St James's Park
- This beautiful royal park in the centre of London offers panoramic views of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
- Enjoy a relaxing family walk around St James’s park and immerse yourself in its rich history, from the 17th century to the modern era.
- Kids will love spotting all the different bird species, while the landscaped flower gardens and tranquil lake make for beautiful scenery.
St James’s Park is a wonderful day out in Westminster for families of all ages and sizes. Named after King James I, who came to the throne in 1603 and remodelled the park, filling it with animals such as camels and even an elephant. At an impressive 57 acres, this leafy haven in the heart of London is truly unique.
The park grew in importance under Charles II, who employed the French architect Andre Mollet to implement a more formal landscaped architectural style in the park, inspired by the luxuriant gardens he had encountered during his nine-year exile in France, including those at Versailles.
Some of the most fascinating features of the park today originated during this era, including the friendly resident pelicans, which kids will love admiring, and whom you can watch being fed every day from 2.30-3pm! These majestic white birds were originally a gift to Charles II from the Russian ambassador in 1664, and live by the St James’s Park lake, which runs throughout the middle of the park and is undoubtedly one of the loveliest lakes in London.
The park underwent further remodelling in the 19th century, with architect John Nash replacing the formalised French style, with more relaxed features, such as turning the canal into an artificial pleasure lake, today known as St James’ Park lake. Newer features of the park include St James’s Park playground, which is ideal for families with younger children, and includes swings as well as a climbing frame and a slide for your toddler to enjoy.
Families who love both sightseeing and nature will adore St James’s Park, as it is situated right next to many London landmarks, and contains beautiful plants and fascinating wildlife to discover. A particular highlight is the Blue Bridge, where you can enjoy a stroll across the expansive lake surrounded by waterfowl, with historic views of Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Memorial to the west, while the London Eye and Big Ben can be spotted from the east. The impressive 20ft Tiffany Fountain spouting up in the middle of the lake makes this an especially glorious walk. The park also includes an island at the eastern end of the lake, which is a lovely place to visit. Named Duck Island, this is a nature reserve where 17 species of bird, including herons, waterfowl, the tawny owl and the great spotted woodpecker live, ideal for families with nature-loving children. If you’re an architecture buff, a visit to Duck Island will definitely be in order, as it is a prime spot for checking out the Arts and Crafts garden design style, which included ordered garden landscaping situated next to flourishing wild nature. These gardens surround Duck Island Cottage, a quaint former hunting lodge, and make for a fairytale-like space for your kids to explore.
History lovers will definitely enjoy a visit to St James’s Park. The tree-lined 2506ft Mall on the north side of the park has been used as a procession route since the early 19th century, including for events like the Changing of the Guard. Kids will love watching this ceremonial affair, which takes place at 11am every day. Monuments to visit include a bronze statue of the Duke of York, the second son of King George III, which was built in 1834, and stands at a huge 124ft high. The north-east end of the mall also features Admiralty Arch, a magnificent monument dedicated to Queen Victoria. To the west of the park, you can admire the Buckingham Palace flower beds, with their metre-high rich red geraniums, and which surround an enormous 20th-century marble monument to Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace.
What to know before you go
- The park is open from 5am to 12pm all year round, meaning you can go for an early morning family stroll or late afternoon visit with your kids.
- St James's Park playground can be found on the western side of the park, and has its own toilets nearby, usually open from 10am -7pm.
- Other St James’s Park toilets are located at the eastern end by Horse Guards Road and by the Mall, and include an accessible toilet. Both of these are open from 8am to 7pm.
- Inn the Park is the park's Benugo-catered restaurant, found at the north-east end of the park. This casual café offers a children’s menu including fish and chips, mini burgers and mac 'n' cheese, as well as a more sophisticated menu for teens and adults, with vegetarian and some vegan options also available. The café has toilets with baby-changing facilities, too, and also has disabled access and a disabled toilet.
- If you want to venture further out, other places to eat near St James’s Park include Italian restaurant Bon Gusto to the west of the park, which is open all day and has outdoor seating. If you’re seeking a classic family-friendly lunch or dinner, the Pizza Express on Victoria Street is just a six-minute walk from Birdcage Walk, to the south of the park. If you’re feeling fancy, you could even have a family tea and Fortnum and Mason, which is only 10 minutes away from the Mall at the north end of the park.
- If you’re planning on a day out to the central London area, where St James’s Park is situated, landmarks such as Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and Downing Street are less than a 10 minute walk away, making for some great sightseeing, while the London Eye is also easily accessible by foot.
- St James’s Park station (Circle and District lines) is a six-minute walk from the eastern side of the park. It's also within walking distance from Charing Cross, Victoria, Green Park and Westminster stations.
- A number of buses stop near the park, including the 12, 14, 23, 24 and 159.
- There is no car park near St James’s Park, but some parking is available on the surrounding streets, such as Victoria Street and Brick Street, costing around £12 for two hours. These spaces are about a 20-minute walk from the park.