I love warm tropical places, so why on Earth would I go to cold rainy London!? London is full of surprises. Although it’s mostly known for its generic tourist attractions like Buckingham Palace or Big Ben, or it’s literary spots devoted to Sherlock Holmes and Harry Potter, London can feel like a bunch of different cites in one. In some places, London feels like you’re not even in the UK anymore! Why not have a staycation and visit these tropical destinations? Or make your holiday to London feel like two vacations in one! Here are three surprisingly tropical locations in London to make you feel like you’re in Paradise!
The Rainforest Cafe
Located just off Leicester Square, the Rainforest cafe is a hidden tropical getaway right in the heart of London.
Calling it cafe is a bit misleading, as it’s more somewhere you’d go for dinner or a hearty lunch. There’s quite a wait time to be seated so you wouldn’t just pop in for a coffee. The Rainforest Restaurant doesn’t really have the same ring to it, even if it is alliteration.
The cafe (and gift shop) is darkly lit and covered head to toe in rainforest decor. From butterflies flapping their wings on the wall, big fish tanks, and exotic birds, it feels like a Disney attraction. If you have kids, it will be their new favourite place, but if you’re just a kid at heart you’ll love it too. In fact, while we were there, most of the songs they played were actually old school Disney songs (which we loved!) However, it’s not affiliated with Disney, despite the fact that Disneyworld Florida has their own Rainforest cafe. At one point they even replicated a monsoon with flashing lightning, and rain and thunder sound effects.
It’s a little pricy. We only stopped by for something light, but they had vegan and gluten-free options. I would say it’s worth it for the experience. It’s not every day you eat somewhere like this! Try not to impulse the whole giftshop on the way out.
The Butterfly enclosure at ZSL London Zoo
The Butterfly enclosure at ZSL London Zoo literally feels like the Rainforest! With 100% humidity, we were soaked the second we entered the tent! They have the most exotic and beautiful butterflies I’ve ever seen, and a huge array of plants and flowers for them to feed on. The butterflies are free to fly around the enclosure, and they only land on people if they want to. One mistook my friend’s bright bag as flowers!
It’s absolutely mesmerizing.
The only butterflies I see at home are monarchs (rarely), the little white ones, and red & navy ones. The butterflies here were so vibrant and beautiful. That’s not to say common butterflies aren’t beautiful, I have a monarch tattoo after all! These were just so unique and unlike any I’ve ever seen in real life before.
It’s also the only one of these tropical locations in London where you genuinely feel like you’re in the rainforest, rather than a rainforest simulation like the cafe!
I’m torn on how I feel about zoos, one on hand, I’d like to see animals in the wild and not on display for us, but on the other, their natural habitats are destroyed because of climate change and they’re in danger of poaching. Some zoos are barbaric, we’ve all seen horror stories of tiny filthy encloses full of either obese or famished animals. London Zoos enclosures were the biggest I’ve ever seen (I’m looking at you, Dublin Zoo) but obviously not as big as the wild. They were quite green as well and had lots of installations about how palm oil and plastic pollution is bad for animals. So as far as zoos go, I didn’t leave with a bad taste in my mouth, that said, I’d still rather avoid zoos and go on a safari instead. I actually used to want to be a zookeeper as a kid, but didn’t know how zookeepers became zookeepers! I’d still love to work with animals.
They actually have a breeding and reintroduction program!
If you want to go to ZSL, then I would recommend the butterfly habitat – and while you’re there check out the snake tank from the first Harry Potter!
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The Royal Botanic Gardens are a bit inconvenient to get to, as it’s 30 minutes outside of London, but it’s not too hard to get there! Transport in London is so efficient and easy that you can get anywhere with almost no hassle.
I’ll admit this is the one location on this list I haven’t been to, but would love to see it. Next time I go I’ll do my best to get here, and blog about it!
The Botanic gardens in Kew have over 50,000 kinds of plants! The Princess of Wales Conservatory is a huge greenhouse with 10 controlled climate zones. From carnivorous plants like the Venus flytrap and pitcher plants to prickly cacti and bright orchids, it’s a journey through the world’s tropics.
They also have cafes and art installations, so it’s a whole day out! I love plants, which you might have picked up from my series about my little indoor cacti/succulent garden.
In 1985 Sir David Attenborough created a time capsule full of seeds of endangered plants in the gardens. It will be opened in 2085, when most of them are predicted to be extinct. I hope by 2085, first to still be alive, but also, that we have successfully curbed the climate crisis. The thought of so much being extinct and so much of the earth unhabitable by then is devastating.
I don’t want this post to end on a completely low note, so here are some good news climate stories. If you are traveling to London, make sure to travel green! I’d also ask you to try live greener in general, so we’re not distraught when that time capsule gets opened!
Have you ever been to these tropical locations in London? What’s your favourite spot in London if you’ve been there?