For the best views in the park, walk over the Blue Bridge across the lake – looking west, you can see Buckingham Palace, and to the east the top half of the London Eye.
As London’s most central park, St. James’ is an ideal spot to come for a couple of hours’ rest and relaxation in the middle of a busy day of sightseeing. Buckingham Palace stands proudly at its western tip, Downing Street on the opposite side, St. James’ Palace to the north and the Imperial War Museum at its most southeasterly corner. Continuing in that direction, it’s a five-minute walk to Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Bridge and the London Eye beyond.
The French Connection
It is no small compliment to the park itself, then, that it is able to hold its own in the face of such prestigious company. It was originally laid out by Charles II, who sought to mimic the world-famous gardens of the Palace of Versailles that he had seen during his exile in France. It was during this time that the long lake, the park’s centrepiece, was dug out of a former marsh. The lake is now home to fifteen different species of waterfowl, including pelicans, which were a gift from the Russian ambassador in the 17th century.
A Romantic Redesign
The park you can see today is largely the result of John Nash’s extensive 1828 redesign, which made it less grandiose and more romantic, with winding paths, shady copses of trees and pretty little flowerbeds. Overlooking the Horse Guards parade ground on the park’s eastern edge is the impressive Guards Division Memorial, which commemorates soldiers of the Guards regiments who lost their lives during the first and second world wars.
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