St James’s Park is one of London’s eight Royal Parks right in the heart of the city. It covers an area of almost 57 acres and is known for its beautiful landscaping, impressive collection of flora and fauna, and the odd pelican. St James’s Park has a long and fascinating history that spans hundreds of years and is an integral part of London’s cultural heritage. In this article, we will look closer at St James’s Park and explore its many attractions and features. So, read on to discover all you need to know about the best park in London!
St James’s Park London
I (Joel) can’t count the number of times I’ve walked through St James’s Park. When I worked at Downing Street as the Official Photographer to the Prime Minister, it was part of my walking route to work. It was a peaceful haven that I never got bored of. Having returned to London in a different role on the other side of Whitehall to Downing Street, St James’s Park is often my lunchtime haunt because it’s just a stone’s throw away.
A Very Brief History of St James’s Park
St James’s Park has a history that dates back to the 16th century when it was first created as a deer park by Henry VIII. It’s also London’s oldest Royal Park. Over the years, the park has undergone many changes, with subsequent monarchs adding their touches, such as drainage improvements and the creation of the Horse Guards Parade. However, during the Hanoverian period, John Nash dramatically redesigned the park into a more romantic style, complete with a natural-looking lake and a cottage for a birdkeeper.
Things to See and Do in St James’s Park
This is the bit that makes St James’s Park the best park in London. There is no other park which offers the same breadth of stuff that this one does. It has fascinating things on every side and corner of the park, plus loads of stuff inside it. St James’s Park has something for everyone, and you will find a wide range of attractions and activities to enjoy. Here are just a few of the many things to see and do in St James’s Park:
Stroll Around the Lake
St James’s Park is home to a beautiful lake with a variety of wildlife, including ducks, swans, and geese. You can take a stroll around the lake and enjoy the stunning scenery. In the middle, you’ll find the Blue Bridge, where you can catch a glimpse of Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards and the London Eye. This is a tourist hot spot for pictures!
See the Pelicans
St James’s Park is home to a flock of pelicans who have lived there since 1664 when the Russian Ambassador gifted them. Since then, over 40 pelicans have called the park their home. These days you can watch them being fed every day between 2:30 pm and 3:00 pm, next to Duck Island Cottage on the east side of the park. You won’t see them stay very far from their favourite rocks in the lake, but occasionally, you’ll be able to get up close to them when they wander the odd path.
Have a Picnic (or not)
St James’s Park is the perfect place for a picnic, and you will find plenty of spots to dig into your lunchtime delights. There are benches dotted around and loads of green space to plonk down on your picnic blanket. And if a picnic isn’t your thing, there’s St James’s Cafe and Cafe at Storey’s Gate to get your lunch or caffeine fix. There are also a couple of kiosks dotted around where you’ll be able to get your hands on an ice cream.
Witness Some Ceremonial Events
St James’s Park is in the ceremonial centre of the British Army. On one side sits one of the world’s most famous palaces – Buckingham Palace, where you can witness Changing the Guard and on the other sits Horse Guards, where you can see the changing of The King’s Life Guard.
Stroll Down The Mall
The Mall is one of London’s most famous roads, which leads from Admiralty Arch at Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace. It’s quite a magnificent road anyway, but the best bit is that on Sundays, bank holidays and during ceremonial events, it’s traffic-free, and you can walk down it!
Other Notable Things to Do
There are a ton of other things to do in or around the park, so here is a list to summarise:
- Walk over the Blue Bridge (the bridge in the centre of the park)
- Visit The Guards Museum
- Visit Churchill War Rooms
- See [the back of] 10 Downing Street
- See the Guards Memorial
- Walk down King Charles Street (it’s a lovely street leading to Whitehall)
- Walk up Cockpit Steps & Old Queen Street (another wonderful street)
Tips for Visiting the Park
If you’re planning a visit to St James’s Park, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your experience:
Wear Comfortable Shoes
St James’s Park is large, and you will be doing a lot of walking to get around it to see all the best bits. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately for the weather.
Bring a Camera
St James’s Park is a photographer’s paradise. There are loads of great photo opportunities in and around the park, whether that’s the beautiful wildlife, flora and fauna, surrounding architecture or ceremonial events – you won’t be short of things to photograph for your next Instagram post!
Avoid Peak Times
St James’s Park can get very crowded, especially during summer. Try to visit early in the day or during the evening to avoid the crowds. The Blue Bridge gets incredibly busy and is best avoided during peak hours. And if you visit at dusk, you might catch the golden glow from the few gas lamps that remain in the city.
Location, Map & Useful Information
Nearest tube: St James’s Park
🕙 5 am to midnight, all year
Is St. James’s Park worth visiting?
100% yes! St James’s Park is the best park in London and London’s oldest Royal Park. Not only is it a picturesque park, but it’s surrounded by some of London’s most iconic landmarks and interesting things to do. The park is also centrally located, making it easily accessible.
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