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Things To Do

Hattie Lloyd 01/06/24

St James’s Park

St James’s Park: scenic pocket of nature in Central London. Home of the pelicans. Total maverick when it comes to apostrophe conventions.

Like many of the major parks in London, it’s a royal park (which means it’s pretty nicely kept). And like many of London’s parks, it has a colourful history. Henry VIIIth bought the land off Eton College and turned it into a deer hunting ground. James I kept camels there, before Charles II decided to re-do the whole park in the style of a Parisian pleasure garden, at which point it became a site for “impromptu acts of lechery”. And bizarrely, the park was filled with cows and milkmaids right up until 1905.

st james's park

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Nowadays… there’s not a lot of that sort of thing. But it is an absolutely stellar place for a walk or a picnic. There are big expanses of grass with deckchairs for hire; shady, tree-lined avenues; and one of the most scenic lakes in London. Stretching almost the full width of the park, the lake’s western side is framed by some of the city’s most recognisable landmarks including Buckingham Palace, the London Eye and Big Ben – stand on the Blue Bridge for the best views.

Pelicans in St James Park

St James’s Park has a trump card when it comes to feeding the ducks – there have been resident pelicans here since 1664 (though not the same ones. Obviously). You can watch them being fed every day between 2.30 and 3pm.

You’ll most likely spot them around the Duck Island cottage, a 17th century storybook cottage on the lake that once housed the royal duck-keeper. Now it has the slightly less glamorous job of housing water treatment facilities, but it’s also a nature reserve where you’ll likely spot all kinds of birds flapping around.

duck island cottage St James's park

Mark Laing

There are two cafés in the park as well as wooden kiosks dotted about serving coffee and cake – but once you’re finished exploring the park we’d also recommend dropping into Dukes for one of their legendary martinis, or crossing over Westminster Bridge to pass Big Ben and take a stroll along the Southbank – you can pick something up at the KERB market or the Southbank Centre Food Market for something delicious along the way.

You’ll probably be put right off your pelican nuggets, though.


NOTE: St James’s Park is open daily from 5am-midnight, and is free to visit. You can find out more on the St James’s Park website.

St James’s Park | London SW1A 2BJ

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St James’s Park

London, St James's, SW1A 2BJ