Kew Gardens Overview
Originally built as a royal botanical garden, with roots going back to the 18th century, Kew Gardens were opened to the public for the first time in 1840, since then they have gone on to become the most popular gardens in the whole of the country. Though the gardens consist of 300 acres of woodland, lakes and formal and informal gardens, it is the Victorian-era iron greenhouses which first spring to mind when thinking of Kew. These iconic buildings, which were complemented by the Princess of Wales Conservatory, opened by Princess Diana in 1987, house some of the world's most exotic plants, set within ten different climatic zones.
Designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2003,Kew Gardens also serve as an academy for botanists and naturalists from all corners of the globe, many of whom go on to work in another royal garden, while Kew Palace is also home to some of the world's leading flora and fauna researchers.
Kew Gardens Location
Kew, which is home to the National Archives as well as the Royal Botanical Garden, is located just ten kilometres south-west of London city centre, on the south bank of the River Thames, making it the ideal day trip from the capital.
The easiest way to visit the gardens is to take the underground from the centre of the city or from the West End to Richmond, with regular District Lines services departing most hours of the day. Likewise, there are regular and quick overland train links to Kew Gardens station from the north and north-west of the capital, while Kew
Bridge station, just a ten minute walk from the gardens, can be reached in just ten minutes from Waterloo. Public buses also bring people in from the centre of the capital and its western suburbs, though many people still choose to drive in their own cars, for which there are adequate parking facilities.
By far the best way of travelling to Kew Gardens from central London is to hop on one of the regular riverboats that operate on the Thames between April and October. Boats offering cruises along the Thames depart from the pier outside Westminster and stop at Putney and Kew before going on to Richmond and Hampton Court.
Why Visit Kew Gardens
Kew Gardens now enjoys over 1.5 million visitors a year, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country and understandably so. While the gardens are a hotbed for scientific research, they are nevertheless largely informal, with visitors free to wander around and explore the natural wonders of the woodlands, outdoor gardens or the architecturally magnificent greenhouses, including the
Temperate House, the world's largest surviving Victorian glass structure. Daily free tours of the gardens take place twice daily with volunteer experts, while electric carts driven by guides are also on hand to whisk visitors round for a small fee.
Unlike many other attractions in London, a visit to Kew represents a full day out and can offer welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, particularly when combined with a trip to Henry VIII's Hampton Court and Richmond Park, both nearby and served by the riverboats in the summer.
Even in winter Kew is worth a visit simply to see the seasons changing, while in winter, the gardens are home to one of the capital's most popular ice rinks.