What it's all about?
Kensington is a timeless picture-postcard view of London– a vista of smart townhouses, Royal Parks, great Victorian museums and garden squares. To a large extent, it’s an upmarket area full of hotels, embassies and show homes of the super-rich, given all the more glamour by the area’s royal connections. Kensington High Street runs through the heart of the neighbourhood, but its high-street stores and office blocks are unrepresentative of the exclusivity of the surrounding residential enclave, much of which is covered by a conservation area. South Kensington, where those famous museums are located, is at one end and has its own character. Kensington proper is roughly bounded by Kensington High Street to the south, Notting Hill to the north, Holland Park to the west and Hyde Park to the east.
- Kensington Palace is home to many members of the royal family, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, and Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank.
- Prince Harry proposed to Meghan Markle at Nottingham Cottage, his Kensington Palace home, in 2017 while they were cooking dinner. The couple, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, moved to a home in the grounds of Windsor Castle in early 2019.
Architecture and property
The area has a wonderful array of period Victorian properties, from colourful cottages to grand stucco-clad residences. This has led to Kensington attracting celebrities and high net worth individuals from around the world. The heyday of Georgian architecture is also well-represented – one excellent example is the townhouses overlooking the central garden at Kensington Square. Handsome red-brick mansion blocks are also a feature. Modern development tends to be of a high specification, and aimed squarely at the luxury market.
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Eating: A long-standing local favourite, Maggie Jones’s has the aura of a country farmhouse kitchen with a reliable British menu. Decked out with rock memorabilia and offering American-style burgers and ribs, Sticky Fingers is owned by Rolling Stone Bill Wyman. Overlooking Kensington Gardens, Zaika offers modern Indian dishes in a dining area boasting attractive wood-panelled and silk-draped furnishings. If it’s Michelin stars you’re after, head to Kitchen W8, which pulls off the rare trick of blending fine dining with a friendly, laid-back atmosphere.
Drinking: Trailing plants, antiques and bunting hang from the rafters of the Churchill Arms on Kensington Church Street. Its range of cask ales and reasonably priced Thai menu – all mains are £9 – are popular with locals and visitors alike. The terrace at The Scarsdale Tavern spills onto the Georgian Edwardes Square, and offers a hearty gastropub menu. The latest in craft beers and hipster bar snacks are served at the Hansom Cab on Earls Court Road. For late-night partying and cocktails, HYDE Kensington ticks the boxes.
Culture: The Design Museum relocated in 2016 to the listed Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington, which was repurposed for its use. The museum’s collections and changing line-up of exhibitions, talks and workshops celebrate innovation and creativity in design of everything from table lamps to rocket ships. Preserved for the nation by the Victorian Society, 18 Stafford Terrace is a time capsule of 19th century life, which is open to the public. The home of Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne and his family, it is an example of a ‘house beautiful’ and richly decorated with objects from Japan, China and the Middle East.
Events: One of the country’s foremost exhibition and conference centres, Olympia London holds over 200 events a year. It covers everything from toy fairs and travel shows to the International Horse Show.
- Kensington High Street has large branches of most high-street stores, as well as Waitrose and London’s largest Whole Foods Market. For more niche boutiques and stores, head to Kensington Church Street.
- Although it remains home to numerous members of the royal family, parts of Kensington Palace are open to the public with regular exhibitions and tours. The baroque grandeur of The Orangery next to the palace, offers some of the most stunning surroundings in London to enjoy a leisurely lunch or English afternoon tea.
Beautifully laid out, Kensington Gardens is one of London’s Royal Parks and offers 265 acres of parkland. Highlights include the Albert Memorial, the Serpentine Galleries and the Diana Memorial Playground. To the west of Kensington is Holland Park, another quality green space with a Japanese garden and café.
Mixed-use developments have been increasing in recent years. Residential properties formed part of the redevelopment of the Commonwealth Institute site into the Design Museum. Behind the art deco frontage of the Odeon building at the western end of Kensington High Street, plans are afoot for a multi-screen cinema alongside new flats and townhouses. Lancer Square, on the corner of Kensington High Street and Kensington Church Street, is a large residential development of luxury apartments and penthouses.
Rail: Mainline rail stations are within easy reach via the Piccadilly, Circle and District lines. Kensington (Olympia) provides a link with the London Overground network.
Tube: High Street Kensington, Gloucester Road and South Kensington are all on the Circle and District lines. The Piccadilly line also links South Kensington and Gloucester Road to the West End in around 10 minutes, and in the other direction, to Chiswick, Ealing, Hounslow and Heathrow Airport. In addition, Kensington (Olympia) in Zone 2 serves the western part of Kensington.
Bus: Many buses pass through the area, allowing easy connections to the West End, mainline railway stations and destinations in west and south London. The number 9 goes to Trafalgar Square, and the 10 to Oxford Street and King’s Cross. The number 27 connects with major intersections Paddington, Marylebone and Baker Street.
Road: The A4 Cromwell Road provides a link to the West End to the east and to Hounslow and Heathrow Airport to the west. To the south is Fulham Road, which connects South Kensington with Fulham and the south-west.
Cycle: Changes to the layout of Kensington High Street have resulted in a more pedestrian and cycle friendly environment. There are also cycle routes through the Royal Parks.
Getting away: The major railway stations are all quickly accessible by tube. The journey time to Heathrow Airport Terminals 1, 2 and 3, via South Kensington on the Piccadilly line, is about 42 minutes. A quick tube hop to Victoria gives access to the Gatwick Express.
There are some good state primary schools in the area, including Fox Primary School and St Barnabas and St Philip's CofE Primary School. The independent prep school Hawkesdown House offers education to boys and girls up to the age of 11. At secondary level, Holland Park School is an academy with a strong reputation, benefitting from a modern building and facilities. Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School is a Roman Catholic day secondary school in Holland Park. Ashbourne Independent Sixth Form College offers high-quality tuition for pre-university students. South Kensington is known for its French population and has a sprinkling of French-language nurseries and schools.
Please see our education resource for more information on schools in this area.
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