Green in the City: Discovering the Biggest Park in London

From secret secluded gardens to huge expanses of lush greenery, London has over three thousand parks and open spaces offering a much-needed respite from the city’s hustle and bustle, but what are the biggest London parks, and what is the largest royal park in London?

Building Big Engineering
29 February 2024

Where two thousand years of history meets cutting-edge scientific, technological and creative innovation and the wonders of modern life, the importance of London’s biggest parks cannot be overstated.

These verdant oases – some as small as a traffic island, others as big as towns – serve as the lungs of the city, offering residents and visitors a break from the concrete jungle. Parks, including the largest park in London, play a crucial role in enhancing urban life, providing spaces for sports and recreation, relaxation, and connection with nature. They also serve environmental purposes, helping to improve air quality and to support conservation, hosting a variety of wildlife and plant species that contribute to the city’s ecological diversity.

London’s history with parks stretches back centuries, with many of its green spaces originally serving as royal hunting grounds before being opened to the public. Today, some of the biggest London parks rank among the most famous green spaces in the world, featuring open-air theatres, picturesque canals and panoramic views. You may even be surprised to know that the largest royal park in London is over twice the size of the second on the list, but what park is it? Here are the contenders for the largest park in London.

The Royal Parks

Cyclists at sunrise at Richmond Park, London. (Credit: Karl Hendon via Getty Images)

London is home to eight world-famous Royal Parks, covering almost 5,000 acres of land. Originally the exclusive domain of the royal family for whom they served as hunting grounds, they were opened to the public from around the middle of the seventeenth century. Which of them is the largest royal park in London?

The Green Park | 47 acres

Autumn at The Green Park, London. (Credit: Karl Hendon via Getty Images)

Created in the 1660s by King Charles II, who wanted to walk between Hyde Park and St James’s Park without leaving royal soil, The Green Park – originally called Upper St James’s Park – is remarkably simple, with no lakes, buildings or formal flower beds.

St. James’s Park | 57 acres

Glorious views of the lake at St. James’s Park, London. (Credit: Circle Creative Studio via Getty Images)

A one-time home to camels, elephants, crocodiles and an assortment of exotic birds, St. James’s Park may not be the biggest park in London but it’s one of the most famous. Bounded by Horse Guards to the east, Buckingham Palace to the west, Birdcage Walk to the south, and The Mall to the north, it was used by King Henry VIII as his private hunting grounds. One of the most famous sights in the park is a squadron of pelicans, originally gifted to King Charles II by a visiting Russian ambassador.

Greenwich Park | 184 acres

London's skyline seen from Greenwich Park, London. (Credit: Moussa81 via Getty Images)

One of London’s biggest parks is also one of its most beautiful. Greenwich Park is home to the Royal Observatory and the world-famous Prime Meridian, the dividing line between the Earth’s eastern and western hemispheres. It was the first of the royal parks to be enclosed – in 1433 – and the views of London’s skyline from the top of One Tree Hill are said to be the best in the whole city.

Kensington Gardens | 265 acres

The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens in autumnal London. (Credit: Matt Mawson via Getty Images)

Home to the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground, the stunning Italian Gardens, and the iconic Albert Memorial, Kensington Gardens was originally the private gardens of Kensington Palace. It was opened to the public in 1841 by Queen Victoria.

Hyde Park | 350 acres

Aerial view west of Hyde Park and Kensington Palace. (Credit: Andrew Holt via Getty Images)

Hyde Park is one of the most iconic green spaces in the world, as well as being one of the biggest London parks. King Henry VIII established the park in 1536. Perhaps its most famous area is Speaker’s Corner, where people can air their views on any number of topics. Famous speakers have included Karl Marx, Lenin and George Orwell. The park is also home to the Hyde Park Lido, believed to be Britain’s oldest swimming club.

The Regent’s Park | 410 acres

Aerial view west of The Regent’s Park. (Credit: Andrew Holt via Getty Images)

One of London’s biggest parks and perhaps its most famous, The Regent’s Park was originally used for hunting and tenant farming. Today, it’s home to the world-famous London Zoo, 5,000 varieties of tree, and what may be London’s only breeding population of hedgehogs.

Bushy Park | 1,100 acres

Diana Fountain, Bushy Park, Richmond upon Thames, London. (Credit: Heritage Images / Contributor via Getty Images)

Just north of Hampton Court Palace in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Bushy Park is the least well-known of the royal parks but a contender for the biggest park in London. One of London’s oldest inhabited sites – there’s evidence of 4,000 year-old Bronze Age settlers – the park is famous as the location of the World War II military base from where the D-Day Landings were planned by, amongst others, General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Richmond Park | 2,360 acres

Aerial view over Richmond Park at sunset. (Credit: Howard Kingsnorth via Getty Images)

The largest park in London is Richmond Park. Established in 1625 by King Charles I, he used the parklands to hunt deer after he brought his court to Richmond Palace to escape the outbreak of plague. Today, Richmond Park is home to over 600 free-roaming red and fallow deer, and the wall enclosing the park is eight miles long, and in places almost three metres high.

London’s Biggest Parks

Hampstead Heath and London's skyline (Credit: georgeclerk via Getty Images)

Beyond their size, the contenders for the largest park in London have unique histories, offering glimpses into the past with historic buildings and landscapes that tell stories of the city’s heritage. Here are some of the biggest.

Alexandra Park | London Borough of Haringey | 200 acres

One of London’s biggest parks was laid out on the site of Tottenham Wood, once part of the Great Forest of Middlesex which dates back well over a thousand years. The park was named in 1863 for Alexandra of Denmark’s marriage to the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. It’s home to Alexandra Palace, home to the BBC’s first television broadcasts and some of the best views over London.

Battersea Park | London Borough of Wandsworth | 205 acres

Like Victoria Park below, Battersea Park was laid out by Sir James Pennethorne and opened in 1858. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century the land on which Battersea Park now sits was one of London’s most popular duelling sites. On January 9, 1864, the very first football match played under the newly-created Football Association rules was played in Battersea Park, between teams picked by the FA president and the FA secretary. The president’s team won 2-0.

Victoria Park | London Borough of Tower Hamlets | 213 acres

Vicky Park opened to the public in 1845 to provide a green space for the city’s growing East End population. Today, it’s thought to attract over nine million visitors a year. A contender for the biggest park in London, Victoria Park was laid out by renowned British town planner and architect Sir James Pennethorne, and contains two elaborate seated alcoves which are surviving fragments of the old London Bridge, torn down in 1831.

Trent Park | London Boroughs of Enfield & Barnet | 790 acres

Dating back to the fifteenth century reign of King Henry IV, when it was part of his hunting grounds known as Enfield Chase, Trent Park is one of the biggest London parks. Trent Park House, the early-Georgian mansion known as one of England’s great country houses, was requisitioned during World War II and was a vital centre of information as well as a location for captured Luftwaffe soldiers.

Hampstead Heath | London Borough of Camden | 800 acres

Excluding royal parks, Hampstead Heath is likely to be the biggest park in London. Evidence suggests the area on which the park now stands was occupied by a mesolithic hunter-gatherer community dating back around 9,000 years, but the first documented mention comes from the Domesday Book when Ethelred the Unready granted land at Hemstede to the Abbot of Westminster. The heath is one of London’s highest points and the pond at the top of the hill is a headwater for London’s famous underground River Fleet, which joins the Thames under Blackfriars Bridge.

The Enduring Impact of London’s Green Spaces

A sunset view of Trent Park and surrounding area in Barnet, London. (Credit: Karl Hendon via Getty Images)

The city’s commitment to preserving the biggest London parks is more than just a nod to tradition. It’s a vital component of urban life that fosters community, promotes health, and sustains biodiversity. From the smallest green spaces to the biggest park in London, these areas offer a sanctuary for both wildlife and city dwellers alike.


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