One of the great things about London is its abundance of green spaces. Every few streets there’s a park or garden, and in the city center we’re never far from Hyde Park or Regent’s Park. But while the big parks are popular, it’s the secret gardens in London that get my attention. And I’m not talking about the private ones that are only open to surrounding residents. I’m talking about the ones that are open to everyone, if we only know how to find them. And here’s where they are…
The Hill Garden and Pergola
The only thing better than stumbling upon a secret garden is discovering that it’s the best one in London. The Hill Garden in Hampstead is one of the city’s loveliest spaces, with its colorful summer flowers and romantic elevated pergola. The latter leads to a sloping lawn with a large reflecting pool where locals picnic and play on warm days. The place is so romantic that a friend of mine from the US flew here just to propose to his girlfriend (she said yes, of course!).
Chelsea Physic Garden
I discovered the Chelsea Physic Garden back when I first moved to London, and it’s still one of my favorite secret gardens in the city. Founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries for its apprentices to study the medicinal qualities of plants, it later became one of the world’s most important centers of botany. Today visitors can walk through the walled garden and explore all the plants and flowers that still grace the grounds. There are some little surprises, too!
Lavender Garden in Vauxhall Park
One of my favorite botanical discoveries in London is Vauxhall Park’s lavender garden. Tucked away behind the miniature model village and rose pergola, the garden is bursting with purple buds all summer long. Square in shape and lined with benches, it’s a great place to seek refuge from the busy city. If you sit for long enough, you can almost imagine you’re in Provence.
The Roof Gardens
I’ve always known The Roof Gardens in Kensington as a nightlife destination, but it was only recently that I discovered the gardens are open during the day as well. Visitors can head up free of charge and walk through manicured hedges, over pretty bridges, and past pink flamingos—they’re real!—while soaking up the sun. Or rain. This is London, after all.
World Peace Garden
Up in South End Green, one would think that Hampstead Heath would be enough parkland for one community. But not so. The neighborhood also has a World Peace Garden right next to the Hampstead Heath Overground station. In the creators’ words, the World Peace Garden is “a charitable project to promote peace by challenging the usual way we look at the world in the form of an unusual garden containing inspiring messages.” Visitors are asked the question “What would contribute to world peace?”, and the garden aims to inspire answers.
Mount Street Gardens
Originally established in 1723 as a burial ground for the church of St. George Hanover Square, the Mount Street Gardens are now elegant green spaces befitting their chi chi surroundings in Mayfair. From perfectly manicured flower beds to select sculptures and immaculate lawns, they’re lovely all around. The long rows of wooden benches in the gardens are just the places to relax in beauty in an otherwise busy part of central London.
Wildlife Garden at the Natural History Museum
I walked by the Wildlife Garden a million times before I ever realized it was open to the public. Occupying a little corner next to the Natural History Museum, the lush garden contains more than 2,000 species of flora and fauna. It has pretty little ponds and trails through the trees, and is a fun place to explore during the summer months.
What are your favorite gardens in London? Have you found a secret one?