Saint James's Park
St. James’s Park used to be a swamp. The land was purchased by Henry VIII in 1532. His successor, James I, drained the swamp, landscaped the gardens, and introduced exotic birds and animals. Charles II, inspired by the French royal gardens he saw while in exile, redecorated the park and opened it to the public. The park we see today is the product of a remodeling effort undertaken in the nineteenth century.
St. James’s Park is bisected by the Mall, the ceremonial route from Buckingham Palace (and the finish line of the London Marathon). At the opposite end from the palace is the Horseguards Parade, an eighteenth century ceremonial plaza (and the Olympic beach volleyball venue). This is a great place to relax, especially after a long day exploring Westminster. There is a lot of wildlife for an urban park, though the exotic animals of Charles II are long gone. Deckchairs are available if you want to take a load off during the summer. There is also a playground for kids and refreshment stands.
Tube Station: St. James’s Park (District, Circle), Green Park (Victoria, Piccadilly, Jubilee)