Floral fantasies: What are the best London gardens?

Beyond the concrete façade, London harbours lush gardens scattered throughout its urban sprawl. But today, we’re not just talking about your typical sprawling parks. 

No, today we’re on a quest for something a bit more intimate, a touch more secluded – the kind of outdoor sanctuaries that offer respite from the city’s relentless energy.

So, join us on this journey as we unveil the crème de la crème of London’s green retreats. These are the verdant escapes that invite you to pause, breathe, and savour the moments of calm amidst the city’s ceaseless rhythm.

Kew Gardens

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Location: Kew, Richmond, London, TW9 3AE, United Kingdom

Contact: 020 8332 5655

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Established in the 18th century, it’s one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world, and it’s been visited by the likes of Queen Victoria herself. So, if you’re looking for a regal horticultural experience, Kew is the place to be!

It’s particularly appealing if you’re into plant diversity. With over 50,000 living plants, it’s a living, breathing encyclopedia of flora from all corners of the globe. From towering palm trees to delicate orchids, Kew’s collection is like a world tour through the plant kingdom.

Regent’s Park

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Location: Chester Rd, London NW1 4NR, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 300 061 2300

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Regent’s Park was designed by the renowned architect John Nash back in the early 19th century as a royal playground for none other than the Prince Regent, who later became King George IV. So, when you’re here, you’re basically following in the footsteps of royalty! 

This garden boasts the stunning Queen Mary’s Gardens, bursting with rose blooms in the summer and a hotspot for romantic strolls and Instagram-worthy snapshots. 

Then there’s the boating lake, where you can rent a pedal boat and channel your inner swan while taking in the serene views.

Holland Park

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Location: Ilchester Pl, London W8 6LU, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7602 2226

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You might be wondering about the name – Holland Park. No, it’s not a tribute to the Netherlands, but rather to Lord Holland, a prominent figure in 19th-century British politics. It’s a park with a touch of historical elegance, and that’s just the beginning.

One of the standout features of Holland Park is the Kyoto Garden. Tucked away like a hidden treasure, this serene Japanese garden is an absolute stunner. 

It was a gift from Kyoto, London’s sister city, and it’s a testament to the park’s international charm. Koi fish glide through tranquil ponds, while peacocks strut their stuff.

Sky Garden 

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Location: 1, Sky Garden Walk, London EC3M 8AF, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 333 772 0020

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The Sky Garden, perched atop the iconic Walkie-Talkie building at 20 Fenchurch Street, is a shining example of what innovative urban planning can achieve. 

Nestled amidst the glass and steel giants of the City of London, this garden in the sky defies convention and gives a whole new meaning to the concept of green spaces.

The Sky Garden boasts a beautifully landscaped garden area featuring an array of carefully curated plants, trees, and flowers. You’ll find Mediterranean and South African species flourishing here, creating an enchanting mix of colours and scents. 

Chelsea Physic Garden 

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Location: 66 Royal Hospital Rd, London SW3 4HS, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7352 5646

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Going to Chelsea Physic Garden is like making a global voyage without leaving London. From the Himalayas to the Amazon rainforest, this garden has it all. 

They’ve got a ‘Medicinal Garden’ section that’ll blow your mind, complete with plants used in traditional medicines and even poisons (yep, you read that right!).

This garden is also part of international conservation efforts and proudly houses some of the world’s rarest plants. They ensure that special plants don’t vanish from the face of the Earth.

Queen Mary’s Garden 

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Location: Chester Rd, London NW1 4NR, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 30 0061 2000 

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With over 12,000 roses spanning around 85 different varieties. Queen Mary’s Gardens is home to one of London’s most extensive rose collections. From classic tea roses to fragrant climbers, this place is a haven for flower enthusiasts and hopeless romantics alike.

At this garden, Spring brings forth tulips in all their glory, while autumn ushers in chrysanthemums and asters. Even in the colder months, hardy winter flowers stand tall, proving that there’s never a dull moment in this floral wonderland.

Isabella Plantation

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Location: Richmond Park, Richmond TW10 5HS, United Kingdom

Contact: 0208 948 3209

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You can’t talk about Isabella Plantation without mentioning its royal neighbour, Richmond Park. This expansive green paradise is London’s largest Royal Park, and it’s home to wild deer, ancient trees, and acres of serene woodland. 

Now, let’s get to the star of the show – the azaleas. Isabella Plantation is world-famous for its dazzling display of azalea blooms in late spring and early summer. It’s a sea of pinks, purples, and reds, stretching as far as the eye can see. 

Hampton Court Palace Gardens

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Location: Hampton Ct Way, Molesey, East Molesey KT8 9AU, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 3166 6000

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Built in the early 16th century by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and later inhabited by King Henry VIII, this Tudor masterpiece is a living, breathing relic of a bygone era. And guess what? The gardens here are just as old and majestic as you expect!

Now, if you think having a vine in your garden is impressive, imagine having one that’s over 250 years old and still producing grapes. 

Yes, you read that right! Hampton Court Palace Gardens is home to the legendary Great Vine, one of the oldest and largest grapevines on the planet.

Barbican Conservatory 

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Location: Silk St, London EC2Y 8DS, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7870 2500

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Barbican Estate is known for its Brutalist architecture, all imposing concrete structures and geometric lines. But nestled amidst this concrete jungle is a lush, tropical paradise – the Barbican Conservatory.

The Barbican Conservatory is home to over 2,000 species of exotic plants and trees from all over the world. It’s like having a passport to the Amazon, Bali, and the Caribbean all in one place. 

Kensington Gardens

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Location: Kensington Gardens, Westminster, London W8 4PX, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 300 061 2000

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Now, what’s a garden without a water feature, right? Kensington Gardens boasts the serene Serpentine Lake. It’s like a liquid ribbon snaking through the park, perfect for a leisurely boat ride or a lakeside picnic. 

With its shimmering waters and surrounding greenery, it’s the stuff of postcard-perfect daydreams.

But here’s where it gets whimsical – the Peter Pan statue. Tucked away in a secluded corner, you’ll find a bronze tribute to J.M. Barrie’s beloved boy who never grew up. Here, you can let your imagination take flight with Peter and his fairy sidekick, Tinker Bell.

Postman’s Park 

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Location: King Edward St, London EC1A 7BT, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7374 4127

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This park was opened in 1880 on the site of a former churchyard and is named after the nearby old General Post Office. Its history alone makes it a must-visit spot for history buffs and garden enthusiasts alike.

What truly sets Postman’s Park apart is its touching and unique memorial, the “Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice”. This monument pays tribute to ordinary individuals who performed extraordinary acts of bravery and selflessness. 

Eltham Palace 

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Location: Court Yard, London SE9 5QE, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 8294 2548

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The site was once a medieval royal palace, frequented by the likes of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. But what makes Eltham Palace truly special is its Art Deco makeover in the 1930s. 

The juxtaposition of the original medieval architecture and the sleek, modern design is nothing short of fascinating.

The Courtauld Courtyard, in particular, is a vision of geometric perfection. Lush greenery punctuated by elegant fountains and intricate mosaics creates a serene atmosphere that feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The Phoenix Garden

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Location: 21 Stacey St, London WC2H 8DG, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 7716 480049

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This small but mighty green oasis packs a punch with its mix of plants, art installations, and a sense of community that’s as refreshing as a crisp cucumber on a hot summer day.

This garden is like a living canvas, with flowers and plants of every hue imaginable. From wildflowers to exotic blooms, it’s a kaleidoscope of botanical beauty. 

Plus, the garden’s layout is a testament to thoughtful design, with winding paths that invite exploration and surprise at every turn.

The Garden at 120

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Location: 120 Fenchurch St, London EC3M 5BA, United Kingdom

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Perched 120 meters above the ground (hence the name), this green oasis offers a perspective of London that most gardeners can only dream of. 

The views are nothing short of jaw-dropping, with iconic landmarks like The Shard and Tower Bridge making cameo appearances on the horizon.

Gardens are all about change, and this garden doesn’t disappoint in this department. Depending on when you visit, you might encounter a different display of flora and fauna. From spring blooms to summer greens and the fiery hues of autumn, there’s always something new here. 

Claremont Landscape Garden

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Location: Portsmouth Rd, Esher KT10 9JG, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 1372 467806

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Dating back to the early 18th century, this garden boasts a heritage that few can rival. It was designed by the renowned garden designer, Capability Brown himself. 

This is the man whose name is synonymous with British landscape gardening. Imagine strolling through the same avenues that once captivated the aristocracy of the Georgian era!

Claremont isn’t just about plants and architecture, it’s a haven for wildlife too. The lake teems with waterfowl, and the mature woodlands provide a safe haven for countless bird species. If you’re lucky, you might spot some elusive wildlife during your visit. 

Coombe Wood

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Location: Conduit Lane, Shirley, London, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 8726 6900

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Coombe Wood has a history oozing from every corner. It was originally part of the Coombe Estate, dating back to the early 18th century when it served as a private pleasure garden for the rich and famous. 

Even today, remnants of its historic past are sprinkled throughout the garden, from the ornate Victorian shelter to the stunning Italian garden that’s straight out of a Renaissance painting.

Each area here offers a unique horticultural experience. Like the Rock Garden, a serene space filled with alpine plants and bubbling streams, or the Azalea Garden, full of vibrant colours during spring. And the Water Garden, a tranquil oasis that’s perfect for peaceful reflection.

Brockwell Park Walled Garden

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Location: Brockwell Park Gardens, London SE24 9BN, United Kingdom

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This garden is no spring chicken in the London horticulture scene. It’s been flourishing for over two centuries, dating back to the early 19th century when it was used to grow produce for nearby Brockwell Hall. Imagine the stories those old bricks could tell! 

Today, it’s a beautifully restored walled garden that seamlessly blends historical charm with modern gardening expertise.

Syon Park

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Location: Brent Lea, Brentford TW8 8JF, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 8560 0882

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Syon Park is home to some of the most magnificent plant collections in London. The Great Conservatory, a masterpiece of 19th-century architecture, houses an exotic array of plants that will transport you to far-off lands. 

From towering palms to delicate orchids, this glass palace is a true horticultural wonder.

It’s also a testament to the art of landscape architecture. The 40-acre Capability Brown-designed parkland surrounding the house is a masterpiece of English garden design.

Myddelton House Gardens 

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Location: Myddelton House Gardens, Enfield EN2 9HG, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 300 003 0610

Website

This garden showcases an astounding variety of plants, many of which were collected by Bowles himself during his globetrotting adventures. From hardy alpines to vibrant perennials, you’ll find a kaleidoscope of colours and textures that are sure to ignite your botanical curiosity.

E.A. Bowles was a plant hunter extraordinaire. The gardens are home to the Bowles Collection, which features rare and unusual plant species that he discovered during his expeditions. 

Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden

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Location: Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XX, United Kingdom

Contact: 020 3879 9555

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Let’s start with the obvious head-turner – this garden isn’t nestled in the ground: it’s perched high above on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, part of the Southbank Centre complex. 

Now, here’s the kicker: London is known for its sprawling parks, but rooftop gardens? They’re a rarity! That’s what makes the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden an absolute standout. It transforms a concrete jungle into a lush, green paradise right above your head.

Here, you’ll find sculptures and installations scattered throughout, merging art seamlessly with nature. 

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