Looking for something a little different on your visit to London? Over the past few years bicycling around the city has become enormously popular, with rental bike stations scattered across the city and new cycling ‘superhighways’ connecting all major points. If you’re looking for a fun way to explore London while staying active, why not try taking a little break from the busy streets of the city and explore some of London’s secret gardens? This route through the city will start in trendy Notting Hill, wind its way through the length of Hyde Park, down past beautiful Apsley House and through elegant Belgravia before ending at the Chelsea Physic Garden. At every stop along the way you will find a bike docking station so you can drop off your bike to enjoy the sights and rent a new one when it is time to carry on. Points of interest include Rosemead Gardens, Holland Park, Kyoto Garden, Hyde Park, and the Chelsea Physic Garden.
If you’re not staying in the Notting Hill area, take the tube to Notting Hill Gate (either the Central, Circle, or District line will get you there). If you’re looking for a bit of breakfast before your day exploring, drop into my local breakfast pick – Eggbreak. It is only a two-minute walk from the station and it really is a treat to pop into this rustic, eggs-all-day spot. I’d recommend checking out the Eggbreak Benedict, Lamb Hash or the Spicy Piggy Bun. Gluten-free and vegan options abound as well if that’s what you’re looking for. Nice selection of adult drinks too, though before a day of cycling I’d stick to a coffee and some orange juice.
Once you’ve had your fill of breakfast, walk up to the Ladbroke Grove cycle docking station. Cycle towards Rosemead Road, and peek through the garden gate at Rosemead Gardens. You may recognize this as the garden that Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant climb into in the film Notting Hill. Just like in the film, this is a private garden, so a glimpse through the gates is all you’ll get (unless you’re feeling like a climb, which I don’t recommend).
Continue down Rosemead Road and turn right onto Lansdowne Road before turning left onto Lansdowne Rise, at the end of the road turning right onto Lansdowne Crescent (lots of Lansdowne in this area!), before turning right onto Ladbroke Grove. Follow this to the end, turn right onto Holland Park Avenue and then the second left onto Holland Walk. At this point, dismount and walk your bike on the pavement. Walk until you see the turn into Holland Park. Dock your cycle at this point and continue into the park, following signs for the Kyoto Garden.
Now you have a chance to relax in the lush greenery of this traditional Japanese garden – an oasis of calm in the park. Find your Zen strolling through the Kyoto Garden where you are surrounded by Japanese design and features, gleaming peacocks, bright koi, and the sound of waterfalls.
As you continue your exploration of London, head back towards Holland Walk, pick up a bike, and follow along it towards Kensington High Street. Turn left and follow the street to Kensington Palace Gardens. While not exactly a secret garden, these are beautiful gardens if you’d like to stop here as well. If you’re sticking with the plan to see lesser known gardens of London, then turn left and follow the road to Palace Avenue, turning right and following it to Hyde Park.
Follow the cycle path through the park, turning left onto West Carriage Drive. West Carriage Drive will take you across a bridge. Just before the bridge turn right if you want to stop for a visit to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and grab an ice cream for a bit of relaxation by the water. At the end of West Carriage Drive, turn right onto North Carriage Drive and then right onto the cycle path going past Speakers Corner and continue along the path until you find yourself at the Albert Gate which exits the park.
Go straight across the road and onto William Street to use the cycle path. Follow the road as its name changes from William Street to Lowndes Square, to Lowndes Street, and finally to Chesham Street. Then turn left onto Lyall Street, right onto Eaton Square, and then Sloane Square. This whole section of the ride is through Belgravia, one of the most beautiful parts of London in my opinion. You will pass charming boutiques, galleries, cafes and white-columned houses whose flower boxes are positively overflowing with a riot of joyful flowers.
At the roundabout. Go straight over to King’s Road and dock your cycle at the Royal Avenue docking station. From here you will walk down Royal Avenue, right onto Leonard Terrace, left onto Durham place, continue onto Ormonde Gate, and right onto Royal Hospital Road. On this road you will come to the Chelsea Physic Garden, London’s oldest botanical garden and home to over 5,000 different plants! The garden is located along the Thames and is known for featuring plants that are ‘useful’ in some way – for example, they are medicinal, herbal, or edible. The conservatories at the garden are over a century old and is where they are able to cultivate a number of exotic plants.
The nice thing about this itinerary is that you are avoiding major roads as much as possible, so you are truly enjoying a relaxing day out exploring London while having the opportunity to see a number of places that you might not otherwise. Sure, you could do all this much faster with a taxi or the tube, but just think about what you might miss along the way! If you’d like to spend some of your London vacation cycling to some hidden gardens, just let me know, I’m here to help and can always arrange a guide to take you so that you don’t need to even give the directions a second thought!