunday is the busiest and best day to visit Speakersí Corner.

Throughout the year Royal Gun Salutes are performed in the park to mark special occasions, such as the Queenís birthday and state visits.

A charge is made for deckchairs, boat hire, and entrance to the bathing lido.

Green Park 

 Laid out in 1668, Green Park is not a particularly landscaped park, but it makes a pleasant contrast to the bustle of Piccadilly.

In itís past it was less serene, being the site for many a duel. The Tuburn river used to cross the park but has now been re-routed underground, although it is said that you can still hear the water gurgling past, in places

With its fifty-three acres, mainly laid out in grass with avenues of trees, today Green Park is used as a shortcut by foot from Piccadilly to Buckingham Palace.      

Holland Park

This pleasant park gets its name from Sir Henry, Earl of Holland, whose wife inherited the grounds and mansion in the early 17th century. The property remained in the Holland family until 1889.

Holland House was badly damaged during World War II. One wing was saved and is used as a youth hostel. A remaining section of the front terrace is now used as a unique backdrop for the parkís summertime open-air theatre productions and classical concerts.

 The park contains a number of gardens, including a rose garden and a Japanese garden. There are also tree-lined walks, where squirrels abound.

The park has a cafť and also a restaurant, which is housed in the former Garden Ballroom, built in the mid 1800ís. Art exhibitions are held in the old Orangery.

The most renowned occupant of Holland House was Henry, the 3rd Baron Holland (1773-1840), a member of the Whig political party; he entertained many leading political and literary figures of the day there. Among his distinguished guests were Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, Charles Dickens and Earl Grey.

The main entrance is next to the Commonwealth Experience.

St James's Park

  Situated in front of Buckingham Palace, St Jamesís Park could be called the Queenís front garden.  

It was once part of Henry VIIIís hunting grounds.  Today, though one of the smaller royal parks, it is also one of the most attractive.

Its main feature, the lake contains a variety of waterfowl, and the park is pleasantly laid out with trees and flowers.


Kensington Gardens

The area covering both Kensington Gardens and the adjoining Hyde Park were once Henry VIIIís hunting ground. Later in the 17th century, Kensington Gardens was designed as a garden for William IIIís new home, Kensington Palace.

It is now a pub
lic park, except for a small area around the palace. The round pond is popular with model boat enthusiasts and its wide walkways make it a popular spot for roller-bladers.

  Kensington Palace, at the west side of the park, was originally built for William III (King of Great Britain and Ireland 1688-1702) and perhaps better known as William of Orange. The palace was designed by Sir Christopher Wren.

Queen Victoria was born in Kensington Palace and lived there until she became Queen and moved to Buckingham Palace in 1837. More recently the palace was the home of Diana, Princess of Wales, until her tragic death in August 1997. HM The Queenís sister, Princess Margaret, also has an apartment inside the palace. The State Rooms are open to the public during the summer months.

Also within the park are The Albert Memorial and the Serpentine Gallery.

Richmond Park

Riverboats run to Richmond from Kew and Westminster Pier.

Like so many of Londonís parks, Richmond Park was previously a royal hunting ground. It is still a royal park today and at almost two and a half thousand acres, it is the largest in London.

It was Charles I who turned it into a park, although it wasnít meant for the public, so he had a big wall built around it. Today it is very much a public park and is very popular with families.

The park is most famous for its fallow deer, which roam freely. Being such a big park there are roads running through it and drivers have to take great care to avoid animals. Pedestrians too, are best advised not to approach the deer too closely, especially in the rutting season when male deer can be a bit aggressive.

Features in the park include: the Isabella Plantation, which is renowned for its rhododendrons and has a lovely pebble stream winding its way through it, Pen Ponds, an area of ecological importance, and there are plenty of hills and woods and open spaces. Pembroke Lodge, on the right, just a little way inside the main entrance at Richmond Gate, sells refreshments, and is a great place to stop and admire the view.

The other houses inside the park are private. They are: White Lodge, a 1720ís building, which is now used as a ballet school, and Thatched House Lodge, where Princess Alexandra lives.

If you arrive at Richmond by boat, head for Richmond Terrace Gardens, which leads up from the River Thames to Richmond Hill and Richmond Park. 

Victoria Tower Gardens

The small park, next to the Victoria Tower end of The Houses of Parliament, offers a peaceful change from the bustling crowds outside Parliament, and even noisier rabble within.

The park contains a bronze sculpture made by Rodin in 1895 of The Burghers of Calais (the residents of Calais in France who surrendered to Edward III in 1347, during the Hundred Yearís War between Britain and France).

There is also a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928), the British suffragette, whose efforts finally won women the right to vote.

Looking across the river from here you can see Lambeth Palace and The Museum of Garden History.

Television companies often use both this park and the grass area across the road near The Jewel Tower, where they interview politicians. The grassy area is known variously as College Green, Abingdon Green and St Stephens Green. No official name seems to exist.