Chelsea Physic Garden

Gardens in Kensington & Hyde Park
Image by Will Jones

You may bump into a wandering duck or two as you enter this walled pocket of botanical enchantment, established by the Apothecaries’ Society in 1673 for students working on medicinal plants and healing. One of Europe’s oldest of its kind, the small grounds are a compendium of botany, from carnivorous pitcher plants to rich yellow flag irises, a cork oak from Portugal, the largest outdoor fruiting olive tree in the British Isles, rare trees and shrubs.

The site, not far from the river, ensures a slightly warmer microclimate to protect non-native plants. The fascinating pharmaceutical garden grows plants used in contemporary Western medicine; the Garden of World Medicine has a selection of plants used by indigenous peoples in Australia, China, India, New Zealand and North America. A heady perfume and aromatherapy garden plus a fine cafe near the shop are nearby; enter from Swan Walk. Pick up an audio guide or join a free tour (held three or more times daily); a host of botany and gardening courses and lectures detail plant remedies.