England counts a large number of outstanding Parks and Heritage sites. I have visited many places and Gardens, but wandering in Kew Gardens is definitely something you have to do while living (or staying) in London. Located in West London but easily accessible by tube, these royal botanical Gardens were designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 2003. In this post, I’ll give you the 8 reasons why visiting these gardens is a must…
Kew Gardens’ stunning Greenhouses
Kew Gardens is widely considered the world’s most important collection of living plants, which are displayed in several glasshouses.
The recent re-opening of the Temperate House (below) offers a great addition to the Royal Gardens. This beautiful Victorian architectural style with its huge glass structure brings maximum light inside.
The lines of the outside building, the symmetrical architecture inside the greenhouse and the ambiant luminosity all combined are awe-inspiring for any photographer, and this is to say nothing of the plant lovers!
The Temperate House has twice the floor area of the Palm House and a very high ceiling. Visitors can walk on a viewing gallery to look down at the plants and enjoy all kinds of perspectives.
The Temperate House exhibits “some of the world’s rarest temperate plants and discover how Kew Research have brought some of them back from the brink of extinction”.
It’s a great pleasure to wander in the aisles where several sculptures have found their place.
The Great Pagoda
The “Great Pagoda” was designed by Sir William Chambers and completed in 1762 as a birthday gift for Princess Augusta, the founder of the botanic gardens at Kew.
It has also recently reopened to the public after years of restoration. This is another great addition to Kew Gardens!
If you are brave enough to climb the 253 steps to the top of the Great Pagoda you will enjoy spectacular views.
One of the major restoration project was the reintroduction of the dragons, perched on every ridge of the 10 storeys of the Pagoda, after a 200-year absence. Here is a great presentation of the building’s history and its 80 dragons…
A Japanese Gateway
I like this quiet area in the Gardens, where visitors rarely come to. Called Chokushi-Mon (Gateway of the Imperial Messenger), this place is a near replica of the Gate of Nishi Hongan-ji (Western Temple of the Original Vow) in Kyoto, Japan. It was created for the Japan-British Exhibition held at White City in London in 1910 and built in the architectural style of the late-16th century Momoyama (or Japanese rococo) period.
The Treetop Walkway
Quite impressive from the ground (especially for those suffering from vertigo!), this Treetop Walkway designed by the architects of the London Eye is very popular, especially among kids. They love getting the sensation they can walk from one tree to the other.
Towering at a height of 18 metres, the view of the gardens from this 200 meters long walkway is obviously spectacular. Will you have a go?
The Hive was originally created for the UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo and it is now permanently exhibited in Kew Gardens.
This contemporary piece of art, designed by UK based artist Wolfgang Buttress, is a visual tribute to Britain’s honeybees.
The idea behind The Hive is to catch a glimpse of what is life inside a bee colony. “Honey bees communicate through smells and vibrations. Inside The Hive are 1000 led lights which connect to one of Kew’s beehives. The illumination of lights represent the bee’s communications and the vibrational changes occurring within Kew Hives”.
Kew Gardens organise a huge variety of events and exhibitions every year. One I particularly praise is the annual Orchid Festival (in February) with a specific theme each year (the spotlight was on Columbia this year). I visited the 2018 exhibition highlighting Thailand and admired stunning orchids varieties. I made a review on this blog, which will give you an overview of the quality of such events, both in the exceptional choice of orchids as well as in the staging of the event.
Also on this year’s programme, a much anticipated exhibition featuring contemporary glass artist Dale Chihuly.
I am so excited about Chihuly’s work that I will write a specific article on this blog very soon. Stay tuned to discover his stunning works of art, which are currently displayed throughout the Gardens.
The exceptional fauna and flora
Kew Gardens well deserves their “Royal” title. Personally, I have never visited a more beautiful Park so far, whatever the season.
Indeed Kew Gardens have got everything to make you feel happy: large open spaces to take in the fresh air and feel away from the city hustle, spectacular natural surroundings, a wide variety of plants and trees species, a few animals to entertain the young walkers… The fauna and flora are here at their best!
Kids’ expectations are all satisfied at Kew and I would say by experience that their favorite places would be these ones: The Log Trail and the Playground.
The Log Trail is one of the funniest part of the park for all kids: there they can hop, jump, climb and have fun in this natural adventurous zone made from trees knocked down by storms. (I have even learnt that trees included in the trail are beech, ash, oak, eucalyptus and pine. Always good to know!).
And if you dive into the woodlands, you will also find a giant picnic table, a bug hotel, a life-sized badger sett… everything to learn from the woods in a funny way!
Also part of the success of Kew Gardens is the big Playground, which has been announced to be reopened in the weeks to come.
I have presented you all the reasons why Kew Gardens are absolutely worth a visit if you are planning to go to London or even if you are living somewhere near the capital. You could stay in the Park the whole day and organise a picnic as the summer is now around the corner. Hope you’ll make the most of this discovery and share it on my blog!
To go further:
Kew Gardens: Kew, Richmond, London, TW9 3AE.
Kew Gardens tube station is 500m from Victoria Gate.
Membership information (best value for money if you want to come back during the year).