Not to be reserved only for the privileged few, the Kew Gardens in London is one of the most important botanical sites of the world. Already declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew was established in 1840, has over 7 million preserved specimens and over 750,000 volumes in its library. Not only for those enthusiasts who get bedazzled by the beauty of botany, Kew Gardens is a perfect location for a day out for Londoners and visitors alike. Having been a Londoner for almost a decade now, we finally made the most of the end of May Bank Holiday weekend to enjoy early morning dews on the green grasses of Kew.
Located in south-west London, just 30 minutes away from Central London, Kew Gardens is easily reachable by London Overground and District Line trains. Kew Gardens is the only tube stop with its own pub called the Tap On The Line. So feel free to grab a drink or two on your way back.
It is a no-brainer that the beauty of this 300-acre garden is perhaps best enjoyed during the longer summer days. However, there are lots of activities and different delights to enjoy even during autumn, spring and winter. The entrance to the Kew Gardens gate was only a short 5 minute walk from the tube station. Luckily we had purchased tickets online (£16 per head) so we didn’t have to queue up for tickets at the Victoria Gate entrance. We strongly suggest you buy your tickets online before travelling to Kew Gardens.
We however didn’t do one important piece of research on how best to navigate the key attractions inside Kew Gardens. We eventually covered the major sights, thanks to the fact that we arrived early and remained till the gates were closed around 7.30pm. Flip side of not doing this research was that we had to traverse the same route a few times which led to burning more calories. So we advise you to review the map beforehand and follow our recommendations below to make the best use of your time available by touring the garden anti-clockwise.
Although the beautiful Japanese pagoda was closed for renovation, it is an iconic installation located at the west edge of the garden. Ten storey octagonal structure is 50m high is a good point to start your discovery of the Kew Gardens. Once it will reopen later in 2018, visitors will be able to climb up the structure to get pristine views overlooking the green landscape.
A short walk from Japanese Pagoda is the famous Temperate House. Home to temperate plants from Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific Islands, this is the largest Victorian glasshouse in the world. We were fortunate to have also enjoyed a breath-taking aerial performance called Harmonic by Cirque Bijou. This performance takes place on weekends and bank holidays from 26th May until 2nd September and performed once every hour from 12.30pm until 3.30pm (last show).
What a fantastic atmosphere it created, with the sun shining brightly through the glass roof, amidst the meditating plants from the temperate zones, and this enthralling tune of the violin supporting the aerial act – the harmonious coexistence between the elements of nature and the role of humans in the mix, something certainly surreal was felt as an audience from the balcony inside the Temperate House.
Rhizotron and Treetop Walkway
Just behind the Temperate House, we found the Treetop Walkway. Offering breathe-taking views of the garden and beyond, the 18m high and 200m long walkway is a woodland floor through the top of the trees. So much used to we have been walking under trees, but the Treetop Walkway offered that rare opportunity to walk literally on top of trees. Worth noting that the walkway’s structure was inspired by the Fibonacci number series which is frequently found in natural growth patterns.
A smaller greenhouse than the Temperate House, but equally imposing and beautiful, the Palm House is also another Victorian glasshouse which hosts the tropical plants as found in the rainforest climate. Significantly humid and hotter inside, the glasshouse has beautiful circular stairways to enjoy the plants from above. Many plants found in the Palm House are either endangered or have already become extinct. Many of the plants are being researched by Kew scientists for medicine or for ensuring their survival.
The Botanical Restaurant
There are many options inside the Kew Gardens for taking a break and having lunch or a cup of tea. To be specific there are total 4 cafes and restaurants inside the premises and another restaurant called Pavilion is going to be inaugurated in late 2018.
For lunch, we found a table for two at the Botanical Restaurant. Situated pleasantly just opposite the Palm House pond, this restaurant offered delectable dishes and desserts leaving us certainly appeased in the tummy. We had a chalk stream trout fillet with Puy lentils, goat cheese and samphire for Tanusree and for Shehzaad it was corn fed chicken breast with purple sprouting broccoli, truffled creamed potatoes and chicken velouté. Finally some desserts to conclude the much needed lunch break left us with the impression that the quality of food in this restaurant was found to be at par with any fine dining space in central London.
Princess of Wales Conservatory
Content in the hunger front, we made our way post-lunch to the beautifully preserved Princess of Wales Conservatory which hosts plants from ten different climate zones. Ten of these computer controlled climate zones have plants in display from dry tropics, wet tropics, carnivorous plants, ferns and orchids. No wonder how mind boggling it felt to have realised the sheer number of species and varieties in the plant kingdom and how they have evolved through various natural changes over millions of years.
A short walk from the Princess of Wales Conservatory is The Hive, towards the eastern side of the Gardens. Imitating the structure of a bee-hive, this is a living, multi-sensory installation aimed to highlight the unique lives of bees. A visual and audible delight, the hives produce light and sounds depending on the activities of bees in a real hive inside the Kew Gardens. Designed by UK based artist Wolfgang Buttress, the Hive is an award-winning installation to spend some time inside. We wish we could have stayed longer to actually see the visual and sensory experience ourselves, however given the days are longer in summer, the garden would close anyways before it would become fully dark. So those planning to visit Kew Gardens during winter, the Hive might offer some extraordinary experiences.
We had just enough time to settle down under a tree near the Victoria Gate entrance to grab some evening tea. Reflecting on this vast green museum of a place maintained right within the very heart of London, home to thousands of species of plants from around the world and right in front of us to ponder about. Outside of the greenhouses and conservatories, even the trees had their scientific and English names written on a small label on their trunk.
A classroom for the students, a plethora of questions and answers for the curious, and simply a venue for amusement for lovers of nature, Kew is not for the few but for all. It is as true as the plants that grew inside Kew that the love for nature and the need to preserve the plant species will only be strongly felt in the minds of every visitor at the Kew Gardens.
Goes without saying that the hint is in its name itself that its called Kew Gardens and not Kew Park. Naturally it is ticketed whereas the parks in London are not. The Kew Gardens has a specific noble mission to preserve, research and grow this huge array of plants for the benefit of mankind. Note that its not all science and study all the time because as you can see from our experience above, it was a perfect botanical paradise for couples and families too.
Kew Gardens have a list of activities arranged all throughout the year during its opening season to keep every visitor engaged and excited. Leave your comments below if you have any questions while planning for your trip to Kew Gardens and don’t forget to share this post with your friends now to go to Kew Gardens together!
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