Looking for interesting things to do in Kensington, London? This upmarket area of the city is a wonderful place for lovers of culture and food. Discover some of the most interesting places to visit, from the big tourist attractions to more off the beaten track finds…
Check out the big, free museums!
If it’s your first time in Kensington then you simply must visit at least one of its big museums. The National History Museum, Science Museum and V&A are some of the world’s most renowned museums and once you’ve visited you can understand why.
All three were founded by Prince Albert after his 1851 Great Exhibition, and are each known for having some of the world’s biggest collections in their specialist areas.
They’re worth visiting just to see the buildings themselves, but interactive exhibitions, amazing displays and special events all add to the many, many reasons these museums should be top of your ‘Kensington’ bucket list.
Visit Leighton House Museum
I have to admit I hadn’t heard of Leighton House Museum before I started researching my recent Kensington trip. Having been to the ‘big’ museums on countless occasions I really wanted to find somewhere different to visit this time round and came across this relatively unknown museum.
Leighton House Museum is found on a suburban side street of Kensington, just a hop, skip and jump from Holland Park. Once the home to Sir Frederic Leighton, a renowned painter and past president of the Royal Academy, it was opened as a museum in 1929, displaying his own work as well as others from his time.
Learning about Lord Leighton
Although I didn’t know who Leighton was before I visited, I found my trip really engaging. We timed our visit with a free walking tour around the house, and had the most amazing guide walk us through his life – both private and public. We learnt about his education and career, his friendships and his muse, as well as how the house was created to his specific requests.
The house had been restored to look as closely as possible as it did during his time here, and it was wonderful to stand in his studio, be shown the staircases where his models would walk in and pose, the drawing room where he would greet guests (including royalty) and even the room where he slept, and eventually died.
Whether you’re an art fan or not this place is worth a visit simply to see its Arab Hall, which might well be one of the most beautiful rooms in London.
Built between 1877 and 1879, the wall has an amazing golden dome, and the walls are covered in intricate mosaics and tiles from far-flung locations including İznik and Damascus. Words don’t do it justice however, it’s beauty can only be fully * by seeing it with your own eyes.
Leighton House Museum is open Weds-Mon, 10am-5.30pm and costs £9 per adults. Free tours take place at 3pm on Wednesday and Sunday.
Explore pretty Holland Park
Holland Park is spread across 54 acres of what used to be the grounds of Cope Castle, a large Jacobean mansion that was built in the early 17th century in the woods.
Today some of these woods still stand, but Holland Park is now also home to a children’s adventure playground, several sports areas and the beautiful Kyoto Garden; a Japanese garden that was designed to celebrate the 1992 Japan Festival in London. Well worth a visit.
Get close to the Royals at Kensington Palace
Now home to Kate and William (although you don’t actually get to pop into their apartments during your visit!), Kensington Palace is home to 300 years of royal history. The public area of Kensington Palace is broken down into different exhibitions, allowing you to explore different eras including the tragic story of the Stuart Dynasty in the 1690s.
In each area of the palace you’ll find ‘explainers’, knowledgeable staff who’re happy to answer any questions you may have. Even better, throughout the day, explainers hold special talks in each of the rooms, telling you some amazing stories.
There’s almost as much beauty outside in Kensington Gardens as the palace itself. Plus Hyde Park is one of the best places to take a walk in London and watching the golden gates of Kensington Palace glimmer is magical. It’s worth wondering the park to see the beautiful Sunken Gardens the Round Pond, Queen Caroline’s Temple and the Prince Albert Memorial.
For more on what the palace has to offer visitors, check out our post 6 Great Reasons to Visit Kensington Palace.
Kensington Palace is open Monday-Sunday: 10am-6pm. Adult tickets cost £17.50.
Enjoy a themed afternoon tea
London is the place to experience afternoon tea but visitors can be overwhelmed by the myriad choices available to them.
There’s something special about a classic afternoon tea for sure, but personally I love to find more quirky afternoon teas when I visit.
Kensington is actually a good spot for a themed afternoon tea, as several of the hotels in the area currently offer some really cool ones. This includes the Ampersand in South Kensington, which offers an amazing science-themed afternoon tea and The Gore, which has a really fun Rock n Roll afternoon tea on offer at the moment. Head back to the blog next week for my full review!
Visit The Churchill Arms
Possibly one of the most instagrammed pubs in London, the Churchill Arms is known for its over-the-top covering of flowers. But not only is it super pretty, its just a really lovely ‘classic’ pub to visit.
Outside it wouldn’t look out of place at the Chelsea Flower Show, but inside it looks and feels as a proper local pub should, with a homely, welcoming vibe. Inside it’s decorated with Winston Churchill memorabilia, along with Irish signs and god knows what else – very little wall or ceiling space is free!
I’d love for this place to be my local – the prices were good for London, and towards the back you’ll find an amazing Thai restaurant. The food was great and cheaper than I pay back in the southwest: I had a beef stir fry, rice and a massive bowl of Thai prawn crackers for just £13.
Things to do in Kensington
So there you have it, my guide to some of the best things to do in Kensington, London. This part of the city is a wonderful spot to base yourself when visiting the capital and has so much to offer visitors whether you’ve popped in for a day trip or staying a while longer. Kensington has something for everyone, whether your love is for animals, art, food or just relaxing!