Fine art student and freelance writer from Paris, living in London.
Published April 29th 2017
The hidden secret of the Barbican
Image from The Barbican website.
London is one of the greenest cities in the UK, with not only large royal parks, but also many small gardens and green spaces all around the city, behind little houses or big trees. Nevertheless, there is another a hidden treasure, on the 3rd floor of the Barbican Centre, in the heart of the city.
The Barbican Center is a group of concrete buildings most commonly known for its concerts, exhibitions, film screenings and theatrical performances, in the middle of the Barbican Estate. What is less well known is that it also houses the most amazing tropical greenhouse, in the middle of this concrete estate.
The Barbican Conservatory is the second largest tropical greenhouse in London after the Palm House of Kew Gardens. Under its glass roof, there are over 2000 species of plants and tropical trees such as palm trees or ferns. The atmosphere is rather calm and quiet; a small bridge has even been built inside which leads to a place with a white bench suitable for a small break under the caress of the leaves.
A discreet staircase leads to the upper floor and offers a better view of the whole greenhouse seen from above. It also leads to a small room devoted to cacti and other arid plants. The greenhouse is also home to some exotic fish that swim lazily in a pond: you have to be a bit patient to see them because most often they hide under the green screen that aquatic plants offer.
It is not as big or as richly stocked with plants and shrubs as Kew Gardens but if you cannot visit these, the Barbican Conservatory in the heart of the city is a good alternative, especially knowing that the visit is totally free of access. There are just one or two employees who keep an eye on everything.
The Barbican Conservatory is open all year but access to the public is allowed only on a few Sundays per month from 12 pm to 5 pm, as well as on Bank Holidays. Don't forget check the dates and Hours of opening Sundays on their website.