In the unlikely location 100ft above street level, on top of a department store building in the busy Kensington shopping area, you'll find a tranquil garden planted in the 1930s. It includes a Spanish garden, a Tudor garden, an English woodland garden and resident flamingos!
Kensington Roof Gardens Introduction
Virgin Limited Edition - the luxury portfolio of Virgin Hotels Group Ltd - have owned the gardens since 1981, and renamed them 'The Roof Gardens' (although everyone still refers to them as Kensington Roof Gardens).
Combine your visit to Kensington Roof Gardens with a meal at the Babylon restaurant which serves contemporary British cuisine and overlooks the gardens.
- Spanish Garden
This is the most formal and is based on the Alhambra, the Moorish fortress complex in Spain. There are fountains and vine-covered walkways, all centered around a curved sun pavilion designed by Bernard George.
- Tudor Garden
A smaller formal walled garden with archways and secret corners. It's very much a scented garden with an abundance of lavender, roses and lilies, plus panoramic views over west London through windows in the walled edge.
- English Woodland Garden
This meandering garden overlooks the High Street to the south. There are a huge variety of trees, many with Tree Preservation Orders to protect the garden. There's also a stream and a garden pond that is the home to pintail ducks and flamingos.
Kensington Roof Gardens History
In the 1930s Trevor Bowen (the vice-president of Barkers, the Kensington department store that owned the site and constructed the building in 1932) commissioned Ralph Hancock, a leading landscape gardener, to create the gardens. The gardens were laid out between 1936 and 1938 at a cost of £25,000.
The department store building was Derry and Toms until 1973 and some people still refer to the gardens and 'Derry and Toms Gardens'. It was then the infamous Biba store until 1975.
The Gardens became a Grade II listed site by English Heritage in 1978.
The gardens were pretty much abandoned until Virgin took over in 1981. They use The Roof Gardens for private luxury entertaining but the good news is the gardens are open to the public unless pre-booked by a private party.
How to Visit Kensington Roof Gardens
Nearest Tube Station: High Street Kensington
Use Journey Planner to plan your route by public transport.
The Roof Gardens are open to the public, unless in use for a private event or for the annual winter maintenance. Always call first: 020 7937 7994.
A recommended that that includes an entry on Kensington Roof Gardens and an interview with the gardener is The London Garden Book A-Z.