Kew Gardens is one of the best attractions in London; there’s no doubt about that. The top spot is a toss-up between the Tower of London and Kew Gardens. Despite being very different attractions, they are very close in how good they both are, and we can’t decide which should take the top spot.
We spent over four hours wandering the Gardens because it’s massive, and there’s a ton of stuff to see, from plants to buildings, and you might even catch sight of the odd fox. And did you know Kew Gardens is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth? Their website says it is “…the world’s most diverse living plant collection.” Remarkable, right?
There is only one drawback to Kew Gardens: the planes. The Gardens are right under the flight path to Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest airports, with around 1300 landings and daily take-offs. That means there’s a lot of noise pollution from the aircraft. Stacey wasn’t too bothered by it, but I was. It shouldn’t stop you from visiting, but it’s the one thing I kept noticing. But the place is remarkable, and you should definitely go, so read on to discover everything you need to know to plan your visit.
Kew Gardens, officially known as Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is a stunning and impressive botanical garden in southwest London. It’s one of four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city, and it attracts visitors from all over the world with its vast array of plants and flowers. The garden covers over 300 acres and features a variety of unique and exotic species of plants, including rare and endangered species, such as the Corpse flower – Rafflesia arnoldii.
It’s a photographer’s dream, with great shots to be had across the entire site. There are too many to share here, so head to our post exclusively for Kew Garden pictures to see the rest.
A Brief History of Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens’ story began in the 18th century when it was established as a royal garden. In 1759, Princess Augusta, mother of King George III, founded a nine-acre botanic garden within the pleasure grounds at Kew. The Gardens remained under Crown control until 1840 when Kew was transferred from the Crown to the government and opened to the public. Head over to the official website for the historical timeline of Kew.
You might be surprised at the age of the buildings in Kew because they are in such good condition. The oldest is the brightly coloured Kew Palace, which was constructed in 1631, and even the Great Pagoda is old, built in 1762. You’d never know that because it’s in such good condition. But there is one that gives away the age of the place, probably because it’s thatched, and we can understand that as old, right? Ha. It’s Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, tucked away in the far corner of Kew.
But Kew is more than just a place to look at plants: it’s also a hub for conservation. Kew plays a pivotal role in safeguarding endangered plant species worldwide. They conduct critical research and educational initiatives that make them a global plant science and conservation leader, helping shape our planet’s future. That sounds extreme, but as part of their extensive conservation efforts, they have the Millenium Seed Bank in Sussex – a collection of over 2.4 billion seeds from around the world stored in sub-zero, flood, bomb and radiation-proof vaults. The efforts Kew has gone to for plants, and the planet should not be underestimated.
What’s at Kew Gardens?
Too much, which is why it took us over four hours to get around. Ha! And we’re not convinced we saw everything. With almost 20 buildings, 14 main attractions, and 22 garden areas to look at, it’s hardly surprising you would miss something. And you’ll find a couple of cafes, restaurants and a gift shop.
Kew Gardens is home to other historic buildings and structures, such as the Palm House and the Temperate House, which showcase different climates and environments worldwide. It’s also home to the largest conservatory in London, the Princess of Wales Conservatory, which happens to be followed by the Barbican Conservatory. If you have yet to go to the Barbican Conservatory, you must visit! It’s fantastic, free and needs to be booked. It’s another must-visit location in London for nature lovers.
To help plan your visit, you can download a map to see what’s on offer, but below are a few highlights.
Undoubtedly, the glasshouses are some of the main attractions in Kew, and there are a few of them, all providing a unique offering. From the warm, moist atmosphere of the Palm House to the dry desert-like environment of the Princess of Wales Conservatory, each one transports you to another world. You’ll be hit by the heat and the smells, with each one providing a different sensory experience. And then there are the flowers to look at, too! Ha. Make sure you don’t miss the Waterlily House, which is home to the huge Amazon waterlily.
Aside from the impressive glasshouses, you’ll also find some historic buildings in Kew. From a Royal palace to a getaway cottage and the impressive Great Pagoda with its 80 dragons, there are buildings to satisfy anyone with an interest in architecture, and each offers a different feel. Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, for example, is tucked away in a corner and has a peaceful nature to it – it would be a great place to break out your picnic!
One of the highlights of Kew is the Trooptop Walkway. It’s a simple concept – get 18 metres above ground, in the canopy of the trees – but a wonderful one. Designed by the team behind the London Eye, the rusty-coloured structure provides a glimpse into the life of trees that you will never otherwise see, being 18 metres in the air. You’ll also get some great views, reaching into London.
By definition, an arboretum is a place where trees or shrubs are cultivated for their scientific or educational interest, which is helpful given Kew conducts critical research and educational initiatives that make them a global plant science and conservation leader, and the arboretum covers two-thirds of the site. You’ll find over 2000 species of tree, some as old as the Gardens themselves, as well as the beasts that are the impressive giant redwoods.
How Much Is It to Visit the Gardens?
The price list is comprehensive, ranging from adults to children, with and without donations, students, young persons and carers. It’s best to check the tickets and prices page for the latest prices, where you’ll also be able to book tickets in advance, which are cheaper if booked 48 hours or more before your visit. There are also peak and off-peak prices to visit the Gardens:
- Peak – 1 February to 31 October
- Off-peak – 1 November to 31 January
There aren’t many options for free entry to Kew, but Boundless.co.uk membership offers one to get in for free.
When Are the Gardens Open?
The Gardens are open daily, from 10 am to 6 pm, and the last entry is 5 pm. However, just like the ticket prices, the opening times are also comprehensive. That’s because the gardens, glasshouses, cafes, restaurants, shops, and galleries have varying opening times. You’ll find the appropriate times on the website’s opening and closing times page.
How to Get to Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens is easy to get to, but it’s worth knowing what gates to head to and how to get to each one. There are four:
- Victoria Gate – closest to Underground and Overground station
- Lion Gate
- Elizabeth Gate
- Brentford Gate – for the car park
By tube & Overground
Tube and Overground are your best options to get to Kew. Kew Gardens station is just 500m from Victoria Gate and is served by the District Line (Richmond branch) and London Overground (Richmond to Stratford line). You’ll also find a range of shops and Kew Village Market, open on Sunday and worth a wander before entering the Gardens.
- Kew Bridge station is 800m from Elizabeth Gate via Kew Bridge. South West Trains runs services from Waterloo via Vauxhall and Clapham Junction.
- Richmond station has a lift and level access. Take the 65 bus (in the direction of Ealing Broadway) to Lion or Victoria Gate.
- Route 65 stops close to Lion Gate, Elizabeth Gate and Victoria Gate.
- Route 110 stops near Kew Gardens station and Elizabeth Gate.
- Routes 237 and 267 stop at Kew Bridge station.
If you are driving, there is limited on-site parking, and it will cost you £9 to park your car. Kew Gardens is outside the Congestion Zone but inside the ULEZ, so check whether you need to pay if you’re coming from outside the ULEZ. The postcode for the car park is TW9 3AF.
🕙 Daily, 10am – 6pm
📞 +44 208 332 5655
Kew Gardens FAQs
How long does it take to go around Kew Garden?
We recommend you allow at least four hours to visit the Gardens. There is a vast amount to see and do, including numerous glasshouses, historic buildings, and walks, in a huge site spread over more than 300 acres.
Is Kew Gardens worth visiting?
Yes, Kew Gardens is worth visiting. It’s pretty expensive to get in, but the attraction is excellent value for money when you consider how good it is, how big it is, how long you’ll spend there, and the significant conservation work the Gardens do.
Which entrance is best for Kew Gardens?
We recommend Victoria Gate. It’s the one nearest the Underground and Overground station, and a few bus routes use it.
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