There's a high chance that if you look outside your window right now, you'll see the actual sun beaming down from the sky during the day and it's of the utmost importance to enjoy every last bit of it. There are two things you should do immediately to take advantage of this. First, go outside. Secondly, have a big old picnic. London has lots of perfect spots for al fresco dining.
Picnicking is also a great excuse to enjoy nature, and there are more opportunities for picnics as the spring weather begins to warm up. No matter where you are in the city, you won’t have to travel far to enjoy your food while taking in spectacular views outdoors. Whether you're spending time on sunlit hilltops or shady riverbanks, you'll be making memories with friends and family while enjoying great scrumptious snacks and liquid refreshments and enchanting views of London picnic areas.
What Are London Picnics Like?
The picnic is an established part of the English summer, and it has been for centuries. The London picnic, in particular, dates back to 1801. The name "picnic" derives from the "Pic Nic Society" - a group founded by 200 wealthy Francophiles. Their meeting had different rules than what is now known as a traditional London picnic and even took place in rooms on Tottenham Street. This was the original idea that brought us today's picnic - after an alternation by the London middle class. They kept the name and created the lovely spring/summer event that every Brit greatly enjoys.
And now, as the weather gets warmer it signals the start of the picnic season. An average London picnic implies going with friends or family to a sunny outdoor space, usually a park to eat, drink and socialise. And generally have a lovely, memorable time.
Depending on how posh the picnic gathering is you might want to take a picnic basket with plates, glasses and utensils. On the other hand, if it's a less posh gathering you can opt for disposable plates and cups.
Maybe the best part about a picnic, besides being outdoors among great company, is the delicious food which comes with it. The traditional picnic food might include stuff like sandwiches and crisps, salads, sausage pies, scotch eggs, quiche and lots of refreshments.
Drinking is also a big part of picnics in London or Britain in general. A popular spring/summer drink for a picnic is Pimm's and lemonade. However, if you don't like drinking alcohol you can choose whatever you like as long as it is refreshing because picnics can last a long time. Brits like to stretch out the picnic gatherings for as long as possible because one day of glorious sunshine might not come that soon again.
Here are some do’s and don’ts for a picnic:
- Check the weather forecast before you go
- Bring a blanket
- Take a frisbee, a football or a badminton set
- Grab a guitar if you play
- Bring sunblock
- Mingle, you can meet new people
- Put your rubbish in the bin before you leave
- Dress up. Picnics are supposed to be a casual thing + you’re sitting on the ground
- Refuse to join in the games. It’s all about having fun, not who is the best player
- Worry if you’re a little bit late
- Feel that you have to stay until the end (except if you’re the host)
Best London Picnic Areas
Finding the perfect picnic spot is as important as perfect food, perfect company and the perfect picnic basket.
London hosts a population of over nine million people yet there are plenty of quiet, serene and idyllic places to have a picnic. From Hyde Park to Greenwich and Richmond Park, you have a lot of options to choose from in which you can make a day out of an alfresco meal.
1. Hyde Park
Hyde Park is a major park, set right in the heart of London. It covers an area of 350 acres and offers plenty of quiet places to relax, unwind and picnic. The park is divided by the Serpentine and the Long Water lake, so you can dip your toes while enjoying your picnic. Hyde Park is one of the eight Royal Parks, to the west, it joins Kensington Garden and its southeast corner meets Buckingham Palace.
Nearest station: Hyde Park Corner (Piccadilly Line)
Open: 5 am-midnight
2. Richmond Park
The real favourite among Londoners, a National Nature Reserve and the largest Royal Park, Richmond Parks offers plenty of green spots ideal for a picnic. It spans more than 2.500 acres, the park is home to thriving wildlife - around 650 deers, alongside birds, bumblebees, beetles and more.
Enjoy your picnic under the shade of ancient trees and the wild landscape of hills and woodlands. Richmond Park is without a doubt one of the most idyllic parks for picnic gatherings.
Nearest station: Richmond (underground)
Open: 07:00 - 19:30
3. Hampstead Heath
When the weather starts warming up, the Heath is the first stopping place for many Londoners and luckily there is room for everyone. The park rambles in vast green spaces and ancient woodlands, rolling meadows and lush plant life. On the top of Parliament Hill, the park offers spectacular views of the London skyline where you'll be able to spot a number of iconic London landmarks from the Shard to the House of Parliament. Hampstead Heath has plenty of stellar spots for picnics, where you can munch sandwiches and enjoy the magnificent view.
Nearest station: Hampstead Heath (overground) Hampstead Heath (underground)
Open: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
4. Greenwich Park
One of the best picnic areas in London, Greenwich Park overlooking the Thames and central London can reward you with fantastic views. Greenwich is London's oldest Royal Park and it's reasonably sizable 183 acres to be precise. The best picnic spots would definitely be atop the hill toward the Royal Observatory. Greenwich boasts one of the city's largest green spaces so you can enjoy your picnic in peace with your friends and family.
Nearest station: Cutty Sark (DLR)
Open: 06:00 - 20:00
5. Alexandra Palace Park
Head to north London and lay out your blanket on the grass at Alexandra Palace Park. Soak up the spectacular views stretching from Canary Wharf to St. Paul's Cathedral. The park is home to 694 different types of plants and the trees and green spaces act as a vital green lung to north London. It covers 196 acres that offer serenity thanks to the lush fields and the panoramic view of the city skyline.
Nearest station: Wood Green (underground)
Open: 24 hours
6. Thames Barrier Park
Thames Park is one of London's lesser-known parks. Open in November 2000 Thames holds a 7-hectare green space located in the Royal Docks. The park is home to abundant wildlife, fountains, flowers which makes it the perfect spot for a picnic. with views of the river and Thames Barrier. One of the most eye-catching features is the "Green Dock" which is a 130-foot long sunken garden that runs diagonally through the park.
Nearest station: The Pontoon Dock Station
Open: 07:00 - 16:45
7. Primrose Hill
If you're after a picnic with a view then Primrose Hill is the right park for you. The hill is more than 60 metres above sea level allowing you to enjoy picturesque views of the city skyline. Primrose is a popular spot for picnickers during the long sleepy summer afternoons thanks to the green spots and the breathtaking views from the top of the hill. It's right next to the London Zoo, ideal for a post-picnic visit.
Nearest station: Camden Town (underground) Chak Farm (underground)
Open: 24 hours
8. St. James’s Park
One of the eight Royal Parks, St James's Park is located in central London, boarded by famous landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, The Mall and Clarence House. Channel your inner royal as you enjoy the spectacular views across St James's Park lake from the Blue Bridge. The lake is home to pelicans, ducks and geese. Spread on 57 acres this park is perfect for your picnic by the lake.
Nearest station: St. James’s Park (District and Circle lines)
Open: 05:00 - 00.00
9. Holland Park
Holland Park is often overshadowed by Kensington Palace Garden, but it's an unquestionable charming picnic spot. There is a lot to see, from woodland to wildfire, but maybe the highlight of the park is the Japanese style Kyoto Gardens. The idyllic spot has a koi pond and waterfall making it a perfect spot for a picnic. Enjoy your picnic with the company of the friendly, cute squirrels. It's a serene park that comes to life in the summer.
Nearest station: Holland Park (underground)
Open: 07:30 - until 30 minutes before dusk
10. Victoria Park
Also known as the "people's park" or Vicky Park, Victoria Park is a well-renowned park that emerged in the 19th century in the hope of improving London's living conditions. It's the oldest public park in London, which opened in 1845, located in East London. The park spans 213 acres of open space with two lakes. That makes Victoria Park one of the most spacious spots for alfresco dining. Enjoy your picnic by the water surrounded by beautiful swans, ducks and geese.
Nearest station: Hackney Wick (overground)
Open: 07:00 - till dusk
11. Green Park
Green Park is one of the eight Royal Parks and covers an area of 40 acres. It offers a peaceful and quiet retreat from the city perfect for a picnic gathering with your closest friends or family. Green Park also has a famous neighbour - Buckingham Palace which makes this park even more popular. Enjoying a picnic is guaranteed to be a lively affair.
Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus
Open: 05:00 - 00:00
Spring is in sight, so grab your stylish blanket, your favourite picnic basket and those sausage rolls and decide at which park to land. And while London's weather can make planning ahead for alfresco eating difficult, try to manage a more spontaneous picnic outing when you have the opportunity. The city’s climate might not always cooperate but when it does you have a lot of great options for picnicking. London has many beautiful parks, which are particularly special during springtime when the bright colours of naturalised bulbs contrast the hues of green and the landmarks, making an amazing synergy between the architecture and the open spaces.
Although London is famous for important historical landmarks and it's known as a big metropole, the city has a lot of green spaces where you can relax and have a picnic. Whether it might be a park or a garden you can choose your serene place, prepare your picnic basket with delicious picnic food, invite your friends and family and enjoy the nice weather out in nature.
A lot of great choices on this one. Some of the most popular parks in London are Hyde Park, Greenwich Park and Richmond Park. The decision should come down to your personal preferences, the proximity of the park to your place of living/staying and the time you have at your disposal. If you plan a short picnic outing then choose a park near you. In that case, you would have more time to actually spend in nature. But if you have the whole day you can go to a park that you haven't been to before. Whichever park you choose to have a picnic in, make sure you enjoy the green surroundings, relax and have a good time.
One of the greatest pleasures in life is barbequing (BBQ) in the great outdoors and you don’t need to head out of the city to satisfy your need for BBQ. Most of London’s green spaces and parks are reserved for picnics only. However, there are some major parks where you’re officially allowed to fire up the BBQ and cook those burgers, like Waterlow Park, Highgate, Burgess Park, Southwark and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Holborn. Just make sure you don’t scorch the grass and throw away your rubbish in the bin when you’re done.