Hyde Park is one of the most visited attractions in London. It is part of the Royal Parks of the city (lands originally owned by the monarchy in the United Kingdom) and with its 42 hectares or 350 acres in area, is among the largest city parks in the whole world. Visitors from all over the globe are allured by the park’s extensive history, the fascinating memorials, fountains and statues that can be observed there, the variety of sport and leisure activities one can enjoy, and the many events that it continues to be a venue for.
Hyde Park’s history stretches way back to 1536 when the area it covers was acquired by King Henry VIII from the monks of Westminster Abbey. He created a private hunting ground to satisfy his passion and to entertain ambassadors and dignitaries. The park’s appearance was altered completely when Charles I sat on the throne. The circular track known as The Ring was created for the members of the royal court to drive their carriages. In 1637 the king opened the park to the general public. When William III became king in 1689, he made Kensington Palace his main residence in London.
A drive through Hyde Park was laid out and lit by 300 oil lamps. Later known as Rotten Row (a corruption of the French “Route de Roi”), it was the first artificially lit highway in the country. Extensive renovations were carried out during the reign of Queen Caroline. Under her request, the Westbourne Stream was dammed and the large lake called the Serpentine (among the first in England designed to look natural) was created.
During the reign of King George IV, Decimus Burton, one of the chief English architects of the 19th century, designed the monumental Screen/Gate at Hyde Park Corner and the Wellington Arch. Around that time, Hyde Park was formally separated from Kensington Gardens (originally its western section) by a new road called West Carriage Drive.
Hyde Park presents the visitors with many sites of interest. One of them is Speakers’ Corner – a traditional place for public speeches and debates since the mid 1800’s when protests and demonstrations were held, and internationally famous for its tolerance of free speech. Make sure to go see:
- Diana, Princess of Wales memorial fountain, designed to represent her life
- The Holocaust Memorial – London’s first memorial of the victims of the Holocaust
- 7 July Memorial – honouring the victims of 7 July 2005 London bombings
A spectacular place is The Rose Garden featuring The Boy and Dolphin Fountain.
Other notable landmarks and attractions in Central London are:
- Big Ben
- London Eye
- Tower of London
- Tower Bridge
- St Paul’s Cathedral
- Buckingham Palace
- British Museum
- National Gallery
Hyde Park In The Movies
There are also some interesting sculptures in the park, including Drinking Horse and Vroom Vroom, which resembles a gigantic human hand pushing a toy car. Hyde Park has often been used as location for movies. Some of the movies that have been filmed here include David Lean’s 1944 classic This Happy Breed, Around the World in Eighty Days and Johnny English.
Last but not least, the park is the perfect place for leisure and sports activities. Cycling is one of the most preferred as it is allowed on all roads and there are specially designated cycle tracks. People also love to do skateboarding, rollerblading, rowing on the Serpentine, horse riding or simply walking, jogging or running on the paths and grass areas.