9 Top-Rated Attractions Around Hyde Park
Hyde Park, together with Kensington Gardens which adjoins it on the west, forms the largest open space in London extending 1.25 mi east to west and half a mile north to south. Originally part of Westminster Abbey, it was taken over by Henry VIII in 1536 and became a royal deer park before eventually being opened to the public by Charles I in 1635. Today, it's one of London's most popular attractions, and whether you're there for a gentle stroll, a picnic or some serious sightseeing, it should be a must-see on your London "to-do" list.
1 Hyde Park: London's Most Famous Green Space
One of Britain's Royal Parks, Hyde Park covers some 350 acres, including a lake - the Serpentine - that was built in 1730 and is popular for boating and swimming. To the north of the Serpentine is a bird sanctuary with Epstein's figure of "Rima", the bird-girl heroine of W H Hudson's novel, "Green Mansions". Suitably named Grand Entrance, the main entrance to the park is a triple archway built in 1828 and including a reproduction of the Parthenon frieze. Nearby is a statue of Achilles cast from captured French cannon, erected in honor of the Duke of Wellington, and a copy of a figure on the Quirinal in Rome. Other highlights include the wonderful Diana Memorial Fountain, a spectacular structure made from 545 pieces of Cornish granite and designed to reflect the life of Princess Diana.
2 Kensington Palace and Gardens
Kensington Palace became a private residence for English royalty in 1689. The last king to reside here was George II, and it was here that Queen Victoria was born and years later received news of her accession. The State Apartments are open to the public and include an exhibition of coronation robes and the Queen's Gallery with its numerous royal portraits. Other highlights include the spectacular Queen's Staircase designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1690, and the quarters of Queens Victoria, Mary and Anne, along with their personal possessions. Admission includes lovely Kensington Gardens, once the palace's private gardens and laid out in 1728 by Queen Caroline. The grounds feature a superb sunken garden, flower walk and fountains. Afterwards, be sure to pop into the Orangery for a spot of tea (breakfast and lunches also available).
Hours: Daily, 10am-5pm
Admission: Adults, £16.50; Children (under 16), Free (Online discounts available)
Location: Kensington Gardens, London
3 The Duke of Wellington Museum: Apsley House
The first Duke of Wellington bought Apsley House after his famous victory at Waterloo. The Duke made numerous alterations, most notably adding the Waterloo Gallery where many of London's most lavish banquets were held. The building was opened as the Wellington Museum, a branch of the Victoria and Albert Museum, in 1952 and houses magnificent collections of paintings, including Velázquez's "Waterseller of Seville", along with numerous gifts presented to Wellington after the war. Some 83 of the 200 pictures in the collection came from the Spanish royal collection and were captured by Wellington at the Battle of Victoria in 1813 and later given to him by a grateful King of Spain. Other artists featured in the collection are van Dyck, Correggio and Rubens, as well as Dutch genre paintings and contemporary British paintings including Wilkie's "Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Despatch", portraits of his comrades at arms, and Napoleon with his family.
Hours: Varies depending upon the season
Admission: Adults, £6.70; Children (5-15), £4 (Overseas Visitors Pass to historic to English Heritage sites are available)
Address: 149 Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner, London
4 The Wellington Arch
The lovely Wellington Arch is located outside the Duke of Wellington's former residence at Apsley House and commemorates his most famous victory at Waterloo. Its most dramatic feature is the spectacular bronze chariot with the figure of Peace. Also nearby is a bronze statue of Wellington on horseback with its figures of a Grenadier Guard, a Scottish Highlander, a Welsh Fusilier and an Inniskilling Dragoon. In addition to an exhibition about the history of the structure, the arch has a gallery with rotating exhibits exploring the history and heritage of England.
Hours: Wed-Sun, 10am-4pm
Admission: Adults, £4; Children (5-15), £2.40 (Overseas Visitors Pass to historic to English Heritage sites are available.)
Address: Apsley Way, Hyde Park Corner, London
5 The Albert Memorial: Tribute to a Royal Romance
The extremely ornate memorial to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (1819-61), Queen Victoria's consort, is located in Kensington Gardens and was in the neo-Gothic style. Albert is seated under a richly decorated canopy 190 ft high, holding in his hand the catalogue of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Around the pedestal are 178 marble neo-classical reliefs of artists and men of letters of every period. At the corners of the pedestal are sculptured groups symbolizing manufacturing, engineering, commerce and agriculture, and at the outer corners of the steps are other groups symbolizing the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa and America.
6 Speakers' Corner
Speakers' Corner is a traditional forum for free speech that's always busy on weekends. Located opposite Marble Arch, it's where anyone with a grievance or a mission - or simply something to say - can find an audience. It's particularly busy on Saturday and Sunday afternoons when soapbox orators address listeners with often-eloquent religious or political messages, many of whom seem to relish the lively heckling. Jomo Kenyatta, former President of Kenya, spoke here in his younger days, and Idi Amin, later notorious as Dictator of Uganda, was often in the crowd before rising to infamy.
7 Hyde Park Riding Stables
Hyde Park Riding Stables has for over 300 years been England's most famous equestrian center. Located at Bathurst Mews close to Victoria Gate, they offer 5 mi rides through bridleways and around the Serpentine. Riding lessons are also available.
Address: 63 Bathurst Mews, London
8 Hyde Park Corner
Although perhaps most famous as London's busiest road junction, Hyde Park Corner is certainly worth a visit while in the area. If only to say you've been there. The corner leads north to Marble Arch and Oxford Street, east to Buckingham Palace, west to the Albert Hall and southwest to Kensington, Brompton (for Harrods department store) and the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as the Natural History Museum. Of particular note are the Royal Artillery War Memorial and the Machine Gun Corps War Memorial with its figure of David.
9 The Serpentine Galleries
The superb Serpentine Galleries are located either side of the Serpentine in the grounds of Kensington Gardens. Hugely popular amongst tourists (the galleries receive more than a million visits every year) they're considered amongst Britain's most important contemporary art galleries. Each summer, the Serpentine Gallery hosts a temporary summer pavilion created by one of the country's leading architects and is used for special exhibits and events. Amongst those whose work has been displayed are Man Ray, Andy Warhol, Henry Moore and Damien Hirst. The newer Serpentine Sackler Gallery opened in 2013 in a 19th century gunpowder store and includes a large ultra-modern gallery space, shop and restaurant.
Hours: Tues-Sun, 10am-6pm
Touring Hyde Park's Attractions
Numerous tour companies are available to help you get to the attractions you most want to see. But one of the best options is to retain the services of a professional tour guide. Britain's superb Blue Badge Guide program consists of holders of the UK's highest guiding qualification, allowing guides to be selected based on their knowledge of a particular attraction. For details, visit the Guild of Registered Tourist Guides' website and enter the attraction you're most interested in.
Tips and Tactics: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Hyde Park
The following Tips and Tactics will help ensure you get the most out of your visit to Hyde Park:
- Walking: Hyde Park's attractions are dispersed throughout the park and it requires a good deal of walking to visit them. Allow sufficient time for your visit, and be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
- Shopping: Shops are located in both Kensington Palace and the Serpentine Galleries and selling related souvenirs and gifts.
- Food and Beverages: Food and drinks are allowed inside Hyde Park, and picnickers are welcome. Café's and restaurants are located at the Serpentine Galleries and in Kensington Palace, or visit one of the many cafés and restaurants found along Buckingham Palace Road.
Getting to Hyde Park
- By Underground (Tube): The nearest tube stations are High Street Kensington, Hyde Park Corner and Notting Hill Gate.
- By Train: For details of links to London from across the country, visit www.nationalrail.co.uk.
- By Bus: The following buses stop close to Hyde Park: Numbers 70, 94, 148, 390 to Bayswater Road; 9, 10, 49, 52, 70, and 452 to Kensington High Street.
- By Road: Hyde Park is located in the heart of London, so driving is somewhat of a challenge. It's also within the Congestion Charge zone, meaning charges apply. If you must drive, park at an outlying train station and take the train or underground.
- Parking: On street parking is very limited.
- Hyde Park - Daily, 5am-12am
- Attractions - See individual attraction listings above.
- Hyde Park - Free
- Attractions - See individual attraction listings above.
- Westminster, London W2 2UH
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Hyde Park
If you've any energy left after exploring vast Hyde Park, head over to South Kensington to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum (aka the V&A) and, if time, the superb Natural History Museum. Another landmark associated with Queen Victoria is the Albert Hall, England's most famous concert hall and built in 1871 as a memorial to the Queen's husband. Buckingham Palace is located at the east end of the Park, as is Clarence House, home of the Prince of Wales. Special tour options are available at both locations, and the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony in the Royal Mews in front of the palace is a must see (daily, 11:30am).
Hyde Park is also close to St James's Park with its views of Buckingham Palace, as well as the main attractions along Whitehall Road, including Westminster Abbey. Another park worthy of a visit is nearby Holland Park, especially attractive in spring for the blooming tulips.