When I studied abroad in London back in 2014, our dorms and classes were in South Kensington. We lived on Queen’s Gate Road, one of my favorite roads in London, and made our way all around South Kensington in the four months we were there. It’s such a lovely neighborhood to explore, and to this day I love returning there as often as possible. The colors that come with autumn make it even more beautiful and irresistible. I decided to head out a couple weeks ago to grab some photos and put together this guide to falling in love with South Kensington.
South Kensington is located in the London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, directly south of Hyde Park. This post covers the area between South Kensington & Gloucester Road tube stations, north into Hyde Park. The area is an expensive one to live in, and is popular for embassies. Also, study abroad students and Imperial College students bring a great student vibe to an area that is otherwise pretty unaffordable for the younger crowd. It’s also popular among American expats, so the grocery store Partridge’s stocks an entire section of American food (this is an essential thing to know for any American in London!).
South Kensington can be accessed via the following public transportation:
- South Kensington Station: District, Circle, and Piccadilly Lines
- Gloucester Road Station: District, Circle, and Piccadilly Lines
- Bus Lines: 9, 10, 14, 52, 74, 360, 414, 430, 452, C1
South Kensington can be explored in only just a few hours, but you could also spend days wandering around the pretty streets, exploring flowery gardens, and popping into cafes and shops. This itinerary is for one day in South Kensington, but it can be condensed by cutting down time spent in the museums or cutting out the venture into Hyde Park.
Start your morning by grabbing coffee near South Kensington station
If you arrive via bus or tube to South Kensington Station, you’ll step into the heart of the neighborhood. Choose from a variety of cafes and grab a cup of coffee to fuel up for the busy day ahead. My personal favorites are Gail’s Artisan Bakery (for a quick cup to go) and Muriel’s Kitchen (to sit and chat for a bit). Gail’s offers some great mini sandwiches, too – and most are still available at the beginning of the day! Both places have multiple locations around London, and they’re worth a visit, even if it’s not in South Kensington. If you prefer something quicker and more common, Starbucks and Pret a Manger are nearby, as well!
Discover fashion at the V&A Museum
After fueling up, head over to the Victoria & Albert Museum. This is one of my favourite museums in London, and the only one of which I am a member. Their fashion exhibit space is always curated beautifully, from the Alexander McQueen exhibit last year to the current Undressed exhibit (all about underwear!). Aside from the fashion space, the V&A fills its space with artifacts, textiles, artwork, and more! Though I’ve never tried it myself, I also hear that the cafe offers a great afternoon tea in a gorgeous setting.
In addition to the items that fill the museum, the museum itself is a piece of art. The exterior is beyond incredible, with so much detail in each and every corner. One of my favourite things to do while visiting is stand right in front of the doors and look up – the entrance arch has a beautiful message. “The excellence of every art must consist in the complete accomplishment of its purpose.”
Check out the beauty of the Natural History Museum
Speaking of beautiful exteriors, the Natural History Museum cannot be beat! With it’s perfect location on the corner of Cromwell Road and Queen’s Gate Road, the Natural History Museum towers above the trees like you would expect a castle to. With every type of specimen you could imagine on display, the Natural History Museum reminds me a lot of the Smithsonian in DC. There is so much history in every item there, and it’s incredible to explore and experience it all.
Eat lunch at one of South Kensington’s incredible restaurants
South Kensington offers a variety of cuisines in a mix of settings, all easily accessible from the museums. Back in the same plaza where this itinerary started, Comptoir Libanais is a busy space with incredible Lebanese food. For something sweeter, Kensington Creperie offers the most delectable crepes. A bit further out of the way is Bumpkin, a British brasserie with some American flair.
On Gloucester Road, Coco Momo is one of my favorite spots – it is a chic wine bar perfect for a casual meal or dinner before attending a show at the Royal Albert Hall. For something quicker, Fait Maison offers excellent meals to-go; you pick your main and some sides to go along with it and they box it all up for you. It was one of my favorite places for those nights when I was just too lazy to cook while studying abroad! All are within a ten minute walk of the Natural History Museum.
To walk off your lunch, grab some cookies from Ben’s Cookies and head into South Kensington Books for a browse. The independent bookstore has all the modern books with the charm of an older bookseller.
Instagram the perfect shot from Kynance Mews
I don’t have any evidence to back up this statement, but based on my time spent on Instagram, I am convinced that Kynance Mews is one of the most Instagrammed spots in London. This lovely mews street is located right off of Gloucester Road and consists of two sections, separated by the dreamy Launceston Place. The houses are colorful, surrounded by greenery, and consist of the cutest decorative elements – from pretty doors to adorable windows. Get your camera ready!
Have a pint at the cosy Queen’s Arms Pub
The Queen’s Arms pub is also located on a mews street. Though the blue color and hanging flowers make for an adorable exterior, the inside is quintessentially British. The pub is small in the best way – it’s got that cosy feel! They serve a great range of drinks and incredible food. If the mac & cheese is still on the menu, it’s a must order! Plus, because it’s located on a mews street, it’s quite secret – not many tourists know about it. It gives you that great, “I’ve just discovered something great!” feel.
Wander through Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens as you make your way to Kensington Palace
You could walk around Hyde Park for days. There is so much to see and, beyond that, plenty of green space to just sit and relax. One of the main attractions in Hyde Park is Kensington Palace. It is one of the few London attractions that I visit repeatedly. I love taking friends and family when they visit and watch them explore the palace. The gardens are stunning year round and the palace is lovely to peek around. They have a great fashion exhibit, called Fashion Rules, that has all of the great dresses worn by members of the royal family on display. My favorite exhibit, though, is the one about Queen Victoria. The exhibit takes you through the story of Victoria and Albert and there children. It’s a true love story and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy whenever I go.
After a visit to the palace, go for afternoon tea at the Orangerie. It’s a lovely building that is so bright and airy on the inside. The afternoon tea is great – and reasonably priced – and it’s one of my favorite afternoon tea spots in London.
Map it out!
Most of the places mentioned above are pinned on the map below. I hope you follow along and take a chance to explore South Kensington. While the map is a great place to start, I recommend following it loosely and taking time to wander. South Kensington is meant to be explored – get there, wander, and find your own favorite spots! Or check out some of mine…it’s up to you!
We love sharing our cosy pub finds with our friends who visit London. What do you try to include on every itinerary you make?
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