What to do in Richmond, southwest London's riverside idyll

Historic parks, lavish houses and epic Thames views abound in one of London’s most eclectic corners.

By Maria Pieri
Published 15 Feb 2022, 06:00 GMT, Updated 22 Feb 2022, 15:51 GMT
The daily commute - cycling through Richmond Park.

The daily commute — cycling through Richmond Park.

Photograph by Getty Images

Why go

A visit to Richmond upon Thames offers the best of both worlds. Just 20 minutes by train from bustling central London, the elegant borough can feel like a world away with its boutique shops, age-old pubs and grand, historic houses tucked away in sprawling grounds. The headline attraction is Kew Gardens, but there are plenty more experiences on offer: spot stags in Richmond Park; browse the jewellers and gelaterias around pretty Richmond Green or hike up to Richmond Hill for sweeping views of the river. If you prefer to admire the Thames up close, strike out on the Thames Path — an easy, scenic ramble that doubles as an opportunity to admire the houseboats and jaw-dropping homes on the riverbanks.

What to do

One of London’s eight Royal Parks, Richmond Park covers an area of 2,500 acres and is best known for its population of around 600 red and fallow deer. The park has protected status and is home to thousands of ancient trees that support a range of rare fungi, birds, beetles and bats, as well as grasses and wildflowers. Set aside a good couple of hours to explore the park, whether on foot or by bike (try the Tamsin Trail, which roughly follows the perimeter of the park). Finish off a walk with afternoon tea at Pembroke Lodge, a grand Georgian mansion with stunning views.

Ham House and Garden

This 17th-century house sits on the banks of the Thames and is the creation of the Duke an Duchess of Lauderdale, who transformed Ham into one of the grandest Stuart houses in England. Take a tour of its superb collection of paintings, furniture and textiles, and you might even smell the ghostly aroma of the sweet pipe tobacco the Duke smoked in the dining room (the house has a reputation for being haunted). Don’t miss the extensive gardens and Orangery Café for light lunches, too.

Herd of red and fallow deer in Richmond Park.

Photograph by Alamy

Where to eat

In Richmond town centre, Richmond Thai Kitchen offers home-cooked Thai food, with dishes including garlic salt squid; Thai ‘train fried rice’ with chicken and egg (a dish traditionally cooked and served on trains), and Kua Gling stir fry with Auntie’s homemade spicy chilli paste.

Later, head to The Gate, the in-house restaurant at the Richmond Harbour Hotel, which is ideal for all-day dining. The seasonal menu includes starters such as burrata with heritage tomatoes and hazelnuts, and house gin-cured salmon, as well as mains ranging from kale tagliatelle, loin of lamb or sea bass.

Don’t miss

A stroll along the 21-mile stretch of the Thames Path from Barnes to Hampton Court, which passes through Richmond. Expect a passing slide show of life by the river: cyclists, swans, ramblers, rowers and houseboats moored along the banks. Make time for pit stops for ice cream, coffee or a drink at a pub overlooking the water.

We like

The Roebuck, a friendly pub at the top of Richmond Hill. It sits just above the Terrace Gardens, which drop down to Petersham Meadows and has spectacular views across the river. The timeless view was much loved (and painted) by artist J M W Turner, and it’s the only view in England to protected by an Act of Parliament. Book ahead for a traditional Sunday roast — the nut roast wellington is an excellent meat-free option.

Where to stay

Revamped in June 2021, the Richmond Harbour Hotel & Spa sits atop Richmond Hill just a stick’s throw from the park. It’s the perfect escape for those looking to recharge: the renovations have meant there’s now a new HarSPA & Club, kitted out with a state-of-the-art gym, spin studio, plunge pool and a 20-metre pool. It also offers meditation walks or running sessions through Richmond Park, as well as a new Sleep Retreat Experience, created in collaboration with The White Company. From £140, B&B.

Published in the March 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

Follow us on social media




Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2024 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved