10 Unusual Gardens and Open Spaces in London
London in the heat of Summer can be challenging, but thankfully there’s plenty of places to relax, recharge and be inspired.
Often listed as one of the greenest cities in the world, London is blessed with 8 Royal Parks and surrounded by woodland if you’re willing to venture past zone 4.
However, I’ve made a list of the more esoteric green places to visit in central London, spots with an interesting tale or simply in an unexpected place, here’s my top ten unusual gardens and open spaces.
1. Tibetan Peace Garden, SE1
Found in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum, the Tibetan Peace Garden is relatively new and only opened in 1999.
Billed as a centre for peace and harmony its centrepiece is a bronze mandala with eight meditation seats, but is surrounded by a mix of Western and Eastern designs and white roses.
2. St Dunstan-in-the-East, EC3R
A favourite ‘hidden gem’ of The City, the bombed out Wren church of St Dunstan is eerie, peaceful and pretty in equal measure.
Best visited during the weekend when The City has lost its commuters, you can find out more about the church (and how it was transformed into a park in 1967) in my post here.
3. London’s Cemeteries
On the subject of ruins, London has a fantastic collection of cemeteries that are definitely worth exploring for a mix of history and greenery.
The Tombs of John Allen and Vincent Figgins in Nunhead Cemetery
My favourites are Tower Hamlets near Mile End and Brompton in the West, but there’s 7 magnificent Victorian ones to choose from, including Nunhead which can boast incredible views over central London.
4. Kyoto Garden, Holland Park W11
Probably the most popular garden on this list, Holland Park’s Japanese-themed garden can get very busy, but it’s still worth visiting.
Complete with a koi carp-filled pond, blossom trees and waterfall the garden was a gift from the Chamber of Commerce in Kyoto in recognition of London’s Japan Festival in 1992.
Make sure you also keep your eyes peeled for Holland Park’s colourful residents, here’s one I saw when I last visited!
5. Brown Hart Gardens, W1K
It’s hard to believe that this peaceful spot is parallel to Oxford Street.
The raised roof terrace – complete with fancy cafe – hides an electricity substation, built in 1902. It was designed by Charles Stanley Peach as a communal gardens for what was then working class housing on Brown and Hart Street. The surrounding flats have been owned by Peabody Trust since 1973.
6. Postman’s Park, EC1A
This park gets its name as the go-to lunchtime spot for workers from Royal Mail HQ that used to be nearby. Still popular with City workers on their breaks, the real star of the show is the George Frederick Watts Memorial.
Celebrating acts of ‘heroic self-sacrifice’ from 19th century Londoners, these tiles tell tragic stories in poignant, un-sentimental language and were handmade by Doulton Ceramic Factory.
Find out more secret spots and intriguing history from The City on my walking tour. See upcoming dates and book here:
8. Barbican Highwalk, EC2Y
Amidst the Brutalist 1960s concrete of the Barbican, an oasis of calm and quiet can be found in the centre’s Highwalk.
The residential area is gloriously peaceful and is easily reached by the steps up from Barbican station.
7. Crossbones Graveyard, SE1
You might have stumbled across this shrine-esque railing in London Bridge.
Behind it lies Crossbones Graveyard, site of a Medieval burial ground for Southwark sex workers.
Though a bit more rough-and-ready than other gardens on this list, this community garden run by volunteers has a fascinating and tragic history that’s worth seeking out. See more photos and read the full story in my post about it here.
Related Post : Parkland Walk – Walk Along an Abandoned Railway
9. Crossrail Place Roof Garden, E14
The newest park on the list opened in 2005 and floats in a futuristic bubble above the site of Canary Wharf’s Crossrail site.
It’s a tropical roof garden with a mix of plants and trees from across the world, a reminder of the dockland’s trade links across the globe.
It’s not the most relaxing public park – overlooked by the area’s huge skyscrapers – but it does provide a good respite from all the glass and steel.
10. Order of St John’s Cloister Garden, EC1M
Established in the 11th century as home to the chivalric Order of St John. The order’s Cloister Garden is a walled herb garden, shut away from the noise of the nearby Clerkenwell Road.
It’s full of flowers and medicinal herbs and backs onto the chapel which is largely 20th century but boasts a 12th century crypt.
How many have you visited? Any more you’d recommend? Let me know!
More London Inspiration
Often listed as one of the greenest cities in the world, London is blessed with 8 Royal Parks and surrounded by woodland. However, I've made a list of the more esoteric green places to visit in central London, spots with an interesting tale or simply in an unexpected place....