The Barbican Conservatory is a tropical rainforest inside a concrete jungle featuring a glass roof, exotic plants and fish. To be more precise, there are three different ponds and more than 1500 species of plants as well as koi and ghost carp from Japan and America with a final pool as a home to a bunch of slow moving terrapins.
In our post lockdown world the conservatory has opened its doors to the visiting public daily. Yes. Every single day (as long as you pre-book online) you can go and meander around for a few hours in the green topiary without spending a penny.
Anyone who loves Brutalist architecture may be attracted to the Barbican but for most it remains a weirdly shaped concrete building surrounded by the hum of traffic (and accompanying fumes). The Conservatory is a not so secret verdant tropical oasis that brings life to this concrete jungle.
We were excited to visit and to see what the kids made of the whole experience. Before lockdown we had tried to come several times but were unsuccessful and this was our chance to see the place at last, albeit this time with social distancing measures in place. So there is a one way system, hand sanitiser stations and the toilets can only be entered one at a time (you can accompany little children though) and to be fair, the loos are ever so small that i would suggest we maintain this rule even after social distancing is no longer a thing.
All seating has been removed and activities like picnicking, photoshoots and generally dawdling around are no longer allowed. The team at the Barbican recommend around 20 minutes for a visit although we managed to stretch out our visit to a couple of hours by combining with other local attractions like the London Wall and an outdoor picnic on the 5th floor of the Barbican (where you can sit and admire the architecture).
The Conservatory is the second largest in London after the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Gardens and houses some beautiful plants within it. The children were particularly fond of the fish and spent ages gazing at them (and occasionally popping in a finger in the running water).
The Barbican may be a dystopian vision of an inner-city estate or a character from a J.G.Ballard novel that has risen right in the city of London but its conservatory is a verdant tropical oasis in the heart of the metropolis. For us the visit was a success and we will be returning again with and without the children.
For more information and to book your visit at Barbican Conservatory check out their website here.