Visiting Hyde Park – a guide
March 10, 2021
The defining feature of Hyde Park, the Serpentine lake slices right through the centre of the greenery. In summer, people take to the water in pedalos or rowing boats and soak up the sun on its wide tree-lined banks, while on crisp winter days it’s a lovely place to enjoy a long, leisurely walk. Swimming is also permitted in the lido and paddling pool from May-September, and on Christmas Day the Serpentine Swimming Club – the oldest swimming club in Britain – brave the freezing water for their famous festive race.
Two separate sites situated on either side of the Serpentine, the Serpentine Galleries are located in two wonderfully different structures, just five minutes’ walk from each other. The Serpentine Gallery is set in a Grade II-listed former tea pavilion and was opened to the public as a museum back in 1970. Dedicated to emerging and established contemporary art, it has showcased blockbuster artists like Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, and is also the body behind the annual Pavilion architecture commission, which sees a new temporary building pop up on the gallery lawn each summer.
Opened in 2013, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery is best known for the sweeping curves of the Zaha Hadid-designed extension to the 200-year-old gunpowder store – which makes up the rest of the museum building. Also dedicated to contemporary art, the Sackler gallery complements its rotating exhibitions with a great programme of events and talks, alongside a café and the Serpentine shop.
Where to eat and drink
Set overlooking the leafy grounds of Hyde Park, there are few finer places to enjoy a meal than CUT at 45 Park Lane. Take a seat by the window to soak up the greenery and dine on a menu of fresh seasonal produce and fine Wagyu beef. Within the park itself, there are plenty of places to eat and drink, alongside several kiosks selling everything from ice cream to barista style coffee. Head to The Serpentine Bar and Kitchen on the eastern edge of the Serpentine for tranquil lakeside dining, classic British fare and wood-fired pizza. The Serpentine Lido Café is particularly popular during the summer months due to its large al fresco dining area, but it’s an equally atmospheric spot in the depths of winter, where you can warm up with a hot drink by the water.
Statues and memorials
Hyde Park has an enormous number of statues, fountains and memorials, so it pays to do a little pre-planning. One of the park’s most famous memorials is the fountain dedicated to Diana, Princess of Wales. A striking contemporary piece fashioned from Cornish granite, the cascading water offers the perfect soundtrack for a moment of quiet contemplation. The 7 July Memorial is another of the park’s most poignant pieces, honouring the victims of the 2005 London bombings. Visitors can wander through the 52 stainless steel pillars, reading the moving inscriptions on each. Of the many statues spread across the park, the statue of Achilles is probably the most famous. The towering bronze was the first statue to be installed in the park in 1822, and commemorates the 1st Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley.
Located at western end of Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens was originally part of the park, forming King Henry VIII’s enormous hunting grounds. Kensington Palace is one of London’s most important royal homes. TRH the Prince and Princess of Wales lived here until 2022, when the family moved to Windsor, and it remains their official London residence. There’s plenty to explore both inside the palace and in the gorgeous grounds, from the State Apartments and the King’s Gallery to the romantic Sunken Garden and manicured Formal Gardens.
From boating on the lake to running routes and horse-riding trails, Hyde Park provides plenty of active pursuits. The park has two specialist stables on North Carriage Drive and South Carriage Drive, with riding routes taking you around Serpentine lake and along Rotten Row. The Hyde Park Tennis and Sports Centre offers six pristine tennis courts, as well as a putting green and team sports facilities, while those who prefer to get out on the water can rent a rowing boat or pedalo during the summer months.
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