The oldest Royal Park in London, and a stunning place for a wander.
One of the most astonishing things about London is the the huge expanses of parks and gardens right in its centre. The best example is the 23 hectare St James's Park, the oldest Royal Park in London, which is bordered by three royal palaces: Westminster (now the Houses of Parliament), St James, and Buckingham Palace.
It has long been a site of considerable importance, even before it was acquired by the British Monarchy. Today it is a favourite of Londoners and tourists with more than 5.5 million visitors each year. Originally a marshy water meadow, a Leper Hospital was founded there in the 13th century. When Henry VIII came to the throne in 1502, he bought it from Eton College as a deer park, and a palace was built and named St James's, after the old hospital. Henry VIII's daughter, Elizabeth I, used it for many parties and celebrations, but it was James I, who came to the throne in 1603, who improved the drainage and the water supply. Charles II (1630-1685), influenced by his stay in France, redesigned the park, opening it to the public again. The King was a frequent visitor and was known to be partial to feeding the ducks, and mixing with his subjects.
Later on, the Horse Guards Parade was created by filling in one end of the canal, and it is still a part of the park today. The park was redesigned again by John Nash with the canal being turned into a lake, and in 1837 the Ornithological Society of London presented some birds to the Park and built a cottage for a bird keeper, which is still there today. The park no longer has exotic animals as it did in the past, but it has several varieties of ducks, a pelican and stunning trees and flowers.
This is a wonderful place to take a break. It is heavenly for a wander, a picnic or a bike ride. If you want a comfortable and stylish place to have a drink or a bite, head for Inn The Park, an idyllic settling, where you can nibble, eat or drink in style at very reasonable prices.
Saint James's Park
St. James's Park, London SW1A 2BJ
Every day, 5.00-midnight.