The west London area of Kensington is one to explore during a trip to the British city. The posh neighborhood is home to several major museums, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as Hyde Park and Kensington Palace. Whether you want to make a day of it or spend an entire London vacation in the area, there is a lot to see and do around Kensington.
Visit Kensington Palace
Every day visitors can step inside the residence of Prince William and Kate Middleton, although it's unlikely you'll catch a glimpse of the future king and queen. Learn more about the history of the palace, which was the birthplace of Queen Victoria, through a series of exhibitions and staterooms, before strolling through the ornate palace gardens. There are frequently special exhibits on view, and tickets should be booked online well in advance for popular exhibitions. The Kensington Palace Pavilion is also a good stop for afternoon tea.
Shop Kensington High Street
Kensington's main drag is one of the busiest shopping areas in London, boasting tons of chain stores and local boutiques, as well as one of the most impressive Whole Foods you'll ever see. Don't miss the Japan House London, a curated boutique of items from Japan that also has an upstairs restaurant. Bargain hunters should head to TK Maxx, the U.K.'s answer to TJ Maxx, which often has designer clothes for a steal.
Watch Live Music in Royal Albert Hall
Seeing a rock concert or an orchestra performance at Royal Albert Hall is the pinnacle of the live music experience. The historic building, which dates back to 1871, is the home of several important events, including the annual BAFTA Awards. The concert hall hosts numerous public events throughout the year, from the BBC Proms to cinema screenings with live music to performances of "The Nutcracker." Book in advance or just show up and see what's going on that day.
Visit the Victoria and Albert Museum
Named for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the Victoria and Albert Museum dates back to 1852. It's now the world's largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design, with an extensive permanent collection as well as several temporary exhibitions every year. The fashion collection is particularly engaging, and you can also see amazing works related to David Bowie, Vivienne Westwood, and Alexander McQueen. It's the sort of place where there's something for everyone, whether you're looking for historical pieces or something more modern. Admission is free, although special exhibits typically require a ticket (and some can be highly sought after, so it's best to book well ahead). Don't miss the late-night hours on Friday, when the museum stays open until 10 p.m.
Stroll Through Hyde Park
Hyde Park is one of London's most scenic parks, with a variety of landscapes that help you feel like you've wandered into the countryside. During the summer, visitors picnic on the grass or rent boats at the Serpentine, or you can follow one of the many paths through the park. The Italian Gardens, located on the north side of the green expanse, are a don't-miss, as is the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. Hyde Park connects to the Kensington Gardens, so it's best to pair your visit with one to Kensington Palace as well.
Visit the Natural History Museum
Continue museum hopping at the Natural History Museum, another expansive collection that's free for visitors. It's particularly family-friendly, with lots of events happening every week, and you can expect exhibits on dinosaurs, wildlife, space, oceans and much more. Those who can't get enough dinosaurs should book into one of the "Dino Snores for Grown-Ups," where visitors can live out a childhood fantasy of sleeping over in a museum (there are also "Dino Snores for Kids"). A highlight is the 25 meter blue whale skeleton, which was recently hung in the museum's entrance.
Explore the Serpentine Gallery
In the heart of Hyde Park, near the Serpentine, you'll discover the Serpentine Gallery, an art museum that is often overlooked for London's more famous galleries. The museum, which displays modern and contemporary works, is free to the public and the collection is comprised of two separate galleries, the Serpentine Gallery and the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, which are a short walk apart. The exhibitions often change, with events scheduled around each one, and the museum is open daily. Check online for the current exhibitions. Be sure to leave large bags at the hotel, as the museum doesn't allow visitors to bring in larger items.
Grab a Pint at The Churchill Arms
Head to The Churchill Arms to snap a photo of its flower-covered exterior, but stay for a cold pint at the pub's bar. The historic spot, which dates back to 1750, is a popular place to grab a drink or a bite to eat (the menu is unexpectedly comprised of Thai dishes). It's even more impressive when December rolls around when the pub is covered with nearly 100 Christmas trees, all of which are lit up for the festive occasion.
While you may not be able to afford anything in Harrods, London's most iconic (and most expensive) department store, it's worth window shopping anyway. Founded back in 1849, the great shop, located near the Knightsbridge Tube station, has over 300 different departments (including a spirits and liquor department that often offers free samples). It's known for selling luxury and designer goods, with everything from clothes to beauty to home goods available in the perfectly curated displays. Around the holidays, the Harrods Christmas Shop, where you can buy exclusive decorations and toys, is especially fun. There are also numerous restaurants available within the department store, including the iconic Harrods Tea Rooms.
Visit the Science Museum
London's Science Museum is the third major museum located in Kensington, adjacent to the Natural History Museum. This one is all about interactive exhibits and displays, helping visitors learn more about all aspects of science. It's free and open daily, and several exhibits rotate throughout the year. Whether you're interested in space, technology, or medical advancements, you'll find something to discover and learn more about. Check online for upcoming events and talks, or head to the museum on the last Wednesday of the month for their adults-only "Lates" evenings.