Lovely London Parks: A Guide to Hyde Park
One of the best things to do in London during the summer (if you can even call this a summer) is hit up one of the city’s many parks. Here’s part one of our guide to the city’s best parks and what they have to offer.
London’s Hyde Park is one of London’s most famous and finest green spaces dating back to 1536 when King Henry VIII and his court used it as a hunting ground for deer and wild boar. You won’t find much wildlife there now bar a few pesky feral pigeons, but there are plenty of fun outdoor activities, events and concerts to keep you amused.
Like most of London’s parks, there are cycle tracks circuiting the entire park so you can get your cycle on or even jog if you’re feeling more energetic (there are numerous places you can stop for ice-cream along the way). If ball games are more your thing, you can practice your swing with a spot of tennis in one of the park’s six tennis courts or try your hand at some putting. Alternatively, you can join the OAPs for some lawn bowls.
On the Water
If you’re brave enough (and the sun is hot enough) you can go for a dip in the Serpentine Lake which is open for swimming every day of the week during the summer (10am to 6pm). Early birds who get there before 10am can watch members of the Serpentine Swimming Club, the oldest swimming club in Britain, do their daily laps.
If you don’t fancy getting wet then you can hire a rowing or pedal boat and take it out on the lake, taking in the scenic views of the park. You can also take a ride on the UK's first Solarshuttle, a solar-power boat which silently glides across the lake ferrying passengers from the Diana (Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain) to the new Boat House on the northern side.
Picnics in the park are the ultimate summertime activity and Hyde Park has plenty of lawn space available for rugs and picnic hampers (pork pies and chilled Rose wine are essential). Up the ante and rent some deck chairs, the quintessential British summer accessory, charged by the hour (£1.50) or a full day (£7).
Special Events / Exhibitions
As the big games approach, you won’t be short of things to do in London but Hyde Park will be at the heart of all the Olympic mania starting with the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay Finale concert presented by Coca-Cola (July 26) in Parade Grounds. The headline act is rapper Dizzee Rascal and other acts include The Wanted, Mark Ronson & Katy B, Eliza Doolittle and Wretch 32 (ticket only event).
The park is also hosting the Triathlon (Women’s on August 4 and Men’s on August 7) and 10km Marathon Swimming event (women’s on August 9 and men’s on August 10). If you haven’t got tickets to these events, there will be opportunities to view parts of them in designated areas around Hyde Park for free, but set up camp early because viewing sites will fill up fast.
Africa Village: Hyde Park is also the chosen location for the official reception area of Africa’s 53 teams. There will be stands showcasing the very best of each African country, including modern and traditional music concerts, fashion, dancing, photo exhibitions and food.
The London 2012 Shop: For all your Olympic memorabilia needs (signed Olympic torches and limited edition Coca-Cola pins) you will find the largest Olympics 2012 pop-up shop on Rotten Row south of The Serpentine Lake (until September 16).
Sochi Park: If you can’t wait until Hyde Park’s festive Winter Wonderland in December or you’re curious what Russia has up its sleeve for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games then pay a visit to the digital winter wonderland of Sochi Park. The 6,000-square-metre interactive pavillion will feature high-tech displays and an ice arena.
BT London Live: If you haven’t got tickets to any of the London Olympic events then Hyde Park is the next best thing. You can take along your Union Jack flags (left over from the Jubilee celebrations) and catch all the action for free on four large screens set up in the park while enjoying a few beers from the al-fresco BT London Live Sports Bar. You can also partake in a range of sporting activities (including Lacrosse, football, volleyball and cricket) and watch daily live music performances. The line up includes Rebecca Ferguson (July 31), Alexandra Burke (August 2), Amy Macdonald (August 3), McFly (August 4) and Alyssa Reid (August 5). Access is free apart from Opening and Closing Celebration concerts where tickets are required.
Hyde Park opens from 5am to midnight. For more information visit the website.