8 Top-Rated Attractions Around Hyde Park
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Hyde Park together with Kensington Gardens, which adjoins it on the west, forms the largest open space in London, extending 1.25 miles 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 pleasant stroll, a picnic, or some serious sightseeing, it should be a must-see on your London "to-do" list. Plan your visit with our list of the top attractions around Hyde Park.
See also: Where to Stay near Hyde Park
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
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 the Grand Entrance, the main entrance to the park is a triple archway, built in 1828, which includes a reproduction of the Parthenon frieze.
Nearby is a statue of Achilles cast from a 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 in the palace 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 Palace Pavilion Restaurant for a spot of tea (breakfast and lunches are also available), or grab a snack in the café. Picnics are also allowed in the gardens, and guided tours are available.
Official site: www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/
3. The 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.
Informative audioguides are available, and an on-site shop sells related souvenirs and gift items.
Address: 149 Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner, London
Official site: www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/apsley-house/
4. The Wellington Arch
The iconic 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, and a viewing platform offering great city views.
Address: Apsley Way, Hyde Park Corner, London
Official site: www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/wellington-arch/
5. The Albert Memorial: Tribute to a Royal Romance
The extremely ornate memorial to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1819-61), Queen Victoria's consort, is located in Kensington Gardens and was built in a neo-Gothic style. Albert is seated under a richly decorated canopy standing 190 feet high, holding in his hand the catalogue of the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Around the pedestal are 178 marble Neoclassical 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, which is 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 a dictator of Uganda, was often in the crowd before rising to infamy.
7. 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 here. 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.
8. The Serpentine Galleries
The superb Serpentine Galleries are located either side of the Serpentine in the grounds of Kensington Gardens, and are one of the top free things to do in this part of London. Hugely popular with tourists (the galleries receive more than a million visits every year), they're considered among 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. Among 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, a gift shop, bookshop, and restaurant.
Official site: www.serpentinegalleries.org
Touring Hyde Park's Attractions
Numerous tour companies are available to help you get to the Hyde Park 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.
Where to Stay near Hyde Park for Sightseeing
We recommend these convenient hotels with easy access to all the top attractions in Hyde Park:
- The Milestone Hotel and Residences: historic luxury hotel in a heritage-listed mansion, lavishly decorated, impeccable service, award-winning afternoon tea, sauna and resistance pool.
- Park Grand London Lancaster Gate: mid-range pricing, on a quiet street, contemporary room decor, wonderful afternoon tea.
- Hotel Moonlight: affordable boutique hotel, friendly staff, comfortable beds, complimentary fruit at reception.
- Ridgemount Hotel: budget hotel, family-run, Georgian terrace, rooms with private or shared bathrooms, great English breakfast.
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, and 390 to Bayswater Road and 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.
- Westminster, London W2 2UH
If you have 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 you have time, the superb Natural History Museum. Another landmark associated with Queen Victoria is Albert Hall, England's most famous concert hall, 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.
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