Day Trip To Kew Gardens, London | Ultimate Guide By A Local

Last Updated on May 8, 2023 by Goya

Welcome to the ultimate guide to a day trip to Kew Gardens, London, by yours truly — a local and a Kew member who frequents the botanical gardens often.

As a longtime resident of Kew, I have had the pleasure of enjoying the beautiful scenery and engaging with the diverse array of flora and fauna that the gardens have to offer. In this guide, I will share my insider knowledge to help you plan the perfect day trip to Kew Gardens that will leave you captivated by the beauty and tranquillity of this natural wonderland.

Whether you’re a seasoned nature enthusiast or simply looking for a serene escape from the bustle of the city, this ultimate guide is your key to an unforgettable adventure in Kew Gardens. So grab your walking shoes and let’s get started!

Kew Gardens in a Nutshell

Day Trip To Kew Gardens, London: Flowers

What is Kew Gardens and Where Is It Located?

Nestled in the quaint borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, in southwest London, Kew Gardens is one of England’s most beloved attractions. With more than 300 acres of grounds filled with lush greenery and awe-inspiring botanical displays, Kew Gardens is a true paradise for nature lovers.

Upon arrival, visitors are treated to an amazing array of flora and fauna from every corner of the globe, as well as historical monuments that date back to the 18th century. As you explore this blissful sanctuary, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a vibrant community of gardeners and horticulturists who are passionate about preserving and protecting the park’s rich heritage for generations to come.

Map of Kew Gardens

Before embarking on your Kew Gardens adventure, it’s essential to have a detailed map of the park’s vast and intricate grounds:

Map of Kew Gardens for those planning a day trip to Kew Gardens

History of Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens has a long history dating back to the 16th century when privately owned gardens were tended there. In 1731, the site was acquired by Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales, and later by Augusta, the Dowager Princess of Wales, who established an exotic plant garden in 1759. The gardens rapidly grew to over 3,400 plant species by 1769. Sir Joseph Banks managed the gardens from 1772 to 1819, during which the collections expanded to include plants from all over the world.

Under the leadership of Sir William Jackson Hooker and his son Joseph Dalton Hooker, the gardens became a hub for scientific research and the exchange of plant specimens, further cementing their worldwide reputation.

The UK’s government purchased the gardens in 1840, and by the early 20th century, the gardens increased in size to encompass the current 300 acres (120 hectares) of land.

In 2003, UNESCO recognised Kew Gardens as a World Heritage Site.

Is Kew Gardens Worth Visiting?

The answer is a resounding yes! Whether you’re interested in uncovering centuries-old secrets or simply want to appreciate some breathtaking views, a visit to Kew Gardens will not disappoint. There are over 50 different gardens and structures within its boundaries, so there’s something for everyone. The Palm House and the Temperate House alone are worth seeing. While strolling through their maze-like interior you can admire an impressive collection of plants from all over the world.

Top 11 Things To See At Kew Gardens

#1: The Great Pagoda

Nestled within Kew Gardens is a true marvel of architecture and engineering, the Great Pagoda. Standing tall at 163 feet, it is hard to miss the imposing structure with its 80 golden dragons adorning the roofs. Completed in 1761 as a gift for Princess Augusta, the founder of the Gardens, it was one of several Chinese-style buildings designed by the architect, Sir William Chambers. Though it was initially constructed as a “folly,” a decorative structure without any practical purpose, it has since become an integral part of Kew’s history.

Once a royal retreat, the Great Pagoda’s height allowed for a stunning bird’s eye view of London, and its unique silhouette could be seen from miles around. Today, visitors can climb the 253 steps to the top of the Pagoda and marvel at the breathtaking view of the city, just as the royals once did.

Visiting Kew Gardens is an unforgettable experience, and the Great Pagoda is undoubtedly one of its most treasured gems. Rich in history and architectural beauty, the Pagoda will leave any visitor on a day trip to Kew Gardens awestruck and inspired.

Day Trip to Kew Gardens

Opening times: Daily from 11 am (Last entry 4 pm)
Nearest entrance: Lion Gate

#2: The Japanese Landscape

The Japanese Landscape is a breathtaking fusion of three distinct gardens — the harmonious Garden of Peace, the dynamic Garden of Activity, and the tranquil Garden of Harmony. Designed in 1996 by Professor Fukuhara of Osaka University, the gardens showcase a perfect blend of art, nature, and human ingenuity and lead the visitors to a serene and wholly unique environment.

The Garden of Peace, accessible through the main entrance, is a haven of tranquillity. Here, you can pause beside a slowly dripping water basin, step across ornate stepping-stones over a meandering stream, and admire the beauty of manicured greenery and traditional Japanese lanterns.

The Garden of Activity, an exciting space meant to evoke the feeling of natural waterfalls, mountains, and the sea, is a remarkable sight to behold. You can experience the zen of the raked gravel, and let large rocks inspire the feeling of water flowing and tumbling.

The Garden of Harmony combines the two environments, uniting the movement of water and the peacefulness of the natural environment. You can get lost in the beauty of carefully planted shrubs and the neatly clipped hedges of Rhododendron ‘Mother’s Day’ and Japanese anemone, representing mountainous landscapes and rock formations.

Day Trip to Kew Gardens

Nearest entrance: Lion Gate

#3: The Temperate House

You can discover the world’s unique plant life in Kew’s Temperate House, a glittering cathedral of horticulture. Home to 10,000 individual plants from 1500 plant species originating from six of the world’s temperate zones including Africa, Asia, Australia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas, this house underwent a glorious five-year renovation and reopened to the public in 2018.

Built to provide a habitat for temperate plants, all species within the Temperate House require temperatures above 10°C to survive. Many of these plants are rare and threatened, and the house tells the story of how Kew and global partners are working to preserve them for future generations.

With its rich history of over 250 years of plant expertise, the Temperate House stands as Kew’s icon and the beating heart of plant science. So, don’t miss a visit to this spectacular house that’s been voted ‘Best UK National Treasure’ at the 2018 National Geographic Traveller Magazine Reader Awards, on your day trip to Kew Gardens.

Opening times: Daily, 10 am to 5 pm
Nearest entrance: Lion Gate

#4: The Treetop Walkway

The Treetop Walkway is a unique pathway that reveals the hidden secrets of woods and forests. Here, you can:

  • Take to the skies and explore Kew’s treetops on the 18-meter-high pathway through the branches of sweet chestnut, beech, horse chestnut, and oak trees that border the walkway.
  • Or observe the complex ecosystem of the trees’ uppermost branches, buzzing with life, including birds, insects, lichen, and fungi.
  • Take a closer look at the microscopic elements of trees and how they grow, at ground level.

Opening times: Daily, 10 am to 6 pm (last entry 5.45 pm)
Nearest entrance: Lion Gate

#5: Woodland Walk

Step away from the manicured grounds of Kew and into a wild, untamed paradise full of life and vibrant beauty. Explore the Woodland Walk at Kew, a raised trail that hugs the River Thames and takes you on an awe-inspiring journey through the Natural Area (37 acres of classic woodland) gifted to Kew by Queen Victoria. Delight in the rustic charm as you meander along this shady path lined with tall grasses, wildflowers and whispering trees; marvel at the kaleidoscopic flutter of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies as they engage in a captivating aerial ballet. Lose yourself in this tranquil oasis – all without disturbing its habitat – for an unforgettable nature experience.

Day Trip to Kew Gardens

Nearest entrance: Lion Gate

#6: The Palm House

Discover the magical rainforest of Kew’s Palm House. Explore its dense vegetation and uncover ancient treasures, like the oldest pot plant in the world or the disease-fighting periwinkle. From rubber trees to African oil palms and cocoa trees, these plants provide huge value for their fruit, timber, spices or medicine. Rainforest plants cover only 2% of the Earth’s surface yet make up 50% of species – vital for sustaining life on Earth. Use your visit to this living laboratory as a chance to glimpse tropical regions around the world and support Kew scientists’ research into medicine and sustainable cropping.

Day Trip to Kew Gardens

Opening times: Daily, 10 am to 5 pm
Nearest entrance: Victoria Gate

#7: The Marianne North Gallery

Admire the artistic masterpiece, the Marianne North Gallery in Kew Gardens, with more than 800 remarkable paintings that invite you to enter a world of botanical beauty. As you take a leisurely stroll through this atmospheric space, be enchanted by North’s collection of vibrant 19th-century botanical art. She was a woman ahead of her time, unafraid to break convention; travelling the world solo to capture the mysterious elegance of exotic plants from every corner of the world. Capturing these ethereal moments with her brush, she defied Victorian flower painting traditions and documented the dramatic landscapes she visited and the plants that captivated her. Now, visitors have the unique opportunity to experience North’s vast collection in all its glory – an unforgettable journey through nature’s magnificent creations.

Day Trip to Kew Gardens

Opening times: Daily, 10 am to 5 pm
Nearest entrance: Victoria Gate

#8: The Princess Of Wales Conservatory

Take a journey of wonder through the Princess of Wales Conservatory, an exquisite glassy labyrinth leading you to ten magical climate zones. Uncover other-worldly plant species like the Venus Flytrap and Pitcher Plant as they remain in suspended animation awaiting their next meal. Traverse from sun-scorched deserts to lush tropical forests; spiky cacti and succulents transition into orchid-filled havens full of steamy mist. In the wet tropics, witness the mesmerising beauty of a giant waterlily opening its luminous white blooms at sunset, pollinated by morning’s light and abloom with dazzling hot pink petals. Prepare for a captivating experience that is sure to delight your senses.

Opening times: Daily, 10 am to 5 pm
Nearest entrance: Elizabeth Gate

#9: The Hive

On your day trip to Kew Gardens, don’t forget to admire the creative genius of The Hive, an awe-inspiring, open-air installation designed by UK-based artist Wolfgang Buttress, where you can embark on an immersive experience that celebrates Britain’s honeybees and their powerful role in sustaining life as we know it while admiring its magnetic beauty from every angle.

Step into The Hive and feel the drama of life inside a real beehive come alive as you enter the imposing 17-metre-tall structure and discover first-hand its bustling inner workings. Let thousand LED lights which respond to the vibrations of bees that exist in the gardens enchant you; marvel as a symphony of sound in C – the same key that bees hum along – fills your ears. A unique opportunity to explore the secret life of bees on a human scale, The Hive is a space to celebrate their powerful role in sustaining life as we know it – and admire its magnetic beauty from every angle.

Day Trip to Kew Gardens

Nearest entrance: Elizabeth Gate

#10: The Davies Alpine House

Step into the world of alpine plants and explore Davies Alpine House at Kew Gardens. Witness first-hand the resilient nature of these plants as you wind your way through an immersive display of bright purple campanulas, bold pink dianthus, ferns, fragrant lavenders and other unique species adapted to survive in the high-altitude territory. Delight in their beauty while learning how they can survive in conditions from the Arctic to the Alps or the Andes – in the wild, they spend winter dormant and dry, taking advantage of melting snow come spring.

Discover the genius behind this energy-efficient structure – designed to recreate the dry, cool, windy conditions alpines need to thrive without air conditioning and wind pumps. These two back-to-back arched building creates a stack effect that draws warm air out whilst below ground an efficient concrete labyrinth cools the air that is recirculated around it; all set against a stunning backdrop of low-iron glass for maximum light transmission. Enjoy a unique opportunity to explore these remarkable plants surrounded by breathtaking views.

Opening Hours: Daily, 10 am to 5 pm
Nearest entrance: Elizabeth Gate

#11: Bamboo Garden and Minka House

Follow the undulating paths of Kew Gardens and uncover a hidden sanctuary in its deepest corners, where nature’s tallest grasses tower in abundance and an old, traditional Japanese farmhouse waits patiently to take you back in time. The Bamboo Garden is home to 130 bamboo species from China, Japan, the Himalayas and the Americas – with dramatic leaf shapes, cascading fountain-like foliage and durable plastic barriers to contain the rapid growth of some invasive species.

Meaning ‘houses of the people’, ‘Minka’ describes the simple homes that flourished throughout Japan until the mid-20th century. Bushes of sacred bamboo are planted around Kew’s Minka House — former home to the Yonezu family before their main house was bombed in 1945 — believed to dispel bad dreams.

An impressive feat of unsung architecture awaits as you wander inside. Gaze upon its intricate patterns; examine how its wood has weathered with age; imagine life within these walls when it was alive with the laughter and traditions of generations gone by. Revel in this romantic treasure trove where history collides head-on with culture for an unmissable experience.

Nearest entrance: Brentford Gate

Planning Your Visit

Here you can find the opening hours, the different ways to access the gardens, the best time to visit, and where to grab a bite to eat during your day trip to Kew Gardens. So keep on reading to discover everything you need to know about planning your day trip to Kew Gardens!

Day Trip to Kew Gardens

#1: Kew Gardens Opening Hours

Kew Gardens Opening Times 2023

1 April to 30 April 2023

Daily, 10 am* to 7 pm (last entry 6 pm)

1 May to 31 August 2023

Monday to Friday, 10 am to 7pm† (last entry 6 pm)

Saturday, Sundays & Bank Holidays, 10 am to 8pm† (last entry 7 pm)

†The Gardens to close early at 4 pm on 27 July and 10 August for Summer Cycle and 5 pm from 11 to 16 July for Kew The Music 

1 to 30 September 2023

Daily, 10am‡ to 7 pm (last entry 6 pm)

‡The Gardens to open later at 11 am on 9 and 10 September due to Richmond Runfest

1 to 28 October 2023

Daily, 10 am to 6 pm (last entry 5 pm)

29 October to 13 November 2023

Daily, 10 am to 4 pm (last entry 3 pm)

Kew Gardens Opening Times 2023/24

14 November 2023 to 7 January 2024

Daily§, 10 am to 3 pm (last entry 2 pm)

§The Gardens to be closed on 24 and 25 December

8 January to 31 January 2024

Daily, 10 am to 4 pm (last entry 3 pm)

1 February to 29 February 2024

Daily, 10 am to 5 pm (last entry 4 pm)

1 March to 31 March 2024

Daily, 10 am to 6 pm (last entry 5 pm)

#2: Getting To Kew Gardens

By Tube or Overground: Kew Gardens has its own station (Kew Gardens) on the District Line that connects it directly to central London stations such as Waterloo and Victoria Station. The station is 500m from Victoria Gate.

By Train: South West Trains run services from Waterloo through Vauxhall and Clapham Junction to Kew Bridge station, which is 800m away from Elizabeth Gate via Kew Bridge. Alternatively, Richmond Station has a lift and level access and visitors can take the 65 bus (in the direction of Ealing Broadway) to Lion or Victoria Gate.

By Bus: Visitors travelling to Kew Gardens by bus can take Route 65, which stops close to Lion Gate, Elizabeth Gate and Victoria Gate. Route 110 also stops near Kew Gardens station and Elizabeth Gate. Routes 237 and 267 stop at Kew Bridge station.

By Boat (Westminster Pier to Kew Gardens): If you would like to visit Kew Gardens by boat, Thames River Boats operate a special service from Westminster Pier to Kew Pier. Elizabeth Gate, the closest entrance to Kew Pier, is only a 0.2-mile walk away across Kew Green. Timings for this service are 11 am and 2.30 pm from Westminster and 12.30 pm, 3.30 pm and 5 pm from Kew.

By Car: There is limited parking available near the Brentford Gate for those who plan on driving to the gardens.

Bicycle racks are available at all four gates of Kew Gardens, with the racks at Elizabeth Gate and Victoria Gate located inside the gates behind the booths.

Kew Gardens Gates

There are four main gates that provide access to Kew Gardens. These are the Elizabeth Gate, Brentford Gate, Victoria Gate, and Lion Gate. You can refer to the map for their exact locations.

#3: Best Time To Visit The Kew Gardens

Wondering when is the best time to visit the Kew Gardens? Well, that depends entirely on what you want to see; if you’re looking for vibrant blooms then April through May or September through October are your best bet.

In the summer months, visitors can take part in daily activities such as guided walks, talks and children’s activities, as well as special events such as the annual summer music festival Kew the Music and open-air performances by Theatre on Kew.

On the other hand, in wintertime, the gardens host Christmas at Kew — a festive annual event and a London Christmas highlight, offering visitors a chance to explore the gardens amidst a magical winter wonderland setting. The event features various light shows, installations, and interactive experiences tailored around a festive theme. The breathtaking light shows, from laser displays to stunning illuminations, create an enchanted experience.

"Christmas at Kew" is one of the best things to do in London at Christmas time

NOTE: Visitors should be aware that some areas may be closed during extreme weather conditions so always check before planning your visit!

#4: Where to Eat at Kew Gardens?

Kew Gardens offers a wide range of dining options to suit all tastes and budgets. Whether you’re looking for a quick snack or a more extravagant dining experience, you’ll find plenty of options to choose from on your day trip to Kew Gardens:

  • The Botanical Brasserie: This is Kew Garden’s flagship restaurant located in a magnificent Grade 2 listed building overlooking the pond and Palm House. It offers a quintessentially British dining experience featuring delicious seasonal dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, as well as traditional afternoon tea.
  • The Orangery: Set in a stunning 18th-century building, The Orangery offers light bites and delicious cakes in elegant surroundings. [*Closed for refurbishment until late Spring 2023.]
  • Pavilion Bar and Grill: For a more relaxed dining experience, the Pavilion is an excellent choice. Situated in a picturesque spot overlooking the lake, this bar and grill offer a range of delicious barbecue dishes and refreshments.
  • Victoria Plaza Café: If you’re looking for a quick bite, the Victoria Plaza Café is the perfect spot. Located in a peaceful area of the park, this charming cafe offers a selection of sandwiches, cakes, and drinks that you can enjoy indoors or outdoors.
  • Family Kitchen & Shop: From stone-baked pizzas and hearty salads to freshly prepared sandwiches, mouthwatering dishes from the hot counter and delicious ice cream served up by an expert team of chefs, this is the perfect hangout for the whole family.
Day Trip to Kew Gardens

Additional Information & Insider Tips

Accessibility at Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens is proud to be welcoming and accessible to all visitors. Whether you are an individual with hidden impairments or a group visiting with a disability, the team at Kew Gardens will do their best to ensure your visit is as enjoyable as possible.

Their accessible facilities include ramped access points, wheelchair hire and a complimentary wheelchair assistant service, specialised tours and activities, and dedicated changing places.

For further information on accessibility ahead of your day trip to Kew Gardens, you can refer to their website.

Kew Gardens Membership

Becoming a Kew Gardens Member allows you to enjoy exclusive access to their world-renowned botanic gardens all year round. With the membership, you will not only get unlimited entry to Kew, but you will also benefit from discounts at Kew shops, cafes and events, be eligible for priority booking on special events throughout the year, receive complimentary admission to Kew’s partner gardens across the UK, and help support the vital research that takes place at Kew.

As a Kew Gardens Member, I especially enjoy having the freedom to enter the gardens whenever I feel like taking a relaxing walk. As part of our Family Membership (two adults), we are also able to bring one family guest each, plus up to four children (aged 4 to 15) – making it perfect for days out with family and friends. With unlimited free entry to both Kew Gardens and Wakehurst, discounts in shops and cafes and priority booking on special events throughout the year, membership is definitely worth the investment for anyone who plans to visit the gardens more than once a year!

Little Known Facts About Kew Gardens

  • At the world-renowned Royal Kew Gardens lies a remarkable specimen, the oldest pot plant in the world. Collected in 1775 by Frances Masson during one of Captain Cook’s voyages from South Africa, this Jurassic cycad (Encephalartos altensteinii) is kept safe inside Kew’s Palm House.
  • The Gardens are home to the smallest royal palace in the country; the Grade I-listed Kew Palace.
  • The paddock next to Queen Charlotte’s Cottage was home to a menagerie of exotic animals from 1792. This included colourful Tartarian pheasants and the very first kangaroos to arrive in Britain.
  • Two planes have crash-landed in the Gardens throughout its history. In 1928, a single-seater Siskin aircraft came down near Syon Vista but the pilot managed to escape unharmed with the help of his parachute. Another crash happened in 1938; an aircraft pulling an advertising banner had to make an emergency landing near the Palm House but there were no casualties.
  • Kew Gardens has its own Police Force, and at some point also had its own Kew Fire Brigade (now covered by Richmond Fire Brigade).
  • Day trip to Kew Gardens left you asking for more? Well, lucky for you, you can actually hold corporate and private events, or even get married at Kew!

Insider Tips

  • Prefer your meals more al fresco? No problem — You can pick up some food and drinks from Gail’s, Tesco, Starbucks, or The Good Wine Shop Kew by the Kew Gardens tube station, and have a picnic in any green space you fancy. Don’t forget to bring your picnic blanket!
  • Limited in terms of mobility, or simply prefer being given a lay of the land beforehand? Then, you may want to jump on the Kew Explorer land train that takes visitors on a guided tour of Royal Kew Gardens.
  • Waterlily House, one of the most beautiful spots in the Kew Gardens in my opinion, is closed every winter due to reduced natural light levels and cold temperatures making it too challenging to cultivate tropical water lilies. So if you want to marvel at these delicate flowers floating atop lily pads, you will need to visit in the summertime.
Day Trip to Kew Gardens

FAQs | Visiting Kew Gardens

Why Visit Kew Gardens?

Kew Gardens is home to an impressive array of plants and trees, many of which are rare or endangered. It is also one of the world’s leading botanical research facilities and holds more than 8 million specimens from around the globe. The gardens contain a wealth of historical buildings and structures such as greenhouses, pagodas, treehouses and water features that create an idyllic atmosphere for visitors.

How Long Does It Take to Walk Around Kew Gardens?

It takes around 2-3 hours to walk around the Kew Gardens, that is of course with a minimal amount of stops. I would recommend spending at least four hours exploring the Kew Gardens. There is plenty to do and see, so you will have lots of opportunities to take in the stunning scenery while you walk around. You can even bring a picnic or grab lunch from one of the eateries located throughout the grounds. A bit of extra time spent here (and ideally turning it into a day trip to Kew Gardens) will give you chance to really enjoy your day!

How Long to Spend at Kew Gardens?

It depends on your interests, but a visit to Kew Gardens can last anywhere from two hours to a whole day. Generally, visitors should spend at least 3-4 hours exploring Kew Gardens.

Can You Take Dogs to Kew Gardens?

Unfortunately, the gardens are not pet-friendly. Only registered disability assistance dogs are allowed in the gardens.

How Much Are the Tickets to Visit the Kew Gardens?

Ticket prices depend on the ticket type and the time of visit. For detailed information, you can visit this page which has the latest information.

Is Kew Gardens Free to National Trust Members?

If you are a member of the National Trust, please note that Kew Gardens is not included in your membership and requires an additional general admission fee.

When Do the Kew Gardens Open?

Kew Gardens’ opening hours vary depending on seasonality or events, however generally they open between 10 am-5 pm daily (last entry: 4 pm), and longer during summertime.

Is There a Gift Shop at Kew Gardens?

Yes, there are 4 gift shops in Kew Gardens: Victoria Plaza Shop (the biggest), Pavilion Shop, Galleries Gift Shop and Family Kitchen & Shop.

Final Thoughts: Day Trip To Kew Gardens

With its stunning landscapes, diverse plant life, historic charm and endless opportunities for exploration, there’s no wonder why Kew Gardens continues to attract tourists all year round!

Whether you’re visiting London or just looking for a peaceful escape from everyday life — a day trip to Kew Gardens won’t disappoint! So why not plan your next visit today and experience firsthand how this royal botanical garden brings centuries-old history alive with its beautiful gardens and captivating sights awaiting discovery?

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Hi there!

Welcome to my little corner for all things London, travel, food and wine! Why not join me on Instagram where you can follow my travel- and food-capades in real-time? Or leave a comment/send a message? I would love to hear from you! Lots of love, GG

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  1. Marika wrote:

    OMG! I had no clue Kew Gardens is so big. I went years ago and don’t remember it being that big, haha. I definitely need to visit again.

    Posted 4.22.23 Reply
    • Goya wrote:

      Oh, it is huge and yes, definitely well worth another visit – especially now when everything is in bloom or in summertime when they will start hosting a number of events!

      Posted 4.23.23 Reply