The sun is coming out in London and people are heading for Kew Gardens. Bulbs bursting into flowers are a very reassuring sight after a long, cold, windy winter – and Kew Gardens is the best place in London to see spring blossoming.
There are guided tours daily at noon during March and April, or if you prefer to explore on your own, online you will find a fabulous map that provides a guide to what’s blooming where and when it’s at its best. For any time of the year, there are wonderful greenhouses and hothouses; don’t miss the steamy Palm House dating from 1848, the 1852 hot and gorgeous water-lily house, or the recent Princess of Wales Conservatory opened in 1987, which has ten different climatic zones.
And of course this wouldn’t be London without some royal connection: it’s thanks to 17th and 18th century monarchs that Kew Gardens is the glorious 300 acre garden it is today. So, naturally there is a palace (Kew Palace), as well as Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, and a number of follies or whimsical buildings dotted about, such as the 1761 Pagoda and Japanese Garden.
More recently modern sculpture has popped up in various spots around the garden lending to its fresh and contemporary feel. This is London’s Botanic Gardens and as well as being a wonderful place to wander, it’s a major research center and now listed as a World Heritage.
You can get to Kew Gardens by underground train or even by river boat (although the timetable is limited). However, if you feel tired at the thought of trying to take in so much plant life on foot, there is the hop-on hop-off Kew Explorer train, which meanders around the gardens. Don’t forget to visit the Orangery near Kew Palace; sit and relax while you savor their thirst-quenching teas and cakes.