Sat. May 21st, 2022

A girl climbs on an orange wireframe train on a playground.
5 minutes from the Thames, your children can climb on a train called “Little Dorrit”.

In central London with the kids and need a playground?

The central area contains lots of swings, slides and roundabouts, but they are often very well hidden. To help parents, we have put together this map to show every playground we know of. We even added a mini review if we have personally visited.

The map contains the well-known mega-playgrounds in Royal Parks, but also many smaller facilities, tucked down side roads and tucked away within estates. Did you know about the little playground at Drury Lane or the amazing Nelson Square playground a short walk from the Tate Modern (it has trampolines!)?

We have also included some of the adventure playgrounds that require registration or pre-booking (but are usually free). They are marked with blue symbols, while green playgrounds are free for children to use at any time.

Nelson Square: just a five minute walk from the Thames at Bankside, and see all that playground.

There are no public playgrounds in the City of London

A strange discovery we made during the preparation of this map is that the Square Mile is almost entirely lacking in playgrounds. The only two we could find – in the Barbican and Golden Lane Estate – are for residents only.

The City of London is a largely commercial district with a small population. Very few children call it home. Yet hundreds of thousands of families visit the Square Mile each year for attractions such as the London Museum, St Paul’s Cathedral and (just outside the border) the Tower of London. One or two playgrounds would not go wrong?

The nearest options are a small playground in Fortune Street near the Barbican (but technically in Islington) and a small play area on Tower Hill next to the Roman wall (which seems to be just inside the Tower Hamlets, possibly with a single roundabout , which protrudes beyond the City Boundary).

UPDATE: David Fletcher reminds us that Smithfield’s little garden has a few ‘wobble boards’ that children can balance on. They hardly make up a playground, but they are better than nothing.

A little boy is playing on a wooden ship on the banks of the Thames.
Another small play area just outside the city is this newly opened nautical playground in Embankment Gardens.

However, as you can see on the map, other parts of the central region are also poorly provided. Much of the West End is missing. The huge squares at Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Russell Square could certainly push something in? And what about the streets around the South Kensington Museums, which see a huge number of children every year? True, a short walk to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens offers some of the best playgrounds in London, but why can we not have something right outside the museums?

What have we missed?

It’s almost certain we’ve missed a couple of the smaller, more hidden playgrounds. If you know others, please leave a comment below or send an email to matt@londonist.com. We have used a rather vague version of ‘zone 1’ for our definition of central London and would like to consider playgrounds a little outside this border, especially the larger ones.

Note: The children in these photographs are descendants of the author and have given their full consent to the payment of chocolate.

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