Who would have thought that just a short walk or tube ride from some of London’s top attractions, streets and sights, there is a little slice of calmness and tranquillity just waiting to be explored?
Nestled in Kensington’s famous Holland Park, this peaceful haven is a favourite with locals and tourists alike, as it’s truly different from anywhere else in the city. After all, where else would you spot some of the most exquisite Japanese flowers and plants, amid freely-roaming peacocks?
If you’re longing to explore Japan but haven’t quite made it yet, this could be the perfect stop gap, as with one look at the waterfall, you’ll instantly be transported to the beautiful Japanese city of Kyoto.
If you fancy discovering this idyllic spot (and taking a fair few snaps for Instagram), we’re here to help. Here’s a guide full of tips and other need-to-know information.
The fascinating story of Kyoto Garden
First things first, it’s well-worth learning a little about the history of the garden, and how it came to be. The garden was first opened back in 1991 when it was given as a gift from Kyoto to honour the lasting friendship between Japan and Great Britain.
The city of Kyoto is well-known for its gardens, and a well-known Japanese designer worked with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to create this one. The garden’s design was carefully curated to reflect significant qualities of Japanese gardens and Japanese horticulture, containing stone lanterns, tiered waterfalls, plenty of fish, and you guessed it… a lot of blossoms. The sounds of the rolling water gently breezing down the waterfall mixes with the squawks of peacocks who meander around the park.
In 2012, another Japanese garden was unveiled in Holland Park, named the Fukushima Memorial Garden. This memorialises the 2011 Fukushima earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. Opened by the Embassy of Japan, it serves as a peaceful tribute and symbol of thanks to the British people for their support following the disasters.
The park surrounds a Jacobean mansion – Holland House – termed after its second owner, the Earl of Holland, whose wife was the first person in England to successfully grow dahlias which are still grown there today.
In the 19th century, Holland House became a centre point of political and literary action, visited by Disraeli and Lord Byron amongst others, but was sadly mostly destroyed by bombs during WWII.
The beauty of Kyoto Garden
It’s one of those spaces that you really have to see in person to appreciate the full extent of its beauty, but even from seasonal snaps, you can see just how stunning the space is. It’s regularly voted as one of the most Instagrammable spots in the capital, with visitors flocking in the thousands just to get that picture perfect waterfall photo. Thanks to its tranquil location away from some of the busier parks in the city, it is still very peaceful, nestled away from the hustle and bustle.
Types of flowers cultured
Part of its beauty is largely thanks to the breath-taking flowers that call the space their home. The garden features plants which have been carefully selected and maintained with special pruning techniques to reflect its oriental style.
The garden’s Japanese maple trees are particularly visually prominent during the autumn months, when their leaves turn a gorgeous golden red colour, fading the garden in crimson shades. And in springtime, the Sakura trees’ cherry blossoms bloom cheerfully with thousands of pink petals – one of the best spots to visit authentic and idyllic cherry blossom in London.
How to reach Kyoto Garden
Unless you live nearby, Holland Park has very little car parking space in the area.
With this in mind, it is best to take public transport in order to get there as painlessly as possible. Holland Park is bordered by two tube stations; Holland Park tube station which is on the Central Line, and High Street Kensington which is on the Circle and District Lines. However, if you’re staying at The Shaftesbury hotel, it’s within walking distance.
Accommodation in Kensington
Kensington is a large district just to the west of the very centre of London. This means it’s a short journey to most of London’s main attractions and ideally located if you want to experience the likes of Holland Park in all its glory from morning until night.
Anything else you need to know?
As well as sorting routes to get to the garden, and your London accommodation (there are also great options further central, with an Oxford Street Hotel being a great choice) there are a couple of other things worth noting before you go exploring.
Holland Park is open every day from 7:30 AM until a half hour before dusk and is completely free to enter to the public.
Also in Holland Park and not to be missed for families is the park’s playground, with extensive climbing equipment, zip wire, giant see-saw and a tyre swing that your little ones will love.
There’s even a fenced-in detached play area for slightly younger children, too. During summer months, there is an open-air theatre and opera which are staged in the park and are extremely popular with locals as this is a really great way to experience a London show.
Things to do nearby
If you’ve had enough peace and tranquillity, and want to do something a little more active, there are a whole host of things to enjoy nearby. Just a stone’s throw away from Holland Park you’ll find the striking design museum whilst Notting Hill plays host to the legendary Portobello Market every weekend – a must for those who love markets with an extra wash of beautiful, pastel colour. With Hyde Park, the Serpentine Gallery, South Kensington’s Museum Row and the upmarket marvels of Sloane Square only a short walk away, the area has almost endless possibilities for newcomers.