This fleet of sturdy bicycles-to-hire may not look like the Porsche of pushbikes, but getting astride one makes you feel like the whole of London is suddenly within reach. The bikes are the best way to see the major sights and develop and intimate knowledge of the city; they feel solid and safe, have a handy bag rack and are just as easily available to casual users as members. And best of all, any journey under half an hour is free (although there is a £1 access fee for casual users, and costs rise sharply after the first hour). For a guide to how it all works click here.
See our guide to cycling in London
City Rd, EC1Y 1AU. Old St tube.
Just outside the City of London’s northern boundary lies this former burial pit (the otherwise jolly-sounding designation Bunhill comes from ‘bone hill’). A large and shady open space that’s great for a stroll, it’s where seventeenth- and eighteenth-century dissenters from the Church of England were buried. Look out for the graves of London’s great poet, artist and mystic William Blake and author of ‘Robinson Crusoe’ Daniel Defoe.
Read more about Bunhill Fields
66 Royal Hospital Rd, SW3 4HS (020 7352 5646). Sloane Square tube or Victoria tube/rail, then 170 bus.
The world’s oldest rock garden can be found inside this beautiful botanic haven by the river. The rock garden was completed in 1773 using stones from the Tower of London, Icelandic lava and flint. The garden itself dates from 1673 and is a botanist’s and herbalist’s paradise, able to support a range of non-native species thanks to the warm microclimate provided by the Thames. The garden runs a lively programme of tours and talks throughout the summer months.
Read more about Chelsea Physic Garden
You may be able to see more farm animals outside the M25, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get up close and personal. At London’s city farms, you can stroke rabbits, let sheep eat out of your hand, muck out horses, take a pony ride, look after bees and meet rare-breed pigs and cows at very close quarters. Some of our favourites are the farms with great cafés attached, so make a day of it at Mudchute, Hackney or Surrey Docks.
Read our guide to London’s city farms
Hampstead tube or Hampstead Heath or Gospel Oak Overground.
Wild and undulating, the grassy sprawl of Hampstead Heath is a wonderfully untamed contrast to the manicured lawns and flowerbeds of many of the capital’s parks. The heath stretches across 791 acres of woodland, playing fields, swimming ponds and meadows of tall grass, an invaluable natural sanctuary between Hampstead and Highgate. On hot summer days, the Hampstead Ponds are perfect for a refreshing dip, while the exposed heights of Parliament Hill provide a popular destination for kite-fliers when the weather turns breezy.
Read more about Hampstead Heath
Swains Lane, N6 6PJ (020 8340 1834). Archway tube.
This beautiful graveyard, tucked away on a quiet slope beneath Highgate Village, is a vision of Romantic neglect. Its ivy-covered corners, broken pillars, crooked urns and mysterious paths are straight out of a Victorian gothic novel. Famous graves in the East Cemetery include Karl Marx, Christina Rossetti and Mary Ann Evans (otherwise known as George Eliot). The West Cemetery, with its catacombs and sinister ‘Circle of Lebanon’ mausolea, is only accessible on a guided tour – but unmissable for anyone with a taste for ghost stories and classic Hammer horror...
Read more about Highgate Cemetery
Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch or Knightsbridge tube.
London’s largest central park isn’t all about fresh air and greenery. There’s tonnes to do, whether you want to go horse-riding, boating, rollerblading or swimming. Also look out for the world famous Speaker’s Corner near Marble Arch. If you're exploring on foot and the vast expanses defeat you, look out for the Liberty Drives (May-Oct). Driven by volunteers (there's no fare, but offer a donation if you can), these electric buggies pick up groups of sightseers and ferry them around.
Also suggested by: Secret LDN
Read more about Hyde Park
High Street Kensington, Lancaster Gate or Queensway tube.
Continuing the greenery west from Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens is much flatter, but you couldn’t call it featureless. Stroll around the Italian Gardens, doff your hat at Peter Pan or take your kids to the brilliant Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground. The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, a shallow stone ring of trickling water, is also popular for paddling. For adults, the art at Serpentine Gallery, the sunken garden and the beautiful flower walk provide alluring ways to while away a sunny afternoon.
Read more about Kensington Gardens
Kew Rd, TW9 3AB (020 8332 5655). Kew Gardens tube/Overground or Kew Bridge rail.
This magnificent celebration of botanical diversity is set over a fun 300 acres. Classic attractions like the steamy tropical Palm House and the Pagoda compete with newer additions like the exciting 18m-high Xstrata Treetop Walkway or a human-scale badger sett. And, of course, don’t forget to admire the plants – all 30,000 species...
Read more about Kew Gardens
Kings Rd, TW10 5HS (020 8948 3209). Richmond tube/Overground.
London is full of surprises. It doesn’t matter how many times you go to Richmond Park, it still seems incredible there are deer stalking around as if Henry VIII were still on the throne. On a misty morning, you can almost hear the sound of the royal bugle leading the hunt onwards. Don’t miss the gorgeous Isabella Plantation woodland while you’re here.