Kew Gardens London
London is known for being a ‘green’ city, with lush parks and gardens all throughout the capital. Not only does London boast numerous accessible parks, it is also home to the largest collection of living plants in the entire world! This collection is housed in 121 hectares of gardens, set in one of London’s top tourist attractions: Kew Gardens. Read on for some fast facts on Kew Gardens as well as some of the sights visitors to the Gardens are able to enjoy.
How to Get to Kew Gardens
Making your way to Kew is easy, and you’ve got lots of options to get there! From the centre of London it won’t take any more than 45 minutes or so to get to the front gates of the garden. There’s an Underground Station – Kew Garden – which is on the Distict Line, running straight along the River Thames and out into the West where Kew is. The walk to the Gardens is only 400m from the station.
You could also take a train from Waterloo Station (you could purchase your ticket here and then use it for the LONDON 2FOR1 PROMOTION) to Kew Gardens Station, which is a quick half-hour journey. We recommend using this Google map for directions from anywhere in the London area.
Richmond Station is served by both the Underground and National Rail and from here there are buses that run to Kew: 237 and 267. These buses will take you straight to the gates of the gardens.
Visitor Information Opening Times (AS OF JULY 2014) GARDENS
- 30 March to 25 August: 9:30am to 6:30pm/7:30pm on Bank Holidays
- 26 August to 25 October: 9:30am to 6:00pm
- 26 October to 6 February: 9:30am, to 4:15pm
- 7 February to 28 March: 9:30am to 5:30pm
- 30 March to 25 August: 10:00am to 5:30pm
- 26 August to 28 September: 10:00am to 5:30pm
- 29 September to March: CLOSED
Tickets – (tip: Entry to Kew Gardens is included in the London Pass)
- Adults: £15.00
- Children under 16: FREE
- Concessions: £14.00
NOTE: Booking online gets you fast track entry into the gardens!
- Nearest Underground Station: Kew Gardens
- Nearest Rail Station: Kew Bridge Station
- Buses: 65 and 391, 237 and 267
Kew Gardens began life centuries ago in the 1700’s. Here in Kew (southwest of London), an exotic garden was put together by Lord Capel, John of Tewkesbury. His garden was enlarged and extended by Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales in the 18th century and it was for her that the gardens grew and began to house notable buildings including numerous buildings designed by architect Sir William Chambers, one of which remains: the Chinese Pagoda. King George III (often referred to as ‘Farmer George’ because of his love for nature and gardening) embellished and enriched the gardens here and even went as far as purchasing a house next to the gardens to be turned into a nursery for his children. This house still stands and is referred to today as Kew Palace. It is in the reign of George III that the gardens became more like the vast collection of plants that we know it as today. The gardens were changed into a national botanical garden in 1840, when the Royal Horticultural Society lobbied for this to be done. Around this name the grounds were increased in size (spreading out to 30 hectares/75 acres) and expanding the arboretum to its present size of 121 hectares/300 acres.
In July 2003, Kew Gardens was put on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO and is now open to the public all year ‘round. Kew Gardens today is not one simple garden. It is a cornucopia of flora from all over the world and from all climates and habitats. Currently on display for visitors are over 14,000 different variety of trees, a collection of miniature bonsai trees, grass and cactus varieties, orchids, rocks and roses, as well as ferns, lilies, lilacs, bamboo…and more! The list goes on and on. Kew truly is a garden in a class of its own.
It is thought that there has been a Palace at Kew from the time of Queen Elizabeth I who gave a palace here to her friend and favourite, Robert Dudley. However, the Palace as it stands today was built in 1631 by a Dutch merchant named Samuel Fortrey, and was created in brick in a ‘Flemish bond’ method – a traditionally Dutch architectural feature. Frederick, the Prince of Wales moved into the house and famously, the Prince was given the gift of a dog by his good friend and poet, Alexander Pope. The dog wore a collar that bore the following verse: I am His Highness’ dog at Kew. Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you? The smallest of the Royal Palaces, Kew Palace stands today looking very much as it did in the 17th century, although heavily restored in recent times. It was at Kew Palace that the 80th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II was held at the end of the 10 year restoration project and was officially reopened as a visitor attraction shortly after Her Majesty’s celebrations in April 2006.
Chinese Pagoda Erected in 1762 and designed by Sir William Chambers, the Great Pagoda is comprised of ten stories and reaches 163ft (50m) high and is 49ft (15m) in diameter. Modelled after the Chinese style, each storey of the Pagoda has its own projecting roof. A staircase of 253 steps runs through the centre of the building, and it was used during the Second World War for the drop-testing of model bombs! The Pagoda is now open to the public within the gardens. Palm House Comprised of the first large-scale structural use of wrought iron, the Palm House was built by architect Decimus Burton with the assistance of iron-maker Richard Turner. The structure was built between 1844 and 1848 and was considered “the most important surviving Victorian glass and iron structure.” Temperate House Following the iron and glass creation of the Palm House, the Temperate House was built. Intended to be larger than the Palm House, Temperate House is TWICE as large and is now the largest Victorian glasshouse in existence. Princess of Wales Conservatory Opened by Diana, Princess of Wales in 1987, the Princess of Wales Conservatory was designed by architect Gordon Wilson. Diana was specifically chosen as the namesake of this Conservatory to draw parallels between her and Princess Augusta – the Princess of Wales from the 18th century who began Kew Garden as we know it today. The Conservatory houses ten computer-controlled micro-climate zones holding plant species from dry to wet climates. Waterlily House The hottest and most humid house in Kew, the Waterlily House holds numerous varieties of water lilies and other heat-loving plants. The Waterlily House was opened in 1852 and holds ironwork that was provided by Richard Turner. Seedbank The Millennium Seed Bank is an international project coordinated by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Launched in the year 2000, the seed bank operates as an ‘insurance policy’ against the extinction of plants in the wild. Seeds are stored here for potential further use and are kept in large, underground frozen vaults. The bank currently boasts the world’s largest seed collection in the entire world and banked its billionth seed in April 2001. It is estimated that the Bank holds seeds for over 34,088 different species which represents around 11% of plan species found on earth. Herbarium One of the largest in the world, the Kew Herbarium currently holds over 7 Million (!!) preserved specifies in over 750,000 volumes, and boasting over 175,000 prints and drawings of various plants, the herbarium at Kew is one of the largest anywhere in the world. Compost Heap Kew Gardens holds one of the largest compost ears in Europe, comprised of waste from the gardens at the stables of the Household Cavalry! Although the heap is not open to the public, it can be seen from a viewing platform which is open to the public. Museum Housing Kew’s botany collections comprising of food, clothing, ornaments, medicine and tools, the museum was developed to help illustrate the human dependence on plants. The museum is open to the public who have already purchased tickets to enter the garden. Treetop Walkway Opened in May 2008, the treetop walkway is 59ft (18m) high and 660ft (200m) long. The walkway takes visitors in the tree canopies of a woodland glade. The structure is built from perforated metal which means it moves as people walk across it – and it also sways gently in the wind.