Our pick of wonderful green spaces for a picnic in the city
London may be a big, bustling city but it doesn’t want for wonderful green spaces that are perfect venues for a picnic. Any of the central parks – Hyde Park, Green Park, et al – are excellent places to enjoy an alfresco feast but here are our favourite spots to relax and indulge in a delicious meal in the great outdoors, with tips on where to source your picnic goodies.
Staying at home? See our: Pretty patio ideas for every garden space.
1. Horniman Museum, Forest Hill
Most famous, perhaps, for its badly stuffed walrus, the brilliant Horniman Museum also has delightful gardens, llamas, a Saturday farmers market and an awesome view of London from its vantage point on a hill in the south-east of the city. It is also home through the summer to a series of jazz picnics on Thursday evenings to which you can take your own a feast and enjoy great music and wonderful sunsets for absolutely nothing. This year’s theme is African summer, so expect seriously talented musicians playing ebullient, soulful tunes from the Victorian bandstand (above).
Nearest station Forest Hill.
Buy provisions Aga’s Little Deli, on Dartmouth Road in Forest Hill, sells great bread from Brick House, cheese, cured meats, cakes, drinks, olives and more, while the Saturday farmers market at the Horniman has a gourmet’s delight of food stands.
2. Holland Park
Beautiful Holland Park offers a peaceful escape in the west of the city. There is the zen Kyoto garden and waterfall, woodland for wildlife lovers, peacocks and play facilities for the little ones. Take a leisurely stroll to select the right spot for your picnic and to build up an appetie. For added culture, take a look at the Opera Holland Park programme, which also offers a picnic package for its outdoor opera events.
Nearest station Kensington High Street.
Buy provisions Head to New Crackers Delicatessen on High Street Kensington for Lebanese salads, pastries and even pizza.
3. Hampstead Heath
Go to Hampstead Heath and you’ll forget you’re in London. This vast park lies in the north-west of the city and boasts splendid views of the capital’s skyline, especially from Parliament Hill. The brave can venture into the ponds for a pre-prandial swim, while Kenwood House has a great collection of art and wonderful decorative interiors. (Picture: www.hampsteadheath.net)
Nearest station Hampstead Heath.
Buy provisions Try Giacobazzi’s Delicatessen for Italian fine foods, breads, cheeses, meats and wine.
For carrying your goodies, try: Picnic baskets – our pick of the best
4. Dulwich Park
Down south London town is lovely Dulwich Park. Dulwich itself is a surprising find in supposedly edgy south-east London; it could be mistaken for a rather well-heeled Hampshire village with its quirky road signs, leafy streets and proximity to glorious Sydenham woods. In the park itself there’s a boating lake and bike hire, so you can work up an appetite, while nearby is the superb Dulwich Picture Gallery, which has regular exhibitions and permanent works by Rembrandt, among others. There are plenty of appealing places for a picnic, though its popularity with dog owners might mean you have to guard your fare carefully!
Nearest station West Dulwich.
Buy provisions Head to Romeo Jones in Dulwich village for breads, sandwiches, pies and more or Gails Bakery. Not far away is East Dulwich, home to an array of great food suppliers, such as Brick House Bakery, the Cheese Block and Franklins, which sells gourmet treats.
5. Regents Park
You could spend a good half a day smelling the more than 12,000 fragrant roses in this large, lovely central park (above), designed by John Nash, which presents a wide variety of settings for an alfresco feast. There are exquisite flower beds, lakes and ponds, London zoo and nearby is Primrose Hill – one of the best places to admire the London skyline. In summer, there is also an open-air theatre, which offers picnic packages, while the nearby canal provides one of the finest walks in London if you need to work off your feast.
Nearest station Baker Street, Regent’s Park or Great Portland Street.
Buy provisions La Fromagerie on Marylebone High street is a wonderful emporium of cheese and other delicacies, while Melrose & Morgan on Gloucester Avenue to the north of the park sells pies, pastries tarts and delicious salads.
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6. St James’s Park
Perfectly formed St James’s Park is a great option for a picnic if you don’t have time to head out of the centre of the city. The beautiful lake is home to some rather comical pelicans – and excellent free entertainment – and, while it can be busy, there are several nooks and crannies to sequester yourself away in. The Blue Bridge has a great view towards Whitehall and the London Eye (above).
Nearest station Westminster.
Buy provisions This is the place to push the boat out and nearby Dukes Hotel can supply a well-stocked picnic hamper, from £35 per person, as well as picnic blankets, shrugs and hot water bottle. You have to order 24 hours in advance.
7. Thames Barrier Park
For something completely different, try the Thames Barrier Park. This stunning setting is near the strange, otherworldly Thames Barrier (worth a visit in itself), and the striking design of the park features linear hedges, pruned into wave formation and wildflower meadows and fountains. It was London’s first new park for 50 years and it still feels like the future.
Nearest station Pontoon Dock DLR.
Buy provisions There’s not much around so come prepared with a picnic!
Need something to sit on? Read: Picnic blankets – Our pick of the best.
Now you have the lowdown on the best picnic spots in town, all you need is a sunny day. Have a great time!