London is rightly renowned for its green spaces. The most verdant city of its size in the world, the British capital is covered by a total of some 173 sq km – as much as 40% of the entire area of Greater London. Many of London’s vast Royal Parks, including the iconic Hyde Park, were ironically not intended for public use at all, having been used by the likes of King Henry VIII for hunting. Today, though, they’re very much the domain of all Londoners, serving as the setting for civic occasions and everyday social situations. While many associate London’s parks with long, hot summer days, they become beautiful places to be in different ways in the winter months. But if you can’t bear the idea of spending any time outside, London’s also got some brilliant indoor gardens where you can while away a winter’s day.
Richmond Park is well known for its herds of red and fallow deer, but nearby Kew Gardens is a great place to retreat when the weather outside is just a bit too nippy. An internationally important centre in botanical research, the Gardens are the world’s largest collection of living plants, with over 30,000 species; the herbarium contains more than 7 million preserved plant specimens. The buildings which house the collections are an attraction in themselves, including four Grade I listed buildings and 36 Grade II listed structures. The gardens can be traced back formally as far as 1759, with history of exotic gardens on the site stretching back even further. For a roof terrace with a difference, check out Kensington Roof Gardens. Surrounding a fashionable club and restaurant, these were the largest roof gardens in Europe before being surpassed by Sweden’s Emporia in 2012. There are three themed gardens. The first is an elaborate Spanish garden, in the Moorish style and based on the magnificent Alhambra in Granada, Spain, which features vine-covered walkways, fountains and Chusan palms. There’s also a Tudor garden, with archways, secret corners and hanging wisteria; and an English woodland garden, home to no less than 100 species of trees, a stream, and a garden pond which is home to four resident flamingos. Suffice to say, you won’t find a roof garden anywhere like this in the world. If you’re looking for a central London hotel within easy access, London City Suites by Montcalm enjoys a fantastic location within easy reach of Kensington.
Another indoor garden even closer to the hotel is the City of London’s Barbican Conservatory, housed in the brilliant Barbican Centre. It’s home to more than 2,000 species of plants and trees, as well as birds and fish, including finches, quails, terrapins and koi carp. The Conservatory certainly provides a point of contrast to the modernist concrete which comprises the rest of the Barbican complex, and this is the second largest glasshouse in London behind Kew – despite that, it remains little known by Londoners. The Barbican Conservatory is open to the public on Sundays, from 12 noon to 17.30pm.