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Up until the early 19th century, the land that is now Regents Park was used for a variety of purposes. During the Middle Ages it belonged to the wealthy Tyburn family and was also the location of Barking Abbey, which served as a Medieval missionary centre. In the 17th century, King Henry VIII was responsible for the dissolution of all monasteries and convents in the area and turned the land around Barking Abbey into hunting grounds and farmland for hay and dairy production.
It wasn’t until 1811 that King George IV hired an architect to develop a plan for a future park. John Nash designed many of the buildings and villas that still stand in the park today, that were once used as the King’s private entertaining areas for when friend’s visited the parks. Regents Park was opened to the public in 1835.
Sites & Activities
The 410 acre park is teaming with historically relevant sites and modern leisure activities, and tourists who are interested in exploring Regents Park could easily spend an entire day wandering its grounds. The park is divided into two main areas: the outer circle which allows cars and serves as the outermost limit of the park, and the inner circle, around which the most popular sites are located. There are two roads that link the inner and outer circles, but aside from these roads, only pedestrians are permitted.
Within the inner ring you will be able to find and tour Queen Mary’s Garden, once of the most beautifully curated flower gardens in the city. Her garden is also home to the open air theater where concerts and plays are occasionally held in the spring and summer months. Nearby, you’ll find the lake where a flock of herons is kept and families can enjoy boating or picnicking on the shore. There are miles of paths through trees and gardens and a number of white classical terraces designed by John Nash himself that visitors enjoy while strolling through Regents Park.
Interestingly enough, the park is also home to the home of the American ambassador to the United Kingdom as well as the highly visible London Central Mosque. There are also a good number of former royal residences that are scattered throughout the ground and are occasionally opened for tours to the public.
Arguably the most popular destination within Regents Park is the London Zoo, the oldest scientific Zoo in the world. It was initially intended only for research, but curious visitors to Regents Park led to the zoo being opened to the public in 1848.
The London Zoo is located on the northernmost edge of the park. It includes a reptile house, aquarium, insect house, and children’s zoo in addition to the standard exhibits including gorillas, penguins, pandas, and many, many more zoo dwellers. Entry costs may vary, but average around 15 pounds for children and 20 pounds for adults, but you can get a better deal when you buy family passes or other reduced deals.
Since the park is the size of a small town, it’s a great idea to bring a guidebook or map to help keep you on track as you explore the sprawling grounds of Regents. The park is located in the north western corner of central London, and easily accessible from a number of tube stations. The most obvious route would be to take the Bakerloo line to the Regents Park stop, but disembarking at Baker Street or Great Portland Street will also leave you well poised for a short walk to Regents Park.