London's Best Museum Gardens

By Laura Reynolds Last edited 6 months ago
London's Best Museum Gardens

London's museums are fantastic, but sometimes what lies outside is worth a visit just as much as the exhibits themselves. London's museum gardens range from petite courtyard cafés to rambling fields. These are our favourites.

Photo: Londonist

Horniman Museum

More of a park than a garden, this one (so much so that it has its own map), but we love it anyway.

The centrepiece is the bandstand, which offers views over south London and beyond, and where free open-air concerts often take place at weekends. Every Saturday morning a farmers' market rocks up next to the bandstand, and the meadow field below is popular with local dog walkers — and a great place for the kids to burn off some energy.

Children will also be entertained by the Sundial Trail, and the Animal Walk, where they can get up close to alpacas, goats and other farmyard favourites, while adults will appreciate the more formal garden areas and the nature garden.

Horniman Museum, Forest Hill. Entry to the museum and grounds is free, although donations are appreciated.

The Horniman Museum bandstand. Photo: Horniman Museum

Museum of Brands

When the Museum of Brands moved to a new location in Notting Hill in 2016, everyone focused on the Time Tunnel inside the new museum. But don't neglect the museum garden — another high point.

Tucked away in an enclosed space behind the museum, the garden is actually part of the café, but it's well worth the price of a coffee and a cake to enjoy it.

The mass of greenery makes exploring a must — you can't see all corners of the garden from the comfort of your chair, so get up and have a stroll. Don't miss the fish pond. And if you pick your time of year carefully, you may even see kiwi fruits being grown.

Museum of Brands, Notting Hill. Museum entry is £9 for adults, but you can visit the café without paying museum admission.

The Museum of Brands cafe. Photo: Londonist

Dickens Museum

Behind the Bloomsbury terrace which is home to the Charles Dickens Museum lies what we reckon is the most peaceful spot in the area — the museum's Garden Cafe.

It's not a large garden by any means, certainly not one to let the kids run round in, but the enclosed courtyard feels like you've stumbled on a secret. Just beyond the high brick wall is the hustle and bustle of Gray's Inn Road, not that you'd know it, so tranquil is the space.

Charles Dickens Museum, Bloomsbury. Museum admission is £9 for adults,  but you can visit the Garden Café without paying museum admission.

The Garden Cafe at the Dickens Museum. Photo: Londonist

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Like the nearby Horniman Museum, Dulwich Picture Gallery's grounds are an impressive size (three acres to be precise), with events including film screenings — and most impressively, a fire garden — held there. Take a picnic to enjoy on the lawn, or grab some grub from the snack cabin.

Dulwich Picture Gallery, West Dulwich. Gallery entry £7 adult, entry to the gardens is free.

Photo: icklekitty

Geffrye Museum

Hoxton's Geffrye Museum cleverly uses the gardens as an extension of the exhibits. Period gardens show how domestic gardens have changed through the centuries, and were put together using maps, planting lists and other resources dating back to the 17th century.

The walled herb garden contains 170 different herbs

Geffrye Museum, Hoxton. Free entry. Herb and period gardens open in summer, while the front gardens open all year round.

Geffrye Museum. Photo: David Sankey

Natural History Museum

Alongside the roaring traffic of South Kensington's Cromwell Road is an altogether more peaceful spot — the Natural History Museum's Wildlife Garden.

Home to more than 2,600 British species of plants and animals, the garden has been open since 1995. Special nature events are occasionally held there — keep an eye on the website for upcoming events.

The Natural History Museum Wildlife Garden is open March-November, and you can visit on request in the winter months. Entry is free but donations are appreciated.

Photo: Natural History Museum

Have we missed your favourite London museum garden? Let us know in the comments below.

Last Updated 21 March 2017

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