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Crystal Palace Park has a lot to offer, but have you heard about the beloved Crystal Palace Park Dinosaurs? And no, this is not a Jurassic Lark.
Crystal Palace Park (and dinosaurs) is a beautiful, historical grade II listed park that features dinosaurs, sphinxes, a gorilla and remains of the former Great Exhibition building. And best of all, Crystal Palace Park is free to visit (we love it so much, we include Crystal Palace dinosaurs in our top free things to do London guide).
Here is our guide to the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs and all the things to do in Crystal Park, south London:
The History of Crystal Palace Park
Crystal Palace Park is a lush, 200 acre site that originally opened in 1854, as the new home for the ‘Crystal Palace’ building, which was relocated from Hyde Park after the famous Great Exhibition in 1851.
Very much a Victorian amusement ground originally designed to educate and entertain, it is still very popular today with locals and day trippers, with several nods to its past still visible today, including some of the foundation stones from the original Crystal Palace building (it unfortunately burned down in 1936).
Most of the original Crystal Palace Park attractions are now sadly gone, such as the huge water towers designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the original park railway station and a massive aquarium. Today, there are still lots of things to do in Crystal Palace Park.
Crystal Palace Dinosaurs Park
Who needs Jurassic Park when London has its very own phenomenal Crystal Palace Dinosaurs Park. And unlike Jurassic Park, you don’t need a helicopter to visit the Crystal Palace Park Dinosaurs and they are totally free to see.
These Grade I listed Crystal Palace creature features were one of the original attractions from when the park first opened in 1854.
Although the Crystal Palace dinosaurs might not be as accurate or realistic as what you might see at the Natural History Museum, it is rather fun to walk through this south London park, spotting dinosaurs all around the lake (‘Do-you-think-they-saurus’? etc), in rather unusual surroundings.
The Crystal Palace dinosaurs (which include a few extinct animals) were also voted London’s favourite public sculptures by readers of Time Out London in 2020.
Recently, the Crystal Palace Park dinosaurs have sadly fallen into a state of disrepair with chipped paint and cracked tails (ouch!) so work is underway to restore them, with the fundraising work endorsed by the likes of the London Mayor and Slash, formerly of Guns and Roses (who knew?!).
Crystal Palace Sphinxes / Spinghes
You can also get up close with six sphinxes (try saving that after a pint of beer) that remain from the Crystal Palace Exhibition Building and used to adorn the regal terraces, based on a sphinx that was on display in France’s Louvre museum.
They were repainted red in recent years to restore them to their original colour, after being on the national ‘At Risk’ register. We are also led to believe more than one sphinx is classed as ‘spinghes’ but it looks odd (the ‘riddle of the sphinx’ eh) so we’ll include both just in case…
Open weekends, bank holidays and school holidays, you can hire a pedalo for as little as £5.
A serene setting (if you don’t include the nearby dinosaurs) that is always a lot less busy than other London boating lakes such as Victoria Park or Hyde Park.
Guy The Gorilla
A statue of Guy The Gorilla was unveiled at Crystal Palace Park in 1961, by sculptor David Wynne, depicting London Zoo’s most popular primate, who died at the ripe old gorilla age of 32 years old.
He was said to be the very same ape that they studied the movements of, for the opening sequences for Space Odyssey 2001.
Other Crystal Palace Park attractions
Further fun things to do in Crystal Palace Park include :
Crystal Palace Park Maze
London’s largest free outdoor maze (160 ft / 50 metres) across and alas, nothing to do with the 80s British Quiz show of a similar name (The Crystal Maze), generations of families have been getting lost in this maze since the 1870s.
The National Sports Centre
The National Sports Centre was also constructed in Crystal Palace Park in the 1960s, alongside an athletics centre, which was the first of its kind in the UK.
Crystal Palace Bowl
Crystal Palace Bowl has played host to the likes of international supergroups like Pink Floyd, The Beach Boys, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Coldplay and…erm…East 17.
In 2023, Crystal Palace Bowl will play host the South Facing Festival, plus gigs from Noel Gallagher, Rudimental and Craig David.
How to get to the Crystal Palace dinsoaurs
Crystal Palace Park is walkable from both Crystal Palace Station or Penge West station.
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