One of the things I love most about visiting London, is that no matter which area you stay in, you can just step out of your hotel, start walking and you’re guaranteed to find so much to see and do. Even if you have no real idea what’s around you, just start walking and see what you come across. I say that like I’m this totally care free spirit, which I’m totally not. I usually have a vague idea of where I’ll go, in this case Hyde Park. So as spontaneous as I made myself sound there, don’t be fooled.
When I checked in to my second hotel of the weekend last weekend, I had every intention of having a shower, getting into bed and nursing my hangover with some TV and room service for the afternoon. I’d been to Belfast, Amsterdam and London in a week and a half, and was pretty knackered. That said, the sun was shining, and I really couldn’t waste the opportunity of even half a day in London to see what was nearby.
I was staying in Paddington, a five minute walk from Hyde Park, so thought I would basically just head that way. I passed through a lot of grand looking hotels, bright white buildings and plenty of traditional English pubs. I arrived at the park from Bayswater Road, next to Lancaster Gate Station, and found what I now know to be the Italian Gardens.
There were a number of fountains, surrounded by beautiful landscaping, all of them with big marble urns and statues for decoration. There is what looks like an old fashioned pavilion at the head of the garden, but this is actually an old pump house used for the fountains to keep them running, and has Queen Victoria and Prince Alberts initials on it. These gardens were actually a gift to Queen Victoria from Prince Albert, and are now Grade II listed.
Heading towards the lake, called the Serpentine, I took the lakeside path that runs right next to it the full way through the park to the other side. It was a mix of quiet spots, people renting deck chairs to snooze on scattered across the grassy areas, families watching the baby ducks, swans and geese being led around by their mothers, and those far fitter than me out for a run.
It was busy for a sunny Sunday smack in the middle of London, but by no means overcrowded or a hassle. If it wasn’t for the London skyline in the distance, it felt a long way away from being smack bang in the middle of a capital city.
I came across the Peter Pan statue, which was built and put in Hyde Park in 1912. The tale of Peter Pan was inspired by Kensington Gardens, which is why the statue is of Peter stood above all sorts of woodland wildlife and fairies.
The Kensington Gardens and the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial fountain can all be found along the walk through the park by branching off the lakeside path. It wasn’t until I was about half way round that the relaxed park atmosphere changed to absolute carnage at the Lido Cafe. Turns out this is where all the people were, sat on the outside tables, kids running about demanding ice cream, queues for the public toilets – basically, the Great British Summer had arrived.
There’s so much more to find in Hyde Park than this quick snapshot from my walk through. It took me about 45 minutes to cross the park, but I definitely only scratched the surface. The gardens are huge, and actually full of history and things to see besides the usual sitting under trees, feeding the ducks etc.
I came out of Hyde Park directly opposite the fabulous Mandarin Oriental. Walking past and entering the fabulous world of Knightsbridge, I ended up having the most fun window shopping and discovering the start of Chelsea in Bloom, right up to the Saatchi Gallery and the selfie exhibition.
What was meant to be a quick walk in the park for some fresh air turned into a four hour afternoon. There’s more on this and particularly King’s Road, Chelsea coming soon.
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A Stroll through Hyde Park, London