The 132-hectare Kew Gardens are the finest product of British botanists, and are not only a research center, but also a public garden. Enter by Victoria Gate, at the elaborate 700-glass-paned Palm House, an enormous hothouse dating from 1848, featuring a display of exotic tropical greenery, which can be observed from a treetop walkway. Don’t miss the huge Jurassic cycad, the world’s oldest potted plant.
Just northeast is the Water Lily House with water lily pads huge enough to support a small adult. The Princess of Wales Conservatory has plants from 10 climate zones, from desert plants to a mangrove swamp. The adorable redbrick Kew Palace is a former royal residence favored by “mad” King George III, his wife Charlotte, and their family. Queen Charlotte’s cottage, a charming thatched-roof cottage was also popular with King George and Queen Charlotte as an idyllic retreat. The 10-story Chinese Pagoda was recently restored to its former full colors, along with the 80 dragons that once decorated it.
Visit: Kew Rd., TW9 Hampton Court Pl,Richmond TW9 3AB; 020-8332 5655; kew.org