Victoria Park is the largest and most popular park in East London, attracting around 12 million visitors a year. It is famous for hosting Lovebox and other popular festivals and events.
Adjacent to London Fields and the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park, and bordered by the Regent's and Hertford Union Canals, Victoria Park is a 10-15 minute walk from Mile End and Bethnal Green tube stations.
The Park was built to provide recreation space for the working classes who lived in the overcrowded and unsanitary East End during Victorian times.
It was designed by James Pennethorne (1801-1871) in 1841. Pennethorne was a well-known Victorian architect and planner, whose other works include Kennington Park, Battersea Park, the Public Records Office on Chancery Lane and the ballroom at Buckingham Palace.
The impetus for its creation was a petition signed by 30,000 people, delivered to Queen Victoria in 1840.
The park soon became popular, with the public particularly drawn to a Chinese Pagoda that was moved here from Hyde Park in 1847 (having been bought for the princely sum of £110).
Later, the Park became a focal point for political debate, with socialist speakers such as William Morris and concerts organised by the Rock Against Racism group drawing huge crowds.
The largest event held by Victoria Park was the 1978 Rock Against Racism concert, featuring The Clash and Buzzcocks. 100,000 people attended the event, which followed a 6-mile march from Trafalgar Square, which demonstrated against racial inequality and the rise of the National Front.
The West Park
The smaller western area is dominated by Victoria Park lake (pictured), a shallow lake loved by ducks, geese and swans, with an impressive fountain and three islands.
The lake is now home to two Erno Bartha sculptures, works entitled 'Bird' and 'Skyscraper'. They were commissioned by the Romanian Cultural Institute with the support of the Tower Hamlets Council.
Built on one of the lake’s islands, the Chinese Pagoda is accessed by the intricately decorated iron Pennethorne Bridge, and was funded by a £200,000 National Lottery grant.
The park's first Pagoda was erected at the park in 1847, having been moved here from the Chinese Exhibition at Hyde Park Corner. The structure was initially cut off from the main park—prompting rumours amongst local children that it was home to a Chinese family who would sneak out at night to feed the ducks and swans.
Other attractions of the western area include the tranquil Rose and Floral Sunken Gardens, statues of the Dogs of Alcibiades, and the Victoria and Alexandra Playground.
Finally, the West Park has a 1.4 mile, 40-50 minute walk called Trees of the World. The trail, created by the charity Trees for Cities, takes in 14 grand specimens, including the London Plane, Black Walnut, Indian Bean, Sweet Chestnut and Common Lime. Information is displayed on a board close to the Pavillion Cafe.
At the centre of the east park is large adventure playground for children. It has everything: three long slides to keep older children amused; large climbing frames joined by a rope bridge; a number of swings and smaller slides; and a large sandpit filled with mechanical diggers and other contraptions to keep the little ones amused.
Adjacent to the playground is found the Victoria Park Splash Pool (open from late May to early September),
A small lake used by anglers is located behind the adventure playground, complete with fishing platforms and stocked with bream, common carp, eels, perch, pike and roaches.
A bandstand, home to a series of Sunday afternoon performances by local bands each year, is found near to the Grove Road entrance
The elaborate Victoria Drinking Fountain, designed by Henry Astley Darbishire for philanthropist Angela Burdett Coutts, is found towards the centre of the east park. This fountain cost £6,000 to build in 1862 (about £500,000 in today's money). Constructed of pink marble and granite, the fountain served a very practical purpose: to dispense clean drinking water to London's poor (who often drank from the nearby lakes). Today it is surrounded by benches and is a popular spot for wedding photographs!
The circumference of Victoria Park is almost 5 kilometres, which can be run on grass or tarmac). For those who take the sport seriously, why not attend a meeting of the Victoria Park Harriers & Tower Hamlets Athletics Club, who meet every Tuesday and Thursday at 7pm.
The park's other sporting attractions include cricket nets, tennis courts, a bowling club, and grass football and cricket pitches.
Other attractions include the various playgrounds for children and hiring a rowing boat or pedalo in summer to make your way around the western park’s boating lake.
There are a number of decent food options.
The eastern side of the park has The Park Cafe towards its centre (part of The Hub administration complex), which serves light meals. We particularly recommend its Mango Lassis, Seven Spice Masala Tea, and Indian Breakfasts. The Park Cafe is open from 9am to 3.30pm, Tuesdays to Sundays.
The Pavillion Café offers fantastic organic food, and is particularly known for its breakfasts. There are eggs cooked anyway you like—including eggs Benedict and Florentine—as well as the more usual fare, they offer a superb Sri Lankan breakfast. Prices are on the high side. But you are probably paying for the excellent location, beside Victoria Park's boating lake.
For something a little stronger, try one of the many pubs that border the Park, such as The Crown, the Hemingway (a few minutes away from the park, named after the "scholar, philanderer and seasoned drinker" Ernest Hemingway), the Royal Inn on the Park and the People's Park Tavern (which has its own microbrewery on-site).
Victoria Park's wildlife includes mute swans, grey herons, cormorants, mallards, gadwalls, shovelers, Canada, Greylag and Egyptian geese, mandarin ducks, little grebes, kingfishers, coots, moorhens, black-headed gulls, red-crested pochards and tufted ducks.
Sadly, Victoria Park's deer enclosure was closed in 2013. But there are lost of grey squirrels and the occasional fox to keep you entertained. Victoria Park is also a popular place for dog walking.
Visitors are encouraged to try the Park’s Memoryscape Trail, a podcast which can be downloaded from the Tower Hamlets website. It includes interesting informationabout the park from local residents, for instance how it was used as a Second World War prisoner of war camp.
This two-day music festival takes over 40 acres of the park and has a maximum capacity of 50,000 people. As well as the music, played on seven different stages, there are fairground rides, bars, face-fainting and other festival fun.
In past years, headline acts have included Groove Armada, Jamiroquai, Blondie, the Super Furry Animals, the Human Leaue, Duran Duran, Snoop Dog, Scissor Sister, Jessie J, Grace Jones and Plan B.
The 2016 lineup included Major Lazer and LCD Soundsystem. Lovebox 2017 will be held on 14-15 July. It is being headlined by Frank Ocean, Jamie XX and Chase and Status.
The new Citadel festival arrived in Victoria Park in 2016, headlined by Icelandic post-rock outfit Sigur Rós, and including quirky events like a school sports day. In 2017, it will be held on 16 July, with performances by Foals and Bonobo.
Victoria Park hosts a number of other festivals and other events each year. The Field Day festival is probably the most famous, headlined byJames Blake and PJ Harvey in 2016. In 2017, Field Day will be held on 3-4 June. Its line-up includes Run the Jewels, Slowdive and Flying Lotus.
The Winterille Christmas festival, complete with fairground rides, ice-skating, roller-disco and pantomime, is expected to return in December 2017.
Each year Victoria Park holds a number of other events, including a 10 kilometre run each August for the British Heart Foundation and the Victoria Park Race (held each November, comprising 5 kilometre, 10 kilometre and half-marathon categories).
Entry is free.
The address is: Victoria Park, Grove Road, Tower Hamlets, East London E3 5SN. The closest underground stations to the Park are Bethnal Green and Mile End (both on the Central line).
There are a large number of entrances to the Park, found on Gore Road, Victoria Park Road, Cadogan Terrace, Jodrell Road, Gunmakers Lane, Old Ford Road and the Canal Towpath.
The Park has a horticultural pedigree, winning the People’s Choice Park award in 2012 and consistently being awarded Green Heritage Status (an award for historic sites administered by English Heritage).
Victoria Park won the TimeOut Love London Award in 2014, and was the runner-up in 2015.
One of East London’s most prosperous areas, the leafy Victoria Park Village is built of gorgeous and well-maintained Georgian and Victorian terraces.
It offers independent cafes and restaurants such as:
Up-market shops in Victoria Park Village include