London’s oldest botanic garden, the Chelsea Physic Garden was first established in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries as a teaching garden, designed to allow apprentices a structured environment in which they could learn to identify important medicinal plants.
Today the garden is home to about 5,000 edible, medicinal and healing plants. The collection also includes species with notoriously hallucinogenic properties that are historically associated with witchcraft and paganism such as the mandrake, datura, henbane, and deadly nightshade plants.
A statue of the garden’s benefactor, the Irish physician and collector Sir Hans Sloane, sits in the garden. Sloane also contributed to the founding of the British Museum and the Natural History Museum, as well as contributed a small collection of rare religious works now held in the chained library at Chelsea Old Church, where he is buried.
A self-guided historical walk is plotted out at the garden to highlight some of the key personalities involved in the garden’s history, including the exploring naturalist Sir Joseph Banks.
Know Before You Go
The garden is closed Saturdays. Hours vary on the season, check the website to avoid disappointment. There is a cafe and other amenities on site. A modest entrance fee is charged regardless of how long the garden.