Kew Gardens - All About the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
We have a responsibility to the earth that we live in. This is the motto of The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, one of the most extensive botanical gardens in the world. It provides a haven to the largest and the most diverse mycological and botanical collections in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site provides sanctuary to more than 50,000 different plants and over 7 million preserved species. Kew Gardens aims to inspire people to protect the natural world and take steps to influence international policies in favour of the environment. Here, you get to explore the vast collection of 14,000 trees and walk across the lake in the middle of the wilderness. The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is the perfect place for you to breathe in the lush environment while also contributing to it, simply by learning about its intricacies.
History of Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
The origins of Kew Gardens can be traced back to as early as the 16th century when it was a privately owned garden. The site was acquired by the prince and princess of Wales in 1731, and both of them established it as a garden for exotic plants in 1759. The garden expanded over the years to accommodate specimens from all over the world as it was passed down to Sir Joseph Banks in 1772, a British naturalist. Finally, under William Hooker and his son in 1841, the Kew Gardens became a centre for scientific research and the international exchange of plant specimens. Under them, in 1840, the gardens were conveyed to the nation and expanded to the present size of 300 acres by the early 19th century.
In July 2003 the Kew Gardens was officially inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site, making it one of the most famous tourist spots in London. Today it continues on its pledge to build a world where nature is protected, valued, and managed sustainably. In March 2021 it will launch a 10-year strategy to carry out this pledge and to protect plants and fungi for the future of life on Earth.
Explore Royal Botanic Gardens
Find out all about Kew Gardens opening times before visiting the venue.
1. Plant Houses
Davies Alpine House
Davies Alpines are hardy trees, able to grow in higher than normal altitudes. The Alpine greenhouse harbors small ferns, lavenders, tulips, and other Alpine species and displays them when they are in full bloom.
This is a magnificent indoor rainforest that harbours tropical plants from some of the most threatening environments from all over the world. The Kew scientists rely on this collection of plants for medical research and research on sustainable cropping.
Princess of Wales Conservatory
This greenhouse brings the different climates and wilderness of the world inside one building. You can stroll about the different zones with drinks and canapes from the reception.
It is the world’s largest Victorian glasshouse home to 10,000 species of plants from the temperate zones. It is an iconic venue for events, with a sea-gazing balcony and elegant green surroundings.
This is a small, square greenhouse originally made to display the giant Amazon Lily, a natural wonder. Today, it displays colorful water lilies, ferns, papyrus, and hanging gourds in the tropical area of Kew Gardens.
The house was gifted to the crown by the Australian Government. It has a collection of plants by Captain McEachern from the dry climates of southwest Australia.
Inspired by the Bonsai Japanese art form, this section includes miniature specimens of temperate woody trees and shrubs.
2. Ornamental Buildings & Palace
This Japanese architecture-inspired multistoried building provides a birds-eye view of London. This unique building is a testament to British craftsmanship, as it has been standing for over 250 years.
Japanese Gateway (Chokushi-Mon)
Chokushi-Mon is a smaller replica of the gateway of the Nishi-Hogan-Ji temple in Kyoto. It was built for the Japan-British Exhibition in 1910 and is surrounded by Japanese gardens.
Queen Charlotte's Cottage
Within the conservation area lies the cottage built for Queen Charlotte by her husband George Ⅲ in 1771. It is restored and opens to the public on weekends and bank holidays in the summers. Located opposite the Kew Palace, the cottage is over 300 years old.
King William's Temple
In the center of the Mediterranean Garden stands King William's Temple, built in 1837 for Queen Victoria, in memory of William Ⅳ.
Temple of Aeolus
It was first built in the 1760s for the Greek god of winds. The version today was rebuilt in stone in 1845 and is a serene quiet place, perfect for reflection.
Temple of Arethusa
This structure was built as a folly for Princess Augusta in 1758. Later it was requisitioned into war service and unveiled as the home of War Memorial, commemorating the lost lives of Kewites in World War Ⅰ.
Temple of Bellona
Situated adjacent to Victoria Plaza, this temple is named after the ancient goddess of war. On the walls of the oval room inside are garlands and medallions commemorating the units connected with the Seven Years’ War.
This little palace stands as the smallest of the British royal palaces. It was built by a Duch merchant around 1631 and has a distinctly Dutch appearance. Behind the Palace, we have the Queen’s garden, with medicinal plants, and in front of it is a 17th-century replica of a sun-dial.
3. Galleries and Museums
Royal Botanic Gardens: Art, Science & Entertainment
In an effort to work on their aim of giving back to the environment, Kew Gardens strives to engage and educate the visitors on how essential it is to protect nature. There are events and education drives that are held to do exactly that. Here are some of the things you can expect from Kew Gardens.
Royal Botanic Gardens Facts
- Kew Gardens is plural because King George III inherited and joined the estate with his royal estate in Richmond. Thus, these two gardens became one.
- Queen Charlotte’s cottage harbored exotic animals such as Kangaroos and Tartarian pheasants in the 1790s.
- The Tea Pavillion suffered a literal blow when suffragettes attacked the glasshouse in protest!
- The Kew Gardens have been plane-crash sites not once, but twice. The first in 1928 and second in 1938; neither resulted in casualties.
- Kew Gardens had its own police force called The Royal Botanic Gardens Constabulary, formed in 1845. It also had its own fire service.
- The Great Pagoda doubled as a secret place for testing the aerodynamics of bombs during the Second World War!
- There is a time capsule buried in the Gardens with the seeds of important food crops and several endangered species. Sir David Attenborough had buried this and it will open in 2085 when these species are rare or extinct.
Learn all about how to reach Kew before visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Royal Botanic Gardens: FAQs
A. Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is one of the oldest and most extensive botanical gardens in the world.
A. Yes, Royal Botanic Gardens is open now with COVID-19 precautions in place.
A. Yes, there are activities for children to enjoy here. A few of them are Children’s Quiet Garden Sessions, Little Explorers, and The Little Gardener.
A. With so many things to explore in the Royal Botanic Gardens, you need at least a day chalked out.
A. Some of the top things to see here include, The Hive, Japanese Landscape, Lake and Slacker Crossing, Rose Garden, and Kew Garden Cinema.
A. Yes, there are five cafes and restaurants here at the Royal Botanic Gardens.
A. Yes, you can carry your own picnic and have designated spots inside the garden.
A. Kew Gardens shops are located near Victoria Plaza, Children’s Garden, New Pavilion Building, and Victoria Gate. There is an online portal for the shops as well.