London has 3,000 parks, covering more space than its roads and railways combined. The most famous are the Royal Parks, but there are lesser-known green spaces and secret gardens London hides away for a little something special. These parks may not grab headlines, but they each offer something different and unexpected. These are our favourite unusual parks to give you a local’s version of London.
Thames Barrier Park
With a wind-protected microclimate, 7 hectares of greenery and an abundance of plants and wildlife, the Thames Barrier Park in the Royal Docks is perfect for picnics. When the park opened in 2000, it was London’s largest new riverside park in over 50 years. Its most unusual feature is the 130-foot sunken garden called Green Dock, which runs diagonally across the park as a reminder of the site’s dockland past. There are two bridges that cross the Green Dock, and the park also has children’s play areas and a coffee shop with views of the Thames Barrier.
Gibbon’s Rent Secret Garden
A once-neglected cut-through in London Bridge, close to The Shard, is now a beautiful community garden. There’s no lawn. Instead, a narrow path curves from Magdalen Street to Bermondsey Street through warehouse buildings. Sculptural plants and trees spill over on either side. Signs at the entrance to Gibbon’s Rent encourage you to bring your own plants or pick up a watering can and sprinkle some water as you walk through. There’s also the Little Library where you can pick up or drop off a book. It’s a garden that proves nature can thrive in urban spaces.
The Hill Garden and Pergola
Hidden on Hampstead Heath is the crumbling Edwardian Hill Garden and Pergola. Once the private garden of a wealthy lord who loved to party, this once well-manicured garden terrace is now covered in a canopy of overgrown plants, with vines wrapped around stone columns. The manor house that stood here has long gone, but the City of London took over the neglected garden in 1989. Now, anyone can now wander around and enjoy the impressive views. It’s impossibly romantic in the summer and a popular wedding venue and photoshoot location.
Between a housing estate and Brixton Prison, Windmill Gardens has London’s oldest and last-working windmill, built in 1816. Now a dedicated team of volunteers look after the windmill and its gardens, which they often open to the public, so you can peek inside to find out more about the windmill’s past. There’s also a children’s playground and Saturday tai chi classes every week.
Enjoy exploring London’s green spaces and parks when you stay in the capital. Our historic hotels, The Clermont, Victoria and The Clermont, Charing Cross offer elegant rooms with touches of luxury in the centre of the city.