St James’s Park – Review for families

The need-to-know info about London's oldest park

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What is it?

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It’s a 58-acre park in the heart of London. Find it near Buckingham Palace. The nearest tube stations are St James’s Park, Charing Cross and Westminster.

Best for:

All ages

Cost

Free

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What’s on offer

St James’s Park is perhaps the most regal of all the royal parks in London as it is surrounded by three palaces. The oldest is now known as the Houses of Parliament, officially titled the Palace of Westminster. It’s namesake, St James’s Palace also resides in the area and finally, the most famous of Britain’s royal homes, Buckingham Palace.

Once upon a time, this park was merely a marshy meadow. In 1532 when King Henry VIII acquired the site and built the palace of St James, each successive head of the monarchy put their own stamp onto the park, resulting in the park we see today.

Alongside a lake and the palaces, the park is home to several pelicans and other animals, including ducks, squirrels and other birds. You can witness the pelicans being fed between 2:30 – 3pm every day. The park also has nearby attractions including the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony and the annual Trooping the Colours pageant.

There’s also a 7-mile long walk in memoriam of Princess Diana of Wales, the ceremonial walk along to the palace, The Mall, and a memorial statue of Queen Victoria outside of Buckingham Palace. Of course, Queen Liz’s home is an attraction in itself. For children, there is a playground available.

The park’s restaurant Inn the Park offers a small children’s menu, you can pay to rent a deck chair on site and there are refreshment points and children’s toilets available by the playground. Buggies are, of course, welcome in the park. The playground is monitored and adults may not enter without children. 

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Highlights

The gardens are kept well, with beautiful views from wherever you stand around the lake. TripAdvisor users call the park “fantastic” and “immaculate” in its appearance. The fountains are particularly gorgeous and the deck chairs are pricey, but really comfortable for relaxing, especially if you’ve forgotten a blanket or don’t like to sit on the grass.

This park is a safe place to let children run riot (whilst keeping a close eye, of course) but they’ll also love to be a bit quieter when it comes to feeding the birds and the squirrels, if they’re lucky enough to see one. Especially if they’re already animal lovers!

Little ones will love the play area. It’s no match for the Diana Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens or Coram’s Fields, but it’s got everything they need to stay active and entertained for a short period of time.

It’s a nice compliment to the sight of Buckingham Palace. I doubt there’s a more picturesque spot in London to enjoy a packed lunch or a picnic. 

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What to watch out for

  • If you are visiting the park purely for the Changing of the Guard or the annual Trooping the Colour pageant, please make sure you know what dates and times these events take place before showing up!
  • It might be an “oasis” in London, according to some visitors, but don’t forget that it’s still in London, is a tourist attraction and will probably be busy during the summer months and during peak periods.
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MFM tips:

  • Maybe bring some bird seed or something appropriate for ducks and squirrels to eat. Don’t feed the pelicans, though. They are fed by wildlife experts.

What the owners say

“St James’s Park is at the heart of ceremonial London. It is the setting for spectacular pageants, like Trooping the Colour, and is surrounded by some of the country’s most famous landmarks including Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, St James’s Palace and Westminster.

But there is also another side to St James’s Park; it is a tranquil place. Simply relax in a deckchair and watch the world go by. The flower beds and shrubberies are enjoyed by visitors all the year round.

St James’s Park has been at the centre of the country’s royal and ceremonial life for more than four hundred years. Royal ambitions and national events have shaped many of the features in the park.”

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Visit the official St james’s Park website

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