Find the hidden green gems among the majesty of London
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
With over 3,000 parks and open spaces, London is one of the greenest capital cities in the world. Discover two very different gardens, plus a royal park and a garden museum. But remember to bring your walking shoes for this two-day London’s gardens on foot tour.
Day 1: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew ● London by the river
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew - Orchid Festival 2014
London is a diverse and vibrant capital city with some of the world’s top attractions, events and places to visit. It is home to eight beautiful Royal Parks including the famous Hyde Park, St James’s Park, Greenwich Park and Richmond Park. Get the most from your visit and travel around London by bus, on foot or even hire a bike. London is a city worth exploring over ground.
Your first garden on this London tour is Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, situated just 10 miles (16 km) west of central London and accessible by overground train from London Waterloo station. Kew Gardens, probably the world’s most famous garden, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Created in 1759, it boasts the earliest and greatest botanic garden, with breathtaking landscapes, historic buildings and one of the rarest and most interesting range of plants. Hop aboard the Kew Explorer land train for a 40-minute tour of the gardens and learn about Kew’s plants, trees and history. Enjoy a peaceful lunch overlooking the gardens at one of Kew’s four cafes and restaurants before your continue to the next stage of the tour.
Return into London by train, and on to the London Eye for an unrivalled view of the city. Appreciate the twists and turns in the river Thames and scenery changes as the London Eye turns.
Now you’ve seen the river Thames from high, take a sightseeing river cruise and really experience London from the Thames. Stop off at Greenwich and stroll through one of London’s oldest enclosed Royal Parks, originally a manor owned by King Alfred and a favourite with the Tudors and Henry VIII. Reach the top of Greenwich Hill and take in yet another sweeping view of the river Thames and central London. The park is part of the Greenwich World Heritage Site and includes the Prime Meridian Line, from which the entire world’s time is calculated and the old Royal Observatory. It’s also home to many ancient trees, some over 800 years old. Take a short stroll to the National Maritime Museum or stop for afternoon tea in The Pavilion Café, surrounded by a gorgeous English garden. The choice is yours!
Return on the river cruise boat to the Millennium Pier and enjoy a leisurely dinner on the South Bank overlooking the river; there’s something to suit all tastes and budgets here
Set yourself up for a second day touring London’s gardens with a hearty full English breakfast. A short walk from Sloane Square in west London is Chelsea Physic Garden which provides a real sensory experience. Located in a microclimate by the River Thames, the garden was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries to train apprentices in the medicinal qualities of plants. It soon became one of the most important centres of botany and plant exchange in the world and has a unique collection of over 5,000 edible, useful, medicinal and historical plants.
A short walk up Chelsea Bridge Road back to Sloane Square and you are in a shopper’s paradise with cafes and restaurants on every road. Take time to browse the shops followed by lunch before our next place of interest. If you have the energy take the one-hour walk to our next stop, the Garden Museum (nearest tube, Lambeth North). Camera at the ready, take the route past Buckingham Palace, through St James’s Park and past Big Ben before you cross over Westminster Bridge and along to the Garden Museum. The Museum is in the ancient church of St Mary-at-Lambeth, the burial place of John Tradescant (c1570-1638), the first great gardener in English history. Learn all about English gardens through a collection of exhibitions, events and its own stunning knot garden.
Stay an extra night in London and go to the theatre, visit a museum (many are free and some open late on Fridays) or just relax over dinner.
Must-see local events
RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014 - London
Orchid Festival, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London: February to early March. An opportunity to view thousands of exotic and wild orchids cascade through the tropical displays in the Princess of Wales Conservatory.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show, London: May. Visit one of the most famous flower shows in England, located in the heart of London.
Wimbledon, London: end June to mid-July. Watch first-class tennis and sample delicious strawberries and cream. Be ready to join the tradition of queuing to get tickets or join in the atmosphere and see it on the big screens outside.
RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, Surrey: early July. Set in the beautiful grounds of Hampton Court Palace, just outside London, this show is a must-see in the English gardens event calendar.
Notting Hill Carnival, London: bank holiday weekend, August. Continue the colourful extravaganza with London’s biggest street party.
Travel Fact File
Some train, tube and river boat travel with optional walking or cycling
Top travel distance
28 miles/46 km
Approximate travel time
4 h (train and river boat) with plenty of walking time