Top 10 Things To Do In The Royal Borough Of Kensington & Chelsea

By Lindsey Last edited 136 months ago
Top 10 Things To Do In The Royal Borough Of Kensington & Chelsea

For this instalment of our trip around the boroughs, we asked you what were the best things about Kensington and Chelsea on Facebook. Deriving the list from collective knowledge means this isn't as esoteric a compilation as previous instalments written by local experts but don't hesitate to let us know what's been missed in the comments.

Kyoto Garden, Holland Park by Yorkshire Stacked
Kyoto Garden, Holland Park by Yorkshire Stacked
The Elfin Oak, Kensington Gardens by Matt Brown
The Elfin Oak, Kensington Gardens by Matt Brown
Golborne Road market by Fabio Lugaro
Golborne Road market by Fabio Lugaro
Trellick Tower by Dave Gorman
Trellick Tower by Dave Gorman
< > on June 16, 2011 in London, England.
Westway outdoor climbing wall by Oli Scarff at Getty Images

Best museum

There is stiff competition for this title as South Kensington was developed specifically as a site for museums and institutions for science and the arts as a legacy of the Great Exhibition (take a look at these Albertopolis photos). How on earth are you meant to pick a 'best' between the V&A, Natural History Museum and Science Museum?

We can't. Instead we're plumping for Leighton House Museum, on the edge of Holland Park, recommended by Adrian Murphy as "gorgeous" and by Mai Moon as "a truly amazing place featuring stunning Middle Eastern and North African interiors and art". It's the former home and studio of Victorian artist Frederick, Lord Leighton which became, over 30 years, his "private palace of art".

Also of note in the borough is the Museum of Brands, the National Army Museum, Kensington Palace, Carlyle's House and 18 Stafford Terrace.

Best pub

The Churchill Arms on Kensington Church Street is recommended by Mike Paterson as a "great, fun boozer" which boasts a collection of Churchill memorabilia.

Roisin Brennan picks The Britannia, known affectionately as the Brit, as "a great pub ...has regulars, great staff, good beer, and top notch food". It's also got good heritage, based in the old Britannia Brewery building built in 1834, just off Kensington High Street.

The Windsor Castle on Campdenhill Road gets the thumbs up for its garden from Grant Henderson and Olga Sidoryk and proclaims itself the "friendliest pub in Notting Hill".

At the other end of the borough, Pippa Jones gives the Garden Bar by Latimer Road tube station a look-in — it lays claim to the largest garden in central London. There's transport heritage here as the building was the former Station House, which used to be accessible from the westbound platform. Although the pub seems to have gone considerably gastro since we last visited the garden definitely still looks worth it.

Alice Bell plays a wildcard and suggests you seek out the Imperial College bars when the students aren't around: "Odd choice, maybe, but the main one has lovely courtyard by the Royal Albert Hall and Eastside has lovely quiet square to sit in (ask for plastic cup)." But you might have to make friends with a student of alumnus to get in there.

We can't choose a best, sorry - hopefully one will emerge from a full public vote when we get to 'K' in our A-Z pubcrawl.

Best restaurant

We're picking Whits, as recommended by Fiona Healey-Hutchinson, Hayley Dunlop, Roisin Brennan and a heap of people on TripAdvisor - it's currently ranked 14# out of over 10,000 restaurants in London so who are we to doubt it. Their food is "French British modern" and the place is dog-friendly — find them on Abingdon Road.

Other recommendations were for Maggie Jones, Portobello Gold, Sticky Fingers, Fitou's Thai, Durbar Indian, Dock Kitchen, Galicia and the two highly-rated Mexican places, Taqueria and El Camion.

And the multi-faceted Troubadour deserves a mention somewhere in this list, a cafe, restaurant, wine bar, music venue and gallery awash with history — of the coffee house kind, as well as rock 'n' roll — on Old Brompton Road.

Best green space

Holland Park wins this one with multiple recommendations, including its Kyoto Garden, peacocks, black rabbits and ecology centre. Little Wormwood Scrubs in North Kensington is a close runner-up, locally known as a great foraging spot it also boasts a kids' adventure playground.

Best street market

You'd be forgiven for thinking of Portobello Market first, but our readers reckon you can't beat Golborne Road market for local character and variety and, as Robert Ander Lugg puts it, traces of "what Portobello Road used to be before tourists and chain-shops ruined it". He goes on to suggest you "get some of the delicious Moroccan street food with locals who've just left Friday prayer, then for pudding a Pastel de nata from Lisboa (the best in London) which is best eaten in Meanwhile Gardens near the canal."

Best shop

We run the risk of cheesing off the Kings Road here, but we've heard from several sources that Rassells is not only the best garden centre in the borough, it's in Roisin Brennan's "top 5 garden centres in the world".  Rassells has been in business off the Earl's Court Road since 1897, when Charles Rassall established a florist shop in The Lodge. These days, go through the shopfront and you'll find an entire Georgian Square covered by a plant nursery. They've got a huge range of stuff for your green bits and vast expertise in the staff - look out for seasonal tips on the blackboard out front.

Best place for sport

Built under the A40 Westway, utilising derelict land and bringing it back into community use, is Westway sports centre. Easily accessible from Latimer Road tube, the centre offers tennis, football, Fives, swimming, netball, horse riding, basketball, table tennis, cricket and a gym; and at its heart is an amazing indoor climbing centre with up to 14.5m high walls. It's open to all, whether novice or expert and is very reasonable. The centre is run by Westway Development Trust, which owns 20 acres under the motorway, stretching from the sports centre, through to Portobello Green and up to the Bay Sixty6 skate park.

Best place to see fringe theatre

The Royal Court on Sloane Square might be the obvious choice, but it's a cracker. The New York Times called it "the most important theatre in Europe". We only need quote ourselves from 2006:

Snuggled next to Sloane Square tube station and beaming benevolently on the Chelsea shoppers thronging London’s fashionable King’s Road, this playhouse for new writing and new drama was where the angry young man was born, where post-war British theatre took shape and eventually abolished the Lord Chamberlain’s censorship of the stage, where the new wave, new shock of British dramatists and writers exploded into national consciousness in the 1990s with their gay rape, baby-eating and very bad language.

But RBKC is a hotspot for new and alternative drama thanks also to Chelsea Theatre, the Gate Theatre, Finborough Theatre and Barons Court Theatre.

Best bit of Brutalism

Erno Goldfinger's Trellick Tower. Take a virtual tour.

Best oddity

Kensington Gardens Elfin Oak is over 900 years old, and originally grew in Richmond Park. It is covered with tiny magical figures carved between 1928-30 by Ivor Innes. This most unusual tree owes its preservation to Spike Milligan.


NB. Lots of people also wanted to recommend two fine cinemas in the borough, the Electric on Portobello (currently closed and being restored afterd a fire) and the Coronet at Notting Hill Gate but then we'd be in top 11 territory so we're sneaking these in as a post-script.

Agree, disagree? Let us know in the comments.

Many thanks to Fabio Lugaro, Dave Gorman and Yorkshire Stacked for sharing their photos in the Londonist Flickrpool.

Other instalments in this series: Barnet, Brent, Bromley, the City of London, Ealing, Enfield, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Hounslow, Lambeth, Lewisham, Redbridge, Southwark, Wandsworth, Waltham Forest and the City of Westminster.

Last Updated 12 October 2012