When it comes to gardens and outdoor spaces, visitors to London are spoilt for choice. After all, there are plenty of beautiful parks that spread across the city, from Kensington Gardens to Greenwich Park. These usually boast tree-lined avenues, vast green fields, playgrounds, sculptures and sports facilities.
But if you’re looking for something a little bit different, then you might want to check out the Chelsea Physic Garden.
Founded in 1673 this is one of London’s oldest botanic gardens and it contains a collection of around 5,000 different plants, all of which are edible, useful, medicinal or have other historical importance. This hidden green oasis is the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing stroll, relax or learn about the beauty and importance of plants. There’s even an award-winning teahouse on the grounds, where you can savour lunch or indulge in afternoon tea.
The Chelsea Physic Garden was established more than 300 years ago by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London. Its original purpose was to grow medicinal plants and train apprentices in their identification and use. Today, the garden still focuses on education and it works to connect people to plants by providing a unique outdoor classroom.
When visiting the garden, here are some things to look out for:
- The Garden of Medicinal Plants – This garden contains a large collection of medicinal plants, many of which were used thousands of years ago. It includes an ethnobotanical display, showing plants from around the world, and also provides information on how many plants are still used in medicine today.
- The Garden of Edible and Useful Plants – Here, you can see a variety of plant species that humans use every day. There are forest fruits and land restoration plants, as well as species used for hygiene, science and the arts. There’s a small vineyard, a living plant amphitheatre and a stone pier for viewing a tank pond.
- The Historical Walk – Situated on the western side of the gardens, the Historical Walk has been planted to show the work of people associated with the garden’s history.
- Island Endemic Flora – For a taste of the tropics, head to this garden, which is home to a number of rare and endangered species from locations like Crete, Madeira and the Canary Islands. It’s planted along the warmest wall of the garden and includes Argyranthemum, Lavandula, Lotus and Echium pininiana, which has blue flower spikes that can reach an impressive eight feet long. There’s also the rare Echium wildpretii, which comes from the top of Mount Teide, a volcano in Tenerife.
- World Woodland Garden – This garden aims to display medicinal and useful plants from forest environments around the world. It is divided into three sections, which cover North American Woodlands, Europe and East Asia. Each section demonstrates both traditional and modern uses of the plant species, including trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and bulbs.
As well as offering a lovely green space for learning and exploring, the Chelsea Physic Garden also hosts regular events, including walks, talks and workshops. There are also family-friendly activity days, where kids and parents can learn about various topics together, and the garden is also available for private bookings like weddings and parties.
Location and getting there
Tucked away beside the Thames, the Chelsea Physic Garden is located between Royal Hospital Road and the Thames Embankment. The address is 66 Royal Hospital Rd, Chelsea, London SW3 4HS. It’s just under two miles from the Park Grand London Kensington Hotel.
The closest Underground station is Sloane Square on the Circle and District Lines. Or, if you’re taking the bus, the 170 stops right outside.
If you’re planning on driving, there is parking located around the garden with coin-operated meters. There’s also pay and display parking at Battersea Park, which is about a ten-minute walk away. Although the Chelsea Physic Garden is not located within the Congestion Charging Zone, be careful when planning your route, as you could find yourself travelling through the zone.
Another option is to cycle to the garden and bike parking racks can be found in Royal Hospital Road and the surrounding streets. The closest docking station for the London Cycle Hire scheme is at Margaretta Terrace.
Other nearby attractions
Once you’ve finished exploring the Chelsea Physic Garden, there are a number of other local attractions to check out. These include:
- Battersea Park – This 200-acre park is located on the south bank of the River Thames, just across from the Chelsea Physic Garden. Highlights include a small zoo, the Peace Pagoda and a sculpture that commemorated the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
- Saatchi Gallery – This gallery provides an innovative forum for contemporary art and presents works by largely unseen young artists, as well as established international artists whose work has not yet been displayed in the UK.
- Cadogan Hall – This 950-seat concert hall in Sloane Terrace offers a varied programme of live events and is home to the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.