In 2017, the United Kingdom welcomed over 40 million visitors, with 19 million of them coming to our beautiful capital London, according to statistics from Visit Britain. With all that London has to offer on our doorstep, I often get asked what the best things are to do when visiting. Indeed, there is no easy answer to that question, as it all depends on who you are and your travel companions.
During their first visit, many tourists will try to fit in a bus sightseeing tour and visit some of the many museums, including the Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, all conveniently located next to each other close to South Kensington tube station.
Returning visitors or those a bit more adventurous may take the Thames Clippers service and take the boat to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich or in the summer, go in the opposite direction, again by boat, to Kew Gardens or Hampton Court. For some visitors, three days in London, with restaurants, musicals and nightclubs, combined with extensive shopping during the day is all they had in mind. Others will be looking for days out for all ages with the evenings spent at the hotel room relaxing after a busy day.
A Different Experience
Looking in the many guidebooks about London and doing searches online, typically, the same 20 or so things come up. To find something slightly different, you need to ask the locals to stumble on something. I’ll let you in on one of the tips from a local: one of those unexpected things to experience in a bustling European capital, which our visitors tend to enjoy is feeding the wild parakeets in Hyde Park.
If you would like to know more about the parakeets and why they are in London, The Londonist has a summary on their website.
But don’t confuse feeding the parakeets with feeding the ducks. The discerning green parakeets of London do not like bread; they are not interested and would prefer to remain hungry. Instead, make sure you get a hold of some juicy apples and cut them up before you head off. Seeds and nuts also work well, but if you can, put them in a pot, or the parakeets may well help themselves by ripping open the bag you have the seeds in. Oh, and pack some wet wipes, too, so you can clean your hands afterwards.
You can spot the parakeets flying around in quite a few different locations in Hyde Park, but the place they seem to prefer for feeding is located on the west side of the Long Water between the Italian Gardens and the Serpentine Gallery. The closest tube station is Lancaster Gate on the Central Line, or else it’s a slightly longer walk from Knightsbridge and South Kensington tube stations.
If coming from Lancaster Gate in the north, you will pass the Peter Pan statue on the way. The Physical Energy statue and Queen Caroline’s Temple are also close by, but you need to stay slightly closer to the Long Water to find the right spot. If you can’t see the parakeets, stop, look up and listen.
When you get there, take some apple pieces or seeds in your hands and hold them out in front of you. Soon, a parakeet is likely to come and land on you.
The wild parakeets are used to us humans and they don’t seem to be too bothered by dogs, either. In the summer, you may still like to wear long sleeves as some find their claws a bit sharp. A few times when while there, one of the birds was quite eager and bit a palm when the apples were finished, but if you keep a good supply and don’t extend empty hands, then you should be fine. As always, if you feel uncomfortable, walk away and save it for another time. The ducks and pigeons around the park will happily eat your apples and seeds.