When the sun is shining, and even when it's not, Hyde Park is where Londoners converge to rest and play. One of London's eight Royal Parks, this 145-hectare verdant space is bound by the posh suburbs of Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Bayswater and draws millions of locals and tourists to enjoy recreational activities and its renowned attractions.
Originally designated as hunting grounds by Henry VIII, Hyde Park now offers a raft of sporting facilities and diversions including open water swimming and boating on the Serpentine Lake, cycling, tennis and lawn bowls at the Hyde Park Tennis and Sports Centre and horse riding along two designated routes. On the Sports Field, it's football (never soccer!) all year round. The Serpentine Lido lakeside beach is open every day from May to September although Serpentine Swimming Club, Britain's oldest, is in the water every day including the famous Christmas Day race. More leisurely activities can also be enjoyed from walking along the paths and picnicking in the park to hiring a deckchair.
During the warmer months, Hyde Park hosts huge outdoor concerts with big-name drawcards. Permanent park attractions include Serpentine Gallery, Speakers' Corner and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. Reopening in June 2013, Serpentine Gallery is an elegant 1930s tea pavilion in Kensington Gardens that belies its delicate appearance with free edgy modern art exhibitions and an annual outdoor pavilion to showcase the work of upcoming architects. The Diana Memorial Fountain at The Lido, set to reopen on May 7, 2013, is really a cascading circular water feature designed to represent the late royal's life. The most well-known section of Hyde Park is the Speakers' Corner near Cumberland Gate where, since the legalisation of public assembly in 1872, anyone can get up on their proverbial soapbox and have a rant. It's entertaining and most orators are not to be taken seriously, but it's definitely worth a look or a go.
Hyde Park is well serviced by public transport. To visit from Oxford Street, from Marble Arch tube station it's a three-minute walk down Park Lane to the Cumberland Gate entrance.