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KENSINGTON



General Information



Kensington originated from Saxon communities and was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. Royalty first settled into the area in 1689 when William III moved into Kensington Palace. Queen Victoria was born in the palace in 1819 and continued to reside there until her assent to the throne in 1837. With Queen Victoria’s wishes, the title “Royal Borough” was given to Kensington in 1901, after her death. The borough was united with Chelsea in 1965 to form the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Today Kensington is a prized residential area for understandable reasons; stunning parks, great Victorian museums, endless garden squares, designer boutique shops and top local schools providing the very best education.

To a certain extent, it is an exclusive area full of upmarket hotels, embassies and homes to the ultra-wealthy, given even more excitement by the area’s royal connections. Kensington High Street runs through the heart of the neighbourhood, but its typical high-street stores and office buildings are unrepresentative of the distinctiveness of the surrounding residential enclave, much of which is covered by a conservation area. To be precise the Royal Borough has 38 Conservation Areas, covering some 70 per cent of the borough!

Where one part of Kensington begins, and a part of South Kensington ends is usually a topic of debate. It is generally accepted that 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.

Did You know?
 
The staircase of the “Kings Apartments” is one of the gems of Kensington Palace. The ceiling and walls are covered with murals painted by William Kent of distinguished visitors to the palace. Perhaps you can spot the artist himself or the “Wild Boy” - a naked and completely mute teenage boy who was found living in the woods close to Hanover in Germany in 1725 and brought to London. Where he spent time in the presence of King George I and of his son and daughter-in-law, the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Over five memorable days in 1991 the first sumo wrestling tournament to ever be held outside Japan took place at the Royal Albert Hall! This was the first time such an event was held in the sport’s 1,500-year history!

The original name of the area is understood to have been “Kenesignetun”in Anglo-Saxon, which roughly translates as Kenesigne’s land or meadows.

The area is home to a fifth of London’s and the UK’s most frequented attractions. Four of its attractions rank in the London’s Top 20 Most Visited Attractions list, and three in the UK’s Top 20 Most Visited Attractions namely, the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, V&A Museum, and Royal Albert Hall.

Green Spaces

Beautifully designed Kensington Gardens is one of London’s Royal Parks and offers 275 acres of parkland. Hyde Park is the other Royal Garden that boarders the northern lip of Kensington. They were made Royal Gardens due to the original ownership being the United Kingdom monarchy. Today both are free public gardens, where people lucky enough to be in the area on a sunny day can enjoy a picnic with a backdrop of outstanding scenery including a picturesque lake known as the Serpentine. It was not until 1733 that Kensington Gardens first became open to the public and, at the time, only on Sunday nights!

Today Hyde Park adjoins Kensington Gardens, although in 1728 they were included as one until Queen Caroline divided the two. The 350 acres covered by Hyde Park together with the 275 acres of Kensington Gardens make the collective area larger than the Principality of Monaco!
If you stand at the eastern end of the Serpentine in Hyde Park you will see an elegant memorial among the trees dedicated to Queen Caroline. Wife of George II, a strong, beautiful, and admired queen, her 18th century ideas have deeply influenced what we see as Hyde Park today. Her grand plans not only included taking almost 300 acres from Hyde Park to form Kensington Gardens but she also created The Serpentine and the Long Water and her long avenues of trees are still reflected in the park’s layout today.

Before the creation of The Serpentine and the Long Water, there were six natural ponds in Hyde Park. A common mistake is to refer to both bodies of water as ‘The Serpentine’  when in actual fact this name only refers to the eastern half of the water body while the portion of the lake in Kensington Gardens is called the Long Water.

If the Royal Parks are not enough then perhaps an apartment overlooking one of Kensington’s many beautiful garden squares might do the trick. One of our favourite garden squares is the leafy and elegant Kensington Square, which is reported to have an average home price of £3.16million. It was established in 1685; making it the oldest square in Kensington. A few of the buildings (No. 1 – 45) are Grade II listed structures, with former residents including composer Hubert Parry at number 17, philosopher John Stuart Mill at number 18 and John Simon the sanitary reformer at number 40.  If you’re an animal lover then consider Wetherby Gardens and Thurloe Square which are popular as two of only a handful of garden squares in the Royal Borough to allow dogs.

Going Out

A well-loved restaurant is Maggie Jones (6 Old Court Place, Kensington Church Street, W8) which the aura of a country farmhouse kitchen with baskets, pitch forks and rustic trinkets hanging from the ceilings and walls. The menu is British and the grilled rack of British Lamb with Rosemary and Garlic is divine!

Continuing with this trend is the Churchill Arms with its trailing plants, antiques and bunting hang from the rafters. The pub was built way back in 1750, making it one of the older and more historic pubs in London. In the 1800s, Winston Churchill's Grandparents were frequent visitors which ultimately led to the re-naming of the pub after World War II. Today you'll discover plenty of Churchill memorabilia hanging from the walls. It’s also one of the only pubs that can claim to be a Chelsea Flower Show winner! If it's outside space you’re after the terrace at The Scarsdale Tavern spills onto the Georgian Edwardes Square, and offers a hearty gastropub menu – the steaks are delicious! The Scrasdale is bit of a celebrity hotspot with Piers Morgan and chums often spotted at the bar.

One of Kensington’s (and London’s) greatest tourist attractions are the multiple museums along Exhibition Road. South Kensington boasts the Victoria and Albert Museum, otherwise know as the V&A Museum, where one can see art ranging from 3000 years ago up until the present day. The museum offers a wide array of art and design in the form of ceramics, furniture, weaponry, fashion, textiles and much more – the diversity is astonishing. The Science Museum and Natural History Museum are both family friendly museums with multiple activities to take part in, such as an interactive Garden area that all can enjoy. The Natural History Museum’s collection contains more than 70 million botanical pieces, 55 million animal displays, nine million archaeological artefacts and 500,000 rocks and minerals and is visited by around 4 million people every year!

The Design Museum relocated in 2016 to the listed Commonwealth Institute building which backs onto Holland Park off Kensington High Street. The museum’s collections and switching line-up of displays, discussions and classes celebrate innovation and ingenuity in design of everything from everyday table lamps to the growing ambition to reach Mars. The BBC Proms concert is hosted annually in the world-famous Royal Albert Hall which has also become home in Cirque Du Soleil in recent years. The breath-taking, grade I Listed Building, is another key charm of Kensington’s.

Transport

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 Ealing and Heathrow Airport.

Rail: Kensington Olympia provides a link with the London Overground network.

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 connection to the West End to the east and to Heathrow Airport to the west. The A4 eventually leads to the M4 which connects to other major cities including Bristol and Reading. To the south is Fulham Road, which connects South Kensington with Fulham and the south-west.

Cycle: Alterations to the design of Kensington High Street have developed a more pedestrian and cycle friendly environment. There are several cycle routes through the Royal Parks.

Getting away: The major railway stations (Paddington, Waterloo, Victoria, and Kings Cross) are all quickly accessible via the 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 via either the Circle or District lines provides access to the Gatwick Express with average journey time being 48 minutes.

David's Recommendations

Best Pub - The Scarsdale Tavern (23a Edwardes Square, W8 6HE)
Best Cocktails – 
The Ivy Kensington (96 Kensington High Street, W8 4SG)
Best Pub for Sun – 
The Anglesea Arms (15 Selwood Terrace, South Kensington, SW7 3QG)
Best Tapas – 
Tendido Cero (174 Old Brompton Road, SW5 0BA)
Best Supermarket
– Whole Foods Market (63-97 Kensington High Street, W8 5SE)
Best Coffee
– Platter London (1 Holland Street, W8 4NA)