Barbican Conservatory | Brutalist Oasis
If you’re looking for a place to take leaf from London life…
Head to Barbican Conservatory.
Hidden amongst the brutalist Barbican Centre and estate, it’s a glass-bound rainforest boasting over 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees. It was first designed as a way to hide the flytower for the theatre below, however over time it’s grown to be the second biggest conservatory in London (the first being the Princess of Wales in Kew Gardens), housing greenery from everywhere from the bushlands of South Africa to the coastline of Brazil, some of which is now endangered in its natural habitat.
In this very literal concrete jungle, you’ll find tree ferns, date palms, and coffee and ginger plants. On the east side of the conservatory there’s an Arid House filled with different species of cacti and succulents, as well as an overwintering collection of cymbidiums (cool house orchids).
You’ll also pass by a number of ponds, home to koi, ghost, and grass carp from the US and Japan, as well as other cold water fish such as roach, rudd, and tench (ten points if you can tell one from the other). Plus there are a number of terrapins, who wrangled themselves a permanent home at the conservatory after causing havoc amongst the other wildlife on Hampstead Heath.
Previously, the conservatory was only open on Sundays, but given Londoners’ insatiable appetite for foliage, it’s now open on Saturday evenings, too – and it’s totally free to visit. By day, you can swing by for afternoon tea where, for £35, along with a glass of prosecco, you’ll be treated to a selection of sandwiches and handmade cakes, all of which have been inspired by a different flower, fruit, or herb found in the conservatory itself. And come evening, you can wander round the conservatory in the last of the summer light with a glass of wine in hand.
If you’re after something a little more in-depth and educational, they also offer quick 60 minute tours led by one of their resident gardeners for just £12.50 a person.
It makes for a pretty wonderful thyme.
NOTE: Barbican Conservatory is only open on select Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays. To find out exactly when and book, or for more information, visit their website here.
Barbican Conservatory | Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS
Looking for something a bit more substantial to eat? Try St John or Polpo Smithfield nearby.