Having lived in London for a year, touching back down in this grand old city always feels a little bit like coming home.

Even though you might be getting around with your face stuck to your phone, modern London has still got that old world charm. Because of the time I’ve spent here, when I’m playing tour guide to the uninitiated I generally skip the regular tourist haunts.

Sure the Big Ben is spectacular and Westminster Abby is hauntingly beautiful, but being a country girl from Victoria, nothing gets me more excited than exploring the great outdoors, and London has hidden sprawling parklands surprisingly well.

While popular central picnic spots like Hyde Park and Regent’s Park boast quintessential views of London, if you’re looking to see the city from another angle perhaps you should do some exploring further afield. Expedia’s Aussie travellers usually spend 3 nights in London so save at least an afternoon for a bit of exploring with my picks for London’s best parklands.

Hampstead Heath

Whilst living in St Johns Wood, Hampstead Heath was one of my favorite parks to stroll around on my days off.

The giant green space is just four miles from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s home to romantic fields perfect for picnics and ancient trees which have trunks wide enough for you to slide you back up against and quietly read a book in the shade. It’s a spot that makes you want to wear an ankle grazing dress, straw hat and speak with an Elizabethan twang.

And while the fields and forests are wonderful, what really makes Hampstead Heath so special are the ponds. People flock to these ponds in summer. There are a few spots where swimming is allowed, but I loved going to the Ladies Pond where only females are welcomed. It’s always a very liberating space, with women of all shapes and sizes stripping off (down to nothing if they wish) and cooling off in the water.

But a word of caution, if you’re afraid of ducks maybe stay away, because they’re not shy! They swim right up to you, flapping in to steal your food. But, other than that, it’s pretty idyllic.

And fellas, you’re not left out – there’s ponds just for you too, or mixed places to swim so you can take your pick with whatever suits your group.