In central London with the kids and need a playground?
The central area does contain plenty of swings, slides and roundabouts, but they're often very well hidden. To help parents out, we've put together this map, to show every playground we know about. We've even added a mini-review, if we've personally visited.
The map includes the well-known mega-playgrounds in the Royal Parks, but also many smaller facilities, tucked away down side roads and hidden within estates. Did you know about the small playground off Drury Lane, or the fantastic Nelson Square playground a short walk from Tate Modern (it has trampolines!)?
We've also included some of the adventure playgrounds that require registration or pre-booking (but are normally free of charge). Those are marked with the blue symbols, while green playgrounds are free for kids to use, anytime.
There are no public playgrounds in the City of London
One curious discovery we made while compiling this map is that the Square Mile is almost entirely bereft of playgrounds. The only two we could find — in the Barbican and Golden Lane Estate — are strictly for residents only.
The City of London is a mostly commercial district, with a tiny resident population. Very few children call it home. Even so, hundreds of thousands of families visit the Square Mile every year for attractions such as the Museum of London, St Paul's Cathedral and (just outside the boundary) the Tower of London. Surely one or two playgrounds wouldn't go amiss?
The nearest options are a small playground in Fortune Street near the Barbican (but technically in Islington), and a tiny play area on Tower Hill beside the Roman wall (which seems to be just inside Tower Hamlets, possibly with a single roundabout poking over the City boundary).
UPDATE: David Fletcher reminds us that Smithfield's small garden has a few 'wobble boards' for kids to balance on. They hardly constitute a playground, but they're better than nothing.
As you can see from the map, though, other parts of the central region are also poorly provisioned. Much of the West End is lacking. The huge squares of Lincoln's Inn Fields and Russell Square could surely squeeze something in? And how about the streets around the South Kensington museums, which see enormous numbers of children each year? True, a short walk to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens offers some of the best playgrounds in London, but why can't we have something on the museums' doorstep?
What have we missed?
It's almost certain we've missed a few of the smaller, more hidden-away playgrounds. If you know of any others, please leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We've used a fairly vague version of 'zone 1' for our definition of central London and are happy to consider playgrounds a little outside this boundary, especially the larger ones.
Note: the children in these photographs are the offspring of the author and have given full consent in exchange for a fee of chocolate.