Visiting London can be overwhelming, especially if you are visiting for the first time. With a city that is brimming with some of the world’s most iconic landmarks, it’s easy to get so caught up in them that you miss other great locations. That being said, I know my first visit was exactly that. Visits to Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Number 10, Westminster Abbey, St Pauls, London Bridge and so many more. The list is never-ending.
For a great day out, step away from the built environment of London and head to Richmond Park. With 2,500 acres of parkland, the largest Royal Park in London, it is anything but hidden. It is also an enclosed natural reserve, with perimeter walls and large, ornate gates.
Getting to Richmond Park, London is easy when you know a few little tricks. We’ve outlined these for you further down the page. Knowing what to do in Richmond Park when you get there is made easier by reading our list of things to do below. Whilst a little way out of London, it’s definitely worth the effort. We’d suggest making a day of it to enable time to explore the nearby village of Richmond and one of the most unique pubs in London, the Richmond Pub.
Knowing there is so much on offer means it is easy to keep justifying return visits to London. There’s plenty to see, some of which lies hidden even to those who have lived here their whole life. Exploring is part of the fun in London and we look forward to being able to share some of those less touristic places with you. There are also so many free things to see and do in London, which eases the burden in a sometimes expensive city.
History of Richmond Park London
Richmond Park is called a Royal Park for good reason. Dating back to the early 1200s, the area belonged to royalty, with names such as Edward and Henry VII involved. In 1625, King Charles I ruled from here, following London’s Great Plague. He brought red and fallow deer here and fully enclosed the park, much to the chagrin of the locals. Today, Richmond Park, now under the ownership of the Crown and HRH Queen Elizabeth II, is a public park where the red and fallow deer still roam free. Seeing the Richmond Park deer is one of the main reasons why visitors like to come here today.
Things to do in Richmond Park
Such a huge expanse of rolling hills and woodlands provides the perfect canvas for many outdoor activities. On a day when the sun is out, Londoners flock here to soak up the warmth and family days out are evident everywhere. With so much space, the opportunity to get involved in public games of sporting activities, or to hide away for some much-needed solitude are equally accessible.
Richmond Park Cycling
There are endless paths and cycleways throughout the park, making a casual stroll or bike ride easy to do. Hiring bicycles in Richmond Park is also made easy with the Parkcycle Centre located near the Roehampton Gate Car Park during summer.
Other sporting activities such as horseriding, fishing, golf and power kiting are also possible.
Have tea at Pembroke Lodge
The stunning Pembroke Lodge was once a little more modest. The former home of a resident mole catcher, it was a simple cottage in which to live. The passing of time and the arrival of more famous people including a Prime Minister saw the small house evolve into something grander. In the late 1700s royalty in the name of the Countess of Pembroke took ownership and had the cottage extended.
The Countess of Dunmore lived here during the mid-1800s until Queen Victoria handed it over to the Prime Minister of the day from where he conducted government business.
A variety of regal owners lived here up until World War II when it received some damage from bombing.
After the war, perhaps when commercial realities overcame sympathetic ones, the government converted the lodge into flats for park workers and a cafeteria.
It’s a beautiful location and lodge, hosting many weddings every year in this glorious location. Taking tea, with a view to the west of London is the perfect tonic for a mid morning break. Spending time out in the gardens is also another relaxing way of enjoying your time here.
Take in the special views from King Henry’s Mound
Not far from Pembroke Lodge is King Henry’s mound and the opportunity to get a sneaky glimpse of London City, which is located approximately 14.5km away. The mound provides panoramic views of the Thames Valley in the west and London City in the East.
Through a concerted effort by the park gardeners over many generations, a keyhole has been kept carefully manicured in a hedge, separating the mound from the eastern view. With the aid of a telescope, you can see through the keyhole and St Paul’s Cathedral in the distance.
On the day we were here, the sky was overly bright and made it difficult to get a great shot of St Paul’s. I did manage to capture it though as proof it can be seen from here.
Look for Richmond Park deer
Like many others before us, we came to Richmond Park especially to see the deer and we weren’t leaving without achieving this. “Where are all the deer in Richmond Park” I kept asking my husband after we had walked and walked for what felt like a long time and we still hadn’t seen them. It took us quite a while, and it was a significant walk, but it was worth it in the end.
Besides, this park was made for walking, so what better incentive to get your walking shoes on than to have a goal at the end of it. Our walk took us through beautiful forests of trees, providing the perfect sanctuary for many of the animals that call this park their home. Walking trails wind their way past lakes and ponds, all of which are a magnet for animals, particularly birds.
Finally, we found them, and we couldn’t keep the smiles off our face. They were here in great herds, casually going about their day grazing on the lawn. Deer are not a common occurrence back home in Australia so it was such a delight to see them here.
Tip: Be prepared to walk a fair bit to look for them. As they are free animals on this enormous natural reserve, they don’t stay in one place. They generally move together in a herd, making them easy to spot when you eventually do find them.
Explore the gardens
There are so many gardens in the park, some of the most beautiful surround Pembroke Lodge and the path towards Henry’s Mound.
Admire private houses
There are a lucky few who live in quite grand houses within the grounds of various Royal Parks. There are several within Richmond Park also. This one was surrounded by amazing flower gardens. From what we could see, it looked amazing, almost like a gingerbread house.
Relax around the lakes and watch the wildlife
Richmond Park is home to many birds including the beautiful swans that glide on the lakes and the parrots that can be found in the trees. There’s squirrels too, and and endless supply of other creatures.
Do some plane spotting
Located about 20km west of London’s busiest airport, there is a constant stream of air traffic into Heathrow. It makes for some amazing plane spotting.
What not to do in Richmond Park
There are many things that you shouldn’t do here, like don’t litter, don’t ride your bikes so fast that you nearly hit others and be respectful of the environment in general. One aspect of our visit to Richmond Park annoyed us enough to call it out specifically. Don’t go close to the deer! The deer are wild animals and you’re in their patch. Despite many signs advising not to get closer than 50 metres, common sense seems to evade a lot of people.
Time after time, we watched visitors with their cameras either rushing the animals from behind or just walking in amongst their herd. Notwithstanding the fact that there are possible safety issues for humans, it is totally unfair and unnecessary to impact the deer in this way. Most of the time, the people we saw had zoom lenses and had absolutely no need to be doing this. Our photos were taken with a zoom and we were well back past the 50-metre zone.
Where to eat in Richmond Park
The premier location to enjoy some fine hospitality in Richmond Park is at Pembroke Lodge (mentioned above). With views and a beautiful Georgian building, this location is always going to be as much about the ambience as it is about the food.
The Roehampton Cafe, located near the Roehampton Gate serves coffee, cafe food and icecream.
There are several convenience kiosks near the Broomfield hill, Pen Ponds and Pembroke Lodge carparks.
Of course, being a park, you can bring your own food and drinks here and enjoy a wonderful picnic at any time of the day or night.
Where is Richmond Park?
Richmond Park is located in the London borough, Richmond on Thames, approximately 14.5km from London City. It is close to the village of Richmond. It is London’s second-largest park and the second largest enclosed park in Great Britain.
How to get to Richmond Park
The first and most important thing I learned about directions for Richmond Park is that they are generally all approximate. This is because the park is huge so putting Richmond Park into your GPS or mapping app is likely to get you to somewhere near the park, but not necessarily to one of the Richmond Park gates.
Richmond Park Gates and access points
Being such a large park, there are many locations where you can access the park via their pedestrian or car gates.
Vehicle access gates
Pedestrian access gates
Click here for a downloadable map of all Richmond Park gates.
Richmond Park parking
If driving to the park, putting in the postcode (TW10 5HS) for Richmond Park is useful for getting you to the general area.
Carparks at Richmond Park can be found at the following locations and are all free. Parking is only available when the Richmond Park gates are open.
Disabled car parks
General car parks
Buses can be caught to Richmond from any location in London. For the best bus route use the Transport for London journey planner.
If catching the tube (District line) or train (National Rail) your destination is Richmond Station. From the station, go directly out the front and catch the number 371 or 65 bus to the pedestrian gate at Petersham Road.
Tip: We used this process and it wasn’t evident on the bus or using our mapping app where the Petersham Road Gate is. If you aren’t sure, talk to the bus driver and make sure they understand you so that they can let you off the bus at the correct location. Otherwise, you might end up having more of a walk than you bargained for.
Richmond Park opening hours
Richard Park has different opening times, depending on if you are planning to access via vehicle or are on foot.
You can drive your car into Richmond Park. During the summer, Richmond Park opens to vehicles from 7 am and in winter from 7.30 am. The main vehicle gates close at dusk. Don’t get caught leaving your vehicles parked in here as you won’t be able to get them out and you will also receive a fine.
The pedestrian gates are open 24/7 except for between November and February. During this time, the pedestrian gates are opened at 7.30 am and closed at 8 pm.
Various other events occur during the year, especially relating to animals or plant life in the park. For correct opening times, it is always useful to first check the Richmond Park website.
Where to stay
When in London, we stay in Dolphin Square. It’s in the heart of London, near Victoria Station, so making the trip out here via tube and bus was easy.
Other things to do in London
Visiting London? Check out some of the other great things to do in and near London.
- An unusual afternoon tea in London: The Gin Lover’s Afternoon Tea
- Brick Lane street art: some of Shoreditch London’s best artwork
- Three cool, unusual and historical places to eat in London
- 16 reasons to visit the Borough Markets of London
- Things to do in Colchester, UK – an easy day trip from London
- Looking for pubs in Richmond London? Visit the unique Whitecross on the River Thames
- The Banksy (Leake St) Tunnel – a hidden graffiti art location in London
- Walk the streets on an historic pub and food tour in London
- Little Venice to Camden boat trip: explore the hidden canals of London