If you’re looking for a place to take leaf from London life, head to the Barbican Conservatory.
Hidden amongst the brutalist Barbican Centre and estate, it’s a glass-bound rainforest boasting over 1,500 species of tropical plants and trees. It was first designed as a way to hide the flytower for the theatre below. But this incidental side-project is now 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 is the Barbican Conservatory’s 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 antisocial behaviour amongst the other wildlife on Hampstead Heath.
Previously, Barbican Conservatory was only open on Sundays, but given Londoners’ insatiable appetite for foliage, it’s now open almost daily – and it’s totally free to visit. But if you’re after something a little more in-depth and educational, they also offer quick 60 minute tours on Sundays, led by one of their resident gardeners, for just £12.50 a person.
It makes for a pretty wonderful thyme.
NOTE: The Barbican Conservatory is open daily. Tickets are released a week in advance on Thursdays at 10am – you can find out more, and book, here.
Barbican Conservatory | Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS
Looking for somewhere to eat afterwards? Take a look at the best restaurants in Clerkenwell
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