London is very lucky to have so much green space staked out in its centre by Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. This oasis of trees, sweeping lawns and graceful swans provides both a tourist attraction and a gentle holiday for overworked Londoners. It has been around for several hundred years and survived efforts by plenty of monarchs to tame and redesign it. Today it helps to make all its surrounding neighbourhoods just that little bit more desirable. Read on for a few tips on visiting Hyde Park and a few of its most interesting facts.
Hyde Park is a big place: 625 acres in total. That includes the 350 acres of Hyde Park proper as well as the 275 of Kensington Gardens. As you wander through, you probably won’t encounter the same tree twice: there are over 4,000 of them scattered throughout the park.
The Park once belonged to the monks who originally owned Westminster Abbey. When King Henry VIII founded the Church of England, he disbanded the monastery and took over the land. He wasn’t known for his generosity; he kept the whole park for himself and used it as a hunting ground. It wasn’t until 1637 that King Charles I opened the park to the public and it has never closed since. Today, Hyde Park brings prestige and beauty to houses and hotels near Piccadilly Circus London.
By the 1800s, the public were so comfortable in Hyde Park that they used it regularly for demonstrations and protests. In 1872 the police had to intervene after a protest got violent, but rather than exacerbate the situation by banning protests, authorities decided to set aside Speaker’s Corner to allow anyone to express themselves. To this day, speakers stand on soapboxes and expound on anything they like to crowds of whoever is in the area. As long as a speaker is not inciting violence, blasphemy (a somewhat outdated rule) or obscenity, they can continue – but they should be prepared for heckles and challenges from their audience members, who are also free to express themselves.
The Beatles once rented a house near Hyde Park, a convenient central location. They all lived together at 57 Green Street in the autumn of 1963. It’s the only house that all four of the Fab Four shared.
The graceful Marble Arch was designed as an entrance to Buckingham Palace in 1828 by John Nash. His original plan was circumvented when Queen Victoria decided to expand the palace, and the arch was moved to the position where it stands today at Hyde Park’s north-eastern corner. If you look closely, you can see where a tiny police station was once housed inside the arch itself.
Curving through the park and separating Hyde Park from Kensington Gardens is the Serpentine, a man-made lake built in 1830 by Queen Caroline. It’s home to many different species of water birds including the famous white swans; in springtime you can see baby cygnets, goslings and ducklings following in neat lines behind their parents. Some areas of the Serpentine are set aside for humans; here you can enjoy paddle-boats or even go swimming during summer. There’s also a tradition in which a few hardy Londoners take a dip in the Serpentine every year on Christmas morning.
There are several statues and monuments scattered through the park. Achilles, or the Wellington Monument, is a tribute to the Duke of Wellington, who led England to victory during the Napoleonic Wars between England and France. It was commissioned by King George III. The head is a likeness of Wellington, but the well-muscled body is actually modelled on a Roman soldier. Other famous monuments include the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain is a loop of shallow running water that invites kids to paddle, in honour of her love of children. The victims of the London Underground bombings on July 7, 2005, are also remembered with a cluster of 52 stainless steel columns, one for each death.
Rotten Row, a path on the south side of Hyde Park that connects the Serpentine to Hyde Park Corner, was once the place for fashionable Londoners to see and be seen. Wealthy Londoners in the 19th century would get dressed up in their best clothes to go and stroll along the promenade. Its odd name is thought to have come from the French “Route de Roi”, or the King’s Way – and it still sees plenty of action from the palace as the Royal Household cavalry regularly exercises here, along with several local riding schools and stables.
During summer, the park is a beautiful place for a picnic or a few hours in a paddle-boat. During November and December, you can still enjoy the park in Winter Wonderland – a Christmas and winter-themed carnival with an ice bar, hot mulled wine, delicious street food and an ice rink as well as plenty of fun rides and activities.
1. What is Hyde Park famous for?
It is one of the largest parks in central London & one of the Royal Parks of London, famous for its Speakers’ Corner. The park is divided in two by the Serpentine Lake. These are only few of the reasons for the Hyde Park popularity.