The iconic Hyde Park is to London what Central Park is to New York: a green oasis in the middle of one of the most bustling and vibrant cities in the world. This Grade I-listed major park covers a sprawling 350 acres, making it the biggest royal park in all of London. Originally created in 1536 as a hunting ground for Henry VIII, it's now enjoyed by locals and visitors alike who are looking for a tranquil escape from city life.
The park was granted to King Henry VIII from the monks of Westminster Abbey in 1536. He turned it into a private hunting ground for himself and his court, walling it off from the public. Hyde Park remained private until 1637, when it was opened to the public and quickly became a popular destination for parades, protests and celebrations.
This famous section of Hyde Park, located on the northeast corner, has been officially established as a point of free speech and debate since 1872. Speakers here are allowed to talk on any subject, so long as it is deemed lawful by the police. Famous speeches and protests include those held by the suffragettes, the Reform League and the Stop the War Coalition.
The Serpentine river, technically a lake, effectively divides the east and west halves of Hyde Park. It was created in 1730 under Queen Caroline's rule as part of a general redevelopment of the park. These days, it's possible to swim, row and hire pedalo boats along the water. There are also three cafes / restaurants around the edge of the lake with scenic views of the water.
Opened in July 2004 by Her Majesty the Queen, this unique fountain is a memorial to the late Princess Diana, who died tragically in 1997. The memorial was designed to reflect Diana's life, with swirls and bubbles flowing along and culminating in a tranquil pool at the end. It's a popular destination for London tourists as well as locals, with a nearby pirate ship playground for the little ones.
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