Kensington is one London’s prettiest neighbourhoods, but it’s also more than that! The area has a lot to offer to residents and visitors beyond its pretty streets. In Kensington you will discover a rich mix of culture and luxury, food and shopping, parks and historical sites.
Yes, there are many reasons to fall in love with Kensington. What I love the most about this area is the architecture: striking Georgian and Regency houses line the streets around South Kensington, Gloucester Road and Kensington High Street. I also love the parks and gardens, like Hyde Park, which borders the north side of Kensington. The combination of beautiful houses and green spaces, plus the proximity to the capital’s most famous free museums, makes Kensington a perfect place to stay in London. Some of the best hotels in Kensington are The Ampersand, The Kensington Hotel, Baglioni Hotel and Royal Garden Hotel.
Kensington is known as one of London’s most affluent and elegant neighbourhoods. In addition to luxury department stores, fashion boutiques and fancy restaurants, in Kensington you will also find independent stores, pretty book shops, artisanal cafés and bakeries.
This area is also a top foodie destination in London, with popular restaurants such as Dishoom, fine dining like Launceston Place and Min Jiang, high-end patisseries like Maitre Choux, casual eateries like Enoteca Rosso and Il Portico; traditional British establishments like Maggie Jones. The pretty streets of Kensington have got something for every taste!
5 cool and unusual things to do in Kensington
1. Walk the pretty mews
Mews are one of the hidden gems of Kensington. And I mean literally “hidden” since mews are inner courtyards, secluded from the main streets. Historically, a mews is where stables and carriages where located, at the back of large city houses before the arrival of cars in the early 20th century.
You may stumble upon a pretty cobbled mews at every corner in Kensington, you never know when you are going to find one. Keep an eye out for my favourite one: Kynance Mews near Gloucester Road.
2. Shop for unique gifts
Some of London’s cutest independent shops are dotted around Kensington. They are source of exclusive, refined and sometimes quirky gifts to buy for you and for your loved ones. The best places to shop for unique items in Kensington are: the V&A Shop, which showcases a wide range of products inspired by the museum’s collection; South Kensington Books, one of the best independent bookshops in London; British Red Cross Shop, a charity shop that stocks only designer clothes; Mint Shop, an interior design gallery and shop; Whole Foods, the food store to find the best of seasonal produce and British food brands, organic products and a great selection of wines.
3. Drink at speciality coffee shops
I am always on the hunt for the best coffee, but until a few years ago I didn’t get much of a choice in West London. Things have definitely to changed and now there are many speciality cafés in SW7 and W8.
If you enjoy a good espresso or a perfectly brewed filter, these are the places you shouldn’t miss: Café Jumo, brings fresh pastries and Allpress in a cosy space near Kensington Gardens; Lift Coffee, a tiny shop that scores point for its style; Fernandez & Wells, part of a chain of speciality cafés, is the best spot for a coffee in South Kensington; Hjem Kensington, with its great coffee and delicious Danish delights, what more would you want? And if you’re in need of a cute brunch spot after visiting the Natural History Museum or the V&A, the Brown & Rosie is right on Exhibition Road.
4. Visit Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace has been a home to the royal family since the 17th century and is now the official residence of Prince William and his wife Kate. While this is not a hidden gem, it’s also not of every tourist’s to do list and therefore it is usually quiet. Inside the palace you will see the rooms that once were the childhood home of Queen Victoria (back in the 1820s), Queen Mary’s State Apartments, as well as an exhibition on Princess Diana’s wardrobe.
The beautiful Kensington Gardens which surround the palace are open to the public every day during daylight hours. The Pavilion Restaurant and Tea Room adjacent to the palace is the only place in London where you can enjoy a traditional afternoon tea on royal grounds.
5. Swim at the Serpentine Lido
Home to the oldest swimming club in Britain, the Serpentine Lido is a 100-metre stretch of the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park. During the summer months (June to early September) the lido is open to adults and children seven days a week. The entry tickets is £4.80, well worth it for the opportunity to swim in a wild lake and cool down on the hottest days. Along the waterside you will also find a café.
In collaboration with Hotels.com, but all views are my own.