9 Most Beautiful Conservatories Around the Globe

Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton, Alberta
Muttart Conservatory in Alberta, Canada, is as much a part of Edmonton's skyline as its skyscrapers.

WinterE229 / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Step inside a greenhouse and you may find tropical plants thriving in the middle of harsh winters and desert florae growing sturdily in rainy cities. Greenhouses have countless utilitarian applications like allowing farmers and gardeners to grow crops outside of the growing season and researchers to study rare and delicate plants, but they can also be beautiful places to visit. Many ornate public conservatories, built from the Victorian era onward, exist purely for viewing pleasure.

No two greenhouses are exactly alike. Indoor gardens may feature modern architecture, faithfully recreate the looks of structures built in the 1800s, or be completely unique in their construction. And beyond design, conservatories can differ greatly by what plants they shelter. But no matter the differences, greenhouses have been popular places to visit for centuries.

Here are nine of the most stunning public conservatories in the world.

of 9

Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens in Richmond, London

Daniel Case / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Situated in the London borough of Richmond, the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens boast more than 30,000 different plant types, 8.5 million collection items, and three main conservatories. Two are from the Victorian era. The Palm House, built in the 1840s, houses tropical foliage. The Temperate House, built between 1859 and 1898, is the largest remaining Victorian-era glasshouse in the world by area and it contains 1,500 temperature plant species.

The third glasshouse, the Princess of Wales Conservatory, was opened in 1987. It features 10 computer-controlled micro-climates. Kew also has a waterlily greenhouse, one of the oldest glasshouses on the property, and an alpine house where plants from higher elevations grow.

of 9

Muttart Conservatory

Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton, Alberta

WinterforceMedia / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Muttart Conservatory, located in Edmonton, Alberta, is an iconic part of the city’s skyline with four themed pyramid-shaped glasshouses. These glasshouses, opened in 1976, are operated by the city of Edmonton.

The Temperate Pyramid houses plants from the Great Lakes region and other temperate areas such as non-tropical Australia and alpine Asia. The Arid Pyramid has plants from deserts on five different continents, and the Tropical Pyramid features rainforest plants and grasses, tropical evergreens, and a waterfall. The fourth pyramid hosts seasonal exhibitions that change every few months. The entire property was renovated starting in 2019 and ending in 2021 for $13.3 million.

of 9

Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay Cloud Forest in Singapore

Walter Lim / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

In most of the world, conservatories are built to grow tropical plants in colder climates. In hot and humid Southeast Asia, tropical foliage doesn't need that protection. Instead, the two conservatories in Singapore’s futuristic Gardens by the Bay are cooled. The Cloud Forest and Flower Dome are oversized glasshouses featuring plant life that prefers cooler, dryer conditions.

The three-acre Flower Dome stars seven gardens that are mostly populated with flowers from semi-arid regions such as the Mediterranean. The misty Cloud Forest, meanwhile, mimics conditions in tropical mountains over 3,300 feet in elevation. This conservatory has an area of about 86,000 square feet and different levels, each with its own plant species.

of 9

Enid A. Haupt Conservatory

Enid A. Haupt Conservatory in the New York Botanical Garden

King of Hearts / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the largest Victorian conservatory in the country, is located in the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx. The greenhouse was built in 1902 by Nathaniel and Elizabeth Britton, who were inspired by England’s Kew Gardens. Enid A. Haupt Conservatory was slated for demolition in the 1970s but saved by philanthropist Enid Haupt.

The conservatory hosts seasonal events such as orchid shows and holiday exhibits. These and several permanent gardens are housed in 11 pavilions arranged around a central dome-like structure called the Palm House. Haupt is known for its palm collection, tropical gardens, cacti exhibits, aquatic habitats, and carnivorous plants.

of 9

Bicentennial Conservatory

Bicentennial Conservatory in Adelaide Botanic Garden

Periputus / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Bicentennial Conservatory is one of three greenhouses in the Adelaide Botanical Garden in Adelaide, Australia. It was designed in 1988 to celebrate Australia’s colonization 200 years before and built in 1989. The Palm House is a Victorian-era glasshouse imported from Germany in the 19th century, while the Amazon Waterlily Pavilion was built in 2007 to house Amazon plants in modern surroundings. At its highest point, it is 27 meters (88.6 feet) tall.

This greenhouse has earned praise for its architectural design, including the RAIA Sir Zelman Cowan Award in 1991. The conservatory houses plants from regions around Oceania and practices energy conservation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep admission free.

of 9

Schönbrunn Palm House

Palmenhaus in Schönbrunn Palace Park

Zairon / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Schönbrunn Palace Park in Vienna, Austria, is home to one of the most stunning conservatories in the world, the Palmenhaus (Palm House). Completed in 1882, the building has three separate zones: a cold zone, a temperate zone, and a tropical pavilion or hothouse. Its steel frame structure contains 45,000 windows.

The Palm House has 4,500 different plant species. Some of the gardens' highlights include a 350-year-old olive tree that was a gift from Spain, a collection of rare palms, and a Coco de Mer tree that has flowers that only bloom once every few decades.

of 9

Copenhagen Botanical Gardens

Copenhagen Botanical Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark

Carlos Sanchez Pereyra / Getty Images

The Copenhagen Botanical Garden is home to one of the world’s largest collections of greenhouses—27 in all. The headliner is a 10 hectare (24.7 acre) conservatory centered around a Palm House. Established in 1600 and moved in 1870, this garden of historical glasshouses holds more than 13,000 species in total including some very old trees and a number of exotic plants.

Part of the University of Copenhagen's Natural History Museum, the gardens are known for their collection of cacti, orchids, cycads, and other rare species. There is even a cooled building that houses plant life from the Arctic. This conservatory is said to have the largest collection of living plants in Denmark.

of 9

Eden Project

The Eden Project in Cornwall, England

JuliesNotebook / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Eden Project is different from most other conservatories. This conservatory is actually an educational charity and social enterprise dedicated to teaching people about sustainability and the conservation of plant life. Located in Cornwall, England, it consists of domed structures containing two biomes and an outdoor garden.

The Rainforest Biome features a canopy walk and tropical habitats. Agricultural plants like coffee, bananas, pineapple, rice, bamboo, and rubber live here. The Mediterranean Biome has gardens and vineyards from its namesake region as well as plants from Australia, California, and South Africa. Eden gets much of its water for irrigation by collecting rainfall.

of 9

Conservatory of Flowers

Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California

Gregory Varnum / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Part of the beauty of the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, California's, Golden Gate Park comes from its durable wood skeleton. It is the oldest conservatory in the United States constructed of both wood and glass. Though it has been damaged by fires, storms, and a boiler explosion in years past, the 1870s structure has withstood earthquakes, including the Great Quake in 1906. A major restoration project was completed in 2003.

The conservatory, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, has a variety of rare plants, including both lowland and highland tropical exhibits as well as aquatic gardens. The venue also hosts seasonal events and temporary exhibits.

View Article Sources
  1. Trevino, Julissa. “World’s Largest Victorian Glasshouse Opens Doors After Five-Year Restoration Project.” Smithsonian Magazine, 7 May 2018.

  2. Cook, Dustin. "Muttart Conservatory Ready to Reopen After $13.3-Million Revamp, but Delayed Due to COVID-19 Restrictions." Edmonton Journal, 11 Jan. 2021.

  3. "Interesting Facts About Cloud Forest." Cloud Forest. Gardens by the Bay.

  4. Dietz, Paula. "A Victorian Gem Restored." The New York Times, 27 Apr. 1997.

  5. "Bicentennial Conservatory." Botanic Gardens of South Australia. Government of South Australia.

  6. "Photos—Details." The World Factbook. CIA.

  7. "Botanical Garden." VisitCopenhagen.

  8. "Our History." Conservatory of Flowers.

  9. "Golden Gate Park Conservatory." Office of Historic Preservation. State of California.