The Italian Gardens, Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens
Updated: Feb 5, 2022
The Italian Gardens found in the Royal Parks of West London are just a few moments away from the Lancaster Hall Hotel on Craven Terrace. It is a common mistake that even many Londoners think the Italian Gardens are located in Hyde Park when in fact they are to be found in the neighbouring Kensington Gardens.
Irrespective of the location, the Italian Gardens are a wonderful spectacle next to one of the main park entrances by Lancaster Gate. On a sunny day they draw in an eclectic mix of dog walkers, joggers, tourists and locals who line the many surrounding benches and deck chairs on the adjoining Buck Hill and contemplate the classical beauty of this wonderful space with the calming affect of an array of fountains.
The Italian Gardens History
The Italian Gardens design was inspired by those found in Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s palatial retreat on the Isle of Wight and was commissioned by her husband Prince Albert in 1860.
Consisting of 4 raised ponds with fountains arranged around a central fountain there is also an ornate shelter which once served as a pump house drawing water from the underground Westbourne river to the north.
Together with the Tyburn and Fleet, the Westbourne River is one of three large lost rivers of London that are buried and piped across the city and in the case of the Westbourne into the Thames around Chelsea.
Behind the Lancaster Hall Hotel is Brook Mews North which in the past was the route of the river that fed water to the Italian Gardens and the Serpentine lake beyond.
Italian Gardens Layout
The four ponds and pump house are surrounded by metal railings connected by stone pedestals each with a carved urn atop.
Some of the urns towards the Serpentine end have handles shaped as Swan’s necks and to the left looking towards the Serpentine is a bronze statue of Edward Jenner the pioneer of vaccines who created the world’s first by creating the smallpox vaccine.
The pump house is an ideal shelter for those seeking shade on a sunny day or for picnikers caught out by the rain. It is also a popular rendezvous point with Lancaster Gate tube station and several bus stops only moments away.
Throughout the seasons the Italian Gardens maintain an elegant focal point for visitors and whilst they may not at first appear well suited to families with young children there is plenty to keep little people happy with food, shelter, toilets, seats, ice cream and a playground all within a few seconds walk.
Italian Gardens Café
Built in the last 5 years the Café next to the Queen Anne’s Alcove has a terrace that commands a wonderful elevated view of the Italian Gardens. With a range of light dishes including poached egg on sourdough, salads, sandwiches, cakes and snacks it is a good starting point for breakfast, brunch or lunch prior to our walking tour of Kensington Gardens.
In the week it opens at 7:30am and 8am at the weekend. Closing times range from 4pm in October to March, 6pm April to May and 7pm June to September.
To the left of the Italian Gardens is Buck Hill, which on a sunny day is a popular spot with sun worshippers and book readers. For those less inclined to lie down, the Royal Parks lay on deck chairs so you can appreciate the wonderful view or people watch to your hearts content. Deck chairs costs start at £2 for 1 hour up to £9.50 for the entire day.
Queen Anne’s Alcove
The Queen Anne’s Alcove is without doubt the poshest park bench in London. Finished in the early 1700s it was moved to its current location in 1867.
Queen Anne’s reign lasted between 1792 and 1714 which is rather short by recent standards and more significantly was the last monarch from the House of Stuart before the current House of Windsor succeeded them, albeit under a different name to start with. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren who was the architect behind St. Paul’s Cathedral this magnificent folley commands an ideal location to survey the Italian Gardens and people of Kensington Gardens.
Ice Cream Vans
The Royal Parks have a fleet of vintage ice cream vans that evoke a nostalgia of sunny days of yesteryear among parkgoers.
Our favourite is the unique Rolls Royce ice cream van which is a regular fixture alongside the Italian Gardens during the summer months. Commissioned in 1932 this Phantom II vehicle started out as a limousine, before being used as a wedding vehicle and then finally converted into the ultimate Ice Cream cart.
Buck Hill playground
Behind the deck chairs on Buck Hill is a hidden playground (aimed primarily at toddlers) including swings, a climbing frame, slide and see-saw. Whilst the Diana Playground in the other corner of the park on the same side is a must-visit destination, for young explorers Buck Hill playground will provide a welcome stop-gap after parents have admired the Italian Gardens.
Buck Hill Lodge
Up the hill from Queen Anne’s Alcove is a charming house called Buck Hill Lodge built in 1858.
This along with several other houses within the perimeter of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park were once occupied by Park staff but since 2012 have been rented on the open market through the Royal Parks. Buck Hill lodge is particularly quaint with ornate facias, leaded windows, Tudor style front door and stone carved Queen Victoria coat of arms.
Two Bears Drinking Fountain.
The Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association was formed in London by member of Parliment Samuel Gurney along with Edward Thomas Wakefield in 1859. The aim of the organisation was to provide free clean drinking water. The organisation is still in existance today as the Drinking Fountain Assocation.
The two bears drinking fountain was installed by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association in 1939 to mark the 80th anniversary of the organisation being formed.
Italian Gardens Location
You can either click on the link below for the map which you can send to your mobile phone, or navigate from the map below
Italian Gardens Frequently Asked Questions.
Are the Italian Gardens in Hyde Park?
Technically no, they reside in Kensington Gardens which is immediately adjacent to Hyde Park. The two parks are separated by the West Carriage Drive which at the Bayswater end is only a few moments away from the Italian Gardens.
Where is the nearest tube to the Italian Gardens?
The nearest tube is Lancaster Gate on the Central Line. The closest entrance to the Italian Gardens is on the opposite side of the Bayswater Road as you come out of the tube. Alternatively, Bayswater station on the Circle line is a short walk along Queensway to the Bayswater Road.
What is the nearest bus stop?
The 94, 148 and 274 bus routes stop next to Lancaster Gate tube station
Are the Italian Gardens free?
There is no entrance charge for the Italian Gardens although you should be prepared to pay a 20p charge for using the public toilets which are just inside the entrance to the park.
What time are the Italian Gardens open?
Kensington Gardens is open from 6am every day of the year.
The park closes around dusk which is 16:30 in December through to 21:30 in June.
Where can I park for the Italian Gardens?
Most of the surrounding streets have resident permits and although there are pay and display spaces available these are charged at £5 per hour. On a Sunday and UK public holidays you can park for free on the single yellow line along the Bayswater Road.
Where is Kensington Gardens located?
Kensington Gardens is located between Kensington to the south and Bayswater to the North, Notting Hill to the West, Hyde Park and then Mayfair.