Want to scout out the tourist hotspots but the kids don’t fancy it? In need of some post-sightseeing relief? Or just enjoy a playground with a view? Check out these seven playscapes with no intention of letting you forget where you are.
- Tower Hill Garden, St. Katharine’s & Wapping – Tower of London
It literally consists of a single swing, a roundabout and a slide, but this curious pocket park does boast some pretty banging views of London’s most-visited tourist attraction (that’s the Tower of London, in case you were in doubt). Perhaps even more impressive, there’s a huge chunk of Roman wall literally next to the slide – and what a slide (it’s really fast). A good spot to blow off steam after a visit to the Tower, which can be mad stressful in peak season (Tower Hill, 3 mins).
2. Horseferry Playground, Victoria Tower Gardens – Palace of Westminster
There’s been talk of redevelopment for this Millbank gem in recent months, with plans to condense it and move it further down the park to make way for a Holocaust memorial. We’re hopeful that even if the plans go ahead the playground will retain its awesomeness, which extends to more than just pretty views of Pariament. Think sunken horses, a slide, water pumps, dance chimes and lots of sand, as well as handy proximity to Tate Britain (Westminster, 9 mins).
3. Bartlett Park, Poplar – Isle of Dogs
Few playgrounds offer such breathtaking views of the Canary Wharf skyscapers (in fact, we can’t think of another that offers any kind of view of them), and Bartlett Park manages to be well designed, good for all ages and accessible with it. The ramped structure is obviously the main event, but there’s enough equipment to enjoy a good hour here, and the excellent e5 Poplar Bakehouse is on the edge of the park for your coffee and cake needs (Langdon Park, 8 mins).
4. Jubilee Gardens, Southbank – The London Eye
Jubilee Gardens could only be nearer the London Eye had it been constructed in one of its pods – which, thinking about it, doesn’t sound like the worst idea in the world. Its proximity to the attraction means it can get pretty busy on weekends, particularly with older children, who it seems to be aimed at with its lofty climbing structures and suspended ropes. Head here on term-time weekdays with toddlers, when queues for the Eye are also much shorter (Waterloo, 6 mins).
5. Mint Street Playground, Southwark – The Shard
Recently upgraded to include attractive wooden climbing structures for older children, this cute Southwark playground might be aesthetically overshadowed by its neighbour, the Mint Street Adventure Playground (and literally, but pleasingly, overshadowed by its other neighbour, The Shard), but it’s still pretty great for post-Tate Modern runarounds. See also Leathermarket Gardens (also great, also gives good Shard) (Borough, 3 mins).
6. Brunel Estate, Westbourne Park – Trellick Tower
Like a bit of Brutalism with your playground? This Westbourne Park estate slide not only offers a stunning outlook over Erno Goldfinger’s iconic Trellick Tower; it’s an architectural wonder in its own right, having been Grade II listed in 2020. Modern safety measures have seen the local council install ugly fences on top of the brickwork (that arguably make it more dangerous than it was before), but it’s still one of London’s top child-friendly secrets (Westbourne Grove, 6 mins).
7. St. James’ Park Playground – Buckingham Palace
The depressing dearth of Central London playgrounds and this one’s location in one of its most popular parks means it’s regularly rammed, but head down midweek and it’s usually fairly bearable. Expect sand play, a fun enclosed slide area with walkways and climbing slopes, dance chimes, a giant wooden arachnid and swings with Buckingham Palace views. We’ve heard the Queen sometimes pops down for a go on the seesaw too (we haven’t) (St. James’s Park, 7 mins).