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The Roof Gardens in Kensington - London's Enchanted Gardens

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Roof Garden Spanish Garden

The Roof Gardens London are utterly magical. I visited recently, when the gardens were open as part of the Open Garden Squares weekend, and although it was a dull and drizzly morning, they certainly have more than a touch of Hollywood glamour about them and I felt like I had just walked onto a movie set. Don't forget to look out for the flamingos!

Once the largest roof gardens in Europe, until Emporia in Sweden opened in 2012. These Grade II Listed gardens are hidden away high above the shops on High Street Kensington. Originally above Derry and Toms, department store, designed by Bernard George and dating from the 1930s. The gardens designed by Ralph Hancock were opened in 1938 and Nikolaus Pevsner, the art historian, describes them as one of the earliest of their kind in England. In the 1970s the building became the Biba flagship fashion store.

Today the gardens are owned by Richard Branson and are part of the Virgin Limited Edition, which include  the Babylon Restaurant and The Club, London's only rooftop private members club. The gardens are reguarly open to the public free of charge, although it is advisable to phone and check if they are open, as they may be closed for private events. 

Roof Garden Spanish Garden

Spanish Garden

There's a lift to take you to the one and a half acre gardens on the 6th floor. However with its high, enclosed walls, apart from the occassional glimpse of neighbouring tall buildings, it's easy to forget you're on a roof terrace.

There are three distinct themed areas, the Spanish Garden, the Tudor Courtyard and English Woodland Garden.  The most visually impressive of these is the Spanish Garden with its characteristic Moorish style architecture, including a bell tower, and colourful flower beds filled with Mediterranean and English plants.

 

Roof Garden Spanish Garden

 Spanish Garden

The Garden is based on the famous gardens of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. The colours and the layout date from the gardens original plan from 1938.

Roof Garden Spanish Garden

 Spanish Garden

The cloisters with their barley sugar columns offer a delightful place to sit, relax and admire the garden.

 Roof Garden Spanish Garden

 Spanish Garden

The view of the garden with the spire of St Mary Abbots Church, dating from 1870s, and designed by George Gilbert Scott, best known for the St Pancras Hotel and Albert Memorial.

Roof Garden Spanish Garden

 Spanish Garden

With views across to the former Barkers department store, the adjacent art deco building, also designed by Bernard George in the 1930s.

Roof Garden Tudor Garden

 Tudor Courtyard

The Tudor Garden has three inter-connecting courtyards with herringbone brick floors and old brick walls. 

Roof Garden Tudor Garden

 Tudor Courtyard

 This paved dining area has Tudor style archways and stone Tudor rose motifs. 

Roof Garden Tudor Garden

 Tudor Courtyard

 Look out for the old street fountain, which is possibly Georgian.

Roof Garden English Woodland Garden

 English Woodland Garden

The English Woodland Garden contains trees from the original planting and is adjacent to the art deco styled restaurant.

Roof Garden English Woodland Garden

  English Woodland Garden

The garden has a water feature, bridges and traditional English woodland flowers such as snowdrops and bluebells.

Roof Garden English Woodland Garden

  English Woodland Garden

The lake is home to exotic wildfowl, including Mandarin and Carolina Wood Ducks.

Roof Garden English Woodland Garden

 

The stars of the gardens, without doubt, are its four resident flamingos.

Roof Garden English Woodland Garden

The Roof Gardens are just spectacular. If you haven't been GO! 

I'm already plotting a return trip to include a visit to the Babylon Restaurant.

Mr Brandson if you are reading (wishful thinking) please can you add afternoon tea (more wishful thinking) to the menu as The Roof Gardens would  be an amazing location to host this.

Practical Information

Address: 99 Kensington High Street, W8 5SA. The entrance is on Derry Street.

Nearest Tube Station: High Street Kensington in Travelcard Zone 1. The gardens are a couple of minutes easy walk from the station. Buses numbers 9, 10, 27, 28, 49, 52, 70, 328 and 452 all stop near the gardens.

Opening Hours:  Please note that the gardens are often closed for private events so it is recommended that you phone ahead to check that they are open. The phone number is 0207 937 7994 (correct at time of writing the blog). I visited the gardens as part of Open Garden Squares.

Price:   Free admission to the gardens.

Website: http://www.virginlimitededition.com/en/the-roof-gardens

If you enjoyed this blog post you might like to read some of the gardens in Marylebone which I visited as part of Open Garden Squares.

The author of this blog is a qualified City of London and City of Westminster Tour Guide who leads guided walks combining world famous landmarks with hidden treasures often missed by the crowds.