There’s a good chance that you’ll end up in St. James’s Park at least once, even if it’s not a place you’ve specifically selected as a destination. It’s near quite a few other London attractions: the Churchill War Rooms and Westminster Abbey on the southeast side, The Mall along its northern edge, and Buckingham Palace at its west end.
St. James’s Park dates back to the early 1600’s, when King James I had the swampy area drained. Nowadays, it’s a perfect oasis from the busy urban surroundings, where you can take a nice walk, enjoy views of the lake (which runs through the center of the park), and feed some birds.
I ended up in St. James’s Park on my first afternoon in London — in fact, it’s where I ate my first meal in the city. I had just stopped by the visitor centre on Regent Street (south of Piccadilly Circus) to pick up my London Pass, then I walked a bit further south to the end of Regent Street. The statues are the Crimean War Memorial, and were cast from the bronze from cannons captured during the siege of Sevastopol (1854-55). The memorial was unveiled in 1861, honoring 2,152 lives lost during that war.
Regent Street ends at Pall Mall, but I kept walking…
… down these stairs, below the Duke of York column. The column dates back to 1834, and honors Prince Frederick, Duke of York, commander-in-chief of the British Army during the French Revolutionary Wars. When he died in 1827, the British Army voted to donate one day’s pay to create the memorial.
I kept walking…
… across The Mall, a ceremonial route that was used just a few days before my visit, as the newly-married Prince William and Catherine Middleton made their way from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace.
I had picked up a sandwich at a Pret A Manger (a fast-food sandwich shop that you’ll find on almost every corner in London), and when I reached St. James’s Park, I plopped down on the grass and soaked in my surroundings. It was a beautiful day, and people were everywhere, enjoying the sun. As a Floridian, I instinctively went for a spot in the shade, but quickly realized that it was a bit chilly. As I looked out at the skyline peeking through the trees (I think I could see Big Ben from there), it was the first time I really realized where I was.
I was back in St. James’s Park the following day, as I made my way from the Churchill War Rooms to Buckingham Palace.
I was headed the same direction as the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk, a loop path that passes through several London parks, and past significant royal landmarks like Kensington Palace…
… and Buckingham Palace, which stands at the end of the park’s lake.
You can do a lot of bird-watching here.
I’m not quite sure what this one is. We definitely don’t have them in Florida!
Gloomy weather started to break up, shining some spring sunlight on the flowers that were coming to life in the park.
May is a great time to visit London. It’s no surprise that these royal parks are carefully maintained, and the fragrance in the air is heavenly.
I left the flowers behind, and emerged from the park at its western end, at Buckingham Palace. In case you missed that page, you can jump to it here. Or, head north on Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus.