Glamorous and chic, Kensington and Chelsea are the best places to go if you’re in London looking for upmarket shopping, culture and class. As one of the city’s most well-heeled areas, it’s no surprise that this is the home of London luxury – but you can also find hidden local gems amongst the international chains. Whether you’re staying in the area at the London Premier Kensington or just looking for the best that London has to offer, this beautiful area demands plenty of time to explore.
Many visitors like to start with a feast of history and culture in South Kensington, where you can find the Natural History, Science and Victoria & Albert museums – all free to enter, apart from some of their temporary exhibitions. These huge and world-famous museums attract millions of tourists every year with their high standards and rare exhibits – including an IMAX theatre at the Science Museum and massive dinosaur skeletons at the Natural History Museum. The Victoria and Albert, affectionately known to Londoners as the V&A, is a mish-mash of art, fashion, history and design where you’re sure to find something that sticks in your memory.
If the V&A leaves you wanting more art in your holiday, the renowned Saatchi Gallery is not far away, along with Proud Chelsea on King’s Road. And if you’re a theatre buff looking for something a little less mainstream than the blockbuster shows on the West End, the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square has you covered with a programme of modern, innovative theatre productions.
Many London hotels discount their rooms heavily during the off-season, so now is the perfect time to head over and use the cash you save on your hotel on some high-end retail therapy. There’s no better place to start than Harrods in Knightsbridge: an enormous, beautiful and historic department store, so famous that it’s an attraction in its own right and sells Harrods-branded merchandise in its own gift shop. With roughly 70 departments over seven floors, this is your one-stop shop for everything you could want – from designer fashion to genuine gold bars. Try Harvey Nichols as well, for a similarly wide-ranging department store experience. It’s a little less exclusive, but royals and celebrities are well-known to do their shopping here, so you know you’re in good company.
For a change of pace, wander down King’s Road, Sloane Street and High Street Kensington, where you’ll find a huge selection of boutiques. Amongst international high-street chains and exclusive designers, you’ll find gems selling vintage fashion in excellent condition as well as World’s End – Vivienne Westwood’s original London shop.
You’re likely to need some pampering after a long day pounding the pavements, so slip into a day spa for a massage, facial or mani/pedi – or why not all three? If the weather is fine, the Chelsea Physic Garden provides a welcome space for quiet contemplation surrounded by the beauty of the oldest botanical garden in London.
On Saturdays, head to Duke of York’s Square or Pimlico Green for the weekend farmer’s markets, where you can sample the best local produce from London and the surrounding areas. There’s plenty to please if you’re looking for artisanal, free-range, organic or the like – in a ritzy area such as this, quality is always rewarded.
It’s all about taking your time to wander, explore and enjoy, so you can really soak up the essence of the neighbourhood. Stroll through galleries, shop ‘til you drop and immerse yourself in London. You’ll return from your Kensington and Chelsea sojourn feeling refreshed by the higher things in life – which is really what a city break is all about, isn’t it?