When it comes to lovely outdoor spaces, visitors to London have plenty of options to choose from.
There are lovely, tree-lined paths in English garden-style parks, there are lovely lakes and charming garden squares. And, of course, there are the playgrounds. Throughout the capital, you’ll find an array of fun-filled playgrounds, many of which have unusual features perfect for children who love to climb, slide, swing and use their imaginations.
One such park is the beautiful Diana Memorial Playground at the north-western corner of Kensington Gardens. The park features a lovely play area, and is very popular among local children as well as those visiting the city – and it also serves as a loving tribute to the People’s Princess.
History of the park
The playground was installed near Kensington Palace, Diana’s home after she married Prince Charles (and she continued living there after their divorce too). Following Diana’s tragic death in a Paris car crash in 1997, there was a huge outcry for a memorial to the beloved princess. Several were installed, including the Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park. The memorial playground was also erected within sight of where she lived for so many years and opened on June 30th, 2000.
The playground cost about £1.7 million and was built on the site of another playground – the Peter Pan children’s playground, which had been founded many years earlier. The new playground, however, was much bigger and more elaborate than what was there before – and still inspired by Peter Pan with features like a pirate ship and teepees.
What to do at the playground
The playground is massive and offers plenty for visitors to see and do – whether you’re looking for a bit of quiet time or an imaginary adventure. Here are some ideas:
- Remember Princess Diana – It may be a memorial, but the playground is certainly not a sad place. Still, it might be nice to take a moment during your visit to think of the princess and her many accomplishments.
- Soak up the sun and enjoy some fresh air – During the summer months, the playground is a great place to get out and enjoy the warm weather. Since it’s located in central London, it’s within easy reach of the rest of the city and it’s a perfect spot for escaping the hubbub of the city, even if just for a few minutes.
- Have a picnic – If you’ve planned ahead, why not bring some sandwiches and have a picnic? There are plenty of spots for relaxing on the grass with a blanket and some nibbles.
- Get some food from the cafe – Alternatively, the playground has a cafe, which serves some delicious food. There are also a number of tables where you can sit and enjoy your meal.
- Play pirates – The most prominent feature in the playground is a large-scale wooden pirate ship, based on Captain Hook’s ship, the Jolly Roger. This massive structure is perfect for climbing and kids also love to pretend they’re pirates or Peter Pan while running around on the decks.
- Spend some time in a teepee – Also based on an element in JM Barrie’s Peter Pan stories, the teepee village includes several teepees and a totem pole.
- Build a sand castle – All of the play structures are surrounded by sand, which helps to soften any falls and is also great for playing in.
- Stop and smell the flowers – Many elements of the Diana Memorial Playground were designed to provide an inclusive play environment, meaning it caters to children of all abilities. The flowers bring an aesthetic element to the park and have also been chosen due to their sweet fragrances, which provides another sensory experience for kids with visual disabilities. There are also a number of sound features.
- Splash around – A small splash park is a great way to cool off in the summer.
- See some amazing carvings – Throughout the park, you’ll find a number of beautiful wood carvings, including a flock of sheep, faces in trees and woodland creatures.
Good to know
More than one million people visit the playground every year. It’s free to get in, but there may be queues at busy times to keep numbers down for health and safety reasons. On warm sunny days, the queue can start as early as 10:30 am, so it’s a good idea to arrive early and expect to wait.
For children’s safety, unaccompanied adults may only enter the playground between 9:30 and 10:00 am. Opening times vary, depending on the season, but last entry is 15 minutes prior to closing time. The playground is open every day except December 25th.
The playground is located just 1.3 miles from the Park Grand London Kensington.