Even though it is one of the major capital cities in the world, London some beautiful greenery right in the heart of it. It’s maze of buildings and structures are broken up by areas of luscious trees and flowers which can be a breath of fresh air from the concrete jungle. If you are travelling in from Heathrow for the day, the the city and parks are easily accessible from hotels in hounslow west which allows you to see all the sights, shop ‘til you’ve dropped and absorb as much British history as you can before taking a break in one of the beautiful parks that are scattered around the city.
A day out at Kensington Gardens is exactly what is needed after a hard day’s exploration of the city. It is a magical place that has been the setting for many stories, including Peter Pan who can be found immortalised in bronze at the southern part of the gardens. It was originally used as a hunting ground in the 16th century by Henry VIII before being separated in 1728 by the Serpentine which is known as Long Water in Kensington Gardens. At the top of Long Water lies the Italian Gardens, a sweet little spot where you can get lost in the exquisite colours and formations of the plants and flowers, while at the bottom lies the Albert Memorial statue and the Physical Energy statue.
Situated just seconds from the statues is the Serpentine Gallery, one of the best spaces for contemporary art in London. It is free to get in and allows you to gaze at some of the very best pieces in modern art, including works by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Duane Hanson. There are different exhibits held throughout the year and there are events that allow the whole family to get their creative juices flowing and get involved.
Kensington Palace is, of course, the main place to visit in the gardens. Built in 1605, it became the home of many Royals, with William and Mary expanding the property in the late 17th century. Queen Victoria, King George I and II, Princess Diana and the current Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have all taken residence here and made their mark in some way. There are tours available where you can see the rooms of King George I and King George II as they would have been when it was their home as well as viewing the memorabilia and state rooms of King William and Queen Mary and fashion pieces from the Queen, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana. There is a chance to see the gardens where over one million flowers were laid in mourning for Princess Diana’s untimely death in 1997 and there is a memorial garden and playground in the park in remembrance of the People’s Princess.
Large open spaces perfect for playing games, squirrels running around collecting nuts and lounging in the shade of one of the large trees makes for a wonderful day out in Hyde Park. It was established as a hunting ground in 1536 by Henry VIII and it remained a Royal park until 1637 where Charles I opened the park to the public. In 1665 it was used as a safe haven from the plague that claimed 15% of London’s population and in the 18th century Queen Caroline split the park to form Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens by using the first natural looking man-made lake in Britain, the Serpentine. This brand new landscaping technique became a very popular feature throughout the UK.
The 1820s saw Hyde Park undergo another renovation when King George IV hired Decimus Burton to create the Wellington Arch, which can now be seen at Hyde Park Corner. The designs that Burton created and put together is the Hyde Park that we know today as there have been minimal changes since the 19th century; the only changes have been to commemorate the 7/7 bombing memorial and the Holocaust.
Cultural Importance of Hyde Park
Some of history’s major event have been commemorated in Hyde park; it saw the celebration for the Battle of Trafalgar in 1814 and it also held a Silver Jubilee Exhibition in 1977 to honour 25 years of Queen Elizabeth II as our country’s reigning monarch.
The most historical event to take place at Hyde Park was the Crystal Palace Great Exhibition of 1851. The exhibition housed artifacts from all the corners of the British Empire, including its Colonies and Dependencies, totaling a staggering 13,000 artifacts. The highlights were the Koh-i-Noor, the world’s biggest diamond at that time, the Daria-i-Noor, a striking pink diamond and a Jacquard loom.
In recent years, the park has hosted some of the world’s best concerts with the likes of Queen and Pink Floyd taking to the stage. The biggest concert held at Hyde Park was by The Rolling Stones in 1969 with a crowd of around 500,000 taking to the park.
Hyde Park is most famous for hosting the biggest Christmas event of the year, “Winter Wonderland,”which is held from November until January annually. It is attracts visitors from all over the world with its large ice rink, fairground rides and abundance of food and drink.
If you are only visiting this fair city for a day, then make it a day of exploration in two of the biggest most beautiful parks in London; each with shared and separate histories of triumph and loss. As the years go on, more momentous occasions are guaranteed to be held here, so play your part in history and take a stroll through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.