Guide to Kensington and Chelsea, London

Kensington and Chelsea: The Ultimate Guide to Royal London

Home to kings, queens, princesses and London’s elite, a stroll through this part of the city will guarantee a glimpse into another world of absolute and unrivaled luxury.

Luke Abrahams
20 May 2023

There’s a touch of architectural Paris and a whiff of Vienna's coffee culture in West London. It’s what the fashion crowd (most of whom live here) would call “the chicest part of town.” Spend an hour or two strolling the royal borough's streets and it’s easy to see why. Walk down Sloane Street and the homes here look more like small palaces than they do dinky apartments. Kensington and Sloane Square, the beating hearts of the neighborhood are also home to some of the world’s greatest institutions, from the big names of fashion to leading museums and palaces still lived in by members of the Royal Family. Bordered by Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, this part of the city is also London’s greenest, perfect for a lazy hazy summer afternoon or a simple spring picnic. The coffee, brunch and brasserie culture is big here, too, so it’s worth carving out a few days to book yourself into a gourmet pub or classy Michelin-starred restaurant. Whether you’re into boutiques or just love an afternoon of culture, Kensington and Chelsea offer a slice of London’s high life on dizzying repeat.

How to Get to Kensington and Chelsea

Kensington is not too far from anything in central London. All major bus, tube, and train routes go to this part of town, including the Piccadilly, Central, District, Circle and Elizabeth lines. It’s also easily walkable. If you are around the likes of Mayfair or Oxford Street, you can easily walk the entire stretch of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens for easy access to Kensington hotspots like Knightsbridge, Sloane Square, the museums and more.

For those taking the bus, routes 190, 328, 430, 74, C1 all stop near or in central Kensington. Depending on where you are traveling in from, Uber, and black cabs will cost you roughly £10 to £15 (around $12.5 to $19).

Discover the World and Beyond in Some of the London’s Greatest Museums

Set the alarm clock to go to a museum

If you are heading here to visit the museums, go as soon as they open. They get extremely busy, especially at weekends, which, if you are a traveling family can easily turn into a nightmare.

Kensington is home to London’s greatest collection of museums that stretch out onto the museum mile up to the Kensington Gorge, home to the Royal Albert Hall. The big three to see are the Natural History, Science, and the Victoria & Albert museums. It’s near impossible to see them all in a day, so it’s best to plan well in advance and according to your interests. Major highlights at the Natural History Museum include the behind-the-scenes Spirit Collection Tour on which you can see original specimens collected by Charles Darwin from the Galapagos Islands. The neighboring Science Museum has all sorts of interactive displays that take you through the workings of an earthquake and if there’s one thing you have to see at the V&A, don’t miss the Cast Hall for a chance to see mammoth plaster casts collected from all over the UK and continental Europe.

Kensington Is All About Lush Green Spaces

The main park to see in this part of London is Kensington Gardens. Part of the Royal Parks, it’s a great place to have a picnic come the summer, and for those into their regal history, it’s where you’ll be able to tour the state rooms and numerous exhibitions at Kensington Palace. Elsewhere, it’s worth checking out the ornate Italian Gardens and a stroll by the lake guarantees pretty views of the city, park, and beyond. Love art? The Serpentine Galleries holds showcases all sorts of contemporary works – the coffee shop is a good spot to relax in, too. Not far from the main attraction in Holland Park is the stunning Kyoto Gardens. The Japanese-style green space is beautifully manicured with colorful blooms wowing throughout the year. There’s a lovely waterfall to relax by with one of the park’s resident peacocks.

Sloane Square, Sloane Street, and Harrods

I love nothing more than exploring Chelsea's shops and cool boutiques. Things are pricey, but if you are looking for a special gift or just a nice souvenir, head to Pavilion Road near Sloane Square for all sorts of designer crockery, cool stationary, and designer homeware.

This is London’s premier fashion home. All the big names from Chanel to Gucci, Prada, Saint Laurent, and Cartier line the very affluent ends of Knightsbridge and Sloane Square, with a few unknown independent brands along the way, too. The main shopping attraction comes courtesy of Harrods. Most of the things here will max out your credit card but if you are just looking for a small souvenir, the charismatic Food Hall is the place to go. Not far from the luxury department store is King’s Road. It serves mostly as Chelsea’s main “high street” and maintains its stellar reputation as being one of the capital’s most fashionable shopping streets. There are over 300 boutiques here alongside classy restaurants, bookstores, and an art haven, the Saatchi Gallery. The area is also home to the Chelsea Flower Show, which pops up around late May every year. Be warned, tickets sell out near instantly so get in fast.

Hit the Pubs for Sunday Lunch and Local Ales

Pub culture is huge in this part of town, especially come big sporting events like the Premier League, the Rugby, and World Cup. The truth is, you’ll never actually be too far from a pint when you are in the company of the high-flying Chelsea set. Pubs can be super slick, cool, or trendy smart so there’s lots on offer to suit all tastes and vibes. The Hollywood Arms and 50 Cheyne Street are the poshest of the bunch and if you are looking for what the Brits dub a “mean” (good) Sunday Roast, The Chelsea Pig dishes up one of the most lauded in the capital.

Catch a Show at the Royal Albert Hall

Built as a memorial to Queen Victoria’s husband in 1871, the Royal Albert Hall is one of the city’s most spellbinding music venues. All the big shows take place here, including the BBC Proms, annual renditions of Cirque du Soleil and the odd sold-out tour from the likes of Adele and more. The regal red-and-gold interior makes the demi music palace a landmark in its own right, so even if you can’t get tickets to a show here, it’s well worth booking yourself onto a tour to discover the secrets of its magisterial architectural beauty.

Where to Stay in This Affluent Part of Town

The first thing to note about staying in Kensington and Chelsea is the price tag. Staying here can get seriously expensive with big brands like Maybourne, Hilton, Jumeriah, and more competing for your bucks. Those looking for extra flashy stays should check in for a night at The Berkeley. The Knightsbridge institution is home to the legendary Pret a Porter tea and has been a magnet for celebrities for years. Nearby, the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park offers stellar views of the city and park, as well as a well-equipped spa and an award-winning restaurant by Heston Blumenthal.

If you are a fashionista, Belmond’s The Cadogan Hotel is perfectly situated between Sloane Square and Knightsbridge with all the high-flying boutiques in between. If you are on a budget, brands like Travelodge and Holiday Inn offer rooms at half the price.

Who should Stay in Kensington and Chelsea?

Kensington and Chelsea are very much London’s most affluent boroughs. Things are not cheap here, so if you are looking for a slice of luxury or a romantic weekend, this is the place for you.

About the author

Luke AbrahamsLuke Abrahams is a London-based freelance journalist specializing in news, luxury lifestyle, and travel features. Luke was previously the features social media editor at the London Evening Standard. His work has appeared in more than 25 U.K. and U.S. publications, including British Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, The Times, Town & Country, The Telegraph, Condé Nast Traveller, Time Out, House & Garden, Suitcase, Elite Traveler, Insider, and more. So far, Luke has visited 82 countries. His favorite is Italy, and it always will be.