Things to do near St James’s Park
Meet the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street
Or not. The street is cordoned off and likely you won’t even be able to catch a glimpse of the door. It used to be a public pathway, but nowadays anti-terrorism laws are quoted as the basis for the blockade. Security was also tightened back in 1991, after a bombing by the IRA. Still, it’s an interesting place to drop by, and if the Prime Minister is unavailable, you might at least get to meet the resident Downing Street cat. While there, see if you can convince one of the buff policemen to join you for a selfie. Then tick off this important landmark from your list of must-see places.
Visit the Churchill War Rooms and Westminster Abbey
Churchill War Rooms are within a short walk from the St James’s Park station and well worth a visit if you have time to spare. It is an underground bunker where Winston Churchill and his war cabinet were plotting out the events of the Second World War. You could easily spend an hour or two in this museum, but beware of the queues. Opt for a weekday visit if you can. Fun fact: Churchill found ambient sounds distracting, and people working with him in the War Rooms had to use noiseless typewriters.
Westminster Abbey is another famous landmark that can be easily accessed from St James’s Park. It’s a grand and beautiful building that I like to return to over and over again. It’s interesting purely for aesthetic reasons, but history buffs will want to see the tombstones and coffins of the many famous people buried there. In fact, there are so many of them, that space is at a premium and some coffins have to be kept upright. If your interests lie in literature rather than history, look for the Poet’s Corner, where many writers are buried (and some aren’t – some just have a commemorative tombstone there).
Relax at St James’s Park
Let’s not forget the park itself. It gets its name a leper hospital, of all things. A beautiful oasis of calm in the busy city centre, it has quite a few secrets for you to discover. You have the option to visit the world-famous resident pelicans or take a walk to the Buckingham Palace. Had a busy day? Buy a newspaper, a coffee and rent a deck chair for a relaxing lounge in the sun (deckchairs are only available during the warm season).
Being the oldest of all the Royal Parks in London, St James’s Park boasts impressive landscaping, mature trees and a diverse bird population . Various parts of the park, such as the Duck Island and the Pelican Rock, are named after the resident waterfowl. Park keepers feed the pellican population every day at 2.30pm, and it’s a sight to behold. This takes place near the Duck Island cottage. But admire from afar – feeding and petting the pelicans is not allowed!
If you get peckish whilst there, there is a cafe in the park itself (look for a wooden pavillion). Food there can vary in quality, so I wouldn’t recommend it for a full meal. However, if you are just looking to have a coffee and a pastry whilst observing the natural life around you, it’s the perfect spot. The pastries are fresh and the surroundings are pleasant, especially if it’s summer and you can sit outside.