The station was opened by the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) on 1 January 1869, in an area of market gardens and orchards. The station was located on a new L&SWR branch line to Richmond built from the West London Joint Railway starting north of Addison Road station (now Kensington (Olympia)). The line ran through Shepherd's Bush and Hammersmith via a now closed curve and Grove Road station (also now closed) in Hammersmith. Via a short connection from the North & South Western Junction Railway (N&SWJR) to Gunnersbury the line was also served by the North London Railway (NLR). The two-storey yellow brick station buildings are unusually fine examples of mid-Victorian railway architecture and are protected as part of the Kew Gardens conservation area. The station is one of the few remaining 19th-century stations on the North London Line and had one of the last illuminated banner signals on the London Underground, possibly because of the footbridge. This signal was replaced by an electronic version in 2011. The earliest written reference to Kew is thought to be contained in Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars, as the location where the Roman Army forded the Thames in 54 BC. The name Kew is a combination of two words: the Old French kai (landing place; "quay" derives from this) and Old English hoh (spur of land). The land spur is the bend in the Thames. The name was recorded in 1327 as Cayho.
Kew Gardens is the nearest station to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (located about 500 yards (460 m) to the west) and The National Archives ( about 600 yards (550 m) to the north east). The main entrance to the station is located at the junction of Station Parade, Station Avenue and Station Approach about 100 yards (90 m) from Sandycombe Road (B353). The station can also be accessed from North Road, on the other side of the railway line; the two entrances are connected by a pedestrian subway. There are no lifts. Platform 2 (going towards central London) is at ground level. Platform 1 (going towards Richmond) is reached by a short set of 10 steps; there is also a wheelchair-accessible ramp. The National Archives is on the Platform 1 side of the station. The village proper, Sandycombe Road, and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew are on the Platform 2 side, and visitors to those locations must cross the tracks via either the tunnel underneath (left of the main exit, 15 steps down, then 22 steps up) or the footbridge (right of the main exit, 30 steps up, then 30 steps down). The simplest alternative for those wishing to avoid the steps is to remain on the train while it travels one stop to Richmond and returns. The station has wi-fi, a bridge, Euro cash machines, boarding ramps, cash machines and toilets.
Connections: District Line. London Buses route 391 serves the station, with a bus stop nearby on Sandycombe Road.