Discover the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

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The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is one of the most upmarket areas of London, with high levels of income and expensive property prices.

It is the smallest borough in London and the second-smallest district in England, and is one of the most densely populated areas in the UK.

It’s not difficult to see why the area is so desirable, as it features some beautiful parklands and excellent shopping opportunities – including the famous upmarket stores of Knightsbridge.

Culture is another asset, with the ‘Albertopolis’ area – split between the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the City of Westminster – home to some of London’s finest educational and cultural institutions.

Here is a guide to some of the area’s main attractions.

King’s Road

King’s Road stretches through Chelsea and Fulham. During the 1960s, the area became synonymous with style, and it remains an area for upmarket shopping.

In the sixties, the locale was the home of the Chelsea Drugstore, and in the 1970s it became home to Malcolm McLaren’s boutique Let It Rock, which was later associated with the punk movement.

Nowadays, King’s Road retains its association with fashion and features a range of independent clothes and shoe shops, along with contemporary furnishing stores. Antique stores are also common, including the famous Chelsea Antiques Market.

The Sloane Square underground station, which is served by the Circle and District lines, is within easy reach of King’s Road. When you leave the station, walk westwards across Sloane Square and King’s Road is at the far end.

Explore Kensington Park and The Royal Gardens

Kensington Gardens

Kensington Gardens once belonged to Kensington Palace, the royal residence, having been separated from the rest of Hyde Park at the request of Queen Caroline, wife of George II, in 1728.

Gardeners Henry Wise and George Bridgman then designed a landscaped garden, with features such as the Round Pond, formal avenues and a sunken Dutch garden. The famous Serpentine Lake was created between 1726 and 1731 by damming the eastern outflow of the River Westbourne from Hyde Park.

Kensington Gardens

Nowadays, the park is immensely popular with locals and tourists alike, millions of whom visit each year to enjoy the magnificent trees and ornamental flower beds.

While there are plenty of attractions for adults, such as the Italian gardens and a range of statues and monuments, the area also holds an appeal for youngsters, as it is home to the Princess Diana memorial playground.

The playground was opened in 2000 in memory of the princess, who loved the innocence of childhood. Its centrepiece is a huge wooden pirate ship, which is surrounded by a sensory trail, teepees and a beach, alongside various toys and play sculptures.

For grown-ups, the park boasts the Serpentine galleries, which present a programme of contemporary art and architecture that follows the seasons of the year. During exhibitions the galleries are open Tuesday to Sunday between 10.00 and 18.00.

Nearby underground stations include Lancaster Gate and Queensway, both of which are adjacent to the gardens.

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace has been a royal residence since the 17th century, when it began life as a two-storey Jacobean mansion.

It is now the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.

The palace is open to visitors and boasts some exhibits that are well worth seeing, including the King’s Staircase, the Queen’s State Apartments, the King’s State Apartments and the King’s Gallery.

Displays feature items from Queen Elizabeth’s wardrobe in the 1950s, Princess Margaret from the 1960s and 70s and Diana, Princess of Wales in the 1980s during their fashion heyday.

Albertopolis

The area known as Albertopolis is a culture-lover’s paradise, containing a wealth of museums and other institutions. It is divided between the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the City of Westminster.

Albertopolis was named after Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, and was designed to celebrate the achievements of the Victorian era.

Probably the most famous of the area’s landmarks is the Natural History Museum, which contains 80 million specimens spanning billions of years and attracts more than five million visitors every year.

Among the exhibits that can be viewed in the museum are a 32m-long replica Diplodocus and a 25m-long blue whale skeleton.

Not far from the Natural History Museum is the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum, which is devoted to art and design.

The V&A is home to the most comprehensive collection of ceramics in the world, particularly from Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

It also houses 100,000 drawings made in Europe and the US, covering a range of styles and periods.

Furniture, fashion, glass, jewellery, paintings and metalwork are just some of the other fields of art and design represented in the V&A, which is open every day from 10.00 to 17.45.

Other famous institutions in the area include the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal College of Art, the Royal College of Music, the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Institute of Navigation.

The nearest underground station is South Kensington, which is served by the Circle, District and Piccadilly lines. It is connected to the museums by a tiled tunnel beneath Exhibition Road constructed in 1885.

Portobello Road Market

Portobello Road is a famous area of London, having featured in several films, as well as various books and songs.

It is home to the world’s largest antiques market, with over 1,000 dealers selling a huge variety of antique and collectible items.

The market, which started out as a fresh-food market in the 19th century, attracts tourists from around the world. The main market day for antiques is Saturday, when it is open between 09.00 and 19.00.

Also open during the rest of the week, fruit and veg, fashion and second-hand goods stalls feature alongside the antiques dealers.

Portobello Road can be easily reached from anywhere in London. Ladbroke Grove, on the Hammersmith & City Lines, and Notting Hill Gate, which is on the Central, Circle and District lines, are the closest underground stations.

Buses 7,12, 23, 27, 28, 31, 52, 70, 94, 328 and 452 also stop near the market.

Knightsbridge

More shopping opportunities abound in Knightsbridge, which is split between Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster, and is within easy reach of KensingtonĀ hotels.

Famous upmarket London department store Harrods can be found in this area. Founded in 1834 by Charles Henry Harrod, it is known throughout the world as a seller of quality and luxury goods.

The area is home to other famous stores, such as Harvey Nichols, and is also home to the London headquarters of international fashion brands, including Jimmy Choo and Prada.

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