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10 Must-See Attractions At Kew Gardens In London

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, more commonly known as Kew Gardens, is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit since we moved to London almost a year ago. The world’s largest collection of living plants are cared for and studied here; because of this and the gardens’ historical significance, the gardens are now considered a UNESCO World Heritage site. Since their creation in 1759, the gardens have grown and developed into something truly special. Over a million people visit Kew Gardens every year to see the world famous glasshouses, historic gardens, and the royal palace. The only reason it took me so long to visit was because I was waiting for spring when all the flowers would be in bloom, but the weather outside would still be pleasantly cool. By early May, London had hit that sweet spot and we took the opportunity to finally see the gardens.

Encompassing almost 300 acres, Kew Gardens is not something you can see all of in one day, but you can cover a good portion of it if you get there early and plan to make a full day of it. We spent over six hours at the park on a lovely Saturday and managed to hit most of the highlights and still have plenty of time for wandering through the lovely garden trails without feeling rushed. We didn’t see everything, but I feel pretty confident we saw a lot of the best the gardens have to offer. If you were to ask me which attractions were my favorites, it would be these.

10 Must-See Attractions At Kew Gardens In London

10 Must-See Attractions At Kew Gardens In London

Treetop Walkway

I might as well start with my favorite – the treetop walkway, a 60 ft high circular pathway that literally takes you to the top of the forest. I’m not going to lie – it’s a little scary. The pathway is open and you can see through the metal floor as you walk. My recommendation if you’re even a little afraid of heights – just don’t look down. Don’t do it. But if you’re brave enough to ascend the stairs, you’ll be able to reach out and touch the tops of the trees, plus get a beautiful view of the park from above. The treetop walkway is not only my favorite, but everyone else’s too, so if you want to walk it with less people, make this your first stop!

Warning: The perforated metal floor is flexible and will pop and move beneath your feet. I wasn’t expecting it, and the first time the floor popped I screamed so loud the birds flew out of the trees.

10 Must-See Attractions At Kew Gardens In London

10 Must-See Attractions At Kew Gardens In London

Palm House

Palm House was my favorite of the glasshouses within Kew. Considered by some to be the most important surviving Victorian iron and glass structure in the world, Palm House really deserves a post all its own, so you can check out more beautiful photos of it here. Beautiful on the outside as well as the inside, this glasshouse is home to palms and tropical plants from Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australasia, and the Pacific islands. If you’re wearing layers, you’ll probably shed them the minute you enter Palm House, because it’s hot in here!

Besides the plants and trees, Palm House also features an underground marine aquarium recreating four major marine habitats and a 30 ft high walkway around the center portion of the glasshouse allowing visitors to get a closer look at the tops of trees growing within the greenhouse.

10 Must-See Attractions At Kew Gardens In London

Waterlily House

Located next door to Palm House is Waterlily House, a much smaller glasshouse enclosing a circular pond featuring waterlilies, ferns, and hanging gourds. You probably won’t spend much time in here, but it’s worth a stop, especially in May/June, to see the giant Amazon waterlilies blooming. (They hadn’t yet when we visited in early May.) Waterlily House is only open to visitors from April through September.

10 Must-See Attractions At Kew Gardens In London

Kew Palace

Kew Palace is the smallest of the British royal palaces, and each room within has been carefully restored as closely as possible to how it would have looked for its residents, King George III and his family, in the 18th century. This is another site within the gardens that truly deserves more attention than just a short paragraph, so click here if you’d like to read more about the royal family’s country retreat.

Two floors within the palace have been completed, but a third has yet to be restored. This section, which has remained untouched for almost two centuries, is still open to visitors. In a way, I found this surviving piece of history to be even more remarkable than the two completed floors below. Kew Palace is open from April through the end of September. Admission is included in the ticket price to the gardens, but donations are appreciated.

10 Must-See Attractions At Kew Gardens In London

The Royal Kitchens

The Royal Kitchens, next door to Kew Palace, have just recently been opened to visitors for the first time in 200 years. From the kitchen gardens, visitors are allowed into the four preparation rooms where bread was baked, food was stored, and the washing was done, before heading into the Great Kitchen where meals were served. All of the open spaces here have been restored, but original pieces from the past still remain, like George III’s bath tub. He liked to take his bath in the kitchen to keep the servants from having to walk too far carrying his bath water!

10 Must-See Attractions At Kew Gardens In London

10 Must-See Attractions At Kew Gardens In London

10 Must-See Attractions At Kew Gardens In London

Sackler Crossing

Sackler Crossing is one of the two lakes within Kew Gardens and, in my opinion, the prettier one. Set in the northwest corner of the park, away from the main entrance and the crowds by Palm House, Sackler Crossing is the quieter of the two lakes which means you’ll see a lot more wildlife in this area. Visiting in the spring, we were able to see quite a few momma ducks with their new babies. One brave duck came right up to me and looked directly into my camera lens, but I froze and missed the shot. I was sure she was about to attack me and my strange clicking box! Benches surround the lake under the trees, making this the perfect spot for an afternoon picnic.

10 Must-See Attractions At Kew Gardens In London

Redwood Grove

There are a lot of tree and plant sanctuaries within Kew Gardens, but I’d like to recommend one that is particularly worth visiting – the Redwood Grove. A mix of towering coastal redwoods and giant redwoods completely dominate this space on the west side of the park. These trees grow in my native country, but this was the first time I’d ever seen them myself in person. They are just as large, if not bigger, than I’d always heard they were. They’re so big around that it’s actually quite hard to truly grasp their width. The park helps our noggins comprehend their massive size by including a circular paved area on the path, 26 ft in diameter, which is the actual width of ‘Grizzly Giant’, a living giant redwood in Yosemite National Park. Trust me, it’s cool.

10 Must-See Attractions At Kew Gardens In London

Queen Charlotte’s Cottage

You’ll have to time your visit just right to see this one, but if you’re at Kew Gardens on a weekend or bank holiday from April through September, you must make a stop at this charming little cottage by the bluebell woods used by Queen Charlotte, King George III, and their daughters as a place for resting and taking tea during long walks. The most attractive room within the cottage is the upstairs Picnic Room, which is where they took their afternoon tea. Princess Elizabeth herself painted the floral trellis artwork decorating the walls and ceilings of this room.

10 Must-See Attractions At Kew Gardens In London

Temperate House

I hesitated to include this one on my list since it’s closed for renovations until 2018, but you can still admire the exterior of this famous glasshouse and take a quick peek at what’s happening indoors. Twice the size of Palm House, Temperate House is the largest surviving Victorian glasshouse in the world, and before renovations began it stored a collection of over 4,000 plants, some no longer growing in the wild. When renovations are complete, this will absolutely be a highlight in Kew Gardens you won’t want to miss!

10 Must-See Attractions At Kew Gardens In London

10 Must-See Attractions At Kew Gardens In London

The Gardens

Kew Gardens is made up of lots of different landscaped gardens, each specific to a type of plant or a time period in history. There are many more than you could see in a day, especially if you plan on visiting the other attractions as well, so I recommend picking a few favorites and making sure you don’t miss them while you’re there. For us, favorites were the Azalea Garden, the Bamboo Garden, and the Bluebell Woods, but we also liked wandering through the less-pruned garden trails where we often found ourselves alone on quiet dirt paths, flowers and trees surrounding us in every direction. That’s when I felt like one of the royals, wandering through my private park of 300 acres!

With over 100 attractions within the park, it’s a good idea to check out the official Kew Gardens website before you visit so you can plan your day. That’ll keep you from walking from one side to the other and back again which can get rather tiresome if you do it more than once. There is a train that comes around the park regularly, but separate fees apply, and unless you’re elderly or in bad health, the gardens are entirely walkable. Admission for adults into Kew Gardens is £15, but children can enter for free.

Early May is a prime time to pay the gardens a visit – most of the attractions are already open for the summer and all the gardens are green and blooming, but the crowds of tourists haven’t quite yet hit full capacity. In the summer, Kew Gardens is one of the most popular places visited in London, so keep that in mind. Getting there early is key. After visiting once, I can see why people buy annual passes to Kew Gardens – while pretty parks are common in London, none are quite like this one!

Kew Gardens: Website
Address: Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB

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10 Must-See Attractions At Kew Gardens In London

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    Jacintha | Urban Pixxels
    May 21, 2014 at 6:23 AM

    I knew Kew Gardens was big, but I had no idea there was so much to do and see. It has been on my list for a long time too, but I still haven’t found the time to go. May does sound like the perfect month to visit.

  • Reply
    Diana Bockus
    May 21, 2014 at 3:49 PM

    I think my heart sunk when I saw those 60 foot high walkways. I don’t know if I could do it. Yikes! I would do it, I’d just be super nervous the entire time!
    On the other hand, all of these are incredible. I want to come visit!

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      May 22, 2014 at 8:12 AM

      Oh, yeah – I was nervous! When the metal would pop under our feet, I’d grip the wooden rails like my life depended on it! :) I’ve been scared of heights for 5 or so years now – I’m hoping by forcing myself into situations like this more often that I’ll be able to get over it again!

      • Reply
        Diana Bockus
        May 22, 2014 at 3:18 PM

        I could’ve totally went without hearing about how the metal pops as you walk! haha! You’re much braver than I am!

  • Reply
    Mandy Southgate
    May 21, 2014 at 7:01 PM

    Oh, this might be one of my favourite post ever. I have been to Kew but we certainly didn’t see as much as you and now I know I have to go back to see the Redwoods and tree top walks. Gorgeous photos, as usual.

  • Reply
    Katrin
    May 21, 2014 at 7:16 PM

    Oh wow, that place is huge and so beautiful! I feel like I could easily spend days in there. And I would like to live in that cottage by the way! Thank you so much for sharing the beautiful pictures, the duck is so fantastic. :) That walkway does sound a bit scary though!

  • Reply
    Emmymom
    May 21, 2014 at 8:13 PM

    That would be so fun to walk up in the trees like that. I have been to some old homes where they have left one room undone and it really is amazing to see how much work goes into restoration. So it’s called a Glass house? I always called them green houses. Or are those two different things? I took my sister’s bridal pictures in a green house, awesome lighting, lots of pretty backgrounds and no real shadow problem since you are indoors.

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      May 22, 2014 at 8:24 AM

      I think they’re the same thing – I would have called these greenhouses, too, but they’re called glass houses at Kew. Maybe it’s what they’re called in all of the UK?

      I can see how a greenhouse would make a lovely setting for a photo shoot! The lighting would be perfect. Not too harsh either. I took a photo of Lexie in the Palm House that I LOVE. If I write about that house on its own sometime I’ll include it – I think it turned out so nicely because of the lighting!

  • Reply
    Stacie Stamper
    May 21, 2014 at 5:26 PM

    I’m such a weenie, I can’t walk on anything that is open underneath, so the walkway would have been a No, but it looks like there still would be plenty to do.

  • Reply
    Quyen Nguyen
    May 21, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    The Palm and Temperate Houses look so beautiful! I love a nice greenhouse.

  • Reply
    Eolia Disler
    May 21, 2014 at 7:54 PM

    I’m quite impressed by the size of those redwood trees, the Palm house and Temperate House. I don’t know when I will go to London, but it’s so going to be written on my to do list! (and I totally will do the treetop walkway!)

  • Reply
    Jo
    May 22, 2014 at 8:41 AM

    The treetop walk looks awesome!
    How very considerate of George to bath in the kitchen to spare his servants.

    I love beautiful gardens, unfortunately it seems that the green gene stopped with my grandfather (he was a horticulturist), since I can’t grow weeds.

    • Reply
      Sarah Shumate
      May 23, 2014 at 10:21 AM

      I thought the same thing about King George! He was also a pretty frugal person which is saying something for royalty!

      Lex and I planted some seeds in indoor pots over Mother’s Day weekend and they’ve already sprouted little green shoots. Let’s just hope I can keep them alive through the summer!

  • Reply
    Natalie
    May 23, 2014 at 1:25 AM

    Is it me or is Lexie looking super grown up? Love seeing these photos!

  • Reply
    Maria
    August 24, 2015 at 5:30 PM

    All of these places are nice to see in the world. All of these attractions are new for me. I never got a chance to visit them. After seeing all images I will try to go there. I am very excited to visit them.

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