Once a hunting ground for Henry VIII, Regent’s Park in north London is now one of eight royal parks that are free to explore. A highlight of the 395-acre space is Queen Mary’s Gardens – you might recognise the lake from the 2002 comedy About a Boy, with Hugh Grant. It’s also home to the Open Air Theatre, which you can visit every summer. This month, the park hosts the annual Frieze Art Fair (6-9 Oct), which showcases contemporary art by established and emerging artists. Frieze Masters runs at the same time and features art from the ancient era as well as Old Masters.As well as browsing works by young artists, you can see sculptures in an outdoor exhibition curated by the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Take part in guided tours, immersive performance art or a workshop on the theme of borders. If all that leaves you hungry, then visit food stalls including Pizza Pilgrims, Gail’s Artisan Bakery and Caravan.
The zoo is bordered by Regent’s Canal, which you can stroll along to Camden Town. You can also cross it to access Primrose Hill, north of the park. It’s one of six protected viewpoints in London, so we challenge you not to turn around as you climb, so you’re rewarded with the full impact of the city when you reach the top. It’s one of the best spots from which to see the capital’s fireworks on Bonfire Night.
Regent’s Park Road, which curves north east of Primrose Hill, is lined with pavement cafés and boutiques.Nearby you’ll find this café, which has earned cult status for its cupcakes – try the salted caramel or lemon meringue ones.
If you’re after a more substantial meal, pop by this gastropub near the canal. It serves a killer Sunday roast as well as mains such as pork belly and sea-reared roasted trout with samphire, which you can wash down with a British beer. Why not try the local lager, Camden Hells? The interior is decorated with framed pictures, mirrors, church pews and tables made from barrels, while the garden is a sunny spot with porcelain plates hanging from a brick wall.
ZSL London Zoo
New for 2016 is Land of the Lions, a breeding centre for Asiatic lions, as there are only 520 left in a national park in India. The enclosure is modelled after the park – it has railway tracks, a train station ticket hall, and you can stroll along boardwalks over the lions. The zoo also hosts events such as silent discos, a race with naked people painted as tigers and a fire walk (5 Oct), in which you can hobble over hot coals. Sounds a bit too much? Then just stick with the penguins.