Once a hunting ground for Henry VIII, Regent’s Park in north London is now one of eight royal parks that are free for the public to explore. A highlight of the 395-acre space is Queen Mary’s Gardens, which blooms with 12,000 roses in early June—you might recognise its lake from the 2002 comedy "About a Boy," starring Hugh Grant. It’s also home to the Open Air Theatre, which opens every summer.
The park also hosts the annual Frieze Art Fair every October, which brings together 160 international galleries to showcase contemporary art by emerging and established artists. As well as browsing works by young artists and '90s-inspired art, you can see sculptures in an outdoor exhibition curated by Yorkshire Sculpture Park, plus immersive performance art, guided tours and talks by the Institute of Contemporary Art.
ZSL London Zoo
New in this famous zoo is Land of the Lions, a breeding centre for Asiatic lions as there’s only 520 left in a national park in India. The enclosure is modelled after the park, complete with railway tracks, a corrugated roof and train station ticket hall; you stroll on boardwalks over the lions. But if you want something more sedate, you could meet Dirk and Dolly, the immense Galapagos tortoises. The zoo also hosts regular special events such as silent discos.
The zoo is bordered by Regent’s Canal, which you can stroll along to Camden Town. You can also cross it to access Primrose Hill, north of the park. It’s one of six protected viewpoints in London, so we challenge you to not look behind as you climb so you’re rewarded with the full impact of the city from the top. It’s one of the best spots from which to see the city’s fireworks on Bonfire Night (5 Nov).
London Central Mosque
The golden dome and sturdy minaret of this mosque, on the west side of Regent’s Park, makes it a prominent landmark. The mosque was founded during World War II in recognition of the local Muslim population's support for the Allies during the war. It wasn’t until 1969 that Sir Frederick Gibbard's design, funded largely by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, was actually approved. The mosque is open to all visitors although the busy Friday midday prayers should be avoided.
Open Air Theatre
During summer months, between May and September, this charming theatre is a huge draw, staging Shakespeare plays, musicals and contemporary dramas. It’s Britain’s only professional open-air theatre and its woodland environment is a rural, intimate setting—despite the fact that it seats 1,250. Its first full season was in 1933 and its most performed play over the decades is “Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream."
Regent’s Park Road, which curves northeast of Primrose Hill, is lined with pavement cafes, boutiques and upmarket delis. Nearby you’ll find this quaint neighbourhood cafe which is famed for its cupcakes. Try the salted caramel or lemon meringue and you’ll soon be planning how to move in next door.
This gastropub near the canal serves a killer Sunday roast, plus mains such as pork belly and roasted trout with samphire or good old fish and chips. You can wash it all down with a British beer or the local lager, Camden Hells. The interior is decorated with framed pictures and mirrors, church pews and tables made from barrels, while the garden is a sunny spot with porcelain plates hanging from a brick wall.