It’s fair to say that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is absolutely chock-full of magnificent things to see and do, so – to prioritise – what are the very best, by category, to visit should you be staying at somewhere like San Domenico House hotel London…?
South Ken’s ‘Albertopolis’ is where it’s at for museums in Kensington and Chelsea; after all, it was laid out precisely for this purpose and features three of the finest museums in the world – the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A). But how do you choose between them? They’re all globally renowned and adored by those passionate about each of them. So, really, it comes down to taste; if innovation, technology and space travel’s your thing, it’s going to be the Science Museum; if hundreds of years of the decorative arts are your bag then the V&A’ll be tops; if extinct animals, plant life, fossils and dinosaurs float your boat, it’ll be the Natural History Museum.
Pubs and bars
Again, take your pick. Like everywhere in the capital, Chelsea and Kensington’s teeming with watering holes. You might be most charmed by Kensington Church Street’s The Churchill Arms, armed as it is with a plethora of memorabilia dedicated to the legendary Winston, or should you be all about amenities, then Notting Hill’s The Windsor Castle (in Campdenhill Road) may top your list thanks to its fine beer garden and friendly atmos; however, perhaps the largest green space adjacent to a boozer is boasted by the Garden Bar (near Latimer Road Tube station).
Look no further than the salubrious and exquisite Holland Park in this category; not least for its Kyoto Garden, where eclectic, vibrant Asian plant-life mingles alongside an ecology centre and even peacocks roaming about the place. That said, North Kensington’s Little Wormwood Scrubs also deserves a shout, possessing as it does an excellent children’s adventure playground.
Many will immediately cite Portobello Road Market as the greatest outdoor retail experience in the area; it’s certainly the most famous and iconic, but in terms of sheer variety, local character and probably overall quality, it’s topped by the smaller Golbourne Road Market. Preferable for those who prize their street markets free of many tourists and chain-stores, this one’s also renowned for its outstanding street-food choice, vending everything from Moroccan cuisine to Portuguese snacks.
You’re probably not aware of it, but Chelsea has something of a reputation for its garden centres and so it is that, for many, the greatest shop of all for those visiting hotels near Harrods London is actually Rassells, located just off Earl’s Court Road – where it’s operated from for more than 130 years. Today, the establishment’s entrance opens out on to a glorious Georgian square that’s made up of a stunning plant nursery, while the place as a whole’s stocked full of seasonal bargains with an extremely knowledgeable and friendly sales staff on tap too.
Yes, and finally, you simply can’t miss this monarch among the oddities – namely Kensington Gardens’ Elfin Oak. It may be over 900 years-old and originally grown in Richmond Park, but it’s the addition of the really rather wonderful tiny figurines (each and every one of them in multi-colour) by sculptor Ivor Innes around 90 years ago that makes this unusual attraction unmissable. In fact, it looks like an aged tree inhabited by magical pixies. Or something. And we have the legendary Spike Milligan to thank for its preservation. Of course, we do.