15 Things to Do in Richmond London | Places to Visit, Eat, & More
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Richmond is a charming residential area in London. In contrast with the crowded streets of the capital, it’s a leafy area of the city where the River Thames flows slowly by and life seems to slow down just a bit.
It has all the features of a cosy English district, like small cafes, an idyllic landscape, and historic sites. It also contains some great London parks that will make you feel like you’re a world away from the high energy city.
This guide covers all of the fun things to do in Richmond, London, as well as the best places to eat and stay. For good measure, I’ve also included some nearby attractions to check out in Richmond Upon Thames and some cool places a bit farther away for a day trip.
Where is Richmond?
Richmond is located in southwest London. It’s part of the borough of Richmond upon Thames, which covers a much wider area.
It’s about 8.2 miles (13.2 km) west-southwest of London’s well-known Charing Cross. It’s situated in a highly scenic location along the River Thames and contains lots of open green spaces.
History of Richmond
Richmond was founded in the 16th century following King Henry VII’s construction of Richmond Palace. This is where the town derives its name from. The palace was named after the King’s earldom of Richmond, North Yorkshire.
When it was founded, the area was mostly associated with British royalty. Richmond Palace was a favourite of Elizabeth I. She regularly held court there and enjoyed hunting in the nearby park. As she got older, she spent most of her time in the palace, and it’s where she passed away in 1603.
In the 18th century, the district was built up with the construction of the Richmond Bridge and numerous Georgian terraces. The most notable of these are situated around Richmond Green and on top of Richmond Hill.
Then, in 1846, the Richmond railway station opened. This was an important event in the assimilation of the district into the rapidly developing city of London.
What to Do in Richmond
Let’s jump into the top places in Richmond to explore. From beautiful parkland to independent theatres and local museums, this is your comprehensive guide to discovering the area.
1. Explore Richmond Park
Richmond Park is a must-see attraction when visiting the area. Spanning 2,360 acres, it’s the largest Royal Park in London. It’s also a National Nature Reserve and a Special Area of Conservation.
The grounds are very well maintained and contain lots of open space, tall trees, and scenic places to explore.
One of the park’s most unique aspects is its deer population. King Henry VIII introduced the deer onto the grounds for hunting, and they’ve been a staple feature ever since. Today, about 630 Red and Fallow deer roam freely.
Isabella Plantation is one of the most serene places to go in Richmond Park. This Victorian Garden plantation has been around since the 1830s. It comprises about 40 acres of woodland, which is filled with rare trees, beautiful flowers, colourful shrubs, and quiet ponds.
There are walking paths that weave through all the different sections of the plantation and a good number of benches to rest and take in the tranquil atmosphere.
For active travellers, there are several activities in Richmond Park you can partake in. Every Saturday, the park hosts a 5km fun run. It’s free to join; you just need to register before you arrive.
You can also book a Richmond park cycle tour. This activity allows you to easily see the park’s extensive landscape and beautiful features.
One last attraction worth mentioning is King Henry’s Mound. This Richmond Park viewpoint has a special location that offers a gorgeous tree-framed view of St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s very Instagram-worthy.
3. Relax at the Richmond Green
Richmond Green, locally known as “The Green”, is another public space that offers a nice reprieve from the busy streets of London. It spans about twelve acres and is outlined by townhouses, historic buildings, and tall trees.
Since the 18th century, it’s been a popular place for cricket matches and other sporting events. This tradition carries on to this day. If you’re visiting on the weekend, the chances of seeing a match being played are pretty high.
The Richmond Green is a lovely spot for a picnic or a stroll. There are also lots of pubs and cafes nearby you can head there before or after.
3. Stroll the Richmond Riverside
The Richmond Riverside is another place in the district to soak in the scenery. The atmosphere stays pretty lively, and there’s a decent amount of green space and benches to sit and watch as the boats travel by.
There are also plenty of local restaurants, cafes, and pubs with water views. The White Cross is arguably the best Richmond riverside pub for views of the Thames. At high tide, the water is known to flow right into the patio area.
One of the most popular spots to visit along the river is the Richmond Bridge. This stone arch bridge was built from 1774 to 1777, making it the oldest surviving Thames River bridge in London. The five stone arches give it a grand appearance that contrasts beautifully with the modern city aesthetic.
If you want to see Richmond from the water and spend a peaceful hour or two exploring the Thames, head to Richmond Rowing Boat Hire. The small company rents out rowboats by the hour. They’re located right next to the Richmond Bridge.
4. Catch a Show at the Richmond Theatre
If you’re a fan of the performing arts, the Richmond Theatre is a fun place to see a show. The historic venue opened in 1899. It’s an iconic British Victorian theatre that regularly hosts musicals, operas, dance shows, and plays.
The tickets are very reasonably priced, especially compared to other London theatres. The venue is small and intimate, and snacks and drinks are available for purchase. It’s perfect for a date night or just a wholesome night out.
5. See a Play at the Orange Tree Theatre
The Orange Tree Theatre is a unique ‘theatre in the round’ venue. What this means is that it was built with central staging, with the audience surrounding the stage from all sides. This type of theatre was popular in ancient times, especially in Greece and Rome.
And what gives the building even more character is that it’s housed inside an old primary school that was built in the Victorian Gothic style in 1867.
This intimate, award-winning theatre puts on top-quality productions of new and rediscovered plays. And there’s also a cosy little bar where you can get drinks to enjoy during the show. All of these features combined make seeing a play at the Orange Tree Theatre a very unique and enjoyable experience.
6. Learn the Local History at the Museum of Richmond
The Museum of Richmond is a small museum located in the Old Town Hall building. Through displays and exhibits, it tells the history of Richmond, from ancient times all the way to the present day.
It showcases information on things like the royal residences of Richmond, the area’s famous buildings, and archaeological finds from prehistory.
The Museum of Richmond is open from Tuesday to Saturday, and admission is free. There’s no need to book your spot in advance – you can just show up.
7. Admire the Area From the Terrace Gardens
Another picturesque green space in Richmond is the Terrace Gardens. Complete with ornamental flower beds, tall trees, and sloping lawns, it’s everything you’d want in an outdoor space.
The most popular attraction in the gardens is the Richmond Hill Viewing Point. This area provides a wonderful vantage point of the surrounding landscape. As the name implies, the viewpoint is set high on a hill. It offers incredible panoramic views of the River Thames and the surrounding area.
There are several benches where you can relax and enjoy the views from. You can also grab a drink from one of the nearby cafes and spend some time just watching the world go by. It’s a spectacular sight any time of day, but at sunrise and sunset, it’s even more magical.
8. Shop on Richmond High Street
If you’re looking to do some shopping in Richmond, the high street, known officially as George Street, offers a good mix of independent and chain stores. You’ll find everything from local clothing stores to well-known brands like H&M, Anthropology, and Marks and Spencer.
If you need a break while shopping, stop in to Kiss the Hippo for a delicious cup of coffee and a sweet treat. Their flat white pairs wonderfully with their brownie or vegan flapjacks.
9. Wander Brewers Lane and Golden Court
Brewers Lane and Golden Court are two little lanes in Richmond set just off the high street. They each have some cosy little pubs and cafes, as well as an ice cream shop you can stop into for a break from the congestion of the high street.
10. Tour The Poppy Factory
The Poppy Factory is a small non-profit organisation in Richmond that’s been operating since 1922. It was founded to offer employment for wounded soldiers returning from WWI, whose job was to make remembrance wreaths by hand out of poppies.
Today, this local establishment holds true to its roots, mostly employing veterans with health conditions. To learn more about their story and support their cause, you can visit the small factory for a tour.
Places to Visit in Richmond Upon Thames
Let’s cover a few things to do near Richmond next. The larger area of Richmond Upon Thames offers some lovely attractions that you don’t want to skip when visiting the area.
Some of these spots are within walking distance from Richmond’s high street. The ones that are a bit further away are easily accessible by public transportation.
12. Discover the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is one of the world’s most impressive botanical gardens. This UNESCO World Heritage site contains a large and diverse plant collection. There are many different attractions to enjoy during your visit.
The arboretum contains about 14,000 trees. From giant redwoods to trees dating back to the 18th century, this is a fascinating place to enjoy a stroll. If you’re visiting London in autumn, you’re in for a treat. The shades of orange, red, and yellow are breathtakingly beautiful.
The Japanese landscape garden is one of the most peaceful areas on the grounds. Complete with traditional Japanese plants and structures, you’ll experience total zen, feeling calm and relaxed as you take in the beautiful scenery.
Then there’s the garden’s famous treetop walkway. Rising up and creating a path 18 metres above the garden grounds, this is one of the most fun ways to appreciate the landscape.
Those are just a sample of what you can expect to see at Kew Gardens. With about 50,000 plants to discover, you could spend hours exploring all the different areas. And if you get hungry, there are several different eateries and cafes for you to recharge with a meal or a drink.
13. Visit Kew Palace
Kew Palace is a royal British palace located within the gorgeous grounds of Kew Gardens. It was built in 1631 by Samuel Fortrey, a rich Flemish merchant. The stately, red brick home was formerly known as the Dutch House.
In the 1720s, King George II, his wife, Queen Caroline, and their children leased the lavish mansion. Although its size was humble in comparison to their other UK residences, it allowed them to live a quieter life, away from the worry of ceremony and tradition.
Following suit, several generations of Georgian royalty frequented Kew Palace on weekend retreats. It notably housed George III when he was said to have suffered a bout of ‘madness’ in the 1780s.
Although only a small portion of the house is open to the public, it offers a rare glimpse into the personal life of 18th century English royalty.
14. Tour Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace is another one of London’s royal palaces. It was built in 1514 for King Henry VIII’s chief minister, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. However, when Wolsey fell out of favour, the King took it over himself.
Over the years, the palace underwent massive expansion work. When King William III moved in, he wanted the building to rival the grand Palace of Versailles.
However, his design wasn’t exactly finished to completion, which left the palace in two conflicting architectural styles: Tudor and Baroque.
Nevertheless, this large and lavish royal residence is impressive, to say the least. Parts of the interior, as well as the expansive gardens and grounds, are open to the public for tours. It’s a wonderful place to learn about English royal history.
15. See the National Trust – Ham House and Garden
Visiting Ham House and Garden will transport you back to 17th-century London. This large, three-story brick building was built in 1610 in the Stuart architectural style.
It’s unique as it contains much of its original interior decoration, which offers a rare glimpse into the style of that time.
The rooms showcase collections of 17th-century paintings and portraits, as well as tapestries and furniture collected by generations of the families that lived in the mansion.
Ham House rests peacefully along the banks of the River Thames and contains a well-manicured garden that guests are free to explore when visiting the house. There’s also a cafe on the grounds where you can enjoy a coffee and a pastry in the most charming setting.
Best Places in Richmond to Eat
Half the fun in discovering a new destination is exploring its local food scene. Here are the top restaurants to stop at when you’re exploring the area.
No matter what your food preferences or dietary requirements are, you’ll find something to enjoy at one of these eateries.
The Ivy Cafe Richmond
The Ivy Cafe is a chic and casual eatery in the heart of Richmond. From classic British cuisine to cafe-style comfort food and tasty vegetarian and vegan dishes, there’s something for everyone. They also offer fabulous afternoon tea and impressive weekend brunch.
The Ivy Cafe is open seven days a week from morning until late at night, so you can stop in for a meal whenever you’d like.
White Swan is a quaint country-style pub with a friendly, local atmosphere. It’s been around since 1787 and has lots of personality. They specialise in comfort food, with menu items like slow roast pork belly, sweet potato and chickpea curry, and wild mushroom risotto.
On a nice, sunny day, enjoy your meal outside under a shaded umbrella. When it’s cold out, head inside and grab a table next to the cosy fireplace.
The Britannia is a traditional wood-floored pub with a small leafy garden and lively roof terrace. They are located along the quiet Brewers Lane, just off of Richmond’s high street.
The menu features seafood and steak, with options like beer-battered cod, cornish crab, and Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak. Each dish pairs wonderfully with the restaurant’s extensive wine list.
Sebastian’s Italian is an authentic Italian restaurant that features mouthwatering homemade Italian meals. They offer options for all palettes, from meat-eaters to vegans and the gluten intolerant.
Their pasta is fresh and flavourful, and their pizzas are cooked to order in a wood-fired oven. Make sure to save room to order something off of their dessert menu. The tiramisu and Pannacotta con Frutti di Bosco come highly rated. You can enjoy your meal inside or on the outdoor terrace.
As far as Richmond riverside restaurants, Gaucho Richmond is hard to beat. This stylish steak house has a long outdoor terrace for waterside dining and a glass-panelled exterior for panoramic views.
Their food and drink menu is made up of Argentine food and wine items, like fresh ceviche, chorizo sirloin, and empanadas.
Their wine list includes options from all over the world, including all the different wine regions in Argentina.
Where to Stay in Richmond
An important part of any trip is finding a good place to base your vacation. Considering this area is one of London’s most affluent neighbourhoods, you can expect most of the accommodation options to be equally as extravagant.
Here are the top hotels to base your Richmond trip in, they’ll be sure to put you into full vacation mode.
Richmond Hill Hotel
The Richmond Hill Hotel is stylish Georgian accommodation that dates back to 1726. The rooms are elegantly appointed. They include all your modern comforts and conveniences, like a flat-screen TV, tea/coffee making facilities, a luxurious ensuite bathroom, and under-floor heating. Some rooms also include scenic views of the River Thames.
When you’re not out exploring the area, enjoy meals at the modern English Restaurant and cap off the night with drinks at the Cocktail Bar.
The Lensbury Resort
The Lensbury Resort is a relaxing place to return to after a busy day out. The spacious property is set on the banks of the River Thames, surrounded by 25 acres of lush land. The rooms are styled in contemporary decor and feature modern amenities.
Some of the resort’s facilities include a state-of-the-art gym and studio, multiple tennis courts, a watersports centre, and a swimming pool. After you’ve moved your body, head to the award-winning spa to unwind.
Last but not least, the lounge, restaurant, and terrace features gorgeous views of the beautiful River Thames.
Richmond Harbour Hotel & Spa
The Richmond Harbour Hotel & Spa is located inside a beautiful Georgian country house. It’s ideally set within easy walking distance to Richmond Park and Richmond town centre.
The stylishly furnished rooms come with a flat-screen TV, tea/coffee making facilities and free WiFi. Some upgraded options include a 4-poster bed, a mini-bar, and a spacious seating area.
The health club includes an indoor pool and an outdoor Scandinavian hot tub. And you can start your day or end your night at the award-winning restaurant and bar. It’s open all day and offers indoor and outdoor dining.
Orange Tree is a boutique hotel with lots of character. With just 13 rooms, it offers a quiet reprieve ideal for a peaceful vacation. There is free WiFi throughout the building, and each room comes with a flat-screen TV, an iPod docking station and a small fridge.
As far as dining options go, the hotel’s gastropub serves a variety of pub food as well as local cask ales, speciality beers, wines and spirits.
Where to Go From Richmond
If you’re wanting to carry on your UK itinerary with more exciting stops and activities, you’re in luck. There are several exciting destinations that are easily accessible from Richmond.
They’re close enough that you could make them into a day trip from London. However, some of them might deserve a bit more time to fully appreciate. Have a look and decide for yourself.
St Albans is a charming little city about one hour from Richmond. It’s the perfect place for history lovers to explore. It contains beautiful old churches and many ancient artefacts from Roman’s occupation of Britain.
There is also a picturesque little town centre with great shopping and dining options and a lovely walking route that takes you through the city. St Albans has something for everyone.
A few of the top activities in St Albans include:
- Visiting the historic St Albans Cathedral
- Learning about the Romans at the Verulamium Museum
- Climbing the St Albans Clock Tower
- Walking along the St Albans Pilgrimage Trail
If you fancy a beach day trip from London, the quaint, seaside city of Brighton is just under 1.5 hours from Richmond. It has a coastal appeal, with a gorgeous, pebbled beach and a historic pier.
The city also contains a treasure trove of local, independent shops and small eateries. It has a ‘small town’ vibe that will make you fall in love with it right away.
A few of the top activities in Brighton include:
- Visiting the historic Brighton Pier
- Discovering the beautiful Brighton Beach
- Taking a ride up the British Airways i360
- Touring the lavish Royal Pavilion
The famous college city of Oxford is about 1.5 hours from Richmond. The quaint, cobbled streets are filled with beautiful old buildings, world-class museums, countless local shops, and cosy pubs. It’s the kind of place you’d thoroughly enjoy getting lost in.
A few of the top activities in Oxford include:
- Visiting the historic Bodleian Library
- Discovering the city on a walking tour
- Shopping on the high street
- Touring Oxford University Museum of Natural History
Winchester is a beautiful cathedral city just over one hour from Richmond. It’s a city where history is on full display. There are many buildings from centuries past that show a glimpse into what England was like in ancient times.
A few of the top activities in Winchester include:
- Visiting the breathtaking Winchester Cathedral
- Discovering the mediaeval Great Hall
- Learning about the city’s past at the Winchester City Museum
- Touring the ruins of Wolvesey Castle
How to Get to Richmond
Seeing as Richmond is part of London, it’s easily accessible from practically all parts of the UK.
The Richmond Underground Station (on the District Line) and Richmond Train Station provide easy public transportation into the district from all areas of London. The stations are both within walking distance to the main attractions included in this guide.
As far as bus transport goes, lines 33, 337, 490, 493, and 65 also pass by Richmond.
If you’re arriving by plane, London Heathrow Airport is just 12 miles from Richmond. Then, it’s about a 50 minute to 1-hour journey by public transport to Richmond. Or, you can take a 30-minute ride by car, uber, or taxi (depending on traffic).
Frequently Asked Questions About Richmond
Now that you know all the best places to visit in Richmond, let’s end with some frequently asked questions and answers so that you’re fully prepared for your trip.
Is Richmond London Posh?
Richmond definitely tends to be more on the “posh” side. It’s one of the most affluent areas of London and contains some pretty expensive properties. In fact, several well-known celebrities’ own houses here, like Sir David Attenborough and Tom Hardy.
What is Richmond Best Known For?
Richmond is best known for its nature-themed attractions. This makes sense, considering a large portion of the borough is open parkland.
It has plenty of lush green areas and a fantastic riverside location that beckons you to spend time outside. It’s definitely the kind of place you’ll want to wear your walking shoes to.
Is Richmond in Surrey or London?
Richmond was originally part of an ancient parish known as Kingston upon Thames, which was in the county of Surrey. However, it was transferred to Greater London in 1965. Now, it’s officially part of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.
Is Richmond Worth Visiting?
Richmond is absolutely worth visiting. Even though it’s just a stone’s throw from central London, it offers a quiet reprieve from the busyness of the city. It has a lovely local vibe and a handful of attractions that offer something different from the typical touristy London attractions.
There are also some great accommodation options in Richmond as well as local eateries. It’s the total package.
Richmond Things to Do | Final Thoughts
If you’re visiting London and looking for outdoorsy things to do, Richmond is a lovely place to visit. With lush green fields, acres of open parkland, and a charming riverside location, it’s a highly scenic area of the city.
Of course, there are also a handful of indoor things to do, too, like seeing a show at the Richmond Theatre, touring The Poppy Factory, or dining at a small riverside cafe or restaurant.
And, when you’re done visiting the top Richmond attractions, you’ll have easy access to some other great destinations so you can plan another UK city break.
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