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Kew Gardens

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, were added to the list because of their role in the history of botany and their landscape gardens. They are located in the London suburb of Richmond

The Botanic Gardens at Kew were formally established in 1759. The sponsor of the project was Princess Augusta. It aimed to create a garden which would "..contain all the plants known on Earth".

William Aiton was hired as gardener, and he devoted the gardens mainly to medicinal plants. International fame was brought upon Kew by Joseph Banks (1743-1820), who changed its direction to serious scientific and economic botanical purposes.

The architect William Chambers constructed a number of (oriental) decorative buildings at the site.

Map

Visit May 1987, January 2004

First visited it on the same schooltrip as Westminster. Some 17 years later I went back, mainly to add some better pictures to this site.

My second visit was cold and very slippery, and I was almost the only tourist around. From my previous visit I remembered the palm trees and cactuses. Probably that was the dry area in the Princess of Wales Conservatory: still interesting, but when you've just been to Northern Ethiopia like I have, you prefer the real thing.

After an hour or so I began to notice something else than nature: the neverending stream of planes that fly over Kew Gardens from or to Heathrow Airport.

Community Reviews


Tom Livesey - January 2017

Kew holds a special place for me because it was the first WHS I visited once I decided to embark on this esoteric hobby. It is also, now I live in London, my local WHS - being only 1.5 miles from my house. I've been a number of times since my first visit, in June 2013, and am now a member (entry is very pricey if you pay the normal entry fee).

I'm no herbiphile but it's always nice to enjoy the tropical environment of some of the glasshouses. Look out for the nine Water Dragons that live in the Princess of Wales Conservatory!


Tony Hunt - April 2014

I revisited Kew in April 2014.

My advice to first-time visitors is a) don't be put off by the airliners every 2 minutes - you'll get used to them: b) don't miss Kew Palace - it's tiny compared to WHS palaces like Versailles or Caserta but that's the point, George III lived frugally unlike autocratic monarchs elsewhere (Palace and kitchens now included in the entry price for the gardens); c) avoid the White Peaks café area - the historic Orangery does snacks as well as meals and is quiet and airy.

One of the big historic glass-houses - the Temperate House - is empty awaiting repairs to be completed 2018, but the other, the Palm House has been repaired and is open. The Pagoda may disappoint - there is no access and it lost its 80 gilded dragons long ago. The new Alpine House is a tiny gem and the Princess of Wales Conservatory should not be missed. Easily overlooked but one of my favourite buildings is the Marianne North Gallery built in C19 specifically to display the life work of a maiden lady who travelled the world painting plants and landscapes rather well.

Finally, of course the plants, trees and landscaping at Kew are wonderful - best to allow a whole day to see it all.


Klaus Freisinger - September 2013

There is not much more to add to the other reviews about Kew Gardens - it makes for a very nice half-day excursion from the hustle and bustle of central London (after a while you even forget the planes flying directly overhead). Even if you are not that much into plants and horticulture, this is the one botanic garden in the world that you shouldn't miss. I went there on a warm and pleasant summer afternoon, and it was really nice to take a leisurely stroll through the garden and see the various greenhouses and other attractions. My highlight was the Princess of Wales Conservatory, which includes 10 climate zones from around the world. I also liked the huge Palm House, the Waterlily House, the Alpine House, the Japanese Garden, and the former royal palace with the Queen's Garden. Before leaving, I also enjoyed the views from the Treetop Walkway, 18 metres above ground (even though I cheated and took the lift to reach it...).


Clyde - July 2013

I visited this WHS in June 2013. The ironwork is still intact and well preserved. Obviously this is just the cherry on the cake, since Kew Gardens are world famous for the collection of plants and flowers. My personal favourites were the lily pads and the carnivorous pitcher plants. The cacti were very interesting but I felt that the cacti in YSL's Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech were better kept. Only negative point about this WHS is that it is en route to Heathrow which means that every minute 2-3 planes fly over it. Very annoying if you like peace and quiet ... bring your earphones and listen to some music and it'll do the trick :)


Frederik Dawson - May 2013

I have to say that I am extremely skeptical with historic botanical garden, after I have a very disappointing experience with the UNESCO’s listed Orto Botanico of Padua in Italy; as a result, before I decided to include Kew in my plan I had to ask many people who had been to this place to confirm my misrepresentation toward the site. At the end Kew turned out to be one of the top sites in my England Tour with many surprisingly reasons. When I entered the garden the first thing I saw was not a tree or flower but a peacock! This creature welcomed me at the gate, my mind was in great curiosity that “Am I entering Maharaja’s Garden?”

Liked a spell I followed that lovely peacock until I saw the landmark of this garden, the conservatory building, a masterpiece of Victorian Age. When I entered the building while I was wandered with many beautiful plants, I was upset with the moist that covered my camera lens and my glasses. Then I walked around the garden to see other attractions, I was surprised with the quality of landscape garden, in my opinion, Kew was equally impressive with many royal parks in Europe. There were Chinese pagoda, Chinese lions, Roman temple, bridges and even modern structure to bring me to the tree top observation. It was a great sight to see the sea of violet crocus in almost every corners of the forest garden in early spring with modern art sculptures by David Nash that located in the garden as an exhibition.

Another surprised for me was the souvenir shop; Kew had many unique types of merchandise that were perfect for gifts from toiletries like soap, lotion, balm made from lavender, rose and other flower from the garden to kitchenware and stationary. I really enjoyed browsing these products and end up with many gifts to my family and friend. At the end Kew turn out to change my idea on visiting botanical garden. I really enjoyed the visit and after discovered the high quality of the product I bought, I really want to visit Kew to see that peacock and souvenir shop again.


Hubert Scharnagl - March 2012

The highlights at Kew Gardens are the two greenhouses from the Victorian period, the Temperate House and the Palm House. Both are marvellous examples of glass and iron structures. The sheer size of the Temperate House is impressive and the diversity of plants is incredible. I liked best to climb the spiral stairs and to walk around the galleries (photo). I visited Kew Gardens together with a biologist, which was a double-edged experience. She knew almost all the plants and it was interesting to hear a lot of details about all these exotic species, their habitats and characteristics. On the other hand, it was often exhausting to go just a few steps forwards to the next plant. And now I have hundreds of photos of plants and details of plants on my computer, in addition to the many pictures of the buildings themselves, which I took.

Also worth visiting is the modern Princess of Wales Conservatory, which houses plants from ten different climatic zones. It was opened in the 1980s, and it is interesting to compare its modern architecture with the Victorian greenhouses. Not to be missed are the beautiful Waterlily House and the small Alpine House. And I was very impressed by the old giant trees that are everywhere throughout the park. There is also a Royal Palace, the Kew Palace, but we decided not to visit - plants were clearly the topic of the day. For the way back, we took a boat to Westminster. That was very relaxing and a wonderful end of an exhausting day trip.


Fiona - August 2009

Kew Gardens is one my favourite places in the whole, wide world. I love the plethora of plants, the fabulous flowers, the walks through the different houses that give me different views of different places. I love the Rhodedendron Walk and the huge trees, the panoramas, the bamboo groves, the swaths of daffodils in spring, the Alpine House with all those miniature plants and flowers, including Edelweiss, if you like "The Sound Of Music" and ever wondered, like me, what the edelweiss actually looks like. The Palm House is an extraordinary piece of architecture. I was lucky enough to go to Kew when they had just finished renovating the House but before they put all the plants back, and was able to sneak in there and take some pictures of those lovely spiral stairs. The Princess of Wales House has 10 different ecosystems in it, and I think it is fascinating...I don't know that I will ever get to the high desert in the Andes, but I know what some of the plants there look like! And of course, the tropical rainforest is lush and magical - what a great place to go to when London is grey and dank and cold! Kew Gardens is a magical place, and PBS recently showed an intriguing series: A Year At Kew, that showed some of the things that go on in the background, what it takes to maintain Kew and have it stay viable as a resource. I think well worth going to, and I always visit at least once when I go to London.


Tony H. - July 2009

I visited this site back in June 2005 and I didn't know then that it is WHS. I wanted visit this site because it's the best place to spot wild parrots in London. The garden was beautiful and peaceful place (after you get used to noises from planes), tube station is located near it and I spotted parrots (and many other bird species)! I spent the whole day walking around the park. My favourite part was the pagoda. I felt like I was in China or Japan.


Rita - May 2009

A longtime dream turning true: visiting Kew gardens. One day is not enough for an amateur botanist but what can a tourist do? Memories in a couple of words: the royal home is worth a visit, well shows what life was like for the elite way back in time, the exhibition area has always something new to offer, the palm house which is incredibly huge with all the plants you will never see in the wild. The most surprising feature? The airplanes flying low (with the noise which accompanies such a sight) to reach Heathrow.


Kevin Verboven - September 2008

I visited the Kew Gardens in septembre 2009. I particularly liked the glass houses. I loved walking through these old Victorian creations. The temperate house even contained plants from the Lord Howe Island world heritage site. I expected more flowers in the park itself but nonetheless I enjoyed seeing this site. It's a very nice place to walk through and to enjoy the scenery.


Assif Am-David

I have been to Kew Gardens twice, once in summertime and once in wintertime. As I come from a coutry which enjoys exceptionally mild winters I couldn't have really imagined that seasonal differences would be so extreme. But they were indeed. Behold - Do not visit Kew Gardens in the winter! It is a relatively long ride from central London, costly tickets and in the winter, a dreary atmosphere and a vacant expression. Not very rewarding, to say the least. Conversly, a summer visit is a lovely experience! For the merits of the gardens do read other comments.


Ian Cade

In 2003 Kew became London's 4th!! UNESCO site. It is set next to the river Thames upriver from central London. The grounds themselves are actually quite expansive and could easily fill a whole day if you wanted to really get into them. The main site is the large Palm House and the plants are quite interesting (and hot especially up on the raised walkway!), I must admit I am not really into horticulture but there was enough to satisfy me.

The main point of interest for me though was the building itself, I am a big fan of wrought Iron and glass and this is perhaps the best example I have seen of it, the spiral stair cases are brilliant.

The other glass houses house some great exhibits, carnivorous plants and the largest flower in the world being two examples and there is plenty here to keep you entertained. Then there are other small little things around, such as a Japanese Garden and a large Pagoda all set in well kept gardens.

Kew is pretty easy to get to it has a tube station and if you are travelling by car it has the holiest of holies in London free parking (if you are lucky that is)!!!

It is well worth a visit if you have some spare time and have seen the important parts of Central London.


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Site Info

Full name: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Site History

Locations

The site has 1 locations.

  • Kew Gardens

Connections

The site has 31 connections.

Architecture

  • Chinoiserie (Pagoda - 1762)
  • Designed by famous architects Kew Palm House, Temperate House, Water Lily House, Main Gate - Decimus Burton
  • English garden "The landscape gardens and the edifices created by celebrated artists such as Charles Bridgeman, William Kent, Lancelot ?Capability? Brown and William Chambers reflect the beginning of movements which were to have international influence."
  • Iron Structures Kew Palm House - wrought iron frame
  • Japanese garden "Centred around Chokushi-Mon and covering an area of approximately 5,000 square metres, the Japanese landscape consists of three garden areas, designed to give an impression of some of the many different aspects of Japanese gardens." (Wiki)

Constructions

  • Greenhouse The Palm House was built by architect Decimus Burton and iron-maker Richard Turner between 1844 and 1848, and was the first large-scale structural use of wrought iron. The structure's panes of glass are all hand-blown. The Temperate house, which is twice as large as the Palm House, followed later in the 19th century. It is now the largest Victorian glasshouse in existence (wiki)
  • Libraries Created 1852 - one of the world's major botanical libraries
  • Monumental Fountains Hercules
  • Notable Bridges The Sackler Crossing
  • Octagons Pagoda

History

  • Contains significant structures from the 20th Century Princess of Wales Conservatory (1987)
  • Contains significant structures from the 21st Century The Sackler Crossing
  • Diplomatic Missions of Joseon Envoy Min Yonghwan 23 June 1897 (Lunar date: 24/5) Bright. "At 6:00 P.M. together with our official companion, Cavendish, we went to a large park ..Inside the park there was a greenhouse. It was more than ten chang high and was covered with glass. Inside, it was a spacious circular shape with a spiral staircase going upward. There were many rare plants and flowers from every country: azalea three or four chang high, hemp palms, bay trees all several chang high, olive palms, orange trees, mandarin orange trees, and a type of plantain, which were double the usual size."

Human Activity

Individual People

  • Captain James Cook First voyage 1766-71. Accompanied by the botanists Joseph Banks and Herman Sp?ring Jr. The discoveries they made during this voyage played a part on the initiation of the colections at Kew and Banks became the second Director of the Gardens
  • King Chulalongkorn of Siam (Rama V) (1 August)
  • Marianne North Donated her collection to the Gardens and, during the 1880's, had a gallery erected there to house them (reopened 2009 after restoration).
  • Queen Victoria Queen Victoria agreed to open Kew Palace to the public in 1898 + Victoria Gate
  • Queens and Empresses Queen Victoria added part of Kew Green to the Gardens to make a grand entrance for the public (Decimus Burton's Main Gate)

Timeline

Trivia

WHS Hotspots

World Heritage Process