As anyone who has ever visited London knows, the city is a busy and exciting place. But sometimes, you just need to get away from it all.
Escaping to one of the capital’s many parks and gardens can be a great way to relax and enjoy a bit of fresh air – and there are plenty of options to choose from, such as Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and Holland Park.
Of course, massive green parks aren’t the only places you can go to enjoy a bit of green tranquillity – and there might be a verdant spot closer than you may think – you just might have to travel up to get there.
The Kensington Roof Gardens is a unique rooftop venue that’s situated on the roof of an old department store.
This unique venue is open to the public throughout the day, providing a large space with plenty of flora and fauna – and since it’s situated several storeys up, it also offers some stunning views of the capital.
If you’re thinking about paying a visit to the Kensington Roof Gardens on your next trip to London, here’s what you need to know:
The building was once Derry and Tom’s, a department store that opened in 1933. The roof garden was created by the original owners to provide an escape from the city. The original designer was landscape architect Ralph Hancock.
The store was sold to Biba in 1971, and it went through several owners over the years. Today, the shops below are used by high-street chains like M&S, H&M and Gap.
In 1981, Richard Branson visited the Roof Gardens. He was a young man at the time and was denied entry because he was wearing scruffy jeans. Later, he arranged a meeting with the club’s owner and purchased the venue. He went on to relaunch the business as the Roof Gardens and was never turned away again.
In 1986, English Heritage awarded the gardens Grade II Star listed status, and the building is now considered one with special architectural and historic interest.
Location and getting there
The Kensington Roof Gardens are located above number 99 High Street Kensington – 100 feet up – on the 6th and 7th floors.
If you’re planning to travel on the Underground, the closest station is High Street Kensington on the Circle and District lines. Several buses serve the local area, including the 9, 10, 27 and N9. Street parking is limited, but there are public car parks within a reasonable walking distance.
The gardens are free to visit
Whether you want to enjoy some peace and quiet or meet up with a few friends, the beautiful rooftop gardens are open to the public and free to visit during the day. However, it’s always a good idea to call ahead before you go, to make sure the space hasn’t been booked out for a private event.
You’ll have a variety of options to choose from
There are actually three different gardens:
- The Spanish Garden – Based on the Alhambra in Granada, this garden contains a variety of plants, including greenery from both England and the Mediterranean, resulting in a distinctly Moorish feel.
- The Tudor Garden – This garden includes three courtyards, with traditional styling, red brick walls and graceful archways.
- The English Woodland Garden – Inspired by the natural beauty of England, this garden is particularly popular in the summer when colourful flowers like crocus and bluebells are in bloom. This section of the Roof Gardens is home to the oldest trees in the garden – some are 75 years old, including a mulberry tree and a Japanese maple. There’s also a trio of flamingos that live in this part of the garden, along with some exotic ducks.
You can enjoy some fine dining
If you’re feeling hungry, Babylon is a restaurant located in the roof garden that serves both lunch and dinner. It offers award-winning cuisine, as well as plenty of stylish cocktails, and the view is hard to beat.
It’s a great spot for a night on the town
The Club is a London’s only rooftop members club. This stylish club is open Friday and Saturday nights between 10 pm and 2 am, and it’s the perfect place to kick-start your weekend or dance the night away. Just be sure to dress to impress – the dress code is: “No effort, no entry”.
Special events also take place at the club – such as live music and DJs, barbecues and VIP experiences