Kew Gardens – The Insider’s Guide
by Nina Christopoulou
One of the most wonderful city breaks you can pick, when you want a breather from normal city activities, is a day trip to Kew Gardens. In the very unlikely scenario that you have never heard of Kew Gardens until now, it’s situated in the South West of London, it’s the largest UNESCO world heritage site in London and it has an astounding 250 years of history. However, in all of its beauty, Kew gardens is also an estate of over 121 hectares! This kind of size cannot be roamed within a day, so we came up with the most comprehensive guide detailing the must-see exhibits… so that the £14 ticket does not go to waste!
1. The Waterlily House
Much like Monet’s creations, The Waterlily House has a fairytale element to it. It is an undoubtedly impressive glasshouse, which boasts a beautiful pond full of waterlilies. In case you are unimpressed by the idea of waterlilies, perhaps the fact that this pond hosts gigantic Amazon waterlilies, which are able to withstand the weight of a small child, might persuade you it’s well worth the trip.
2. The Hive
This experience does not fit your average botanical display, with an audio visual stimuli that is directly linked to nature. Confused? Let’s clear it up for you: The Hive is constructed from 170,000 individual aluminum pieces and has a thousand lights and speakers embedded within. The entire construction is linked with the activity of a nearby beehive, therefore digitally “echoing” the hustle and bustle of a bee colony, and immersing you in their life while making a statement about the significance of bees in our ecosystem. The multi-award winning construction was introduced in the UK’s pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo, and commonsensically consists the most popular attraction at Kew, so you should make it a top priority when visiting!
3. The Palm House
If you are an avid user of Instagram, it’s probable you have come across this architectural marvel on numerous occasions. The iconic Victorian building dates as far back as 1844, and is home to a mesmerising collection of tropical plants. One thing is for sure: you will feel as if you have been transported outside of London! For an added touch of magic, the pond and ornate flower beds in front of the Palm House create a scenery not to be missed.
4. Temperate House
Another beautiful structure (yes, Kew is full of those as you may have guessed by now!), Temperate House is huge (the world’s biggest Victorian glasshouse to be precise) and home to temperate zone plants. The most impressive aspect of this exhibit is the large selection of rare and most threatened plants, which – in the framework of climate change – is also a testament to the crucial role that Kew plays in safeguarding rare and threatened plants from extinction.
5. The Prince of Wales Conservatory
The moment you set foot in this conservatory, you are left wondering what kind of exotic destination it reminds you of the most… The jungle-like construction is perfection, and a walk through it will let you gaze at many tropical plants, cacti and orchids – with the most impressive among them being the carnivore plants. Fun fact: way back in 1985, Sir David Attenborough buried a time-capsule of basic food crop seeds and endangered species under the conservatory. In an interesting experiment in evolution, the time-capsule will be opened in 2085, at a time when many of the plants will be either rare or extinct!