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Kew Gardens, London

Kew Gardens is a botanical garden in southwest London that houses the “largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world”. Founded in 1840, from the exotic garden at Kew Park in Middlesex, England, its living collections include more than 30,000 different kinds of plants, while the herbarium, which is one of the largest in the world, has over seven million preserved plant specimens. The library contains more than 750,000 volumes, and the illustrations collection contains more than 175,000 prints and drawings of plants. It is one of London’s top tourist attractions and is a World Heritage Site.

Features

A treetop walkway, opened in 2008, takes visitors on a 200 metres (660 ft) walk 18 metres (59 ft) above the ground, in the tree canopy of a woodland glade. Visitors can ascend and descend by stairs and by a lift. The walkway floor is perforated metal and flexes under foot; the entire structure sways in the wind.

The Sackler Crossing bridge, made of granite and bronze, opened in May 2006. Designed by Buro Happold and John Pawson, it crosses the lake and is named in honour of philanthropists Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler. The minimalist-styled bridge is designed as a sweeping double curve of black granite. The sides of the bridge are formed of bronze posts that give the impression, from certain angles, of forming a solid wall while, from others, and to those on the bridge, they are clearly individual entities that allow a view of the water beyond. The bridge forms part of a path designed to encourage visitors to visit more of the gardens than had hitherto been popular and connects the two art galleries, via the Temperate and Evolution Houses and the woodland glade, to the Minka House and the Bamboo Garden.

The Hive is a multi-sensory experience designed to highlight the extraordinary life of bees. It stands 17 metres tall and is set in a wildflower meadow.

Kew Explorer is a service that takes a circular route around the gardens, provided by two 72-seater road trains that are fuelled by Calor Gas to minimise pollution. A commentary is provided by the driver and there are several stops.

In March 2006, the Davies Alpine House opened, the third version of an alpine house since 1887. Although only 16 metres (52 ft) long the apex of the roof arch extends to a height of 10 metres (33 ft) in order to allow the natural airflow of a building of this shape to aid in the all-important ventilation required for the type of plants to be housed.

Nash Conservatory, Originally designed for Buckingham Palace, this was moved to Kew in 1836 by King William IV. The building was formerly known as the Aroid House No. 1 and was used to display species of Araceae, the building was listed Grade II* in 1950. With an abundance of natural light, the building is now used for various exhibitions, weddings, and private events. It is also now used to exhibit the winners of the photography competition.

The Palm House (1844–1848) was the result of cooperation between architect Decimus Burton and iron founder Richard Turner, and continues upon the glass house design principles developed by John Claudius Loudon and Joseph Paxton. A space frame of wrought iron arches, held together by horizontal tubular structures containing long prestressed cables, supports glass panes which were originally tinted green with copper oxide to reduce the significant heating effect. The 19m high central nave is surrounded by a walkway at 9m height, allowing visitors a closer look upon the palm tree crowns. In front of the Palm House on the east side are the Queen’s Beasts, ten statues of animals bearing shields. They are Portland stone replicas of originals done by James Woodford and were placed here in 1958.

Kew Palace is the smallest of the British royal palaces. It was built by Samuel Fortrey, a Dutch merchant in around 1631. It was later purchased by George III. The construction method is known as Flemish bond and involves laying the bricks with long and short sides alternating. This and the gabled front give the construction a Dutch appearance. To the rear of the building is the “Queen’s Garden” which includes a collection of plants believed to have medicinal qualities. Only plants that were extant in England by the 17th century are grown in the garden.

Access

Kew Gardens is accessible by a number of gates. Currently, there are four gates into Kew Gardens that are open to the public: the Elizabeth Gate, which is situated at the west end of Kew Green, and was originally called the Main Gate before being renamed in 2012 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II;[80] the Brentford Gate, which faces the River Thames; the Victoria Gate (named after Queen Victoria), situated in Kew Road, which is also the location of the Visitors’ Centre; and the Lion Gate, also situated in Kew Road. Kew Gardens station, a London Underground and National Rail station opened in 1869 and served by both the District line and the London Overground services on the North London Line, is the nearest train station to the gardens – only 400 metres (1,300 ft) along Lichfield Road from the Victoria Gate entrance.

10am every day, except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Closing times vary according to season.

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