Secret Gardens: Christchurch Greyfriars Church Garden, City of London

If you think of a church ruin in Central London, your mind might transport you to St Dunstan’s-in-the-East, a stunning garden near Tower Hill and popular Instagrammable spot for lunch – but have you heard of Christchurch Greyfriars?

This green oasis is one of London’s most beautiful ‘hidden’ flower gardens, nestled amidst the bustling streets behind St Paul’s Cathedral.

Located on the site of the old Greyfriars Church (dating back to the 1200s) this garden is the resting place of four Queens, including Queen Isabella of France who died in 1358. The church itself was destroyed during the Great Fire of London, rebuilt in the design of Sir Christopher Wren, and then destroyed again during the Blitz. Only the west tower remains, a serene reminder of this historical legacy. The garden was first established in 1989, and then replanted in 2011.

A hidden rose garden in the City of London

As you step into the garden in the ruins of the old Greyfriars Church, you are greeted by a tapestry of colours and fragrances, neatly contained within box hedging-edged beds. The carefully tended flowerbeds boast a stunning array of blooms and herbaceous plants that gracefully dance in the breeze. Seasonal blooms in the garden include agapanthus, erigeron, and geraniums. They release a soothing aroma, with the tall nepata enjoying an ambush of honeybees.

Christchurch Greyfriars Rose Garden, hidden gem in London

Above: Bees in the garden enjoy the erigeron

However, it's the roses that steal the show here. They climb on tall wooden pergolas, each constructed where the columns of the original church once stood. The towers have bird boxes, cleverly hidden within the climbing plants, and house birds such as sparrows and finches.

Christchurch Greyfriars Rose Garden, London's flower gardens

Above: The pergolas represent the original columns of the church

There are nearly 70 different insect-friendly plant varieties which create this floral symphony. As you meander along the garden’s pews, you'll encounter many other plants, such as bergenias, astrantias, and stachys.

In the autumn months, volunteers from Friends of City Gardens and City of London Guides prepare the garden for winter. They cut the planting back, and replant herbaceous plants where they are needed. Foliage is left to ensure wildlife has a home for the winter, but any surplus plants are relocated to other gardens in the city.

Christchurch Greyfriars Rose Garden, City of London gardens

Above: the tip of St Paul's Cathedral can be seen from the garden

What is the best time to visit Christchurch Greyfriars Garden?

Christchurch Greyfriars Church Garden is one of London's best-kept secret outdoor spaces for those seeking floral wonders in the summer.

The best time of year to visit the garden is undoubtedly during the summer months, when the flowers are in full splendour. The romantic allure of the roses is best experienced during June and July, when they climb the pergolas and paint the garden in breath-taking blooms.

But there are herbaceous plants present throughout the year, and the true beauty of the garden and the work of its volunteers is even better appreciated when you visit during the off-peak months of the year. Even during the quieter winter months, carefully chosen evergreen plants offer a serene retreat amidst the city’s chill.

Christchurch Greyfriars Rose Garden, gardens to visit in summer in London

Above: the garden in March (left) vs June (right)

Unearthing the Garden's History: Interesting Facts

Steeped in history, Christchurch Greyfriars Church Garden has witnessed numerous transformations over the years. Back in medieval London, the original church was the second largest church in the city – after St Paul’s. Today, the remaining tower is now a private residence, the vestry is a dental practice, and the friary is commercial office space!

It is said that the ghost of Queen Isabella of France wanders around the garden, clutching her husband Edward II’s heart; legends tell she was laid to rest in her wedding dress with his heart in her hand…

Along the wall of the garden is a large bronze sculpture, commemorating Christ’s Hospital School’s 350 years presence in the City of London (1552-1902)

Christchurch Greyfriars Rose Garden, Christ's Hospital School statue


Above: Christ’s Hospital statue by Andrew F. Brown

Whether you find solace in the beauty of flowers and the serenity of well-maintained gardens, or simply wandering through the city looking for a spot for lunch, Christchurch Greyfriars Church Garden is a hidden gem for all.

How to get to Christchurch Greyfriars Church Garden

The garden is located at the junction of Newgate Street and King Edward Street.

Nearest tube: St Paul's (Exit 2 for Newgate Street)
Entry: Free
Opening hours: 24 hours a day

Christchurch Greyfriars Church Garden
King Edward Street,
London, EC1A 7BA