Welcome to Hyde Park
For hundreds of years, visitors have flocked here to party, protest and play.
This is where suffragettes gave fiery speeches, where the Rolling Stones rocked out by the lake, where the UK’s first Pride march began and where Nelson Mandela took the stage. No wonder it’s nicknamed ‘The People’s Park’. Come on in and join the fun…
This vast open space in the heart of the city is packed with things to discover. At its heart is the Serpentine, boasting panoramic lake-side paths, waterfront cafes and an abundance of wildlife to spot. Look out for the heron under the bridge – and hardy swimmers at the Lido, home to the oldest swimming club in Britain.
At iconic Speaker’s Corner, you’ll see where radicals and revolutionaries from Karl Marx to George Orwell have come to have their say. This idea of a public spot devoted to free speech has been copied all over the world.
In 1851, over 6 million people visited Hyde Park to see the Great Exhibition, which showcased culture and technology from across the globe. Today, the site is occupied by sports pitches – you can book a game of football or a round of tennis where the Crystal Palace once stood!
For a more tranquil visit, explore the winding paths and picturesque meadows in the north of the park or head for the rose garden, near to sandy Rotten Row – a historic route that ran from Kensington Palace to Whitehall.
At the end of your visit, why don't you stop into The Royal Parks shop and pick up something special to remember your visit.
Whether you’re here to dance or to discover, to swim or to saunter – we hope you have a marvellous visit.
Frequently asked questions
Please find some of Hyde Park’s most frequently asked questions below. If you can’t find the information you need then you can get in touch by using our contact form.
The pedestrian and vehicle gates open from 5am and close at midnight each day throughout the year. Any public notices relating to temporary closures (due to park events or maintenance, for example) can be found on the Hyde Park web page.
Hyde Park is well served by a range of different public transport services:
The closest mainline station is London Paddington - located approximately 500m north of West Carriage Drive. The station is served by services from GWR, Heathrow Express and TfL's Elizabeth Line.
You can travel to Hyde Park via the Central (Lancaster Gate or Marble Arch) and Piccadilly (Hyde Park Corner or Knightsbridge) underground lines. Each of these is just a few minutes walk from the park.
Cycling to Hyde Park has never been easier. There are a wealth of marked cycleways passing through and around the park, and there are several cycle hire points around the park. Full details of both can be found on the TfL website.
Hyde Park is approximately 142 hectares (350 acres) in size - the equivalent of 12 Wembley Stadiums! The park's perimeter is approximately 3 miles long. You can view or download the park map here.
Henry VIII acquired Hyde Park from the monks of Westminster Abbey in 1536; he and his court were often to be seen on thundering steeds in the hunt for deer. James I permitted limited access but it was Charles I who fully opened it up to the public in 1637. The Serpentine lake was added in the 1730s by Queen Caroline, wife of George II.
More information on the park's history can be found here.
Hyde park has two public car parks, which are accessed from West Carriage Drive as shown on our park map. On the opposite side of the park there is an underground car park (accessed from Park Lane) which is run by Q-Park. Vehicle gates in the park open at 5am each morning.
There are disabled parking spaces in all of the locations above, as well as dedicated bays on West Carriage Drive and South Carriage Drive. Parking is free of charge for Blue Badge holders, but is subject to a 4-hour time limit.
Car parking in Hyde Park is chargeable from 8:30am to 6:30pm, every day of the week - including Bank Holidays.
The parking machines in our car parks accept both cash and cashless payments.
Monday to Saturday: 70p per 15 mins / £2.80 per hour / £11.20 for the maximum stay of 4 hours.
Sunday (and Bank Holidays): 50p per 15 mins / £2.00 per hour / £20.00 for the maximum stay of 10 hours.
Motorcycles can be parked for free, up to the maximum stay of 4 hours.
Yes, cycling is permitted within Hyde Park, but only where stated (e.g. Serpentine Road, The Broad Walk etc.). Smaller paths across the park where cycling is not allowed have clear 'no cycling' signage at ground level. Please be considerate and give space to other park users and the park's wildlife. Pedestrians have priority at all times.
You can check permitted cycleways on OpenStreetMap.
There is a 20p charge to use the public toilets in the parks. We have recently installed a contactless system which accepts credit/debit cards, prepaid cards and mobile wallet payments like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. Cash is no longer accepted.
Hyde Park has four main cafés - Serpentine Bar & Kitchen, Serpentine Lido Café, The Lodge Café and the Park Sports Café. There are also several smaller refreshment kiosks dotted throughout the park. View the Food and Drink section for full details of each outlet, along with their latest menus.
You can find their locations on the park map.
Hyde Park is perfect for a wide range of sports activities including horse riding, running and roller-skating, and football. At Park Sports Hyde Park you can try a selection of sports including tennis, netball, padel, lawn bowls, 5-a-side football, or take advantage of the nine-hole putting green. The Serpentine Lido is home to the Serpentine Swimming Club, and boating is also available if you prefer to be on the water rather than in it.
Discover more here.
Generally, dogs do not need to be kept on a lead in Hyde Park. However there are several exceptions to this, such as the Rose Garden and around The Serpentine lake. Other areas where dogs are not allowed are listed in our Dogs in The Royal Parks policy document.
Commercial dog walkers
Please note, that if you want to use the Royal Parks for commercial dog walking purposes, you must have a Commercial Dog Walking Licence issued by The Royal Parks charity.
No. Feeding birds and animals in the parks does more harm than good. You can learn more about why this is, and how you can help us in caring for their wellbeing here.
Getting in touch with park offices is quick and easy and all enquiries are handled by our dedicated Visitor & Park Support team.
Simply complete the short online enquiry form and your question(s) will be passed to the most appropriate staff member. To ensure an efficient service, please check that you have provided the following information:
- Your name
- Your email address
- Your enquiry
You can also contact the park offices by telephone using the following numbers:
- Hyde Park 0300 061 2000
- Kensington Gardens 0300 061 2000
- St. James's Park and The Green Park 0300 061 2350
- The Regent's Park 0300 061 2300
- Greenwich Park 0300 061 2380
- Richmond Park 0300 061 2200
- Bushy Park 0300 061 2250
To report lost property, please contact our Visitor and Park Support Team via their online contact form with the following information:
- Your contact details
- A description of the item
- Date and time when the item was lost
- Location (if known) where the item was lost
If the property has been found by staff or handed in to us we'll let you know.
Yes. You can use Hyde Park as a location for personal training or group fitness sessions - providing you have a current fitness training licence issued by The Royal Parks charity.
Fitness training licences are also available for The Regent's Park, Greenwich Park, The Green Park, Richmond Park and Bushy Park. They are not available for St. James's Park, Kensington Gardens, Victoria Tower Gardens or Brompton Cemetery.
To apply for a fitness training licence please read the information here and complete the online application form.
If you are filming/photographing by yourself on a mobile phone or action camera for purely personal use then no you don't need a permit to film/photograph in the park. However, for all other purposes you will need to obtain a filming or photography permit from The Royal Parks charity. Full information and online application forms can be found here.
Yes, we welcome informal picnics in the Royal Parks. Please read our guidance document for maximum group sizes and what is and isn't permitted. Please note that barbecues are not allowed.
Every year, we welcome hundreds of small and medium events to the Royal Parks, including walks and runs, large picnics, concerts and community sports. Applications for such events are considered by our dedicated Parks Events team. To find out more, and submit an application click here. At least six weeks’ notice is required.
We welcome the use of our park bandstands for small public events such as music festivals, dance or group fitness workshops or theatrical performances. Applications for such events are considered by our dedicated Parks Events team. To find out more, and submit an application click here. At least six weeks’ notice is required.
The majority of The Serpentine is reserved for boating and the local wildlife, and is strictly no swimming. However, there is a marked 100m open-water lido at the south-west corner of the lake which is open for public swimming during summer. Opening hours are 10am - 6pm on weekends from mid-May, and every day between June and mid-September.
Members of the historic Serpentine Swimming Club can also access the lido between 5am and 9:30am each morning before public swimming opens.
Try something different each time you visit
As the largest Royal Park in central London, we’ve got plenty of space for everyone and everything. Whatever you enjoy – from a high energy rock concert, to a ride down Rotten Row, browsing in The Royal Parks' first ever Shop, to relaxing in a deck chair – you can do it in Hyde Park.
Whether you’re visiting for the first time, or live locally, Hyde Park has a fascinating and colourful past to discover. There is a wealth of historical monuments and memorials. You’ll discover the passion and politics that led to the birth of Speakers’ Corner – where Karl Marx and Emmeline Pankhurst once inspired Londoners to join their cause. Or step back in time with our Virtual Tour of The Great Exhibition in 1851, the world's fair attended by a third of Britain's population.
A mini adventure, any day of the year
From pond dipping or mini beast hunting to ice creams and pedalos, the whole of Hyde Park is a playground for adventurous minds. Bring the children here to learn and discover the natural world right on their doorstep through one of our Discovery Days at The LookOut Discovery Centre or hire a boat on the Serpentine Lake. Play a game of tennis or just lie on the grass with a picnic. And they’ll have lots of mini adventures and make new friends at the Hyde Park Playground.
If you're over 12, you can have your own fun on one of our playgrounds – try out our Senior Playground, designed to keep you fit and active after 50.
Major events in the park
Hyde Park is famous for hosting some of London’s biggest live events – from the world famous bands and artists headlining at BST, to the hugely popular Winter Wonderland. Join tens of thousands of other Londoners and visitors for unmissable live events in the park.
Hyde Park – having fun on the water
The Serpentine Lido is home to Britain’s oldest open water swimming club, but you don’t have to join the club to swim here. From May to September, anyone can take a dip on a warm day at this gorgeous lido location – plus you can get a fantastic hot chocolate afterwards at the Serpentine Lido Café.
Hiring a Serpentine pedalo or rowing boat is a family favourite; you can take a boat out all year round, weather permitting. Just walk up on the day.
Enjoying sport in the park
If you’ve got the time, Hyde Park’s got the space. It’s big and it’s busy, but you’ll always find somewhere to play your favourite sport or relax at your leisure. Whether you want to have a knockaround on the tennis court after work, play a game of padel with friends or find a summer camp for the kids, Park Sports Hyde Park is a first class, dedicated sports facility on the south side of the park.
Hyde Park’s facilities are open to everyone, at any level, and it’s pay and play. We recommend booking ahead as they are a popular destination.
Ready to play? Make a booking with Park Sports here.
Riding in Hyde Park
There are two specialised riding arenas in Hyde Park, on the North and South Carriage Drive, and also two riding routes, North and South, one of which is the world-renowned Rotten Row. You’ll need to be a member of either Ross Nye or Hyde Park Stables. Book a ride or hack directly with them.
Need to hire space for a special event? You can do that too in Hyde Park. Find out more here.
Park Sports Hyde Park provides high quality pay and play tennis, padel, football, netball, and lawn bowling facilities. There is also a café.
Find out more about the seven-mile-long Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk and download the map to plan your route through the central parks.
The Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park London is an iconic spot to enjoy a swim during the warmest days of the year - from May to early September.
Hyde Park playground is an exciting and adventurous play space that sits on the southern boundary of Hyde Park.
From moving memorials to grand gateways
There’s no shortage of monuments and statues to explore in Hyde Park.
Many important events and individuals are commemorated at the park. To the east of The Serpentine you’ll find Britain’s first memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. Surrounded by pretty birch trees, it provides a quiet place of contemplation for visitors.
One of the best-known features of the park is the Diana Memorial Fountain, opened in 2004 as a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales. It’s a popular place for children to play and paddle.
The rich political history of the so-called ‘People’s Park’ is commemorated at the Reformers’ Tree, where a mosaic on the ground reminds visitors of the Victorians who came to the park demanding a vote for all adult men.
At Hyde Park Corner, it is impossible to miss Apsley Gate. This grand classical gateway was designed by famous architect Decimus Burton and erected in the 1820s.
7 July Memorial
A permanent memorial to honour the victims of the 7 July 2005 London Bombings.
The 7 July Memorial was unveiled in Hyde Park by by Their Majesties The King and Queen, The then Prince of Wales and The then Duchess of Cornwall, in a ceremony attended by senior political figures and the families of the 52 killed, on the fourth anniversary of the disaster, Tuesday 7 July 2009.
The memorial comprises 52 stainless steel pillars (stelae), collectively representing each of the 52 victims, grouped together in four inter-linking clusters reflecting the four locations of the incidents. Constructed from solid-cast, long-lasting stainless steel, each stela measures 3.5 metres high and is unique, with individual characteristic finishes brought about by the casting process. A stainless steel plaque listing the names of the victims is sited on a grass bank at the far eastern end of the memorial.
The memorial was produced by a design team including architects Carmody Groarke and engineering team Arup, who worked in close consultation with representatives of the bereaved families and advisors from The Royal Parks and DCMS, and was cast by Sheffield foundry Norton Cast Products.
The 18ft statue of Achilles, the Greek hero of the Trojan War, commemorates the soldier and politician, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852). It was installed by order of King George III and unveiled on 18 June 1822.
Located near the Queen Elizabeth Gate at Hyde Park Corner, the statue of Achilles was the first statue installed in Hyde Park and was commissioned by a patriotic, upper class society, known as Ladies of England.
The statue was made by Sir Richard Westmacott using 33 tonnes of bronze from cannons captured in Wellington's campaigns in France. The body of the statue is modelled on a Roman figure on Monte Cavallo in Italy. The head is based on the Duke himself.
The statue was originally completely nude and caused outrage so a small fig leaf had to be added soon after it was installed.
Animals in War memorial
The Animals in War Memorial, located outside Hyde Park near Brook Gate, commemorates animals that died in wars and conflicts. The creatures ranged from mules which were silenced in the Burmese jungle in World War 2 by having their vocal cords cut to glow worms, used by soldiers as a source of light to read maps in World War 1.
The memorial was unveiled by the Princess Royal in November 2004, on the 90th anniversary of the start of World War 1. It was inspired by Animals in War, a book by Jilly Cooper. A national appeal raised the £2 million cost of the memorial.
The memorial was designed by David Backhouse and consists of a 58ft curved Portland stone wall displaying carvings of animals. Two heavily-laden bronze mules struggle through a gap in the wall and ahead of them a horse and dog head off into the distance.
The Animals in War Memorial is not managed by The Royal Parks. For more information about the Animals in War Memorial visit the Animals in War Memorial Fund.
This classical stone gateway with its scroll-topped columns was designed by Decimus Burton, then just 25 years old. It was made from Portland stone and built in 1826-29.
The friezes by John Henning were copied from the Elgin Marbles that were originally on the Parthenon in Athens. Burton also designed a grand triumphal arch, now in the middle of the roundabout opposite Hyde Park.
Just inside the gates, the classical-style lodge house was also built by Decimus Burton. It has three bays in a Greek portico style and a turret clock by Thwaites and Reeds.
Boy & Dolphin fountain
The marble Boy and Dolphin fountain was made in 1862 by Alexander Munro, a friend of the Alice in Wonderland author, Lewis Carroll. The fountain is located in Hyde Park's Rose Garden.
There is a small metal plaque on a post nearby explaining the fountain's history.
It originally stood in a Victorian sunken garden that was demolished when Park Lane was widened – which is now the site of the Joy of Life fountain. The fountain moved to The Regent's Park in 1962 and returned to Hyde Park in 1995.
The Cavalry memorial is a bronze sculpture, which represents St George on horseback stepping over a defeated dragon, with a frieze of galloping horsemen around the base. The memorial commemorates members of the Cavalry Regiments killed during World War 1.
Designed by Adrian Jones, an army vet, the sculpture contains bronze which came from guns captured during World War 1. The base was designed by Sir John Burnet.
Originally installed in 1924 at Stanhope Gate, the Cavalry memorial was moved to its present site near the bandstand in 1961, following the widening of Park Lane.
The Cavalry memorial also contains a bronze plaque which lists the cavalry of the Empire. The text has been updated to include later conflicts.
Diana Memorial Fountain
This unique memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales was opened by Her Majesty The Queen on 6th July 2004.
The fountain was built with the best materials, talent and technology. It contains 545 pieces of Cornish granite - each shaped by the latest computer-controlled machinery and pieced together by hand using traditional skills.
The design aims to reflect Diana's life, water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom. The water is constantly being refreshed and is drawn from London's water table.
See here for more information on visiting the memorial.
Freeman Family drinking fountain
The Freeman Family drinking fountain is a public drinking fountain located near Cumberland Gate. Unveiled in 2009, it was the first drinking fountain installed in Hyde Park in 30 years.
The fountain is a sphere made from mirror-polished, marine-grade stainless steel. It has four drinking fountains at different heights to cater for different users.
The fountain was given to Hyde Park as a gift from the Freeman Family and was designed by David Harber.
The Holocaust Memorial is a garden of boulders surrounded by white-stemmed birch trees, located to the east of The Dell. It was Britain's first memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.
The memorial was constructed in 1983 and paid for by the Board of British Jews. The design was by Richard Seifert and Derek Lovejoy and Partners.
The largest boulder is inscribed with text from the Book of Lamentations:
"For these I weep. Streams of tears flow from my eyes because of the destruction of my people."
Hudson Memorial Bird Sanctuary
The Hudson Memorial Bird Sanctuary is a carved stone memorial commemorating the 19th century writer and naturalist, William Hudson. He helped to establish the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and campaigned for wild areas in parks, at a time when they were always neat and tidy.
The carving, by Sir Jacob Epstein, represents Rima, the child goddess of nature who featured in Hudson's novel Green Mansions, published in 1904. The engravings are by the designer Eric Gill. The memorial was installed in 1924 and was immediately controversial. The Daily Mail wrote: "take this horror out of our park".
Today, this area is a refuge for smaller birds, such as robin, tits, blackbird, wren and goldcrest.
The Huntress fountain
The Huntress fountain, located in the Rose Garden, features a bronze figure of Diana, the goddess of hunting, shooting an arrow.
The fountain was installed in 1906 and made by Countess Feodora Gleichen, the first woman member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors. It was donated by Sir Walter and Lady Palmer.
Hyde Park bandstand
The bandstand in Hyde Park is one of the oldest in Britain. It was built in 1869 and originally stood in Kensington Gardens, but moved to Hyde Park in 1886. The octagonal roof gives it particularly good acoustics.
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers song "Isn't it a Lovely Day to be Caught in the Rain" from the 1935 film Top Hat was set on the Hyde Park bandstand but actually filmed on a soundstage at RKO's Hollywood studios.
The famous trumpeter, Harry Mortimer, described Hyde Park's bandstand as "uncomfortable, unsanitary, but much loved". He did a week's engagement on the bandstand during World War II in 1944 with the Fodens Motor Works Band. He wrote in his autobiography:
"It is not easy to play or conduct beautiful music with one ear cocked for the sound of a doodle-bug engine, one hand searching for the strap of your gas mask."
Today it is used for occasional concerts, as a regular meeting point for sports and sponsored events and part of the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland event held in the park each year.
Joy of Life fountain
The Joy of Life fountain depicts two bronze figures holding hands while appearing to dance above the water, with four bronze children emerging from the pool.
It is located next to Aldford Street North Gate, alongside Park Lane.
The fountain was designed by T. B. Huxley-Jones and dates from 1963, when Park Lane was widened. It was donated by the Constance Fund to replace the Boy and Dolphin Fountain which previously stood on this spot.
In 2008, the charity, Marie Curie Cancer Care, planted 60,000 daffodil bulbs around the fountain to celebrate its 60th anniversary.
Norwegian War memorial
The Norwegian Navy and Merchant Fleet presented this large granite boulder in 1978 as thanks for British support during World War 2.
The memorial consists of a boulder of pre-Cambrian granite, mounted on three smaller stones. The front is engraved: "You gave us a safe haven in our common struggle for freedom and peace". The back reads: "Worked and shaped by forces of nature for thousands of years".
The Norwegian War memorial can be found in the Cockpit along Serpentine Road, opposite the West Boat House.
The Pan statue, also known as Rush of Green, is a bronze statue depicting a family and their dog rushing eagerly towards the park, urged on by Pan who is playing pipes.
The statue was the last sculpture to be designed by Sir Jacob Epstein before his death in 1959, and was posthumously installed in the park in 1961. It is located by Edinburgh Gate on the south side of Hyde Park.
Queen Caroline memorial
The Queen Caroline memorial is a stone urn mounted on a plinth overlooking the east end of the Serpentine.
This memorial is to Queen Caroline, the wife of King George II, who from 1726-1730 created the Serpentine in Hyde Park and the Long Water in Kensington Gardens. The lake follows the shape of the valley of the Westbourne Stream, which now flows underground.
The Queen Caroline memorial was unveiled by HM The Queen in 1990.
Queen Elizabeth Gate
These highly decorated gates were installed to commemorate the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The central screen, designed by David Wynne, unites two national symbols: the lion of England with the unicorn of Scotland.
The Queen Elizabeth gates are made from stainless steel and designed by Giuseppe Lund. They were funded by public subscription and unveiled by the Queen in 1993.
Reaction was mixed. Crafts Magazine described them as "a music hall joke, a pantomime dame and a seaside postcard rolled in to one". The then arts minister, Lord St John of Fawsley, said they were "full of joy, strength and courage, like the personage in whose honour they have been created".
Serenity is a striking bronze sculpture located on the south side of the Serpentine, near the Diana Memorial Fountain.
The sculpture is inspired by the Egyptian goddess of nature. It was designed by British sculptor Simon Gudgeon and was installed in the park in 2009.
Serenity was donated by Halcyon Gallery and the sculpture's creator Simon Gudgeon to help raise funds for the The LookOut Discovery Centre, Hyde Park. At the base of the sculpture you can see 1,000 plaques dedicated to supporters of the appeal.
Eating and drinking in Hyde Park
Stop by and enjoy a lunch, an indulgent cream tea, hot chocolate or coffee at any of our cafés or kiosks – and look out for our vintage ice cream vans too.
Our cafés and kiosks
Our cafés – the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen, the Serpentine Lido Café, the Park Sports Café, and The Lodge Café at Hyde Park Corner – all serve delicious and sustainably prepared hot and cold food with vegan, vegetarian, and other dietary options. Every venue has outdoor and indoor seating, so no matter the weather, you can eat and drink in comfort.
Various kiosks are also located across Hyde Park. Whether you are grabbing an ice cream ready for a boat trip or a coffee for your morning walk, our kiosks have something for everyone. Check out the park information boards or the park map here for the most convenient one.
Picnicking in Hyde Park
The park is a great place for a picnic! A selection of freshly cut sandwiches, artisan baguettes and drinks are available in our cafés and kiosks.
Feel free to bring your own food and drink to enjoy in the park but barbecues and any sort of fire lighting is absolutely forbidden.
Please take your litter home with you or place it in one of our bins on the way out – wildlife and litter don’t mix.
Every purchase helps us care for Hyde Park
A proportion of anything you spend at our cafés or kiosks goes straight back to help look after the Royal Parks, and the wealth of wildlife and natural habitats they contain.
The Serpentine Bar & Kitchen serves a wide variety of tasty hot meals and snacks, freshly prepared sandwiches, and a selection of cakes and snacks.
With stunning views along the Serpentine and a large alfresco dining area, The Serpentine Lido Cafe is a great place to enjoy great food.
Refreshment kiosks are located around the park and offer bean to cup coffee, ice cream, snacks and freshly made sandwiches.
Park Sports Café boasts indoor and outdoor seating, overlooking the lawn bowling green and iconic Hyde Park gardens.
The Lodge Café at Hyde Park Corner offers simple, genuine British and continental food freshly prepared on the premises.
Gardens to inspire your mind and restore your soul
From the blazing colours of the Rose Garden in full bloom, to the quiet sanctuary of the Dell, Hyde Park’s gardens are the perfect place to escape everyday life, and de-stress.
The Hyde Park Rose Garden
Some visitors say you can smell it before you see it. The Hyde Park Rose Garden in full summer bloom in June and July is a showstopper – a blaze of colour and heady scent. Many of the flowers will make it right through to first frosts.
Stand for a moment, feast your eyes. Then close them – and breathe. Gardens are definitely good for our wellbeing.
Two landmark Hyde Park fountains are here as well – the Boy and Dolphin Fountain and Diana the Huntress Fountain.
Discover the delights of The Dell
Down beside the Serpentine Lake, you may notice a cascading waterfall, and close by is a true garden-lovers’ delight – The Dell. Walk by this secluded ‘garden-within-a-garden’ in spring and you’ll be rewarded with a meadow of early flowers. You’ll also discover an alpine meadow, and the wonderfully named Nannie’s Lawn, where Edwardian nannies were said to wheel their prams.
The wilder side of Hyde Park
Even in the middle of the largest park in Central London, you can escape to a wilder, more naturalised landscape. Use our map to hunt out the Hudson memorial. William Hudson believed that every park should have a place where nature had the upper hand. So the green lawns here have been naturalised, and resown with wildflowers, making it a haven for wildlife. Sit here and you’ll see many smaller birds from the goldcrest, Britain’s tiniest bird, to the many wrens, bluetits and great tits.
You’re really close to other amazing gardens! Cross over into Kensington Gardens and stroll the 400m long Flower Walk or the Italian Gardens. And if it’s spring – don’t miss the drifts of thousands of daffodils in both St. James’s Park and The Green Park
Can I bring my dog?
Dogs are welcome in Hyde Park but you’ll need to keep your dog on a lead in the Rose Garden and around the Serpentine Lake.
The history of Hyde Park
Hyde Park is one of the world’s most famous parks. Known not just for its landscape and history but also as a cradle of free speech.
Hyde Park and the Tudors
King Henry VIII was a passionate sportsman. Not content with hunting at Greenwich Park and Richmond Park, in 1536 he also acquired the land that now forms Hyde Park from the monks of Westminster Abbey, adding it to his collection of hunting grounds.
But Hyde Park remained a private park until James I came to the throne in 1603 – he opened the gates to a well-heeled group of courtiers and socialites, making the park a rather exclusive club. This all changed in 1637 when King Charles I opened the park to the general public.
Hyde Park and the Stuarts
King Charles I changed the character of Hyde Park completely. It became a park for the people, and it came to their rescue. In 1665, during the Great Plague, the park became an impromptu camp site, providing refuge to many citizens fleeing the infected areas of the City.
The King also commissioned the Ring, a circular driveway to the north of today’s Serpentine boathouses where people could race horses or drive carriages for the delight of the crowds. Ladies refreshed themselves at the ‘Cheesecake House’, with syllabubs made from cream whipped with sugar and wine.
But at night, Hyde Park was still a dangerous place. Later on, King William III had 300 oil lamps installed between St. James’s Park and Hyde Park, creating the first artificially lit highway in the country.
This is the original Rotten Row, which is a corruption of the French 'Route de Roi' or King's Road.
Hyde Park and a Queen’s touch
Many of the striking features you see today in Hyde Park were created in the 1700s by a keen royal gardener, Queen Caroline – wife of King George II. She annexed almost 300 acres from Hyde Park to form Kensington Gardens and separated the two parks with a long ditch or ha-ha – the first of its kind.
Queen Caroline also created the iconic Serpentine by damming the Westbourne Stream. At that time, artificial lakes were usually long and straight. The Serpentine was one of the first that was designed to look natural. It started a trend – and copycat lakes appeared in parks and gardens all over the country.
The landscape of today’s Hyde Park remains much as it has been since Queen Caroline’s innovative relandscaping.
Hyde Park in the 1800s
The 1800s saw Hyde Park cement its reputation as a venue for national celebrations. In 1814, the Prince Regent organised fireworks to mark the end of the Napoleonic Wars and then, in 1851, the park hosted The Great Exhibition. This major international event celebrated industry, technology and culture from across the globe.
With 100,000 objects and over 15,000 contributors, the Exhibition was the must-see event of 1851. Six million people flocked to see weird and wonderful items including folding pianos for yachtsmen, a Russian urn twice the height of a man and a single lump of gold weighing 50kg.
The birth of Speaker’s Corner – and freedom of speech
Until 1783, the infamous Tyburn Gallows sat just outside Hyde Park. Tradition dictated that everyone condemned to die there could make a final speech – and since you were about to die, you could say pretty much what you pleased. After the gallows were closed, the tradition for public speaking remained and the part of Hyde Park known as Speaker’s Corner became a popular place for Londoners to have their say.
Over the year, famous speakers have included William Morris, Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. Speaker’s Corner also had a special significance to the Suffragette movement at the beginning of the 1900s – Sylvia Pankhurst and her courageous followers held many rallies in this corner of the park.
The wildlife habitats, havens and hideouts of Hyde Park
Hyde Park’s 350 acres are a unique mix of habitats and ecosystems, from the native wildflower Tyburn Meadow to the rustling reedbeds edging the Serpentine Lake, to acre upon acre of rolling grassland, majestic plane trees and sweet chestnuts. The meadowlands are key habitats for boosting biodiversity and growing the numbers of butterflies, bees and wildflowers.
The reedbeds established along the Serpentine Lake, near the Lido Café and Serpentine Bar & Kitchen are natural water purifiers – their root systems improve the water quality. The reeds attract summer visitors such as reed warblers, and provide year-round cover for nesting ducks, geese and swans. In summer, you’ll see dragonflies and the electric blue and purple damselflies, resting amongst the reeds between dazzling displays of aviation.
Grey heron, goldcrests and greater crested grebes – Hyde Park’s birds
Some birds in Hyde Park you just can’t miss. Stately pairs of Egyptian geese promenade up the centre of the paths. Gulls, cormorants and mallards are regular sights as they duck and dive for fish in the Serpentine Lake. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of great crested grebes courting with their ‘weed pattering dance’ (once you see it, the name will make sense!). We’ve even spotted buzzards circling overhead, and an occasional black swan.
Many of the tinier bird species, such as the goldcrest, the wren and many tits, are found in the naturalised gardens around the William Hudson Bird Memorial. Hudson was a founding member of the RSPB and believed passionately that every park should have pockets of wild, naturalised environments. We’re taking action to make this happen; sowing wildflower seeds, leaving some lawns long and creating deadwood hedges. Creating parkland sanctuaries for both people and wildlife can be a delicate balancing act.
If you’re looking for the herons, look for their delightfully messy nests on to Serpentine Island near the boathouses or spot them perching in the lakeside willows.
Listen out around the shrubs and herbaceous borders, and you’ll hear robins, wrens, great tits and other songbirds, or the noisy chatter of long-tailed tits.
Beetles, bugs and minibeasts – the wildlife at ground level
In a park the size of Hyde Park, it’s easy to miss some of our most valuable wildlife. Beetles, bees, wasp spiders and other invertebrates are all around – and working overtime. It’s amazing how much you see if you lie on the grass and watch for a minute. Children are natural mini-beast explorers – get their love of wildlife started early and join in on one of our Discovery Days at The Lookout Discovery Centre.
These invertebrate creatures are fundamental to the park ecosystem – they’re our conservation partners.
Wildlife and parklife – the delicate balancing act
The Royal Parks are unique urban parklands, where people and wildlife can come together. We have a responsibility to protect and balance the best interests of the people, animals, birds, plants and planet for future generations.