Kensington remains one of the capital’s most iconic neighbourhoods, well known for its remarkable combination of Victorian architecture, international embassies and expansive greenspace. Part of the same borough as Chelsea, it’s fair to say Kensington has a slightly more free-wheeling, cosmopolitan atmosphere, populated by easy-going eateries, great cafes and bars, and some of the best shopping anywhere in the city.
Granted Royal Borough status in 1901, Kensington Palace was home to Queen Victoria until her accession in 1837. Today, Kensington and Chelsea is best known for The Chelsea Flower Show, held every year in May, and the Notting Hill Carnival, which takes place every August Bank holiday and which has blossomed into one of Europe’s most popular street parties. With so much to see and do, let’s take a look at some of this beloved district’s premier attractions.
Here is our pick of some of Kensington’s best parks, venues and must-see destinations:
Opened by Queen Victoria in 1871, the Royal Albert Hall is, quite simply, one of the UK’s crowning glories, having hosted more great musicians in its 150 year history than it’s possible to mention here. If you had to select a few, however, you’d probably land on names like Rachmaninoff, Bob Dylan, Wagner and even Albert Einstein, who gave the final speech of his life in 1933. Of course, ever since 1895 this huge, circular construction has hosted the Proms, an eight-week season of truly spectacular orchestral concerts. Quite simply, a genuine national treasure.
The official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the State Rooms at Kensington Palace are open to the public, where you can see paintings and exhibitions from the Royal Collection and generally take in this incredible cornerstone of British antiquity. With a range of tours and events, this is a hugely popular day out, especially when combined with Kensington Gardens, where you can walk in the footsteps of royalty whilst indulging in the sheer grandeur of your surroundings. You can also stop for high tea, which, as you can imagine, is a genuine pleasure.
Portobello Road Market
Notting Hill is a wonderful place to explore and Portobello Market is an integral part of what makes this such a unique and exciting part of London. Dating back to the 19th century, this is home to an incredibly diverse range of fresh produce, vintage clothing, antiques and freshly baked goods. Stretching for over a mile, you’ll find live music, bargains and exceptional street food, all of which you’ll want to peruse at your leisure, taking it one stall at a time. With a style all of its own, this is West London at its most inclusive and dynamic.
For many, Holland Park is the finest of all of the capital’s green spaces. With lush gardens, a range of sporting facilities, children’s play areas and a cafe, it’s the wonderfully crafted landscape that really sets it apart. Complemented by huge sections of woodland, the park is home to an abundance of wildlife and is particularly beautiful in spring when thousands of tulips are in bloom. For anyone seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, this is a relaxing, sedate environment that’s welcome to all. With open-air theatre in the summer, it’s somewhere to treasure all year round.
Food for thought:
Our pick of Kensington’s stand-out restaurants
Situated in an 1839 townhouse, this is fine, European dining of the highest order. Sequestered away in the quiet, quaint backstreets of Kensington, you’ll find flamboyant fare with an emphasis on flavour. Awarded three AA rosettes in 2021, the dining room is elegant and contemporary, the food is fresh and seasonal and the wine list is world-class. A superlative culinary experience.
For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of high-end Polish cuisine, Ognisko is for you. The menu offers up classic Polish dishes given a contemporary spin. This includes pork schnitzel, steak tartare, marinated gravlax and perfect pierogi. The dining room is lavish and stately, making this a truly impressive affair. The Sledz with an added shot of vodka comes highly recommended.
This homely, much-loved bistro has become a real neighbourhood staple, providing comforting, nourishing dishes for well over a decade now. Featuring a menu that’s fresh, seasonal and straightforward, Muriel’s is as adept at a breakfast or brunch as it is dinner with fine wine and excellent cocktails. Relaxed and informal, for many who live in the area, this is nothing short of a second home. Long may it continue!
Yashin Ocean House
For sushi lovers everywhere, Yashin Ocean House takes that glorious national tradition and elevates it to new heights. Overseen by Chef Minero - widely considered one of Europe’s best sushi chefs - the menu boasts exquisite dishes like Paradise Prawn Tempura, Smoked Canadian Lobster Tails and some of the best Edamame you’ll taste anywhere in London. The dining room is tastefully stylish, the atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming.
Kensington is well served by a range of tube stops, including High Street Kensington, South Kensington and Kensington (Olympia). It also has a range of running, cycling and walking routes, providing plenty of freedom to get into and around the city.
Colleges and Universities based in Kensington include Imperial College London, Royal College of Art and Royal College of Music.