Lonely Planet review
At 145 hectares, Hyde Park is central London's largest open space. Henry VIII expropriated it from the Church in 1536, when it became a hunting ground and later a venue for duels, executions and horse racing. The 1851 Great Exhibition was held here, and during WWII the park became an enormous potato field. These days, it serves as an occasional concert venue and a full-time green space for fun and frolics. There's boating on the Serpentine for the energetic, while Speaker's Corner is for oratorical acrobats. These days, it's largely nutters and religious fanatics who address the bemused stragglers at Speaker's Corner, maintaining the tradition begun in 1872 as a response to rioting. Nearby Marble Arch was designed by John Nash in 1828 as the entrance to Buckingham Palace. It was moved here in 1851. The infamous Tyburn Tree, a three-legged gallows, once stood nearby. It is estimated that up to 50,000 people were executed here between 1196 and 1783.
A soothing structure, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain is a circular stream that cascades gently and reassembles in a pool at the bottom; paddling is encouraged. It was unveiled in mid-2004, instigating an inevitable debate over matters of taste and gravitas.