Kensington London W8 and SW7
Kensington is still just as its creators intended, the popular choice for the rich and powerful. The court of William and Mary moved to Kensington Palace in 1689. The hamlet had arrived as a fashionable suburb with status.
Kensington Square is one of London’s oldest squares. It dates from 1685 and features an array of blue plaques. One is for former resident John Stuart Mill a well known liberal philosopher. While poet and novelist GK Chesterton lived at 32 Sheffield Terrace, a street of three-story white houses.
Most of the present day buildings in Kensington were created in the 19th century during the reign of Queen Victoria. The main building activity was just after the Great Exhibition in 1851. The repeal of the window tax allowed construction of houses with larger and more windows. As a result the streets were laid out wider to allow more light. Also, they were planted with trees to provide summer shade and a pleasant outlook.
The council fights hard to maintain the leafy Victorian and Georgian character of the area. As a result there are few opportunities for developers to squeeze more new buildings in. However recreating old buildings will always be a popular pursuit.
As a Royal Borough, the area has many embassies while Kensington gardens, planted with formal avenues of magnificent trees and ornamental flower beds, features a children’s playground which serves as a wonderful memorial to Princess Diana.
Holland Park is 22.5 hectares of gardens, children’s play facilities, a cafeteria and large areas of woodland abundant with wildlife. The sports areas include facilities for tennis, football, golf practice nets, cricket practice nets and netball. Finally, there is the beautiful Kyoto Garden, a Japanese garden donated by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto in 1991.
- St Mary Abbots Church in Kensington has, at 278 feet, the tallest church spire in London. The Victorian Gothic building was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott , and was completed in 1872.
- Swinging 1960’s iconic fashion house Biba had its flagshop store on Kensington High Street
- German pilots used the Albert Memorial as a landmark during World War I
Kensington is defined to a large extent by the beauty and majesty of its palace set in the sumptuous gardens which were re-designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the late 17th century.
Queen’s Gate is a popular bolt hole for the Diplomatic Corps with plenty of embassies and ambassadorial homes amongst the grand stucco terraces that dominate the busy sweeping thoroughfare.
White rendered detached houses, stucco terraced dwellings, brick and render terraces and linked housing predominate. While Plane Tree House, a prize winning 1960s flats development, is a notable exception.
The exclusive Kensington Palace Gardens is as close to a private road as you can get with its imposing gates at either end. Also the constant attention of the Diplomatic Protection Corps wards off the undesirable or unwelcome.
Commerce and culture
Kensington High Street is the heart of the area. It has a busy commercial centre with a generous array of shopping options for the affluent. South Kensington is the other hub of social activity. Clusters of small shops lead to Exhibition Road, the place to look for the area’s museums, schools and colleges. The Natural History Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum and The Science Museum are all within walking distance
You’ll find fashion stores such as Zara, H&M, Gap, Miss Sixty, Topshop, Urban Outfitters, TK Max, American Apparel and Uniqlo; shoe shops Dune, Clarks, Russell & Bromley and Kurt Geiger; books at Waterstones.
Marks & Spencer has a flag ship store here selling food, furniture, clothing and pretty much everything else. The largest Whole Foods in the country opened to much fanfare in 2007 in the Barkers building.
The restaurant upstairs prepares a whole range of foods and is a very popular destination for lunch. Kensington High Street also has a Waitrose. In addition there is a large section of skiing and outdoors shops. For example Snow & Rock, Columbia, Kathmandu and Ellis Brighman.
Kensington has three underground stations, all in Travelcard Zone 1. South Kensington, Gloucester Road and High Street, Kensington are all served by the Circle line and District Line. While the Piccadilly Line links South Kensington and Gloucester Road with the West End.
A number of local bus services link Kensington with surrounding districts though black cabs remain the public transport of choice for many residents.
The area is home to the prestigious Imperial College London and the Royal College of Music, as well as numerous other illustrious and world renowned institutions.
In keeping with the affluence of the area independent secondary schools far outnumber state schools, by a factor of four to one. There are four of the latter and slightly more primary schools.
Where to eat:
Maggie Jones’s – Traditional farmhouse-style British menu, set within a cosy, rustic and informal restaurant themed like an old barn.
Kitchen W8 – Michelin-starred, stylish contemporary and neighbourhood
friendly restaurant offering high-end modern European cuisine.
The Churchill Arms – A famous watering hole, once frequented by Winston Churchill’s grandparents, with a delicious Thai Kitchen set in a butterfly-themed conservatory offering a menu of family recipes.
Wholefoods Market – Eco-minded chain with natural & organic grocery items, with a Prepared Foods department, including a deli, an ethnic restaurant, burger joint, neighbourhood diner, Parisian café, pizza joint, BBQ shack, sushi/seafood bar, raw foods bar, taco bar, salad bar, sandwich bar, olive bar and wine bar.
The Ivy Kensington Brasserie – A modern British grill restaurant comprising a main restaurant, a tranquil secret garden terrace for al fresco dining and a semi-private table for ten for an extra special experience.
Going for a drink
With a great choice of trendy and sophisticated pubs, bars and coffee shops in Kensington, you’ll be sure to find the perfect spot.
La Caffettiera – Delivering the perfect Italian coffee experience, with an excellent selection of freshly prepared sandwiches and pasta.
Patisserie Valerie – Long-standing chain patisserie serving coffee and light meals, plus luxury handmade cakes and patisserie as well as offering a continental menu
The Orangery – Set in the grounds of Kensington Palace, a relaxed and elegant setting for breakfast or lunch and the only royal palace in London where you can enjoy a traditional afternoon tea.
Wine, Beer and Cocktails
The Kensington Roof Gardens – Set 100ft above London and comprises three gardens spanning across 1.5 acres, a private members Club and Babylon Restaurant. The Kensington Roof Gardens is an ideal venue for every special event, from dinners to discos, weddings to business meetings and also BBQs on summer nights.
Dirty Bones – A neon-lit diner serving up New York style comfort food and excellent cocktails alongside live music.
Kensington Wine Rooms – A stylish bar with high stool and banquette seating, for wines by the glass and Modern European bites.
Bodo Schloss – Restaurant, bar and old fashioned disco, offers award winning quality drinks with a cocktail menu designed to titillate the senses and transport you straight to the alps.