One of London’s best parks, Hyde Park spreads itself over 142 hectares of neat gardens, wild expanses of overgrown grass and glorious trees. As well as being a fantastic green space in the middle of the city, it's home to a handful of fascinating sights, and hosts live concerts and events through the year.
The eastern half of the park is covered with expansive lawns, which become one vast picnic-and-frolic area on sunny days. The western half is more untamed, with plenty of trees and areas of wild grass. If you're after somewhere more colorful (and some shade), head to the Rose Garden, a beautifully landscaped area with flowers year-round. A little further west, you'll find the Holocaust Memorial Garden, a simple stone marker in a grove of trees. You won't want to miss the Serpentine or the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain either.
Once you've found the perfect spot in the park, hire a deck chair (one/four hours £1.80/4.80, all day £9). They are available throughout the park from March to October, weather permitting.
Hyde Park is separated from Kensington Gardens by the L-shaped Serpentine, a small lake once fed by waters from the River Westbourne. Between June and September you can swim at the Serpentine Lido, where a swimming area within the lake is ring-fenced. There is also a paddling pool for children. If you'd rather stay dry, rent a paddle boat from the Serpentine Boathouse.
Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain
This memorial fountain is dedicated to the late Princess of Wales. Envisaged by the designer Kathryn Gustafson as a "moat without a castle" and draped "like a necklace" around the southwestern edge of Hyde Park near the Serpentine Bridge, the circular double stream is composed of 545 pieces of Cornish granite, its waters drawn from a chalk aquifer more than 100m below ground. Unusually, visitors are actively encouraged to splash about, to the delight of children.
The Serpentine SolarShuttle Boat ferries passengers from the Serpentine Boathouse to the fountain on weekends from March to September (every day from mid-July to late August).
Frequented by Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, George Orwell and William Morris, Speakers' Corner in the northeastern corner of Hyde Park is traditionally the spot for oratorical flourishes and soapbox ranting. If you’ve got something to get off your chest, do so on Sunday, although you’ll mainly have fringe dwellers, religious fanatics and hecklers for company.
It’s the only place in Britain where demonstrators can assemble without police permission, a concession granted in 1872 after serious riots 17 years before when 150,000 people gathered to demonstrate against the Sunday Trading Bill before Parliament, only to be unexpectedly ambushed by police concealed within Marble Arch. Some historians also link Speakers' Corner with the nearby Tyburn gallows, where condemned criminals might speak to the crowd before being hanged.
The Serpentine Galleries
Constituting some of the most important contemporary-art spaces in town, these two galleries are a major draw. South of the Serpentine lake is the original Serpentine Gallery, in which Damien Hirst, Andreas Gursky, Louise Bourgeois, Gabriel Orozco, Tomoko Takahashi and Jeff Koons have all exhibited, set in a 1930s former tea pavilion in Kensington Gardens.
Sister establishment the Serpentine Sackler Gallery can be found within the Magazine, a former gunpowder depot, across the Serpentine Bridge. Built in 1805, it was augmented with a daring, undulating extension designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Zaha Hadid.
The galleries run a full program of exhibitions, readings and talks. A leading architect who has never previously built in the UK is annually commissioned to build a new "Summer Pavilion" nearby, open from June to October.
Henry VIII expropriated the park from the church in 1536. It then became a hunting ground for kings and aristocrats, and later a place for duels, executions and horse racing. The park was the site of the Great Exhibition in 1851, and during WWII became a vast potato bed.
Hotels near Hyde Park
To the northside of Hyde Park, around Lancaster Gate, Queensway and Bayswater Tubes, there are some decent budget accommodation choices. Kensington is packed with high-end hotels near the park. The best options there are: