Nestled amidst the urban jungle of London, the Barbican Conservatory stands as a hidden oasis of green, offering a tranquil and unusual location in the city. This architectural gem, located within the Barbican Centre complex in the City of London, is a lush haven of plant life set in a brutalist architectural environment. In this post, we will explore the wonders of the Barbican Conservatory, its history, its unique features, and the experiences it gives you.
The Barbican Conservatory quickly became one of our favourite things to do in London and is an absolute must-visit for anyone who appreciates architecture and nature. It’s a strange combination of grey concrete and lush greenery and one that works marvellously. And interestingly, the Barbican Conservatory is the second largest conservatory in London, after Kew Gardens’ Princess of Wales Conservatory.
History of the Barbican Conservatory
The Barbican Conservatory sits within the Barbican. If you don’t know what it is, this is it – it’s now an iconic architectural complex built in the 1960s and 1970s. It was designed to be a residential, commercial, and cultural centre, and it stands as one of the largest examples of Brutalist architecture in the world. The complex was built on the site of an area that was heavily bombed during World War II, and it has since become a popular visitor destination for a few reasons.
The Barbican is home to some cultural institutions, including the Barbican Centre, which houses theatres, cinemas, and galleries, as well as the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. The architecture is either loved or hated (loved by us!), and it’s been the film set for over 70 titles, including Sherlock Holmes, Quantum of Solace and Johnny English, to name a few. While it was originally met with mixed reviews, the Barbican has since become an iconic part of London.
The Barbican Conservatory was originally constructed in the 1970s as part of the Barbican Centre. It was envisioned as a unique space where you could immerse yourself in nature while surrounded by the complex’s architectural marvels, and over the years, it has become a popular London visitor attraction. The tickets can be highly sought-after and a bit like rocking horse manure (ha!), but we’ll explain later in this post how to get hold of them.
Inside the Barbican Conservatory
Step into the Barbican Conservatory, and you’ll be transported into a botanical wonderland. The space covers over 2,000 square meters and is home to a diverse collection of plant species from around the world. You’ll find all sorts, from plants you recognise, as well as the odd toxic plant with warnings not to touch them! You’ll also find towering palms, vibrant flowering plants, cool vines and air roots dangling around. The conservatory is also warm and has a lovely peaceful calmness about it.
Architecture and Design
The Conservatory’s design seamlessly blends with the Brutalist architecture of the Barbican Centre. The space features large windows and a glass roof that allows natural light to flood in, creating an inviting atmosphere. The interior is a fusion of lush tropical plants, cascading vines, and architectural elements that provide a sense of serenity and harmony.
And if you’re wondering what’s in the massive bit of concrete in the middle – it’s called Fly Tower and houses scenery for productions in the theatre, six storeys below. It’s the part of the conservatory you see in the pictures like the one at the top of this post and below, and you can take your iconic shot of it from the Conservatory Terrace, accessible once you’re inside the conservatory.
Rare and Exotic Species
One of the highlights of the Barbican Conservatory is its impressive collection of rare and exotic plant species. From carnivorous plants to desert succulents, the conservatory showcases a wide variety of captivating and educational flora. You’ll find some plants growing in pots at the edge of the conservatory, like the Pelargoniums. You’ll notice they have some names like ‘Candy Dancer’. Give the leaves a smell. They smell amazing!
Ponds and Water Features
Adding to the enchantment of the conservatory are its tranquil ponds and water features. These aquatic habitats support diverse aquatic plants and fish species. You’ll find some Koi carp and Yellow-Bellied and Red-Eared Sliders, which are species of terrapin.
Don’t forget to look out for the little bridge, too. It provides the perfect spot for your next Instagram pic!
Visiting the Barbican Conservatory
To experience the beauty of the Barbican Conservatory firsthand, here’s what you need to know to get there:
The Conservatory is open from 12 pm on selected days every week. It’s best to check the Barbican events page to see when the conservatory is next open to visit. You’ll be glad to know the entry is free, but you need to book tickets – don’t just turn up.
How to Get Tickets
Tickets for the Conservatory are free and released one week in advance online. A limited number of day tickets are released for online booking from 9:30 am each day the Conservatory is open. Head to the Barbican website events page to find out what days it is open and to book a time slot. A few tickets are also released in the mornings when the conservatory is open, which is how we got them. Tickets for the weekends can be hard to come by, so get on the website early.
How to Get to Barbican
Below is the map and link to Google Maps to help navigate to Barbican. You’ll find the conservatory on the third floor of the Barbican Centre.
The nearest tube stations are Barbican and Moorgate. They both have Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines, and Moorgate is also serviced by the Northern line. If you’d like to know about getting to Barbica, the official website has a very comprehensive guide to help get there.
🕙 check online – booking required
📞 0207 870 2500
What Else Is Available at Barbican?
For a more immersive experience, guided tours are sometimes available to provide insightful information about the conservatory’s plants, architecture, and history. Expert guides will take you on a journey through the space and answer any questions you may have.
And once you’re done in the conservatory, it’s time to explore the rest of the Barbican Centre if you haven’t done so already. You’ll find a cool gift shop selling all sorts of things Barbican related, plus a few concrete things, like the ‘R’ below.
The Barbican Centre is also a hub of arts and culture, with theatres, galleries, and cinemas hosting performances and exhibitions, some of which might catch your fancy. And finally, take a while to wander Barbican and soak up the place. It’s a bit odd and wonderful at the same time and a totally unique location in London, which we have no doubt you’ll agree with.
Barbican Conservatory FAQs
Is the Barbican Conservatory worth visiting?
Yes, it is. The conservatory is a hidden gem in London, and if you love plants and greenery, it’s a must-visit. It’s also set within the fascinating Barbican complex, which has plenty of other things to do and is also worth a wander around.
How do I get to the Barbican Conservatory?
The conservatory is located on the 3rd floor in the Barbican Centre. The nearest tube stations are Barbican and Moorgate. They both have Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith & City lines, and Moorgate is also serviced by the Northern line.
- Barbican Conservatory
- History of the Barbican Conservatory
- Inside the Barbican Conservatory
- Visiting the Barbican Conservatory
- What Else Is Available at Barbican?
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