There are so many lovely gardens and green spaces to be found in the British capital – and fashionable west London seems to be particularly good if you like to get out and enjoy a bit of nature, while remaining in the heart of a big city.
One such garden, which also boasts a long and fascinating history is the Chelsea Physic Garden. Founded in 1673, the garden was originally an apothecaries’ garden. Its purpose was for training apprentices in the identification and use of medicinal plants.
During the 1680s, Hans Sloane trained at the garden. This physician, naturalist and collector, later became the garden’s primary benefactor and after his death, he donated most of his collection to the nation – it later became the foundation for the British Museum.
Over the years, the garden has seen a number of notable curators, including Robert Fortune and Thomas Moore. It has also adapted to changing times, while always retaining its medicinal plant collection.
Today, it includes a number of different growing environments, such as the Grade II listed Pond Rockery, which was completed in 1773 – and a collection of glasshouses, including one of the world’s first heated greenhouses.
The garden is located in a walled area next to the River Thames. The spot was chosen because apothecaries could moor their barges, collect plants and then load them on the boats. The location also takes advantage of the river’s warm air currents, which contribute to the garden’s unique microclimate.
Modern visitors, however, needn’t travel by boat to get to the Chelsea Physic Garden. Its address is 66 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, London SW3 4HS. From Tuesday to Friday, as well as Sundays and bank holidays, the public entrance is on Swan Walk. On Mondays and during winter opening hours, the entrance is via 66 Royal Hospital Road.
- Driving – The Chelsea Physic Garden is no longer inside the Congestion Charging Zone, but journeys may be affected by the zone, so be sure to plan your route appropriately. Parking is available around the garden, with coin-operated machines. There’s also a pay and display parking area in Battersea Park, a ten-minute walk across the Albert Bridge.
- London Underground – If you’re travelling by Tube, the nearest station is Sloane Square on the District and Circle lines. It’s about a 15-minute walk from the garden.
- Bus – A number of bus routes serve the local area. The 170 route to Victoria train station stops directly outside the garden.
The garden’s opening times vary, depending on the time of year.
During the main season, it’s open Tuesday to Friday, as well as Sundays and Bank Holidays from 11am to 6pm (or dusk if earlier).
In the winter, it’s open from 10am to 4pm (or dusk if earlier) from Monday to Friday. The cafe and shop are generally closed for the winter.
It also closes for longer periods on occasion, so be sure to check before you plan your visit.
Throughout the year, the garden hosts a number of special events, such as behind-the-scenes tours, photographic lessons, musical events, book signings, talks, and wine tastings.
- Christmas fair – This annual event kicks off at the beginning of London’s festive shopping season, and includes more than 100 exhibitors, showcasing handcrafted products including jewellery, clothing, contemporary crafts and toys, as well as delicious seasonal treats. It’s a great opportunity to find unique gifts for loved ones and also serves as a fundraising event to help the garden.
- Weddings – In addition to its own selection of special events, the Chelsea Physic Garden also hires out certain areas for weddings, as well as other parties and gala events.
Where to stay
If you’re planning to visit the Chelsea Physic Garden on your next visit to London and are looking for nearby accommodation, then the Park Grand London Kensington hotel is an ideal option.
This boutique hotel is located just 1.42 miles from the garden, so walking should take less than 40 minutes and there are a number of other travel options available, such as Tube, bus, bicycle or taxi.
Other nearby attractions
Once you’ve visited the Chelsea Physic Gardens, why not take some time to explore the rest of the local area? Here are some ideas to consider:
- Kensington Palace – 1 mile from the Park Grand London Kensington.
- Saatchi Gallery – 1.6 miles from the Park Grand London Kensington.
- Battersea Park – 1.7 miles from the Park Grand London Kensington.
- The V&A – 0.9 miles from the Park Grand London Kensington.
- The Natural History Museum – 0.7 miles from the Park Grand London Kensington.
- The Science Museum – 1 mile from the Park Grand London Kensington.