Some of London’s ritzier properties, the posh residential areas around Kensington and Chelsea have long been popular with England’s elite. To this day, the street names of the area – Pimlico , Fulham , Kensington Church and King’s – are among the most prestigious addresses in the world.
One of the most famous names in English history, the Duke of Wellington (victor of the Battle of Waterloo), lived here, as did literary greats Bram Stoker and Mark Twain . In addition to many historic sites and attractions, excellent shopping, stylish antique shops, art galleries and unique markets also draw tourists to this area.
1 Hyde Park en Speakers ‘Corner
Hyde Park covers some 350 hectares and is London’s largest open space. Originally a deer park, it was opened to the public in 1635. Highlights include the Serpentine , a 1730s lake now popular for boating and swimming. It’s also where you’ll find Speakers’ Corner , a traditional freedom of speech forum that’s always busy on weekends. The other famous corner here is Hyde Park Corner , the busiest intersection in London and leads to Marble Arch and Oxford Street, Buckingham Palace, the Albert Hall and the Victoria and Albert Museum. The park is also home to Hyde Park Riding Stables, England’s most famous equestrian center for over 300 years.
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2 Apsley House: Home of the Duke of Wellington Museum
Affectionately referred to as ‘Number One London’ in deference to its owner’s fame, Apsley House was home to the first Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) and was bought after his famous victory at Waterloo. The Duke made many changes to the house, most notably his addition to the Waterloo Gallery, where he held his famous banquets. Opened in 1952 as the Wellington Museum (a branch of the Victoria and Albert Museum), it houses Wellington’s wonderful collections of paintings, including Velázquez ‘s Waterseller of Seville, along with gifts presented by grateful European kings and emperors.
Hours: Vary depending on the season
Admission: Adults, £6.70; Children (5-15), £4 (Overseas Visitor Passes to Historic Sites with English Heritage are available.)
Adres: Piccadilly 149, Hyde Park Corner, Londen
Official site: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/apsley-house/
3 Wellington Arch
The Wellington Arch commemorating Wellington’s victory at Waterloo includes a bronze chariot with a statue of peace and is just a stone’s throw from the Duke’s former residence at Apsley House. Also nearby is a bronze statue of Wellington on horseback, at its corners figures of a Grenadier Guard, a Scottish Highlander, a Welsh Fusilier and an Inniskilling Dragoon. As well as an exhibit on the structure’s history, the arch has a gallery of rotating exhibits that explore England’s history and heritage.
Opening hours: Wed-Sun, 10am – 4pm
Admission: Adults, £4; Children (5-15), £2.40 (Overseas Visitor Passes to Historic Sites with English Heritage are available.)
Location: Apsley Way, Hyde Park Corner, London
Official site: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/wellington-arch/
4 Kensington Palace and Gardens
Kensington Palace was the private residence of English monarchs from 1689 to 1760 and is still used by members of the royal family. The last king to stay here was George II, and it was also where Queen Victoria was born and later received news of her accession. The State Apartments are open to the public and feature a display of coronation robes and the Queen’s Gallery, adorned with numerous royal portraits. Other highlights include the quarters of Queens Victoria, Mary and Anne, along with their personal belongings.
Afterwards, take a stroll through beautiful Kensington Gardens . Once the palace’s private gardens, they were laid out by Queen Caroline in 1728 and include a beautiful sunken garden, flower walkway and fountains. Be sure to visit the Albert Memorial and the Serpentine Gallery (a collection of contemporary art) at the southern end of the gardens, as well as nearby Holland Park, especially attractive in spring when the tulips are in bloom.
Opening hours: daily from 10am to 5pm
Admission: Adults, £16.50; Children (under 16), free; Online discounts available
Location: Kensington Gardens, London
Official site: https://www.hrp.org.uk/kensington-palace/
5 De V & A: Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum (also known as the V&A ) is part of a complex of museums in South Kensington that includes the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum . Founded in 1852, it moved to its current location in 1909 with its extensive collections. Today, the V&A covers nearly 13 acres and contains 145 galleries spanning approximately 5,000 years of art. Exhibits include ceramics and glass, textiles and costumes, silver and jewellery, ironwork, sculpture, prints and photographs. The best plan for tackling this huge museum – impossible to get around in a single visit – is to decide in advance which sections you most want to see.
Hours: Sat-Thu, 10am – 5:45pm; Fri, 10am – 10pm
Admission: Various, discounts available
Location: Cromwell Rd, London
6 Royal Albert Hall
England’s most famous concert hall was built in 1871 in memory of Queen Victoria’s Prince Consort. Considered by contemporaries to be worthy of Rome in its golden age, this spectacular oval venue (circumference 650 ft) is one of London’s most popular concert venues. The famous Proms takes place here from July to September with a program that covers everything from baroque to modern pop. Tickets are reasonably priced, and if you can swing it, try to get your hands on a ticket to the always-awesome Last Night at the Proms .
Location: Kensington Gore, London
Official site: www.royalalberthall.com
7 Natural history museum
The Natural History Museum of London dates back to 1754 and contains the original collections of 50,000 books, 10,000 preserved animals and 334 volumes of pressed plant species. Today the collection has grown to over 70 million items related to zoology, paleontology, mineralogy, entomology and botany. The museum is also a center for scientific research specializing in conservation and, given its age, has many collections of historical value, including specimens collected by Charles Darwin .
Location: Cromwell Rd, London
8 Kensal Green Cemetery
With its many unique buildings and memorials to the dead, Kensal Green Cemetery is a surprisingly nice way to spend a few hours. Among the rich and famous to be found here are authors, painters and royalty, including Augustus Frederick, son of King George III. Most of the buildings are in the Greek Revival style and include the fine Anglican chapel and catacombs, the Dissenters chapel and catacombs, colonnade and catacombs, and the main entrance gate. The cemetery is set in 30+ acres of beautiful grounds and is also home to 33 species of birds and other wildlife.
Location: The West London Crematorium at Kensal Green, Harrow Rd, London
Official site: www.kensalgreencemetery.com
9 Portobello Road Market
On Saturdays, Portobello Road Market transforms from its day-to-day fruit and vegetable stalls into the world’s largest – and certainly the busiest – antiques market . With over 1,000 dealers, visitors come from far and wide to enjoy one of the most popular landmarks of the multicultural Notting Hill Area. Another great place to find beautiful antiques is the Chelsea Antiques Fair held every spring at the old Chelsea Town Hall.
Hours: Fruits and Vegetables/New Commodity Markets – Mon-Wed, 9am-6pm; Thu, 9am-1pm; Fri, 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM; Antique Market, Sat, 9am – 7pm
Official site: www.portobelloroad.co.uk
10 Leighton House Museum en 18 Stafford Terrace
Leighton House was home to Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896) and is the only purpose-built studio house in England open to the public. Highlights include the fabulous Arabian Hall with its golden dome, intricate mosaics and walls lined with beautiful Islamic tiles, plus Leighton’s large painting studio where he entertained many of society’s elite, including Queen Victoria .
Also of interest is 18 Stafford Terrace, home of Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne. The house offers a rare example of an ‘Aesthetic Interior’ with many Japanese, Middle Eastern and Chinese objects (tours fill up quickly, so book ahead). Another notable house in Kensington is the 17th century Lindsey House boasting one of the finest exterior structures of its time.
Hours: Daily (except Tues), 10am-5:30pm
Admission: Adults, £5; Children (under 16), £3
Address: 12 Holland Park Rd, London
Official site: https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/subsites/museums.aspx
11 The Roof Gardens
Set 100 ft above Kensington High Street , the roof gardens occupy 1.5 acres of the roof on the 6th floor of a former department store. The second largest rooftop garden in Europe, this spectacular garden was established in 1938 and features many exotic plants, three pet flamingos, a Spanish garden with fountains and palm trees, and an Elizabethan herb garden. The gardens and Babylon Restaurant can be accessed from Derry Street . A little further out on the Thames is the Chelsea Physic Garden , known for its links to botanical education.
Address: 99 Kensington High St, London
Official site: https://www.virginlimitededition.com/en/the-roof-gardens
12 Chelsea Old Church
Chelsea Old Church was founded in the 13th century and is worth a visit for the Meer chapel , restored by Sir Thomas More in 1528. Two Renaissance capitals on the arch to the chancel were designed by Holbein, a close friend of More, and it was here that Henry VIII had secretly married Jane Seymour a few days before their official wedding ceremony. There are numerous 17th- and 18th-century monuments, including that of Lady Jane Cheyne by Paolo Bernini, and the tomb of the famous scientist Sir Hans Sloane (d. 1753).
Address: Petyt Hall, 64 Cheyne Walk, London
Official site: www.chelseaoldchurch.org.uk
13 The Royal Hospital and the Chelsea Pensioners
Built over 300 years ago as a home to veteran soldiers, the Royal Hospital is famous for being the home of the Chelsea pensioners, often seen wearing their colourful, traditional uniforms from Marlborough’s days. Founded by Charles II in 1682, the entrance is past London Gate . In the Figure Court is a bronze statue of Charles II and further Founder (May 29) it is decorated with oak branches commemorating the king’s escape after the Battle of Worcester (he hid in an oak tree). In the main building is the finely paneled Great Hall with royal portraits and flags from military campaigns in America and France.
The Chapel has been preserved in its original state, as have the gardens, which stretch down to the Thames and play host to the famous Chelsea Flower Show each year . This attraction is best seen as part of a 90-minute guided tour led by one of the Chelsea Pensioners (minimum four people, must be booked in advance). End your day with a visit to the National Army Museum which presents the history of the British Army from the 16th century to the present day.
Hours: Tours begin at 10am and 1:30pm, Mon-Fri
Admission: Tours – Adults, £8; Children, £5
Address: 66 Royal Hospital Rd, Chelsea, London
Official site: www.chelsea-pensioners.co.uk
14 A World of Writers: Carlyle’s House
Carlyle’s House in old Chelsea is a National Trust property occupied by a writer Thomas Carlyle from 1834-1881. In addition to the interesting interior, the museum has many manuscripts and personal mementos and was often visited by other great writers such as Dickens and Tennyson. The area around Cheyne Walk has been favored since 1720 by figures of the arts and entertainment world Bram Stoker who moved here after the success of Dracula, and Mark Twain , who took refuge here with his debtors. Irish playwright Oscar Wilde also lived here for a decade, as did actor Sir Laurence Olivier .
Admission: Adults, £5.10; Children, £2.60; Families, £12.80
Address: 24 Cheyne Row, Chelsea, London
Official site: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/carlyles-house
Where to stay near Hyde Park for sightseeing
We recommend these top class hotels near Hyde Park in London and the surrounding attractions:
- The Montcalm London Marble Arch: 5-star luxury with Hermès toiletries, iPads, pillow menu, in-room aromas, indoor pool and full-service spa.
- Montagu Place Hotel: Mid-range boutique hotel, Georgian town house, quiet road, chic decor, home away from home.
- Park Grand London Lancaster Gate: affordable prices, modern decor, delicious afternoon tea, cozy rooms.
- Ridgemount Hotel: Bloomsbury budget hotel, family-run, walled garden, private and shared bathrooms.