Spend a Sunday surrounded by greenery at the Barbican’s lush conservatory

What?: The Barbican’s steamy Sunday sanctuary is abundant in lush greenery, tropical fish and Andie McDowell’s apartment in Green Card vibes. The second-largest greenhouse in London after Kew’s 19th-century Palm House, this verdant glass-roofed 80s oasis is a maze of paths, bridges and walkways snaking over and around tranquil ponds and 2,000 species of tropical plants and trees. It’s also home to a chic prebook-only cafe serving delectable afternoon teas for £27.50 a head, but if you’re not lucky enough to have snagged a ticket (the waiting list is six weeks long) then a lazy stroll around the luscious indoor garden is a pretty lovely consolation prize.

Where & When?: The conservatory is open 12-5pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Barbican (Metropolitan, Circle, Hammersmith & City) is a five-minute walk, Moorgate (Northern, mainline) is seven and St Paul’s (Central) is 13.

Facilities: The Barbican offers free cloakrooms, baby-changing and step-free access. Kids eat free in the Barbican Kitchen, which also has high chairs.

Best Bits: This is the perfect Sunday activity, with or without kids. The calm atmosphere and balmy air will lull babies to sleep while bigger ones will be fascinated by the rare, often freaky flora and bright spotted koi. It’s the inbetweeners you’ll have to watch, but there’s always the Barbican’s massive downstairs foyer to unleash crabby crawlers in afterwards.

Worst Bits: The conservatory is not step-free or massively toddler-friendly, so unless you’re down with lugging a buggy up and down stairs while your child lumbers around consuming fistfuls of soil and potentially poisonous plants before ending up in the pond with the fish, may I suggest you leave the pram in the cloakroom and strap on some reins or a carrier of some description.

Would We Come Back?: It’s a bit sweaty in the summer but I’m making this place our new winter weekend hangout.


Bab tackles the lily-pond bridge aided by mummy because she can’t be trusted where water is concerned, at the Barbican Conservatory