Finding green space in a city can be difficult, as we’ve noted in other articles. While it may seem like a new fad, the concept of growing plants on top of a building has been around for thousands of years, with some of the earliest examples found in Mesopotamia and the Roman Empire. Today, roof gardens offer many benefits to urban residents, adding an attractive gathering place, making use of otherwise barren areas, permitting volunteers to grow food and flowers, and helping to reduce the heat absorption, and thus the energy consumption, of the structure. As green building is becoming a priority amid concerns about global warming, more roof gardens have found their way to the tops of London. We’ve picked out five of our favourites here, but let us know some of your own in the comments.
Bangarang at Queen of Hoxton
Queen of Hoxton bar in Shoreditch is a must-visit place any time of the year, but especially during the summer, when its rooftop terrace transforms into a place out of Neverland. Known as “Bangarang” after the phrase popularised in the film Hook, the roof garden contains everything from a pirate ship to the Lost Boys’ hideout. The terrace becomes even greener than normal during summer to simulate the jungles of Neverland, and while you sip on drinks or dine on food reflecting Barrie’s imaginary world, you can use happy thoughts to fly your imagination back to childhood.
Queen Elizabeth Hall
For a more traditional roof garden, Queen Elizabeth Hall at Southbank Centre is a beautiful oasis with views of the Thames, London Eyes, and the Palace of Westminster. The hall’s garden includes lush green grass, trees, flowers, and a number of other excellent flora, all maintained by the garden’s volunteer staff. In an example of what all roof gardens have to offer, the volunteers at Queen Elizabeth Hall maintain the plants as a form of ecotherapy to help relieve stress, fight addiction, and treat depression. Additionally, it can be an excellent place of an impromptu picnic, as Company of Cooks maintains a small café and bar that serves light snacks and sandwiches.
Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch
At the top of 20 Fenchurch Street is the city’s tallest roof garden, the Sky Garden. 155 metres above the street, Sky Garden was apparently designed originally as a public park, but now requires you to book in advance for tickets that let you spend up to 90 minutes perusing the garden, looking out over the city, or enjoying a meal and drinks at Fenchurch Restaurant. The original plans for Sky Garden may not reflect the final product, but it’s still worth the incredible view. The garden itself is three storeys tall and grants a 360-degree view of London that, while enclosed, is still gorgeous when surrounded by plants.
Another example of a roof garden with a purpose, the Culpeper is more than just a rooftop garden bar. The first three floors hold a pub, a restaurant, and a hotel with a very charming design throughout and some excellent food. However, it’s the roof that you’ll really want to see and is part of the secret to the Culpeper’s success. Not just full of beautiful plants, the Culpeper actually uses its garden to grow many of the ingredients used in its kitchen. In addition to serving up drinks and food, the roof garden also offers astronomy nights and gardening workshops in addition to the spectacular views.
The Roof Gardens (Kensington)
On top of what was once Derry and Toms department store, the Roof Gardens opened in 1933 and today are maintained by Virgin. When the gardens opened, it cost one shilling to get in and the money was donated to local hospitals. The gardens feature a mixture of garden styles, from the Spanish Garden based on the Alhambra in Grenada, Spain to the Tudor Garden that keeps history alive. The English Woodland section is home to a number of birds, exotic ducks, and even flamingos that contribute to the gardens’ colourfulness. For the time it was created, the drainage system is quite inventive and certainly one of the reasons why the Rooftop Gardens is a Grade II listed building.