One of London’s principal charms is to find the formal, cultivated serenity of Regent's Park—more country-house grounds than municipal amenity—just on the edge of the intensely urban West End, a world away from the traffic-clogged surrounding roads. The 395-acre park, with the largest outdoor sports area in central London, draws the athletically inclined from around the city.
At the center of the park, Queen Mary's Gardens, created in the 1930s, are a fragrant 17-acre circle containing some 30,000 individual specimens and more than 400 varieties of roses. Unsurprisingly, it's a favorite spot for weddings. Just to the east of the Gardens is the Regent's Park Open-Air Theatre and the Boating Lake, which you can explore by renting a pedalo (paddleboat) or rowboat. Heading east from the rose gardens along Chester Road past the Broad Walk will bring you to Nash's iconic white stucco Cumberland Terrace, with its central Ionic columns surmounted by a triangular Wedgwood-blue pediment.
At the north end of the Broad Walk you'll find the London Zoo, while to the northwest of the central circle is The Hub (0300/061–2323), a state-of-the-art community sports center that has changing rooms, exercise classes, and a café with 360-degree views of the surrounding sports fields, used for soccer, rugby, cricket, field hockey, and softball contests. There are also tennis courts toward the park's southeast (Baker Street) entrance, and the park is a favorite north–south route for cyclists.
If watching all this activity works up an appetite, in addition to the Hub's own café there's the Regent's Bar & Kitchen outside the rose garden that serves salads, sandwiches, and wood-fired pizzas (8 am–9 pm), the Smokehouse near the zoo that specializes in BBQ, burgers, and summer salads, the Boatyard Cafe by the boating lake, the Tennis Centre Cafe by the courts, an espresso bar with wraps and cakes, and a kiosk by the children's playground that serves sandwiches and snacks. Regent's Park also hosts two annual events: the prestigious Frieze Art Fair, and the Taste of London, a foodie-oriented extravaganza.