August 2017: Palm garden at a greenhouse in Kew Royal Botanic Gardens.


Kew Gardens

Top choice in Richmond, Kew & Hampton Court

Why you should go

Where else in London can you size up an 18th-century 10-storey Chinese pagoda and a Japanese gateway while finding yourself among one of the world’s most outstanding botanical collections? Kew Gardens is loved by Londoners for its 19th-century Palm House and other Victorian glasshouses, its conservatories, tree-canopy walkway, architectural follies and mind-boggling variety of plants. The 121-hectare gardens at Kew should not be missed. Don't worry if you don’t know your quiver tree from your alang-alang: a visit here is a discovery for all.

A very tall multi-tiered pagoda-style tower stretches up above treetops
The Great Pagoda is one of Kew Gardens' architectural icons © Alexey Fedorenko / Shutterstock

Highlights include the enormous, steamy early Victorian Palm House, a hothouse of metal and curved sheets of glass; the impressive Princess of Wales Conservatory; the red-brick 1631 Kew Palace, formerly King George III's country retreat; the celebrated Great Pagoda, designed by William Chambers in 1762; the Temperate House, the world's largest ornamental glasshouse; and the very enjoyable Treetop Walkway, where you can survey the tree canopy from 18m up in the air.

The Hive is a 17m-high lattice fashioned from thousands of pieces of aluminium illuminated with hundreds of LED lights, which mimics activity within a real beehive. The arboretum covers two-thirds of the gardens at Kew and includes more than 14,000 trees, which are often gathered together according to genus. You can find everything from eucalyptus trees to giant redwoods and ancient Japanese pagoda trees. 

Two people stand in a large metal sculpture surrounded by honeycomb shapes
Hive is an immersive installation at Kew Gardens © Mark Chilvers / Lonely Planet

Opened in 2016, the 320m-long Great Broad Walk Borders is the longest double herbaceous border in the UK. The idyllic, thatched Queen Charlotte’s Cottage in the southwest of the gardens was popular with "mad" George III and his wife, queen consort Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Stop by here in sprint to enjoy the beautiful carpets of bluebells. Kids will have a blast in the play areas including the huge interactive Children's Garden, which has the span of 40 tennis courts.

As well as being a public garden, Kew is a pre-eminent research center, maintaining its reputation as the most exhaustive botanical collection in the world.

A huge glasshouse in manicured gardens with pink flowers in flowerbeds
Kew is a Unesco World Heritage Site © iLongLoveKing / Shutterstock


Kew was founded in 1759 by Princess Augusta, mother of King George III, as a botanic garden with pleasure grounds. Botanists began rummaging around the world for specimens to plant here and they never stopped collecting. The gardens, which have bloomed to 121 hectares, provide the most comprehensive botanical collection on earth (including the world's largest collection of orchids). Kew Gardens became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2003.

Tickets and other practicalities

Tickets should be booked in advance online, with discounts available for family groups and concessions. Victoria Gate is a five-minute walk west from Kew Gardens Tube station. If you're traveling by train, alight at Kew Bridge station and cross Kew Bridge south to Kew Gardens. From April to October you can sail to Kew from Westminster with Thames River Boats. There is limited parking at the site.

You could easily spend the day here, but the Kew Explorer train will help you tick off the main sights in half that time. Seasonal events are held at Kew through the year, including Christmas light shows and summer concerts.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Richmond, Kew & Hampton Court attractions

1. Queen Charlotte’s Cottage

0.12 MILES

This idyllic, thatched cottage in the southwest of Kew Gardens was popular with ‘mad’ George III and his wife; the carpets of bluebells around here are a…

2. Arboretum

0.17 MILES

Covering two thirds of the gardens, the arboretum refers to the more than 14,000 trees at Kew, which are often gathered together according to genus. You…

3. Treetop Walkway

0.36 MILES

In the Arboretum, the fascinating Treetop Walkway first takes you underground and then 18m up in the air into the tree canopy.

4. Syon House

0.41 MILES

Once a medieval abbey named after Mt Zion and today owned by the Duke of Northumberland, Syon House was dissolved on the orders of Henry VIII and rebuilt…

5. Temperate House

0.48 MILES

Built in 1860 and closed for vital restoration work until 2018, the beautiful Temperate House in the southeast of Kew Gardens is the world’s largest…

6. Great Pagoda

0.51 MILES

This 49.5m-tall eight-sided pagoda (1762), designed by William Chambers (who designed Somerset House), is one of Kew Gardens' architectural icons. During…

7. Marianne North Gallery


This gallery in Kew Gardens displays the botanical paintings of Marianne North, an indomitable traveller who roamed the continents from 1871 to 1885,…

8. Richmond Green

0.75 MILES

A short walk west of the Quadrant (the road at the tube exit) is Richmond Green with its mansions and delightful pubs. In the Middle Ages, jousting…