Here & There: Royal Acres of Green

Escape to Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, for an experience unbridled by London’s busy streets.

| October/November 2001

  • The Half-Hardy Herbaceous Garden at Kew.
    Photographs by Joe Coca
  • Visitors inside the Palm House enjoy viewing a wide variety of useful plants and rainforest species.
  • Rocks line the pathway through this garden of moisture-loving plants at Kew’s Rock Garden.

Your European travels bring you to bustling London, with all its diversity, culture, history, and entertainment. You watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, enjoy the theater, and visit the vast array of museums, galleries, and monuments, and now you’re probably ready for a quiet side trip away from the crowds.

Head southwest from the center of London via automobile, subway, bus, or boat (in summer) to the 300-acre Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on the south bank of the River Thames. This research institution houses outdoor and indoor plant collections, including several gardens with herbs, as well as gift shops, restaurants, a bevy of greenhouses (or “glasshouses”), and landscaped trails for wandering and picnicking.

Your day at Kew Gardens

The tube, or subway, is probably the easiest way to get to Kew, about a thirty-minute trip from the center of London. Travel to the Kew Gardens station, then walk through the charming village of Kew with its shops, cafes, and inns. From the station, it’s a short three-block walk to the gardens’ Victoria Gate entrance, one of four entrances.

If you don’t have the entire day and are primarily interested in exploring those gardens or glasshouses with herbs, you’ll want to explore the East and North sections. The West section features a trail that rambles along the Thames, great for leisurely walking.

The Kew Gardens are open year-round (closed only on Christmas and New Year’s Day). The outdoor gardens feature seasonal plantings; however, the glasshouse displays stay relatively unchanged throughout the year. Especially noteworthy are the Palm House, with its exhibits of useful plants and rainforest species, and the Princess of Wales Conservatory, showcasing ten different climates and the plants that live there.

Kew offers guided tours, themed tours, concerts, and adult education courses. A visit to the Kew website ( will provide you with information about upcoming activities.

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