Picnics are a true summer staple, and even more so in times where we should avoid indoor spaces for our own safety. After a long few months indoors, the time is ripe for a replenishing afternoon spent in a natural setting, lounging on a pretty blanket, a good book by your side, enjoying the fresh air and getting lost in the endless views of green.
If you live in London, you are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to attractive picnic areas. From sprawling woodlands bursting of wildlife to neighbourhood parks overlooking blossoming rose gardens, you’re sure to find a place to lay down your picnic blanket in pretty much any area of the English capital.
If you’re planning to picnic with friends and family members you don’t live with, it’s a good idea to discuss how comfortable you are with sharing food, and if you do decide to share as opposed to bringing each your own, think through the logistics of doing it safely beforehand. For example, skip crisps and opt for foods you can serve individually with a utensil. The new normal may take some getting used to, but it’s worth revising a new set of personal protocols if it means we can finally reunite with friends and family.
So let’s look at our roundup of the best picnic spots in London for a refreshing day out.
Top picnic areas in North West London
Like the majority of the Royal Parks, Hyde Park started off as hunting grounds for the royal family over 1000 years ago. Nowadays it boasts extensive sports facilities, a lido, an impressive wooded area, and a fragrant rose garden – a beautifully contemplative place, perfect for a quiet reading hour on one of the benches or under a majestic pergola.
Famed for its rich musical history (the likes of Queen and the Rolling Stones have played here), Hyde Park is first and foremost a public space for rest and recreation, offering a multitude of activities, from boating and rowing to horse riding and tennis. It’s important to know that the famous Serpentine Lido is temporarily closed to ensure its safe use and proper social distancing. Before heading out to the park, it’s best to check the Royal Parks website for any new updates on opening times and restricted access to certain areas.
The closest stations: Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge, Marble Arch, Lancaster Gate, Queensway.
A wild, 800-acre park of woodlands and meadows, Hampstead Heath is probably best known for the spectacular views over London from the top of Parliament Hill, best enjoyed in early morning or evening. A popular escape from the city, it offers extensive recreational opportunities, but do check their website for updated opening times and temporary closure of certain facilities, such as the swimming area.
Hampstead Heath naturally extends onto Golders Hill Park, a charming area of landscaped grounds, which even includes a zoo that runs a special adopt-an-animal program. Only four miles away from the Trafalgar Square, this little green nook is a true oasis of peace.
The closest stations: Gospel Oak, Kentish Town, Hampstead Heath Overground, Hampstead, Golders Green and Highgate.
Located on the western edge of Central London, in the Kensington area, this dainty park of picturesque rose gardens and blooming cherry trees is a true hidden gem. The southern section offers numerous sports facilities, but if you’re purely looking for a day of lounging on your picnic blanket without doing much, then head over to the northern section of the park, covered with a vast woodland area, filled with greenery and wildflowers. The park even has a beautiful Japanese zen garden and is home to a number of majestic resident peacocks.
The closest stations: Kensington High Street and Notting Hill Gate.
Best spots for a picnic in South West London
Richmond Park is a classic London escape to the “countryside”, right there in the middle of the city. It’s the largest of Royal Parks, covering a staggering 2,500 acres – that’s three times the size of Central Park in New York! As an important habitat for wildlife, it officially holds the status of a protected nature reserve, and it’s widely famed for its deer population. Not bad for a city park!
The park’s appeal lies in its wild nature. With vast open grasslands and many woodland trails, it offers a perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of the busy city life. Among the activities you can indulge in are golfing at one of the two golf courses, boating at Pen Ponds, horse riding, or a cycle on the Tamsin Trail – a 7.5 mile circular path around the edge of the park that is almost entirely car-free. And of course, deer watching. Do be careful and keep the safety distance of at least 50 metres from the deer, especially in the early summer season (May-July), when does are particularly protective of their new babies. Touching, feeding, or photographing the deer from a close distance are prohibited.
Getting there: Get off at Richmond station and catch the 371 or 65 buses to the pedestrian gate at Petersham.
Best parks for a picnic in South East London
Best known for its signature views over the River Thames and Central London, Greenwich Park is a part of Greenwich World Heritage Site and it’s London’s oldest enclosed Royal Park. Even though its Prime Meridian Line and the Royal Observatory with the Planetarium attract many visitors all year round, it’s the park’s tranquil orchards and flower and herb gardens that make it an attractive picnic destination. And the special viewpoints from which you can observe its small but impressive deer population only add to its appeal, of course.
Getting to the park is easy with a number of railway, tube, and bus options.
Perhaps not a household name like some of the other parks on our list, Dulwich Park is still a worthy spot for a tranquil picnic away from the hubbub of the city. It follows a traditional Victorian layout and offers a boating lake and different sports facilities, including a handy set of table tennis tables and cricket nets. Another attractive feature of this park is its dog walking area – you can freely walk your dog off the lead along the perimeter path around the park!
The nearest stations are West Dulwich and North Dulwich.
Top picnic spots in North East London
Victoria Park in Tower Hamlets is a popular recreational spot in North East London, ideal for a day of picnicking thanks to its vast green areas of grass, as well as benches and picnic tables. There are two expansive lakes in the park, one of them boasting a quirky Chinese pagoda island. If you’re up for some action, head over to the skatepark, the tennis court, or the football and cricket pitches. The park has implemented a series of safety measures concerning the coronavirus situation, so check their website for any important updates before you visit.
Nearest stations: Hackney Wick and Cambridge Heath.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
At first sight, this vast entertainment and recreational space that sprung from the 2012 Olympics venue looks more like a huge playground than a place attractive to picnic goers. However, the area boasts 226 hectares of parkland, a wooded zone with 13,000 trees, many promenades and walking trails, and 6.5 km of waterways. That’s natural setting aplenty for a successful day of picnicking! Add to that some quirky futuristic-looking features, like the ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture (the tallest sculpture in the UK), and you’re in for a pretty unique picnic experience. Check the park’s website for updates and current regulations before you go.
So, are you ready for some park hopping this summer? Pack up your favourite foods, stock up on hand sanitiser, and head over to the nearest green space for some much needed fresh air and an afternoon of languidly lounging in the grass. And for when you’re back home, check out some of these fun activities you can do on your own or with your flatmates. May the summer begin!