Things to do in Regent's Park

Regent's Park is one of London’s most popular recreational green spaces.

It was once a hunting ground for royalty, but now boasts 410 acres of open space that anyone can enjoy.

Regent's Park is one of London’s Royal Parks and offers visitors a varied range of activities. The park is the largest grass area for the provision of sports in central London.

On the Northern side of Regent's Park is the famous London Zoo, which has provided a great day out in the capital for generations of families. Away from the excitement of the zoo, Regent’s Park is an ideal place for a walk and a picnic.

Packed full of lovely gardens, statues, memorials and fountains, you will always find something interesting as you wander around the park. The boating lake is the perfect place to spend those long, hot summer afternoons. Regent’s Park also plays host to various events and festivals throughout the course of the year, ensuring there is always something going on.

Regent’s Park is a masterpiece in landscape design. The public were first allowed access to the grounds in 1835. The park has remained relatively unchanged over the last century, an undisturbed green hub offering an escape from city life.

1. London Zoo

London Zoo in June 2013 (© Chmee2, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Snowdon Aviary at London Zoo, England. Designed by Cedric Price and Frank Newby. (© heena_mistry, CC BY 2.0)
Great White Pelicans at London Zoo, England. (© Steph Laing, CC BY 2.0)

London Zoo has been delighting visitors ever since it was opened to the public in 1847, and is the world’s oldest scientific zoo. Different coloured routes allow you to easily find your favourite animals.

Get up close to the world’s big cats at two of the zoo’s wonderfully designed exhibits, Land of the Lion and Tiger Territory. Conservation is at the heart of London zoo, with education opportunities to the fore.

There are hundreds of species of animals for the family to enjoy, from giraffes and gorillas to komodo dragons and meerkats. Feeding times are a great time to learn more about the animals from their keepers, with penguin beach always a popular location. The zoo has plenty of experiences available for visitors, including being a keeper to the animals for a day.

Admission prices vary, with an option available for a cheaper off peak ticket. A Flexi-ticket can also be bought which is open-ended and allows you to book anytime within the following 12 months. During your visit there are plenty of places to relax and have some refreshments. These include the Beach Hut, the Aquarium Kiosk and the Terrace restaurant, which offers a seasonal and sustainable menu.

2. Primrose Hill

A panorama of Primrose Hill, showing the skyline of London (© Berrely from Primrose Hill, CC BY-SA 2.0)
View of London Skyline by night from the summit of Primrose Hill. (© Eightalbumdeal, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Primrose Hill sits just to the north of Regent's Park, near to London Zoo. The hill is a prime spot from where you can enjoy panoramic views across London, with the top of the hill 63 meters above sea level.

Primrose Hill is one of the six protected viewpoints in London, and the surrounding trees are maintained to a level so they do not disturb these views.

The land became accessible to the public from 1842. There is plenty of space on Primrose hill where you can relax and enjoy a picnic. At the summit of the hill you will find a William Blake quotation engraved on a stone which reads ‘I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill’.

Primrose Hill was once an area where people came to fight duals in days gone by. It is a lot more peaceful today, a lovely place to watch the sun set across the capital. The area is open throughout the day, generally only closing in the evenings for special events such as Bonfire night and New Year’s eve.

3. Queen Mary Gardens

The entrance to Queen Mary's Garden (© Captain-tucker, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Several rose beds in Queen Mary's Garden in Regent's Park, London (© Captain-tucker, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Waterfalls at Queen Mary's Gardens (© David P Howard, CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Queen Mary Gardens are renowned across the world, famous for their iconic collection of roses. This is a beautiful oasis of colours and aromas towards the centre of Regent's Park. It is named after the wife of King George V and was opened to the public in 1932.

The garden houses the largest collection of roses in London, numbering around 12,000 across 85 single variety beds. The rose beds are a stunning sight as you enter the gardens, containing a mix of classic and modern rose varieties. There is a pergola within the garden trailing roses, beneath which is a bench where you can sit and admire the flowers.

Roses are not the sole attraction to The Queen Mary Gardens. There are further striking flower beds, including those which house over 9,000 Begonias. The Delphinium borders, Mediterranean borders and shrubs all combine to make the Queen Mary Gardens an important horticultural site not to be missed when visiting Regent's Park.

4. The Boating Lake

Blue Sky at the boating lake in St. Regent's Park (© Chmee2, CC BY-SA 3.0)
The boating lake in St. Regent's Park (© Chmee2, CC BY-SA 3.0)

It is hard to beat spending those long, lazy summer afternoons messing about on the water. The boating lake in Regent's Park allows the whole family to do just that while in London.

Rowing boats and pedalos can be hired for adults and children from the boathouse, with a small deposit required for all bookings.

Boats and pedalos can be booked for thirty minutes or a whole hour. For the early birds prices are cheaper when hiring boats before noon, with adult prices starting from £5.50 for a half hour. There is also a family ticket available which covers two adults and three children.

There is also a special lake for the little ones, with their own pedal boats which they will love. The boating lakes are open from late March through to the end of October. You can hit the water from 10.30am, with the lakes closing at 6pm. The Boathouse cafe provides terrace seating where you can enjoy refreshments overlooking the water.

5. Open Air Theatre

The Regent's Park Open Air Theatre Auditorium during the day (© TomJAnderson, CC BY-SA 3.0)
The bar of the Open Air Theatre at night. (© TomJAnderson, CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Regent's Park Open Air Theatre Auditorium (© Zslap, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Regent’s Park Open Air theatre is a 1,240 seat auditorium that allows you to watch a variety of productions in a beautiful setting. The theatre was established in 1932 and is the oldest, professional outdoor theatre operating within the country.

The Open Air theatre stages plays, comedy and music, plus film events too. This is top quality entertainment in a stunning natural environment. Productions first seen in Regent’s Park have moved in to West End theatres, with seven Olivier Awards for their productions in recent times.

The theatre is located within the park’s inner circle and can be accessed via their box office in the Queen Mary Gardens. The theatre has three pricing bands for its main productions, with band C offering the cheaper seats. Senior citizens will find the best prices for the best seats are offered for mid-week matinee performances.

6. Food and Drink

Boathouse Cafe at St. Regent's Park (© Chmee2, CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Hub sports centre at Regents Park

There are a number of food and drink options available while you enjoy the facilities Regent's Park has to offer.

Refreshment points and kiosks are also located around the park including the Espresso bar, helping you make the most out of your day wherever you are within the park. Food and drink options include:

The Regent’s Bar and Kitchen

The Regent’s Bar and Kitchen can be found towards the middle of the park, close to the Queen Mary Gardens and the Open Air theatre. A good selection of hot and cold food is available, including wood-fired oven cooked pizzas, plus a terrace BBQ when the weather allows. This is a family orientated restaurant with plenty of children’s options on the menu. The Regent's Bar and Kitchen is open every day, and for the early risers enjoying a morning walk in the park there is a separate breakfast menu.

The Boathouse Cafe

The Boathouse cafe is another family friendly dining option within Regent’s Park. You can enjoy a relaxing bite to eat on their large terrace overlooking the boating lake. The cafe is open every day from 10am to 6pm, serving a good range of hot and cold food, including sandwiches, pizza, soup and stews. The cafe is also an ideal spot to sit down with a cup of organic coffee and a slice of cake and simply relax for a while.

Broad Walk Cafe

Close to London zoo on the north western side of the park, Broad Walk cafe is set within a charming location. There is plenty of outside seating, set beneath trees that provide pleasant shade when eating on a hot, sunny day. The Broad Walk cafe offers a classic cafe menu including sandwiches, wraps and deli-style salads. The BBQ is fired up when the weather is kind, adding a selection of burgers and hot dogs to the menu. The cafe also provides an extensive breakfast menu, perfect replenishment for those out on a morning stroll.

The Hub Cafe

You can enjoy superb 360 degree panoramic views of Regent’s Park from this first floor cafe. The cafe sits above the Hub sports facility and serves a selection of hot and cold food and drinks, including sandwiches, wraps and pastries. Sandwiches can be bought from £3.50, which you can enjoy indoors or out, or takeaway if you prefer.

Expand to read more

7. Avenue Gardens

Avenue Gardens, Regent's Park (© Captain-tucker, CC BY-SA 4.0)
A fountain at Avenue Gardens, Regent's Park (© Chmee2, CC BY-SA 3.0)
People strolling through Avenue Gardens at Regent's Park (© Rept0n1x, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Avenue Gardens are located on the South Eastern side of Regent’s Park, close to Broad Walk. Two distinctive formal gardens make up the design of the Avenue Gardens. One of these is an Italian garden, the other a more traditional English garden.

The Italian garden was restored to its former glory in the 1990s, and is designed with formal walkways where the seasonal bedding plants share the space with elaborately designed urns and fountains. The Lion Tazza, or Lion Vase, sits in the centre of the gardens. This is a large circular stone bowl supported by winged lions which was installed in 1863, accompanied by spectacular flower beds.

The English garden element of the Avenue Gardens are comprised of the lawns just to the east of the Italian gardens. Also restored in 1990, the English gardens are planted with the tree varieties you would have seen as a visitor in the 19th century. Here you can wander past the trees and shrubs along meandering paths, with the Cherry Blossom bloom in Spring a particular highlight.

8. Regent’s Canal

The Regent's Canal near St Mark's Regents' Park. (© Myrabella, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Regent's Canal, London, England and the West portal of the Islington tunnel. (© Mark Hogan, CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Regent’s canal runs along the northern edge of Regent’s Park and borders London Zoo. The canal is 8.6 miles long, extending from Little Venice in the west through to Camden Lock.

For visitors to Regent’s Park the canal tow-path is another excellent walking opportunity, a picturesque part of the capital.

However, for those who would rather be on the water the canal offers good water sport opportunities. There are a number of companies providing kayaking and paddle boarding services on the canal. For a more detailed introduction to the history of the canal, and to see all the major sites along the route, you can also take a kayak tour. The tours last around 90 minutes as you travel along this tranquil stretch of water.

This historic canal has gained in popularity as more people become aware of a once hidden gem of a waterway. However, it retains a serene charm, attracting walkers, runners, cyclists and water enthusiasts alike to explore its course.

9. Exploring Regent’s Park

The Jubilee Gates in Regent's Park (© Alvesgaspar, CC BY-SA 4.0)
"People entering the Jubilee Gates, Regent's Park.  (© Elliott Brown, CC BY 2.0)"
The Bandstand at Regent's Park (© Carlos Cunha, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Regent’s Park has many interesting features to see as you wander around. Statues, fountains and memorials can be found across the park.

The following are some of the more prominent ones to look out for:

Ready Money Drinking Fountain

This four-sided granite and marble fountain is located on Broad Walk in the eastern part of Regent’s Park. It is a grade II listed structure erected in 1869, and was unveiled by the future Queen Mary. This imposing Gothic fountain was built using 10 tons of Sicilian marble and 4 tons of granite from Aberdeen.

The Jubilee Gates

Erected in 1935 to commemorate the silver jubilee of King George V, this impressive entranceway is made from wrought and cast iron. The gates form the main entrance to the Queen Mary Gardens, which were officially opened at the time the gates were installed. The Jubilee Gates are grade II listed, with the royal cipher visible for all to see.

The Bandstand

The famous Regent’s Park bandstand can be found between the boating lake and the park’s inner circle. Music festivals are held around the bandstand, making this area of the park a vibrant, lively place to be. The bandstand is a very traditional element of British parks, although the one in Regent’s Park also has a more tragic history, the scene of a terrorist attack in 1982 where seven bandsmen of the Royal Green Jackets lost their lives.

Expand to read more

10. Bird Walk

A Black Swan at Regent's Park, London. (© Bruno Nascimento, CC BY-SA 2.0)
People feeding birds at Regent's Park (© Keven Law, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Regent’s Park is an excellent location for wildlife. This short walk from Clarence Gate provides the opportunity to see many of the different bird species which make Regent’s Park their home during the year.

Many winter migrants pass through Regent’s Park too.

The grey heron is a common resident within the park and one of the first birds you are likely to see. Tufted ducks, cormorants, swallows, grey wagtails, sparrowhawks and spotted flycatchers are just some of the many species of birds you may encounter as you walk around Regent’s park.

If you are particularly lucky you may spot a peregrine falcon. A pair of these spectacular birds began nesting near the park in 2003 and there have been regular sightings over the park since.

11. More to see

London's Green Fair at Regent's Park (© Stephen Craven, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Deck chairs out near the boating lake at Regent's Park, London in March 2012. (© Editor5807, CC BY-SA 3.0)
St John's Lodge, in Regent's Park, London (© Ham, CC BY-SA 3.0)

There is so much to see and do in Regent’s Park. Below are a few more places to look out for when visiting the park.

St John’s Lodge Garden

This is an intimate garden accessed through a gate along the inner circle, located not far from the park office. This tranquil haven is entered through an arbour walk, which brings you in to the rose garden where the Hylas and the Nymph statue is the centrepiece. The Sunken Lawn and the Circular Garden are further areas to explore, as is the Keyhole Garden, probably the most private spot of the whole garden.

Children’s Playgrounds

Regent's Park has plenty to keep the little ones entertained. The park has three playgrounds where children can have fun, as well as another on the grounds of Primrose Hill. The Regent’s Park children’s playgrounds can be found by Gloucester Gate, Hanover Gate and Marylebone Green. Sand pits, climbing frames, swings and zip wires provide a range of facilities for children of all ages to enjoy.

Tennis and Netball Centre

Regent’s Park is an excellent sporting hub, catering to many different sports. The tennis and netball centre is found on the Western side of the park near York Bridge. Anyone wishing to play tennis can book one of the 12 available courts. They run a pay and play scheme, with prices varying depending on time of day and whether you use a Smartcard when booking. Changing rooms are available at this sporting centre, which also has netball and table tennis facilities

Events in Regent’s Park

Regent’s Park hosts events through the course of the year. From regular children’s play events to music and food festivals, check out the upcoming events before you visit. One example is the Taste of London event in July which celebrates the best in food and culture. Or get down to the park in September to try your hand on a trapeze, courtesy of the Gorilla Circus Flying Trapeze School.

Expand to read more