Things to do in Kensington Gardens & Hyde Park.
Updated: Feb 13
The Lancaster Hall Hotel is ideally located moments from Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. The parks comprise of around 625 acres and were originally used by Henry VIII as a hunting ground. Each monarch has left their distinctive mark and today it is used by large numbers of Londoners and visitors who enjoy the open spaces, beautiful gardens and quirky landmarks and monuments.
Explore the monuments
The monuments in Kensington Gardens and Hyde park are many and varied but the two most spectacular have to be the Albert Memorial and The Diana Fountain.
The Albert Memorial is truly on a grand scale and it is unlikely anything like it will be built again. A seated statue of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband sits under an ornate canopy surrounded by 187 figures of prominent artists, musicians and architects. A further set of steps is rounded off with marble figure on each corner depicting Asia, Africa, America and Europe. The Albert Memorial is in Kensington Gardens next to the Royal Albert Hall on the south side of the park.
The Diana Memorial Fountain is a symbolic circle of fast flowing water pumped up to the top of an incline and released to flow either side across channels made of Cornish granite. It is popular especially during fine weather with children playing and adults cooling their feet off in the swirling water. The Diana Memorial Fountain is next to the road that seperates Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens just over the road bridge that spans the Serpentine lake.
Photograph the follys & statues
Kensington Gardens is home to a high number of follys and statues the grandest possibly being Queen Anne's Alcove which has to be London's grandest park bench! Situated to the side of the Italian Gardens its construction was overseen by Sir Christopher Wren, one of Britain's most acclaimed architects. His other works include St. Pauls Cathedral and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. Completed around 1705 it was located closer to Kensington palace but was moved to this spot in the 1860s.
Elsewhere there is a huge 18ft statue of Achilles, the Greek hero of the Trojan War. It commemorates the 1st Duke of Wellington and was installed in 1822 originally as a full nude, but caused such outrage a fig leaf was added to reinstate his modesty.
Other highlights include the Peter Pan statue, Physical Energy which is a magnificient equestian statue and the Reformers Tree which commemorates the right of adult men to vote in 1866 and paved the way for Speakers' Corner located near Marble Arch and is a must see particularly on a Sunday afternoon.
Spy on the Wildlife
The parks are home to a huge array of plants, trees, birds and other creatures. Most visitors will likely notice Swans which congregate on the Serpentine and the Round Pond next to Kensington Palace. The occasional black Swan can also be seen.
Trees and shrubs play host to song birds on the hunt for insects and Parakeets have become a large draw from crowds of people looking for them to land on their hand or shoulder. They are most commonly found just past the Peter Pan statue these days, bring seeds or an apple.
Grey squirrels are also popular with visitors looking for a share of a snack and are particularly tame, especially along the Flower Walk route that runs from the Albert Memorial to the Board Walk on the south side of Kensington Gardens. Other highlights include the occasional heron.
Dance the night away at a Concert
During July a large section of Hyde Park adjoining Park Lane is given over to Summer Rock concerts with big names attracting large crowds. Known as British Summer Time Hyde Park (BST Hyde Park) up to 65,000 are catered for from contemporary artists such as Taylor Swift and The Strokes through to Barbra Streisand and The Who. Following the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in Summer 2021 the line-up can be found here.
The Proms concerts at the Royal Albert Hall are a British cultural institution comprising of an 8 week programme of classical music concerts. The culmination of this event which usually takes place on the second Saturday of September is the Last Night of the Proms. Tickets are highly sought after and the concert is shown live on a large screen in Hyde Park with Promenaders singing patriotic songs such as Pomp & Circumstance, Rule Britannia and Jerusalem. More information can be found here.
Entertain the Kids in amazing playgrounds
Aside from the obvious advantages of a large open space, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens cater well when it comes to entertaining Children.
Within Hyde Park there is an adventure playground next to South Carriage drive next to the Army Barracks. This has been recently renovated and is great for climbing and exploring.
Within Kensington Gardens there is Buck Hill near the Italian Gardens which will appeal to much smaller children with its traditional climbing frames and swings.
The Diana Playground must rate as the best free playground in the country. Located in the corner of the park between Kensington Palace and Bayswater Road a wide array of play spaces are arranged around a life size Pirate ship. From teepees to a beach this playground will entertain for hours and with elegant plantings makes for a pleasant space for adults to sit and relax with the added security of a supervised entry and exit gate meaning the children can roam freely in this magical space. Opening times are from 10am and arriving early is recommended at weekends or during school holidays.
Catch up on Contemporary Art.
There are two art galleries located within Kensington Gardens. The Serpentine gallery which was formally tea rooms, hosts a variety of contemporary art exhibitions through the year, details of which can be found here.
In summer it hosts a temporary summer pavilion project which since 2000 has commissioned an international architect to design a temporary structure which houses a café and venue for events.
Across the Serpentine bridge is the sister gallery known as the Serpentine Sackler Gallery which was transformed from and a former gunpower store in 2013 with a new extension designed by the late British architect Zaha Hadid
Take in the tradition and events
Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park play host to large number of annual events throughout the year.
With a military barracks located on the south side it is not unusual to see members of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment either rehearsing or carrying out ceremonial duties such as Trooping the Colour in June. In addition, the Queen’s Life Guard leave the Barracks at 10:28am on weekdays and ride to Horse Guards Parade through the park and gives and ideal vantage point to get up close for an unrestricted view. (9:28am on a Sunday)
Other events aside from the Summer Concerts and Last Night of the Proms include the start of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run which has taken place in early November since 1896 and is an amazing spectacle starting at sunrise involving a large number of pre-1905 vintage cars leaving at short intervals on the 60 mile journey to the seaside.
November also sees the start of Hyde Park Winter Wonderland which is 6 weeks of festive attractions and entertainment for all the family. With over 100 rides and attractions the Park Lane side of Hyde Park becomes the largest Christmas Market in London.