But if you’re one of thousands who can’t get a ticket (these events book up very quickly), fear not as there are hundreds of other green spaces you can explore in London. Almost 40 percent of London is made up of parks and open spaces, making it the greenest city in the world. As the weather gets better plant yourself in one of these glorious gardens and enjoy seeing the city in full bloom.
Hampton Court Palace Gardens
Fountains, deer, grapevines and a 17th-century maze are some of the jewels you’ll find surrounding Henry VIII’s favourite royal residence, Hampton Court Palace. Stop and smell the sweet-scented Rose Garden. Imagine 18th century life as you walk through the restored Privy Gardens. Marvel at the Great Vine planted in 1768 by "Capability" Brown and bask in all the wild flowers that engulf the Wilderness area. During the weekends, you can enjoy a horse-drawn tram ride through the grounds departing form the East Front Gardens.
Spanning 321 acres, the World Heritage Site Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, boasts more than 100 attractions. Discover 250 years of history woven into its buildings, tropical glasshouses and diverse gardens. See the world’s largest waterlilies and experience ten different climatic zones before scaling the Treetop Walkway for a bird’s eye view across London.
Kensington Palace Gardens
The former residence of Princess Diana (now home to her sons Prince Harry and the Duke of Cambridge), Kensington Palace features 242 acres of formal gardens described by diarist Samuel Pepys as "a might fine cool place." The Sunken Garden, planted in 1908, is worth seeking out for its immaculate flowerbeds and ornamental pond with fountains.
Chelsea Physic Garden
After hitting Chelsea’s designer stores revive your senses in London’s oldest botanic garden, Chelsea Physic Garden. Founded in 1673, this four-acre oasis by the River Thames has one of Europe’s oldest rock gardens featuring stones from the Tower of London. Ponder the healing power of nature in the Garden of Medicinal Plants. This year’s theme is Captivating Scents—expect walks, talks and workshops to delight your nose and test your sense of smell.
Kyoto Japanese Garden
Holland Park is popular with families for its playground with a zip-wire and mini climbing wall, but you can escape all that at the Kyoto Gardens. Here you’ll find a small slice of Japan in the heart of London, complete with stone lanterns, tiered waterfalls, koi carp and peacocks wandering the immaculate grass. It’s loved by Londoners for its restorative effects—30 minutes here and you’ll be ready for anything.
Ugly, excellent, bloated, innovative ... just some of the words used by Londoners to describe skyscraper 20 Fenchurch Street. Love it or hate it, the “Walkie-Talkie” is a breath of fresh (dry) air on a rainy day thanks to its Sky Garden—the capital’s highest public green space. It’s 155m high, and boasts 360-degree views of the city surrounded by lush vegetation under a glass dome. It’s free to enter but you have to book online in advance.
The Barbican is known a place for music, art and theatre but it’s also London’s second biggest conservatory. You’ll be warm and dry in its huge tropical sanctuary complete with beehive, exotic fish and over 1,500 plants. On Sundays, the conservatory becomes a unique setting for afternoon tea—one of London’s best-kept secrets for a classic tea.
The gardens at this magnificant neo-Palladian villa are said to have inspired New York's Central Park. Few plants in London have been preserved like the camellias of Chiswick House—they are believed to be the oldest collection under glass in the Western world. Planted nearly 200 years ago, these delicate flowers have survived a multi-million-pound restoration of the 300ft conservatory, which had fallen into ruin until recent years.
Charlton House Peace Garden
The classic Jacobean Manor House, Charlton House, was built in 1607 for the Dean of Durham, was used as a hospital during World War I. Much of the building is closed to the public, but outside you’ll find lovingly restored walled gardens including a Peace Garden opened in 2006 with Amnesty International. Spot the sculpture by Margaret Higginson representing the strength and spirit of women worldwide.