Once the heat of the summer is over and the crowds have dissipated, London transforms into a city punctuated by bursts of orange and red under a blue crisp sky. Here we list our favourite London parks to visit in autumn for beautiful leaves - all except one of these suggestions are absolutely free to enter and all are easily reached by public transport.
1. Hampstead Heath
The ultimate great outdoors wide open space in London.
Huge expanse of open countryside and ancient woodland. Lose your way stomping through crunching leaves under the trees, or sit on Parliament Hill under crisp blue skies and enjoy one of the best views of the London Skyline with a flask of something hot.
Follow your walk with a hot toddy at the Spaniards Inn or a cup of tea at Kenwood House.
2. Epping Forest
Feel like you’ve truly escaped the City by heading east to Epping Forest. A huge wild expanse covering more than 2400 hectares of grassland and woodland, once you leave the road behind you feel as though you have travelled back in time. Jays and wood pigeons clatter in the branches overhead, while grey squirrels rummage through the fallen leaves. You can visit the forest from various points along the Central line – we’ve used both Snaresbrook and Theydon Bois underground stations to walk there.
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3. Hyde Park
One of the world’s great city parks, nicely central for an afternoon visit, this popular Royal park is large enough for you to get far enough in to forget that you’re in the city. Extensive walking and cycling paths cut through and around the largest green space in Central London, while 4000 trees change from green to flaming orange.
4. Regent’s Park
Stroll through elegant avenues of orange leaved trees and make your way up to Primrose Hill for sweeping views of the London skyline, with a carpet of autumnal tree tops laid out in front. If you have the time (and daylight), London Zoo is at the far end of the park. No time? You can see the penguin pool from the path if you walk through the park towards Camden, and the giraffes are visible from the outer ring road if you leave the park and turn left.
5. Richmond Park
The largest of London’s Royal parks, this former hunting park created by Charles I is still home to over 600 red and fallow deer which roam freely through the massive green space. From King Henry’s Mound you can see St Paul’s Cathedral and Windsor Castle, and there are miles and miles of walking trails to explore through bracken strewn grassland and ancient woods, while screeching parakeets race overhead. Be sure to exit the park out of Sawyers Hill to visit the Lass O’Richmond Hill, a lovely pub with a hearty menu and two open fires.
6. Victoria Park
Out in east London, Vicky Park, or the People’s Park, is one of London’s oldest public green spaces and has frequently been voted the UK’s favourite park. Wide paths lined by trees are perfect for cycling or walking, collecting conkers, and the lake and pagoda are particularly lovely. Grab a cup of something hot from the Pavilion Café and stroll, kicking the fallen leaves. The park also has a fantastic firework display in November, and is bordered on one side by the equally attractive Narrowboat lined Regents Canal.
7. Kew Gardens
The only green space on our list that requires a ticket, but so so worth it. The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, full to the brim with magnificent trees, and featuring huge Victorian glass houses and the Xstrata Treetop Walkway, allowing you to walk through the autumnal canopy. The flowers won’t be in bloom at this time of year, and so Kew offers a reduced rate ticket from early November until the end of January.
Bonus suggestion – further afield
8. Virginia Water
Walking the treelined shores of the vast lake at Virginia Water, just up the road from historic Windsor and once a favourite picnic spot of Queen Victoria, is a gorgeous way to spend an autumnal sunny day. Walk past the Leptis Magna ruins, a folly fashionably styled like a Roman temple, the ornamental waterfall, and look out for wild fowl and woodpeckers as you stroll the 4.5 miles around the sparkling water.
Virginia Water is 6 miles from Windsor – take a 20 minute taxi ride or catch the White Bus Service which goes from Windsor High Street Monday – Saturday.