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Kyoto Garden: Discover London’s Beautiful Japanese Garden

Kyoto Garden: Discover London’s Beautiful Japanese Garden

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Can you believe that London’s very own Japanese-inspired Kyoto Garden lies within Kensington’s Holland Park? 

As authentic as it gets without actually taking a trip to Japan, this park is a breath-taking space with a wonderful history to discover and plenty of wildlife to spot. 

Taking a few hours to explore this peaceful garden is a must-do for anyone looking to escape the busy London life, or just experience something a bit more unique in the capital. It’s no wonder that this garden has gathered plenty of attention over recent years.

Looking to explore the Kyoto Garden, London’s leafy Japanese garden in Holland Park? Here’s everything you need to know before you go.

Why Should I Visit Holland Park’s Kyoto Garden?

It’s true that London has a few Asian-inspired green spaces dotted around – check out the Chinese pagoda in Victoria Park or the SOAS Japanese rooftop garden, but in our opinion, none of them are quite as special as the Kyoto Garden.

Don’t believe us yet? Here’s why you need to visit this serene Japanese garden…

It’s Unbelievably Beautiful

Kyoto Garden

First of all, it’s easily one of the most beautiful gardens in London. And that is saying something because there are so many to choose from. Offer us a choice between here and some of the busier London parks, you’ll find us here any day of the week.

Boasting an incredible tiered waterfall as its centrepiece, with traditional stone lanterns and a tranquil pond filled with koi carp in front of the water feature, this is a place where you can really feel zen. 

Take time to relax on one of the benches nearby and soak in the chilled atmosphere – if the sound of rolling water and gently chirping birds doesn’t relax you, we don’t know what will. 

The area is also brimming with impressive Japanese maple trees that really transport you to a garden in rural Japan. 

Kyoto Garden

 We can promise you that it’s the closest you’ll get in the UK to the real deal. 

If you want to know more about the plant species that you can find in Holland Park and Kyoto Garden, head to the Ecology Centre where you can learn about the biodiversity in the grounds. 

You Can Spot Lots of Wildlife

There are a family of peacocks that actually live inside the park, and more often than not you’ll find them strutting around Kyoto Garden, attracted to the colourful Japanese flowers that bloom each year. 

They’re not shy, so you’ll be able to get up close and personal with these proud peacocks – and if you’re lucky, they might even show off their magnificent feathers.

If you head just behind Kyoto Garden, you’ll find a tree-filled area where friendly squirrels like to hang out. Prepare to snap a few pics, because if you can catch a glimpse of them, they are adorable.

Hang out in Holland Park

Yes, Kyoto Garden is our favourite part of Holland Park (and many others agree), but we would be doing you a disservice if we didn’t tell you to explore the rest of the park.

The Dutch Gardens 

The Kyoto Gardens aren’t Holland Park’s only foreign influence. You’ve also got the Dutch Gardens (this is Holland Park after all) in the very centre of the grounds and they’re well worth a mosey around. 

They’re very different in aesthetics from the Japanese arrangement of things and organised on a strictly symmetrical layout. The flowerbeds are bursting with Dutch blooms that do truly look incredible. They also make a maze of sorts. We can certainly think of worse places to get lost. 

The Ice House Gallery 

The Ice House Gallery is a charming little exhibition space that hosts art shows from April to September. The building was actually the ice house (as in the place you’d store ice before freezers) for the Holland Estate. Because of that it’s not the biggest gallery in London, but it’s well worth checking out what’s on if you’re visiting in season.  

Lord Holland Memorial

Just round the corner from the Dutch Garden you’ll find the statue of Lord Holland. He’s the portly fellow sat in a chair atop a chunky granite plinth, and also the man who gave this park its name. 

Lord Holland (1773 – 1840) was a notable Whig politician in his day. He was something of a socialite, hosting many notable figures of the era at his house. Dickens, Byron and Benjamin Disraeli among them. 

You should also know that he was a slave owner, with several plantations in Jamaica. 

Holland Park Cafe

No park would be complete with a cafe. Holland Park is no exception. Being tucked under some vine-covered arches and offering views of the Sibirica Fountain, it’s also a particularly beautiful place to grab a coffee. 

The Sibirica Fountain 

The Sibirica Fountain 

The Sibirica Fountain rivals even the famous waterfall fountain in the Kyoto Gardens. It was designed by British sculptor William Pye on commission by the Friends of Holland Park. It’s made of painted bronze and tapers pleasingly at four corners, water pouring from each of them – not a bad sight while you sip a coffee in Holland Park Cafe. 

Opera at Holland Park 

Once you’ve explored all the flowers you can find, head to the Opera at Holland Park and check out a musical masterpiece. These only run in the summer and you will need to book tickets in advance, but it’s worth timing your visit as it’s an incredible experience.

Tortoises with Triangle and Time

You might, on your strolls around Holland Park, stumble across a strange-looking sculpture. It’s two bronze tortoise statues under and on a set of sharp triangular shapes, one jutting up toward the sky. 

This is what’s called Tortoises with Triangle and Time. It was made in the year 2000 by sculptor Wendy Taylor to commemorate the Millennium. Those sharp triangles are actually a sundial.  

Holland Park is in Kensington

Technically the Holland Park area is its own small enclave, but it’s surrounded by Kensington on all sides so is also a part of this area too. 

Known for its posh history, many people write Kensington off for being a bit boring. But, it’s actually one of the best areas for things to do in London. 

Not only have you got two of the best museums in London right on your doorstep, the V&A and the Natural History Museum, you’ve also got pretty cafes and one heck of a beautiful pub where you can grab a refreshing pint or two (and take some brilliant Instagram pics).

We really recommend making a day of it – explore Kyoto Garden and everything in the Holland Park area in the morning, and then delve deeper into the many gems in Kensington in the afternoon.

A Quick History of Kyoto Garden

Sitting inside of the 54-acre Holland Park, Kyoto Garden’s history is as lovely as the garden itself. It might seem strange that a park in the middle of London has such strong Japanese ties, but it has a very cute origin story.

Holland Park

Kyoto Garden

Holland Park is actually based around the ruins of a Jacobean house originally known as Cope Castle. 

The house was built in 1605 to serve diplomats and wealthy families for hundreds of years along with the surrounding deer park. Cope Castle was eventually destroyed during World War II.

After this, the grounds lay abandoned until London County Council bought the land in 1952, and transformed it into the leafy Holland Park that stands there today. The park now boasts many different gardens, sports facilities, cafes and restaurants, as well as an open-air theatre.

A Gift From Japan

Fukushima Garden

Eventually, Kyoto Garden was opened in 1991 as a gift from the Government of Kyoto in Japan. Luckily, it was opened to the public just in time to celebrate the 1992 Festival of Japan in London. 

It was actually gifted to celebrate a long friendship between Japan and Britain, and today it is one of the most popular (and most photographed) areas of Holland Park – the colourful blossom trees and tranquil waterfall are the main reasons for this.

Holland Park has more recently opened the Fukushima Memorial Garden in 2012, after the British Government showed great support following the natural disasters that struck Japan in 2011. This long relationship with Japan can be seen throughout the many nods in Holland Park.

With a trip to Japan seemingly off the cards right now, what better way to get a taste of the country’s many peaceful gardens than with London’s very own offering? We can’t promise you a rich culture trip, but Kyoto Gardens will fill that Japan gap in your life.

The Fukushima Gardens

Kyoto isn’t the only Japanese city that’s left a mark on Holland Park. Fukushima has too. If you weren’t paying attention you may not notice that you’ve stepped from one of the gardens to the other, but the feeling behind the two couldn’t be more different. 

The Fukushima Gardens, much like the Kyoto Gardens, were donated to Holland Park by the Japanese government as a sign of friendship – it’s the reasons for that friendship that differ. 

That’s because the Fukushima Gardens were given to say thank you to Britain for its support after the March 11th 2011 Fukushima tsunami that wiped out the Japanese coastal city and sparked a nuclear emergency. 

The gardens are side by side and the change from each is denoted by a sign. The other sign that you’ve stepped from one to the other is the lack of abundance of plants and sculpture. 

All that’s in this part of the park is an immaculately manicured lawn with a few rocks and a Japanese stone lantern carefully arranged. The emptiness of the space is meant to reflect the devastation the tsunami left in its wake. If you know this the garden takes on a whole new light. 

Kyoto Garden and Holland Park: Practical Information 

Address: Holland Park, Holland Park Ave, London W11 4UA

Opening hours: The garden is currently open from 7:30am until half an hour before sunset. This info can change though so check the website for updates before you visit. 

Ticket: Holland Park and the Kyoto Gardens are free to visit, you don’t need a ticket. 

Getting there: The nearest underground station to Kyoto Garden is Holland Park – it’s located just across the road from the park. Alternatively, Kensington Olympia overground station is a two-minute walk from Kyoto Garden.

What about Dogs?

Dogs are more than welcome to explore Holland Park and Kyoto Garden with you, but like with all the Royal Parks, you should keep your furry friend on a lead and make sure to pick up any mess.

Note that you will likely come across peacocks and other wildlife, so please make sure that your pet is well-behaved and won’t scare the animals away (or ruin any of the plants!).

Holland Park: Map 

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