Travel

Surprisingly tropical Locations in London

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

the rainforest cafe - tropical locations in London

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.

wishing pond in the rainforest cafe, london

The Butterfly enclosure at ZSL London Zoo

Clear butterflies in ZSL - tropical locations in London

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!

Butterfly in ZSL London zoo

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

roya botanic gardens kew london

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!

royal botanic gardens - tropical locations in londom

Have you ever been to these tropical locations in London? What’s your favourite spot in London if you’ve been there?

17 thoughts on “Surprisingly tropical Locations in London

  1. I’ve been to the Rainforest cafe twice, one a few years ago where I had an amazing experience, and again last year where the service and experience was terrible. 🙁 Having said that I still enjoyed the displays and thunderstorms. I’ve not been to London Zoo but my parents bought my boyfriend and I an experience gift there this year. So I’m looking forward to that. It’s good to hear that they had good died enclosures suitable for their animals. Kew Gardens is another one on my list this year! I’m glad it’s easy to get too by public transport. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

      1. Thanks! It may have just been a one off, as the first time was lovely. They also have one in Disneyland Paris which is good.

  2. I have never heard of the Rainforest Cafe – I really must visit this beautiful place. I do love a rainforest inspired setting – your photos are beautiful xxx

  3. Oh wow I had not heard of the butterfly tent at the zoo, but love Kew. I am going back there again for the orchid festival! Great article of places.

  4. I went to Kew when I was working for a mental health charity, I took a group of the service users there. It’s a really nice place.

    I didn’t know about the Rain Forest Cafe, I might have to check that out

  5. Great post! I live in London but have never been to these places. I’ve heard of the rainforest cafe but not the other places you mentioned. Thanks for shading! I’ll definitely share this with a friend who I think will find your post interesting.

  6. I love this post. I adore London Zoo and Kew Gardens. I’ve never been to the Rainforest Cafe but now I’m desperate too! Definitely going to look into it. I love going somewhere tropical so you feel like you’re in another place. Sometimes you need that!

  7. I’ve been to Kew Gardens it’s pretty cool. The parakeets were a surprise tho I think they were originally escaped pets that live there now. I have some of the same feelings with zoos on the one hand they are wild animals but the zoos also do help with conservation projects and education.

  8. This is such a cool post with places I didn’t really think about in regards to being in London. The rainforest café sounds fun and I do LOVE a butterfly enclosure, they’re just beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

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