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Kew Gardens

also known as Royal Botanic Gardens - Kew

Richmond, Surrey

Featured Location Guide

"A World Heritage Site"

Kew Gardens, the worlds first Botanic Garden, covers an area of 300 acres on the banks of the River Thames, and has four entrances although the main entrance is Victoria Gate off Kew Road.

 Princess of Wales Conservatory

A little bit of History

They date from 1678 when it was owned by the Earl of Essex's brother, Sir Henry Capel, it came into Royal ownership in 1718 and was much visited by George II and Queen Caroline who stayed there in what was then Richmond Lodge. Their son, Frederick, Prince of Wales and his wife Augusta enhanced the buildings and gardens and after his death, George III, his wife Queen Charlotte and his family spent each summer at Kew. 

Sir Joseph Banks, who had sailed around the world as botanist with Captain James Cook, was appointed by the King to take charge of the gardens and he encouraged plant hunters to search for and send back exotic species from the West Indies, Africa, Australasia, China and India. The Cycad in the Palm House labelled 'the oldest pot plant in the world' was brought back from Africa in 1775.

In the early 19th century the gardens suffered a period of decline with George IV and William IV taking less interest in them, but by the 20th century the emphasis on science and conservation continued with the rebuilding of the Jodrell Laboratory, the new Economic House, and the development of the Library and Herbarium. In 1984 responsibility for Kew Gardens was placed in the hands of a Board of Trustees under the National Heritage Act.

A Visit to Kew

As well as a large amount of open ground  Kew has so much to offer the photographer and any visitor from it's many buildings, spectacular statuary, follies, temples, sculptures, parterres, through to museums and galleries and of course what is planted within the grounds. See the top attractions list below for a more detailed look at what you can see.

It also has a large collection of trees, some lovely walks and many vistas designed to lead the eye to its treasures. The landscape over time has been fashioned by many of the leading garden designers of their day including Charles Bridgeman, 'Capability Brown' and W. A Nesfield. Many of its structures are situated within quiet almost private - gardens, with wide sweeping lawns, lakes, ponds, in fact it would be hard to name any garden feature anyone would want that is not at Kew. It also has a profusion of plants, shrubs, grasses, bamboos and so on of every kind. You could visit Kew almost every day of the year and see something new and different each time.

There are many attractions both outside and undercover at Kew, from the gardens to the buildings as well as various activities put on for visitors, some of which are listed below, but a detailed look around their website will give you far more.

Kew's Top Attractions include 3 buildings which together cover over four acres of floor space and are home to largest collection of exotic plants in the world, providing an array of colours and textures sure to delight.

  • Palm House - where you can experience a tropical rainforest environment

  • Temperate House - their biggest public glasshouse which is home to the world's tallest indoor plant

  • Princess of Wales Conservatory - houses 10 different climate zones and houses a large variety of plants including orchids and cacti.

  • Xstrata Treetop Walkway - This takes you into the tree canopy some 18 metres up and allows you to get a spectacular birds-eye view of the Kew.

Other Glasshouses include:-

  • The Davies Alpine House, housing a colourful collection of alpine plants. This is the latest addition to their glasshouses and was the first new glasshouse to be commissioned for two decades. It is located at the north end of the Rock Garden.

  • The Evolution House, designed for children, takes you through the 3500m years of plant evolution.

  • The Plants and People Exhibition demonstrates the importance of plants to mankind.

  • Bonsai House - it displays at any one time 10 miniature trees from their collection, some of which are over 150 years old.

  • Marine Display - This is in the basement of the Palm House and recreates 4 major marine habitats and their plants.

  • Waterlily House - It was designed to house the giant waterlilly, but it never thrived there, instead another one of its closest relatives is housed here in its large pond, together with other climbers that like the moist environment.

There are also a number of museums, galleries and historic buildings to explore, including:-

  • Cambridge Cottage - added to the gardens in 1904, it now houses the Kew Gardens Gallery.
  • Ice House
  • Kew Palace - the smallest of the royal palaces.
  • Orangey - only surviving plant house designed by Sir William Chambers.
  • Pagoda - 10 storey octagonal structure that stands 163ft high.
  • Queen Charlottes Cottage - 18th Century thatched cottage which was a private haven for Queen Charlotte and her family.
Some of the Gardens include:-
  • Azalea Garden
  • Grass Garden
  • King Williams Temple and Mediterranean Garden
  • Japanese Minka House and Bamboo Garden
  • Palm House and Rose Garden
  • Queens Garden
  • Rhododendron Dell
  • Rock Garden
  • Secluded Garden

Vistas and Landscape Features include:

  • Broad Walk - from the Palm House to the Orangery and round the corner to the main gate.
  • Cedar Vista - the longest of 7 avenues from the Pagoda.
  • Crocus Carpet - between Victoria Gate and King Williams Temple in March
  • Pagoda Vista
  • Princess Walk
  • Riverside Walk - between Brentford Gate and Syon overlook
  • Syon Vista - a view across the Syon estate
  • The Lake and Sackler Crossing (a walkway across the lake)
  • Xstrata Treetop Walk

Water and Wildlife Attractions include:

  • Aquatic Garden
  • Bee Garden
  • Woodland Glade and Waterlily Pond

The Pagoda See Larger Image

The Palm House See Larger Image

Other Decorative Structures and Gates include:

  • Lion Gate
  • Brentford Gate
  • Main Gate
  • Victoria Gate
  • Japanese Gateway
  • Ruined Arch build in 1759 by Sir William Chambers
  • Temple of Aeolus built in the 1760's
  • Temple of Arethusa - near Victoria Gate
  • Temple of Bellona, named after the Roman goddess of ware
  • Temple of imagination - built in 2006

Visiting Kew If you attempting to make a trip to Kew it is advisable to take time to plan your visit. In our planning grids below we have tried to give you the basics of what you need to know, to get you there. However due to it's size (300 acres) and wealth of different items and aspects to see, it is not possible to do Kew in a single day, and on any visit you should allow at least 3-4 hours. For this reason it might be wise to take a look at their website and try to put an itinerary together of what you want to get in on your visit and anything you particularly want to photograph. Their PDF map shows the various locations of different items and should help you plan a trip so that you can take in an area at a time, but you will also then identify which of the 4 entrance gates you need to take for your visit.

They also have BulbWatch a page dedicated to letting you know which areas are festooned in colour from the many millions of bulbs they have planted including daffodils, snowdrops, crocus, bluebells etc

For the children there is Climbers and Creepers an indoor interactive botanical play zone, but they also have a Parents Survival Guide giving you some of idea of the sorts of places children will like most and therefore allow you to plan a suitable visit for the smaller people on your visit.

Japanese Gate and gardens

Further information Grid


Kew Gardens, Richmond, Surrey

Ceremonial County: Surrey

Grid Reference:


Map Link:


Aerial photo:

Google Aerial Photo



Best Times to Visit:

Any time - although during the spring and summer months when outdoor plants are in full bloom and autumn when trees are shedding their leaves will be at it's most colourful outside.





Other useful websites:


Nearby Locations: Kew Palace
Other Relevant pages: History of Kew Gardens

World Heritage Sites     

World Heritage Sites - Further Information

World Heritage Sites in the UK


Planning Grid


Kew Gardens, Richmond, Surrey

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

By Road: From M4 take junction 2 and then the A205 (South Circular) across the River Thames at Kew Bridge. It is well signposted from all major roads.

By Tube: From central London take the District Line to Richmond stops at Kew Gardens Station.


Four entrances:

Victoria Gate (principal entrance) off Kew Road, nearest to Kew Gardens station.

Main Gate is on Kew Green. nearest to Kew Bridge Station.

Brentford Gate is adjacent to the Car Park

Lion Gate is on Kew Road, the most southerly and nearest to centre of Richmond.


Car park near Brentford Gate, reached via Ferry Lane off Kew Green near the Main gate. Max 300 cards, costs 5 for full day.

Free parking available on Kew Road (A307) after 10am, although can get busy.

Limited parking for disabled drivers, 3 spaces at main gate and some spaces in main car park.


Kew Explorer Bus gives a running commentary of sights and you can hop on and off at any of 8 stops throughout the day, full tour takes 40 minutes. Four catering outlets and picnic spots. Two shops.

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Free guided walking tours start at 11am and 2pm from Victoria Gate Plaza.

What to take:

Macro, tripod, polarizer, reflector, sun hat and sun cream, something warm for colder months.

Nature highlights:

Woodlands, Bluebells, Buildings and Follies, carpets of daffodils, wildlife, lake and many different gardens. Different things at the different seasons of the year.


Royal Botanic Gardens







0208 332 5000 (main switchboard - office hours only)

0208 332 5655 (24 hour information line)

Opening times:

Open every day at 9.30am, except 24th and 25th December

Closes 27 Mar-29 Aug 6.30pm weekdays and 7.30pm weekends.

Closes 30 Aug-29 Oct 6pm; 30 Oct-4 Feb 4.15pm;
5 Feb-24 Mar 5.30pm

Glasshouses and Galleries: 9.30am-5.30pm

Xstrata Treetop Walkway: 9.30am-5.30pm weekdays and closes 6.30pm weekends

Climbers & Creepers: 27 Mar-29 Oct 10.30am-5.30pm,
30 Oct-4 Feb 10.30am-3.45pm, 5 Feb-24 Mar 10.30am-5pm

Kew Palace: 2 Apr-25 Sep 10am-4.15pm


Adults: 13.90; Concessions: 11.90; Children (under 17) FREE

Photo Restrictions:

Permission required for use of tripods in the glass houses. Permission is required for commercial photography/painting/filming/recording anywhere in the gardens.

Other Restrictions:

No bicycles/tricycles, roller skates, heelies, skateboards, scooters;

No vehicles other than powered wheelchairs;

No radios/cassette players; musical instruments.

No ball games/sports (including jogging);

No tree-climbing; or pruning or touching plants.

Children under 17 must be supervised by an adult at all times

Special Needs Access: Limited parking available. Electric wheelchairs are allowed into the gardens on footpaths. The footpaths and majority of buildings are suitable for wheelchair uses, however there is no wheelchair access to the aerial walkways in the Palm House and Temperate House, or the marine display in the Palm House basement. Carers of wheelchair users get FREE entry.
Special Needs Facilities: Wheelchairs can be borrowed free of charge and available at all main gates. Large print map. 3 mobility scooters free of charge (need to be booked in advance). Number of disabled toilets within easy reach of main attractions and gates.
Children Facilities:

Climbers & Creepers indoor play zone for 3-9 year olds. Underground tunnels of a Badger Sett and Stage Beetle Loggery. Treehouse Towers. Aquatic displays. Baby changing facilities in ladies toilets, most catering areas and in Climbers & Creepers.

Dogs Allowed: No dogs allowed except guide dogs.

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Tracey Park Section: Gardens Section Key:
Page Ref: kew_gardens Topic: Gardens Last Updated: 03/2011

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