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The Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in London

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The Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in London

The cherry blossom season in London brings a wave of pink and white blooms that signals the start of spring. Though cherry blossom trees are not native to England, you can find them dotted across many of London’s parks and gardens, creating stunning displays when they flower for their short 1-2 week peak.

Seeing these cherry trees in full bloom has become an iconic spring activity in London. Their beauty draws spectators and photographers from across the city.

This article will highlight the top spots to see cherry blossoms in London, when the cherry blossom season happens, and provide tips to make the most of your visit to these floral displays.

When is Cherry Blossom Season in London?

The cherry blossom season in London typically runs from mid-March through mid-April. Here are the key dates:

  • Early March – Cherry buds start to emerge
  • Mid-late March – Blossoms begin to open; some early-blooming varieties reach peak bloom
  • Early April – Peak bloom for most cherry trees around London
  • Mid April – Petals start to fall, ending the bloom

The warm spring weather determines the timing of the season. Climate change has caused buds to emerge earlier over the last decades.

To check forecasts for the current best cherry blossom viewing, check the Royal Parks Bloom Watch site. This tracks the status of the iconic cherry trees in St. James’s Park. Use it to time your visit.

Where to Find Cherry Blossom Trees in London

Many parks, university campuses, and gardens around London have planted ornamental cherry trees. Here are the top spots to see brilliant displays:

St James’s Park

Home to London’s most popular and photographed cherry trees. At peak bloom, clouds of pink and white blossoms arch gracefully over the lake, creating stunning photo backdrops.

  • Location: West of Westminster, near Buckingham Palace
  • Number of trees: Approximately 85 Yoshino cherry trees, a gift from Japan in 1912
  • Bloom season: Early to mid April

Kensington Gardens

Sprawling gardens with several groves of mature cherry trees that blossom prolifically. Excellent for picnics under the trees.

  • Location: Next to Hyde Park in central London
  • Features: Multiple cherry tree groves; the Round Pond offers great reflections
  • Peak season: Late March to mid April

University College London

This university campus features over 200 ornamental cherry trees lining its walkways. One of the longer-lasting bloom displays in London.

  • Location: Bloomsbury area
  • Number of trees: Over 200
  • Peak season: Early April

Greenwich Park

Situated on a hill overlooking the River Thames, this park explodes with color when its many Yoshino cherry trees bloom.

  • Location: Greenwich borough in south London
  • Number of trees: Approx 200
  • Peak season: Early April

Other Notable Cherry Tree Locations

  • Barbican Centre
  • Chelsea Physic Garden
  • Clapham Common
  • Dulwich Park and College
  • Brockwell Park
  • Ham House riverside gardens

Check TimeOut’s guide for additional spots around London to admire the ephemeral cherry blossoms.

Best Viewing Spots at Top London Locations

Cherry Blossom Trees

Each prime cherry blossom site in London has its iconic spots. Here are top areas to target at the most popular parks and gardens:

St James’s Park

  • The Lake – Yoshino cherries reflected in these still waters with Buckingham Palace visible in the distance is the postcard perfect scene. Arrive very early (by 7am) to beat crowds.
  • Blue Bridge – Another key photo vista spot over the lake framed by blossoms
  • Duck Island – For full immersion in flowers, take a stroll through this secluded area thick with trees

Kensington Gardens

  • The Round Pond – Check out the colorful reflection of blossoms in this small body of water
  • Cherry Walk – Meandering tree-lined path that lives up to its name in spring
  • Italian Gardens – Symmetrical garden lined with cherry trees on the north and south sides

University College London

  • Main Wilkins Building entrance – Stand under the canopy of flowers framing the entrance to this iconic building
  • South Cloisters – Cherry tree tunnel effect on this covered walkway when blooms peak
  • Darwin Building – Mature cherry tree on this lawn that attracts student photographers

When is the Best Time to See Peak Cherry Blossoms?

The cherry blossom blooming period is frustratingly short. To catch them at their picturesque best, timing is everything.

Here are tips:

  • Visit in early April – This is when flowers reach peak bloom before petals start falling. First 1-2 weeks are best.
  • Time your trip – Check Royal Parks bloom forecasts and aim for late “florescent” or early “full bloom” stage.
  • Arrive early morning – Around 7-9am is ideal. Light is beautiful and landmarks empty enough for great photos.

Avoid visiting late morning or mid-day, when crowds pose challenges. The blossoms will still be lovely in the afternoon, but sight lines will be more obstructed.

What to Expect When Viewing the Cherry Blossoms

Seeing London’s cherry trees in full bloom is a spring highlight. But be prepared for the experience with these tips:

  • Have backup plans – Bloom peak only lasts about 1-2 weeks and timing is always unpredictable. Have a Plan B sightseeing option in case you miss it.
  • Expect crowds – The blossoms’ beauty and brief lifespan makes them very popular. Be ready for many photographers and selfie-snappers.
  • Prepare for unpredictability – Late frosts or high winds can abruptly end peak blooming. Be flexible since weather impacts timing.
  • Appreciate from afar – When trees are mobbed with people, admire from a bench further away rather than trying to get close. The vista can still be lovely.
  • Bring a picnic – Savor the spectacle by packing a meal or snacks to enjoy under the floral canopy in parks that allow it.

Top Tips for Photographing Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossom season offers incredible photographic opportunities. Here are some tips for taking your best shots:

  • Use a zoom lens – This allows close-ups of flowers while avoiding crowds around trees.
  • Focus on foreground blossoms – Foreground branches make the best subjects. Avoid cluttered backgrounds.
  • Try side/backlit images – Position the sun on the side or behind blossoms so the light shines through.
  • Add human elements – People enjoying the view, boats on water, or iconic landmarks in the frame add interest.
  • Return on multiple days – Hit peak timing when blossoms emerge. Then revisit as blooms fill out.
  • Explore unique perspectives – Shoot reflections in still pond water or silhouettes against sunsets. Get creative!

The History of Cherry Blossoms in London

While native to Asia, cherry blossom trees have a long history in London. Here are some key moments:

  • Early 1800s – First ornamental cherry trees introduced to England from Japan
  • 1912 – Over 2,000 cherry trees gifted by mayor of Tokyo planted in Royal Parks, including 85 Yoshino cherries around St. James’s Park lake
  • 1920s-40s – University campuses like UCL begin planting cherry tree tunnels and groves
  • 1984 – Addition of further trees for 50th anniversary of Japanese gift; more added since
  • Early 2000s – Climate change leads to warmer springs, earlier bloom times

Today keeping the iconic cherry trees healthy in London’s urban environment takes ongoing work. But it ensures the beloved spring blooming tradition continues.

Different Cherry Tree Varieties in London

There are a few common ornamental cherry tree varieties found across London. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Yoshino cherry – Most prevalent, especially in Royal Parks. White or pale pink blossoms. Weeping branches when mature.
  • Kanzan cherry – Pinker blossoms. Broader crown shape. Common in Chelsea Physic Garden.
  • Ukon cherry – Buttery yellow blossoms rather than white or pink. Seen occasionally.
  • Taihaku cherry – Large pure white blossoms. A mutant variant of Yoshino tree.

Yoshino cherries with their delicate pink and white color are the most iconic. When in bloom, they launch a thousand photography sessions!

Where to Stay Near Prime Cherry Blossom Spots

To make the most of a cherry blossom trip, consider staying near one of the top parks or gardens. Here are accommodations ideas conveniently located:

Near St. James Park

  • The Ritz London
  • The Trafalgar St. James London, Curio Collection by Hilton
  • The Z Hotel Piccadilly

Close to Kensington Gardens

  • The Milestone Hotel and Residences
  • Radisson Blu Edwardian Vanderbilt
  • 99 Lexham Gardens by Hotel Indigo

In Greenwich

  • Intercontinental London – The O2
  • Holiday Inn Express London Greenwich
  • The George Inn Greenwich

Review hotel listings on Expedia or Booking.com and consider location, amenities, and budget.

Essential Items to Pack for Cherry Blossom Viewing

To make your cherry blossom experience smooth, easy and Instagram-ready, pack these essentials:

Comfort

  • Blanket – for picnic under the trees
  • Portable chair – helps avoid sitting on damp ground
  • Umbrella – springs showers happen!
  • Extra layers – early mornings can be chilly

Photos

  • Camera/phone – fully charged with extra battery
  • Zoom lens – gets close perspectives despite crowds
  • Tripod – for crystal clear landscape shots
  • Photo editing apps – make images pop with filters and tweaks later

Relaxing

  • Snacks/drinks – fuel up while enjoying the ambiance
  • Book/music player/tablet – entertain during off-peak times
  • Portable phone charger – prevent missing shot opportunities!

With the right tools, you’ll be ready to thoroughly document London’s fleeting cherry blossom displays.

Make This Spring a Cherry Blossom Season to Remember

As signs of warmer weather, longer days, and nature’s renewal, seeing cherry trees burst into bloom is a mood-lifting rite of spring. London offers many opportunities to enjoy these iconic blossoms.

Time your visit to St James’s Park, Kensington Gardens, or iconic university campuses to catch peak blooms. Then prepare your camera to capture Instagram-worthy shots you’ll cherish for years.

The next cherry blossom season will be here before you know it. Mark your 2025 calendar now to see London transformed by pink and white petals floating on the spring breeze.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes the cherry blossoms to bloom?

Increasing daylight hours and warming temperatures in spring initiate bud formation and blooming. Peak happens when daytime highs reach about 60°F.

Do cherry trees have green leaves and blossoms at the same time?

The blossoms generally emerge first before leaves unfurl. But later in bloom season you may see both flowers and small leaves.

How long do the blossoms last on trees?

Peak bloom only lasts about 1-2 weeks. Wind or rain can shorten this timeframe. Individual blossoms start wilting 4-10 days after opening.

Can you pick the cherry blossoms off trees?

No. Picking park trees damages fragile branches. Removing blossoms also reduces scenic beauty for other visitors. Leave flowers intact for all to enjoy.

Will there be cherries to pick after blossoms?

Ornamental cherry trees don’t bear much edible fruit. Their beauty comes from the prolific floral displays they were bred for. Best to simply admire them!

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