Kew Gardens Visitor Information

  • 01 of 10

    Kew Gardens: Introduction

    Palm House, Kew Gardens, London
    ••• Palm House, Kew Gardens, London. © Laura Porter, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in July 2003 due to its work on history and development of garden landscapes and its role in science and plant research.

    Size of the Gardens
    The Gardens are 300 acres. To get an idea of walking times between landmarks see the Kew Gardens map (pdf). If you are visiting with small children be prepared to double walking times.

    I avoided visiting Kew for a long time as I had imagined it was so vast, I would not be able to see all I wanted to in one trip. I was amazed when I arrived and looked at the map and then looked at the landmarks and could see how close everything really is.

    How Much Time?
    It is suggested that most people take around three hours to explore the whole of the length of the Gardens. (It is about one mile across and takes about 40 minutes to walk across.) I usually stay the whole day and still never see everything but I guess we all have different priorities when visiting. I would suggest​ if you have...MORE time, spend the whole day at Kew. Don't rush it; stay longer, have lunch, and enjoy your visit.

    Overhead Noise
    Kew Gardens is on the Heathrow Airport flight path. Noisy planes go overhead every few minutes. Initially this is distracting but, honestly, you soon get used to it and stop noticing them.

    Photographer's Paradise
    Kew is a photographer's paradise. You will see lots of people with cameras ranging from the cheap disposables to amazing long lenses on professional equipment. Most people walk ​around holding their camera and a map so if your camera has a neck strap do use it. As with any photo opportunity make sure you have all you need for a day away from the shops: extra batteries, film (if not digital), and an empty memory card or lots of space (for digital).

    Exhibitions
    Kew has a history of outdoor sculpture exhibitions and some of the best have been David Nash at Kew and Moore at Kew.

    Continue to 2 of 10 below.
  • 02 of 10

    Getting to Kew

    Waterlily House, Kew Gardens, London
    ••• Waterlily House, Kew Gardens, London. © RBG Kew

    Use Journey Planner to plan your route by public transport.

    By London Underground
    Nearest Tube Station: Kew Gardens.
    Take the District Line towards Richmond.

    Approx. Travel Times: 15 minutes from Earl's Court and 30 minutes from Westminster on the District Line to Kew Gardens Station (Zone 3).

    Top Tip: If steps are a problem for you, for example, if you are traveling with a child in a buggy, go to Richmond station (it's only one more stop) and come back on the Eastbound train to Kew Gardens. This way you can avoid the steps and bridge over the train tracks.

    It's a ten-minute walk from Kew Gardens Station to Kew Gardens Victoria Gate.

    By Train
    Train services (South West Trains) from Waterloo, via Vauxhall and Clapham Junction, stop at Kew Bridge station.

    Continue to 3 of 10 below.
  • 03 of 10

    Planning Your Trip to Kew Gardens

    Autumn at Kew Gardens, London
    ••• Autumn at Kew Gardens, London. © RBG Kew

    When to Visit Kew

    Kew is open 363 days of the year (closed for Christmas) so you can visit all year round. The plants vary throughout the seasons but that is what makes more than one visit so interesting.

    Before you visit you can get lots of useful information from the Kew Gardens website, such as the Parent's Survival Guide.

    Clothing
    Top Tip: Wear a jacket that is easy to remove when inside the glasshouses as these buildings are hot and humid.
    Top Tip: Wear flat shoes as narrow heels will go through the holes in the grated floor in the Palm House.

    You will be given a free Visitor's Guide when you arrive. This includes a map and information on facilities. The Visitor's Guide is updated regularly due to the seasonal changes at Kew Gardens and is usually only valid for three months as the botanical world changes so fast.

    Toilets Upon Arrival at Victoria Gate
    Toilets are the other side of Victoria Plaza (go through and come out the other side).
    Top Tip: There are more toilets and...MORE another baby changing station around the corner along the side of the lake (less than a minute away).

    Kew Explorer Bus Tours
    If you really are short of time you can see Kew in under an hour on the Kew Explorer. There is an additional charge for this hop on-hop off tour of Kew with 8 stops. Tours are daily and run every hour from Victoria Plaza. I haven't tried this tour but it looks like fun. It includes a running commentary of the sights.

    Walking Tours
    There are daily walking tours, usually two a day, lasting 60 minutes.
    You need to register at the Guide Desk just inside Victoria Plaza at least 15 minutes before the start of the tour. There are also often other seasonal tours available so check at the Guide Desk for information.

    Kew Gardens Rules

    • no climbing trees
    • no ball games
    • no bikes and scooters
    • guide dogs only
    Continue to 4 of 10 below.
  • 04 of 10

    Kew Gardens Opening Times

    Open Daily, Closed 24 and 25 December only.

    Closing times vary throughout the year

    Dates are approximate. Check Kew Gardens website for exact dates this year.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Kew Gardens Ticket Information

    Japanese Garden, Kew Gardens, London
    ••• Japanese Garden, Kew Gardens, London. © Laura Porter, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    There are different Winter and Summer ticket prices.

    Children (under 17) go FREE.

    Concessions are available for 60+, students 17+ in full-time education, long-term disabled, unemployed.

    For the latest prices see the Kew Gardens website.

    You can also buy Kew Gardens tickets through Viator.

    Continue to 6 of 10 below.
  • 06 of 10

    Kew Gardens Shopping and Eating

    Kew Shopping, Kew Gardens, London
    ••• © Laura Porter, licensed to About.com, Inc.
    • Victoria Plaza Shops:
    • Garden Shop - plants and objects for your garden
    • Book Shop - botanical and garden-related books
    • Cook Shop - exclusive sweets, teas, coffees and condiments
    • Gift Shop - wide range of unique mementos
    • White Peaks Children's Shop - pocket money toys, fun games and small toys

    All purchases from Kew Gardens shops help to support Kew's vital science-based conservation work throughout the world. Find out more about Shopping at Kew.

    • Victoria Terrace Café
      This is right next to the Victoria Gate which is the entrance/exit you use when traveling by tube or train. It serves tea, sandwiches, cakes, and snacks and is open the longest of all the cafes.
      Top Tip: A paper cup of tea in the Victoria Plaza is the same price as a proper pot of tea (2 cups) in the Pavilion Restaurant.
    • Pavilion Restaurant
      This would be my first choice for lunch or a snack as it has a wide choice of well-priced hot and cold meals, a lovely choice of cakes, and that pot of tea. It's located near the Tempera...MOREte House and the Pagoda, so in the southern part of the Gardens, and has a large outdoor seating area. This venue is most popular with regular visitors.
      Note there are extra toilets nearby on the edge of the Gardens).
    • White Peaks Café
      The menu here has improved dramatically and I've seen hot carved roast in a bap as well as children's lunch boxes.
    • The Orangery Restaurant
      Enjoy seasonal dishes in this elegant Grade 1 listed building, built in 1761.

    A recommended that includes entries about Kew Gardens is The London Garden Book A-Z.

    Continue to 7 of 10 below.
  • 07 of 10

    Visiting Kew Gardens With Children

    Climbers and Creepers, Kew Gardens, London
    ••• Climbers and Creepers, Kew Gardens, London. © RBG Kew

    The best news is children under 17 go FREE to Kew Gardens!

    Before you visit you can get lots of useful information from the Kew Gardens Parent's Survival Guide.

    The Gardens are 300 acres. To get an idea of walking times between landmarks see the Kew Gardens map. It's suggested a five-year-old will take 15 minutes to walk from the Victoria Gate to the Xstrata Treetop Walkway.

    Buggy Access
    Kew's landscape has many paths and most buildings have ramped access. The only areas that are not accessible with buggies are:

    Check the Kid's page of the Kew Gardens website for events and activities. Here are some fun ideas:

    Continue to 8 of 10 below.
  • 08 of 10

    Kew Gardens Highlights

    Kew Palace, Kew Gardens, London
    ••• Kew Palace, Kew Gardens, London. © Laura Porter, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Xstrata Treetop Walkway is 18 meters high and offers the chance to explore the tree canopy and views across London.

    Palm House
    This is the stunning glass house near to the Victoria Gate entrance. At one end you can see the world's oldest pot plant, a Cyrad, and at the other end look at the sealing wax plant which turns red at the top.

    The Palm House is very humid - look up for the high steam jets. The plants are divided into areas of the world. Beware of overhanging plants on the walkways. Use the ornate wrought iron spiral staircase up to the gallery and down to the aquatic display.

    Princess of Wales Conservatory
    Opened by Princess of Wales on 28 July 1987, the design now seems rather '80s and dated. There's an aquatic display on the lower level. Buggy access via sloped walkways with wide low steps – not wheelchair-friendly.
    Top Tip: the Aquatic Display in the Palm House is better.

    Temperate House
    The world's largest surviving Victorian glass structure. It took 38 years to...MORE build. As you enter the Main Block there is a 'wow factor'. It has a stunning high ceiling and the plants are huge. It is not uncomfortably hot, like the Palm House. In the center, you can see the world's tallest indoor plant, a Chilean Wine Palm.

    Queen Charlotte's Cottage
    Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) used this as her summerhouse to picnic with her family. The surrounding 37 acres were known as the 'Queen's Cottage Grounds' and was a game reserve.

    Kew Palace
    Kew Palace is the smallest and most intimate of the royal palaces. There is an additional charge to visit.

    The Davies Alpine House
    Bizarre glass structure, reminiscent of the new Wembley Stadium.

    Pagoda Tree
    This is a bit surreal as it's grown sideways. From China, it is grown in Buddhist Temple grounds

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Kew Gardens Visitor Tips

    Queen Charlotte's Cottage, Kew Gardens, London
    ••• Queen Charlotte's Cottage, Kew Gardens, London. © Laura Porter, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Getting to Kew Tip
    If you are traveling with a child in a buggy, go to Richmond station (it's only one more stop) and come back on the Eastbound train to Kew Gardens. This way you can avoid the steps and bridge over the train tracks. See more tips for Visiting Kew Gardens with Children.

    Clothing Tips

    • Wear a jacket that is easy to remove when inside the glasshouses as they are hot and humid.
    • Wear flat shoes as narrow heels will go through the holes in the grated floor in the Palm House.

    Fire Alarm Tip
    All public indoor areas have regular fire alarm testing. Check doors to indoor areas for fire alarm testing notices.

    More Toilets Near Victoria Gate
    As well as the toilets out the other side of the Victoria Plaza, there are more toilets and another baby changing station around the corner along the side of the lake (less than a minute away).

    More Tea for Your Money
    A paper cup of tea in the Victoria Plaza is the same price as a pot of tea (2 cups) in the Pavilion Restaurant.

    Ramp Access to...MORE Temperate House
    Disabled access is available at the back of the Temperate House.

    Top Tips for Kids

    Best Picnic Spots

    • Next to the River Thames, near the Badger Sett, marked as a View Point on the free map. There are bench seats available and plenty of space to laze on the grass.
    • In front of Queen Charlotte's Cottage is a good quiet picnic spot, as it has even ground and some shaded areas, although the nearest toilets are about 10 minutes walk away, near the Waterlily Pond.
    • Near the Waterlily Pond is another good spot with bench seating.​
    Continue to 10 of 10 below.
  • 10 of 10

    Xstrata Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens

    Xstrata Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens, London.
    ••• Xstrata Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens, London. © James Morley/Kew

    The Xstrata Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens opened in May 2008 and at 18 meters high, it offers visitors the chance to explore the tree canopy and see magnificent views across London including the London Eye, which was designed by the same architects (Marks Barfield Architects).

    No extra ticket is required once you have paid your entrance to Kew Gardens. (Remember, under 17s go free.)

    There is no other treetop walkway that starts underground but it makes sense to learn about the roots of trees before winding your way up to the treetops. The roots are the most important part of a tree but they couldn't be exposed so you can see interesting animatronics and a wonderful bronze sculpture of tree roots. This area is open all the time and it is expected that wildlife will go in at night so all exhibits have been built to withstand the elements.

    Unfortunately, the lift has never worked so you will have to climb the steps up to the 200-meter long treetop walkway. (Don't be put off as my...MORE 3-year-old was able to climb the steps with no complaints.) There is a classroom platform which would be a fabulous place for a lesson!

    The structure is made from weathered steel and will be maintenance free for 100 years and is expected to last 500 years!

    The Xstrata Treetop Walkway can accommodate 3,000 visitors a day and is a major highlight when I visit Kew Gardens. I was amazed how awe-inspiring the views are from up there.