Top Attractions of Kensington – Museums and Restaurants
Kensington is known for being one of the most affluent areas of London, often associated with stately whitewashed Victorian houses and famous residents (such as Eric Clapton, Rowan Atkinson and James Dyson to name a few). Aside from the picturesque leafy avenues and lavish houses, there is plenty to see and do in Kensington, whether you are just visiting or moving to the area. In this article we take a look at some of the highlights from the selection of restaurants and museums in the area.
There is not much to say about the Natural History Museum that hasn’t been said many, many times over… it is one of the most popular museums in London for a reason. Over 5 million visitors pass through the doors every year to see an ever-growing collection of specimens from the natural world. Entry is free, but be sure to keep an eye on the Natural History Museum’s website for special events, especially during school holidays.
Since opening in 1970 the Serpentine Galleries in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park have been one of the most highly-regarded contemporary art galleries in London. The two sites (the Serpentine Gallery and the Serpentine Sackler Gallery) present work across many disciplines including art, architecture, design, fashion and digital from both British and International artists. The programme at the Serpentine does not stand still for long, there is often something new to see and a constantly evolving diary of events and exhibitions.
Perhaps one of the most impressive and overlooked pieces of neo-classic architecture in London is Kensington’s Brompton Oratory (or the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary). This large neo-classical church was consecrated in 1884 and is mostly faced in Portland stone and has been the host of many notable events and ceremonies through its history such as the marriage of Sir Edward Elgar to Alice Roberts in 1889.
Rightly self-proclaimed as the “world’s leading museum of art, design and performance”, The Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the best known museums in London and admission is free (with the exception of special events and exhibitions). The museum itself holds a collection of 2.3 million items that celebrate human creativity across 5,000 years. As well as being a public museum it is also a research base for the study of architecture, photography, fashion, painting, sculpture, performance and much more.
The Royal College of Music Museum, which recently closed for a major refurbishment, is due to reopen in late 2020. The museum of instruments contains over 25,000 pieces such as the earliest known guitar (from around 1581), a clavicytherium from 1480 and a spinet used by Handel. Although the museum itself is closed for visitors, the college continues to run courses and offer rehearsal and performance spaces for ensembles. The college is also home to a community of researchers working on a wide range of music-based subjects such as musicology, performance science, music education, composition and performance.
Part exhibition gallery, part restaurant, part carefully-curated shop, Japan House on Kensington High Street is a celebration of Japanese culture like no other in London. On the retail floor you can expect to find a selection of authentic Japanese crafts, stationery, homeware and accessories.
Named after Chef Shimizu Akira, the Akira restaurant which occupies the first floor of Japan House offers lunch, dinner and Japanese-style afternoon tea. Akira’s menus are based on the head chef’s ‘trinity of cooking’ principles – food, tableware and presentation. Being a traditional Japanese cuisine there is only a limited vegetarian offering. However, meat-lovers will be spoilt for choice. Amongst the reputable dishes are skewers made from umami-rich wagyu beef, pork, chicken and seafood.
Keen to call itself London’s oldest family restaurant is Il Portico, which has been serving homemade Italian food for over 60 years, being passed down through three generations. The heart-warming menu of traditional Italian cuisine could not be more authentic and genuine. If you are looking for Italian food in Kensington, Il Portico is certainly the place to go.
For a cuisine that is closer to home, Maggie Jones’s is a cosy and rustic British countryside themed restaurant that is decorated with farmhouse attire, pots and pans hanging from the wooden panelled walls alongside wicker baskets and rural bric-a-brac. Neatly tucked away between Kensington High Street and Church Street, Maggie Jones’s is a real gem offering traditional British dishes that instantly transports you over the hills and far away from the bustle of the busy city.
Once the favourite restaurant of the late Princess Diana, Launceston Place has a reputation for its concise, yet carefully selected menu. However, what it lacks in choice it more than makes up for in creativity and originality. The contemporary European restaurant was the proud recipient of three AA Rosettes in 2019 as well as being one of only seven restaurants awarded The AA’s ‘Notable Wine List’ title in 2013. The awards and accolades do not end there; Head Chef Ben Murphy, was named the Chef to Watch 2016 by The Good Food Guide.
At just over 55 acres, Holland Park is the largest park in the area, and one of the most loved in the city. The park which gives its name to the surrounding area, and the nearby tube station, is set in the grounds of what was once the Jacobean Holland House and is the picturesque backdrop for the annual open air festival of opera that runs through July and August. The grounds are an ideal setting for a tranquil walk and visitors can stroll through two beautiful Japanese gardens. The gardens are also home to the first dahlia plants to have been successfully grown in England, having been planted by the second wife of the Resident Earl of Holland in the 19th century.
There is so much to do and see in Kensington that we did not even have enough space to cover the Science Museum, Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Palace or the adjoining Hyde Park. If you are considering moving to Kensington, click here to find out more about our specialist Kensington removals service or our specialist storage facilities.