London is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and up until a few weeks ago I had only checked three of the four off the list. Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, and Maritime Greenwich were all great- but I still needed to visit Kew Gardens to complete the London Four. With a long Easter holiday in front of us, we decided it would be the perfect opportunity to welcome Spring at one of the world’s most beautiful and massive gardens.
The History of Kew Gardens in London
Kew Gardens was built in the 18th century as an exotic pleasure garden for Lord Capel John of Tewkesbury. Over the centuries the gardens have had many caretakers, who each added plants, flowers, and features across the 300 acres of green space. From beautiful Victorian glass houses to a modest palace for the Royal children, Kew Gardens has become as much museum as it has one of London’s best outdoor retreats.
The property has forty protected buildings that have either architectural or historical interest, along with the world’s largest collection of living plants. UNESCO designated Kew Gardens in London a World Heritage Site in 2003 for it’s contribution to the study of botany, plant diversity, and the significant ties with history that can be seen by visitors throughout the grounds.
A day walking under canopies of overhanging trees, lounging next to serene ponds with protruding fountains, and visiting ecological habitats ranging from desserts to rainforests to the savanna in the same afternoon- is my kind of escape.
Visiting Kew Palace
I especially loved touring Kew Palace, the smallest of the British Royal Palaces, that while not grandiose has been lovingly restored with period draperies, furniture, and portraits of it’s former occupants. There have been three palaces at Kew over the centuries, but Kew Palace is the only one that remains. The palace was built in 1735, and was referred to as the “Dutch House” for many years. I should also mention that the staff, dressed in period costumes, are absolutely terrific and are well-versed in the history of both the palace and it’s gardens.
There are a wide assortment of activities for kids, including scavenger hunts in the spectacular greenhouses. Although they are directed at children, I must admit I learned quite a bit myself. Mostly, we enjoyed just running around the grass, hiding behind meticulously groomed hedges, and walking around the grounds exploring different plant species. Honestly, we loved it so much we are thinking about moving to the area in the near future!
Visiting Kew Gardens
I absolutely loved Kew Gardens in London, and I can’t wait to get back this summer when everything is in sunshine and full bloom. In July, the property will be hosting an outdoor concert series in front of Kew Palace, which sounds like a great excuse to me!
Admission to Kew Gardens is £12.50 for adults, and free for children under 16. Alternatively, you can purchase an annual season ticket for £25 which gets you unlimited admission the entire year. You can visit Kew Gardens by taking the Underground to Kew Gardens Station, follow signs to reach the main gate.