Kew Gardens: Visiting in Winter

One of the many water features at Kew

On my most recent trip to London, one place that I had earmarked as a must-see was Kew Gardens. Yes, I know the stigma that most gardens in winter are ‘dead’ and ‘unattractive’ but as I hope this post will reveal, I found the gardens to be alive and thriving.

A Little Background About Kew

Kew Palace. Closed for winter.

Kew Gardens were first established in the year 1759 when Princess Augusta, the mother of King George III, sought to establish a green space for the public to enjoy.

Today, officially known as the Royal Botanic Gardens, the site is home to one of if not the largest repository of seeds in the world. Their website claims they have 50,000 plant species on display and over 7 million specimens preserved in storage.

Getting to Kew

Kew Gardens is located near Richmond Park about thirty-five minutes from central London. The easiest means to get there is to take the London Underground District Line train to Kew Gardens station. From there its about a 10 minute walk to the Victoria gate entrance of the gardens.

I was a little bit turned around upon arriving to the station, but once I spotted the signs, it was easy to take the pedestrian footbridge to the main road past the charming shops and residential homes.

Another option is to take the train service to Kew Bridge station. Its about a 10-15 minute walk to the Elizabeth gate entrance.

Opening Days and Times

Great Pagoda. Closed for winter.

When I booked my tickets for Kew, I had forgotten that the gardens closed early in winter due to the shorter number of daylight hours and the special Christmas at Kew event (more on that later.)

The gardens are closed December 24 and December 25, but are open all other days of the year. Note that the glass houses also close early, generally one hour before the gardens themselves close.

Ticket Prices as of December 2022

There are quite a few options to sort through…

For other options including members with visitors, local residents, essential workers and more, see the Kew Gardens official ticket page here.

Visiting the Gardens

Palm House at Kew

I arrived at the Kew Gardens Underground station about 10:10. It took me about 10 minutes to walk to the Victoria gate. It was a little confusing at first, however, there were quite a few people heading in the direction of the gardens and it made it easy to follow them.

Note that if you fancy a coffee or snack to take to the gardens with you, there was a Tesco Express, Starbucks, and few small restaurants outside the station complex. It will be more cost effective to stop at one of these shops than inside the gardens.

When I arrived at the Victoria gate entrance, there was a queue for those who needed to pick up or purchase tickets and a queue for those with mobile tickets. Kew Gardens encourages guests to book tickets in advance where possible. I found that all I had to do was pull up the e-mail with the QR code to scan and I was in. If you are going at the height of summer, I would highly recommend you book in advance.

Walking through the jungle of the Palm House

The gardens themselves are spread out over several acres of land. When you enter the gardens, it helps if you pick up a map and plan what sites most interest you. Because I knew that I only had about 4 hours before the glass houses closed, my plan was to explore all of them first, then enjoy the outdoor plants. It was also freezing cold (29 degrees Fahrenheit) and the glass houses were nice and toasty.

I found that the Palm House, Temperate House, and Princess of Wales Conservatories took up far more time than I intended. Of the three glass houses, the Princess of Wales conservatory was by far my favorite. I spent nearly an hour and a half enjoying the desert cacti, watching the fish swim among the water lilies, and photographing the tropical orchids.

Cacti at the Princess of Wales Conservatory

If you intend to photograph the plants in the glass houses with a DSLR or higher-end camera, be aware that the lens may fog due to the high level of humidity. I ended up having to rely on my phone instead of my Canon G7X due to this very issue.

After spending the morning stopping by all the glass houses, I took to wandering the various paths around the gardens. I spotted a fox and many different types of birds. There was certainly no shortage of wildlife around the gardens.

While there was a distinct lack of flowers and other plants, it was still a glorious experience to see the trees, frozen lake, and outlying buildings like the Temple of Aeolus, Pagoda, and Kew Palace. Your trip to the gardens is what you make of it.

Snacks and Eating

Flowers inside the Princess of Wales Conservatory

There is no denying that when it is freezing outside, you will want to take respites from the cold and have a hot drink, snack, or other item indoors.

Kew Gardens has several different options for you to choose from spread out throughout the grounds. I stopped by the Pavilion Bar and Grill and found the prices on the food to be about average for most of London’s iconic venues.

A hot chocolate and slice of carrot cake set me back about 7-8 pounds. A tea service for one is generally the best deal and averages about 3.50 pounds.

Per the Kew website, here are the options they list…

You can always bring your own food and snacks into the gardens to enjoy. There were several benches throughout the grounds that would make ideal picnic spots in warmer weather. Although there were few rubbish bins around unless you were near a shop or an eatery.


There are two main shops, one near the Victoria Gate and one near the Pavilion. If you are seeking a gift of sorts, visit the Victoria gate shop. They had a large selection of plants, soaps, books, snacks, and other odds and ends.

If I had the ability to transport live plants back to the U.S. I would’ve bought quite a few items. Their stock was vast and healthy. Unfortunately, the U.S. restrictions on plants and foods that can be imported and exported are strict. Nothing I saw carried the U.S.D.A. approved seal.

Nevertheless, don’t let it stop you from asking if you see something interesting. It never hurts to ask.

Note the listed hours below are for Winter 2022.

Wrapping Up

Cunning fox at Kew

The gardens closed at 3 in the afternoon, but by 2 I was tired and needed a break from the gardens. I wanted to return to the restaurants by the train station to grab a bite to eat. I had purchased tickets for the Christmas at Kew event and would be returning about 4:30. This will be covered in my next post.

Were the gardens worth visiting in the cold and with so many of the outlying buildings being closed for winter? Yes. One hundred percent. The gardens have so many different things to explore and to see. Plants are living organisms and the displays are constantly changing around the gardens.

As I’ve mentioned several times, your trip is what you make it. My best advice would be to go with an open mind and comfortable shoes.