The lush riverside villages of Richmond and Kew are perfect for relaxation. Visit unique shops and first-rate restaurants, or explore Richmond Park and the fragrant Kew Gardens.
The development of both Richmond and Kew has been heavily shaped by the Royal Family. Richmond's name dates back to when Henry VII built a palace in what was then known as Sheen, and called it Richmond, after Richmond Palace in Yorkshire.
Although Kew is alleged to have been a significant location even in Roman times, it was this proximity to the Royal family that put it on the map. From Tudor times the area was a popular Royal relaxation spot, and in the 18th century Princess Augusta created Kew's crowning glory – the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Today, you can explore a wealth of historic houses, parks and gardens that evoke the area's grand history. If you'd rather stay in the present day, Richmond and Kew also contain a wealth of unique shops, restaurants, pubss and galleries. In summer, you can spend a memorable evening watching the sun set over the tranquil river.
The Great Outdoors at Richmond and Kew
At 2,500 acres, Richmond Park is the largest of all the Royal Parks. In this verdant oasis you'll find deer, exotic plants and lots of space for a horse ride or picnic. You can enjoy refreshments in the exquisite Georgian Pembroke Lodge, or, if you're missing the city, gaze at the distant St Paul's Cathedral from King Henry's Mound.
Green-fingered visitors will love Kew Gardens, which contains the world's largest collection of living plants. Here you can explore the incredible glasshouses, see the towering pagoda or get a spectacular overview from the intricate Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop Walkway.
The area also has several magnificent golf courses, rowing clubs and even a polo field for sporty types. Alternatively, you can enjoy a sedate river cruise that takes you all the way from Richmond to the Houses of Parliament at Westminster.
Attractions and Entertainment
Richmond is situated close to Syon Park, a grand 16th century mansion that has been home to the Earls of Northumberland for more than 400 years. Two nearby stately homes, Ham House and Marble Hill House, provide a fascinating insight into 17th and 18th century court life. For an eccentric architectural contrast, visit Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill House, Britain's finest example of Georgian Gothic revival architecture.
On the north side of Kew Bridge you'll find the excellent Steam Museum, which is packed full of working examples of industrial engines, as well as a steam train. The Musical Museum next door houses a far more delicate collection – a world-class exhibition of automatic instruments. In Richmond, you can learn about the fascinating history of the area at the Museum of Richmond.
Richmond's maze of cobbled streets is packed full of small, independently-owned shops selling antiques, organic foods, books, fine art, and of course, designer clothes. Try The Open Book, Titfertat Hats and William Curley for starters.
The area also contains a large selection of small art galleries, among which are the Riverside Gallery, Orleans House Gallery and the Richmond Hill Gallery. If you'd rather get your hands dirty, take the whole family to the Pottery Café, where you can decorate and keep one of their beautiful handmade items. In the evening, catch a show at the Orange Tree or Richmond theatres.
Drinking and Dining in Richmond and Kew
The elegance of Richmond and Kew is reflected in its restaurants. For a truly exceptional dining experience, head to The Bingham's Michelin-starred restaurant or the understated Glasshouse next to Kew Gardens station. If you'd prefer to dine amongst the foliage, try lunch at the highly-acclaimed Petersham Nurseries Café. Those with a sweet tooth will love The Original Maids of Honour, which has been supplying pastries to Richmondites for 300 years.
In summer, enjoy an alfresco pint at the Cricketers in Richmond, from which you can watch the sport being played on the Green. The Roebuck pub also offers wonderful views down Richmond Hill, or you can head to the Botanist in Kew to sample delicious ales brewed on the premises.