Things To Do In The Borough Of Kingston Upon Thames

Things To Do In The Borough Of Kingston Upon Thames

The borough of Kingston upon Thames — sorry, the ROYAL Borough of Kingston upon Thames — is steeped in history, sure, but it also has riverside walks, bougie shopping, an art deco station to die for... not to mention some of the lushest Korean food going. Dig in!

Immerse yourself in Kingston's rich history

A quaint bridge crossing a river
The Clattern Bridge — possibly London's oldest. Image: Londonist

The name 'Kingston' derives from the Anglo-Saxon for 'king's estate', although as chance would have it, the town itself is also home to a king's stone — namely the hunk of sarsen on which it's believed up to seven (and definitely two) Saxon kings were crowned. Impressively, that very stone can be seen to this day, casually hanging outside the Guildhall.

While standing next to the storied stone, you also get a good view of the Clattern Bridge — possibly the oldest surviving bridge in all of London. It straddles the Hogsmill River, more of which in a moment.

A model of Nipper the HMV dog
Kingston had some salubrious locals, including a certain HMV mascot. Image: Londonist

To dig deeper into the borough's history, a trip to Kingston Museum is a must; here you'll learn more about those Anglo-Saxon kings, get to ogle some Kingston-made pottery (including the highly collectable Wally Bird jar), and discover more about Kingston residents, from pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge (he's the bloke who proved that all four feet of a horse leave the ground when they run), to Nipper the HMV dog. They have excellent temporary exhibitions on the top floor, too.

Mess about on the river

Kingston bridge with small boats in the foreground
A stroll across Kingston Bridge takes you to Bushy Park, although that's not in Kingston, so that's all we're going to say about that. Image: Londonist

The waterfront in the town of Kingston upon Thames is a soothing spot to while away some time. Canbury Gardens are always good for a riverside stroll (and a spot of wistful gazing at the dream houses on the opposite bank), especially if your walk ends by kicking back with a brew on the terrace of the Boaters Inn. This neck of the river also enjoys a liberal smattering of riverside eateries, including Ocean Basket, which does fish 'n' chips and seafood platters.

Lured by the siren call of the water? Turks boat services (some of which look like they've been plucked straight from the Mississippi) shuttle in season between Richmond, Kingston and Hampton Court. Otherwise, you can go pootling along the river in a GoBoat, or — if you're super serious about this river lark — learn to row at Kingston Rowing Club.

A small boat on theThames
Turks has had a boat business on the Thames for almost 300 years. Image: Charos Pix via creative commons

It's not all about the Thames in Kingston: the Hogsmill River snakes its way from Surrey to the point where it spouts out in Kingston town, and tracing the paths alongside it makes for a restorative weekend walk — especially if you can make one or two detours for liquid refreshment (we're looking at you, Park Brewery). Other pleasant places to go a-strolling in the borough include Berrylands Nature Reserve and Fishponds Park.

This is a sponsored inclusion on behalf of Signal Park.

A set of brick new build apartments

A corner of Kingston upon Thames could be yours — with shared ownership!

Riverside frolics, banging street food, a cracking cultural scene: the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames is a pretty fantastic place to put down roots. Think it's out of reach for the average first-time buyer? Then you can't have heard about Shared Ownership at Signal Park…

Located in Tolworth, Signal Park is a brand new neighbourhood where you'll find a range of one and two bedroom apartments that are ready to move into, right now. Each one is built to a high specification, boasting integrated appliances and a private balcony or terrace. With a home here, you'll also enjoy access to landscaped podium gardens, and there's so much greenery to be found on your doorstep — from a lovely local nature reserve, to the idyllic Richmond Park (just a 20-minute bike ride away!) And when you fancy venturing further afield, you're a two-minute walk from Tolworth station, with direct links to London Waterloo in just 31 minutes.

Shared Ownership at Signal Park means you might get on the property ladder in this up-and-coming part of London sooner than you think. You'll purchase a share of the property, starting at 25%, and pay rent on the rest. This typically means less upfront costs, and you can purchase additional shares over time, all the way up to 100% ownership. Find out whether it’s right for you today.

Soak up some Kingston culture

A sculpture of toppling phone boxes
It wasn't me. Image: Londonist

The core of the borough's cultural scene, unsurprisingly, is located in Kingston town. Here, you can catch a show at the Rose Theatre (a modern day riff on the original Elizabethan Rose Theatre that stood on London's Bankside), watch jazz jams and open mics at the Grey Horse (it also does cracking beef ribs and whisky cocktails), peruse the Stanley Picker Gallery (great for contemporary art shows) and spend an evening watching comedy or live music at the Fighting Cocks. If you're planning on spending a lot of time around Kingston (and especially if you live in this part of London), check out the CornerHOUSE arts centre; among other activities, they have a regular film club.

Oh, and lest we forget, Kingston is home to one of THE iconic London sculptures, David Mach's Out Of Order, which you'll find on Old London Road. If you haven't got a shot of this for the gram, have you been to Kingston at all?

Get your fill of beautiful food

Ethiopian street food
Kingston Market offers delish street food seven days a week. Image: Londonist

Smack dab in the centre of Kingston you'll find Kingston Market, with nigh-on 30 food stalls peddling delicious goodies seven days a week. The market's another slice of Kingston's history, dating back to the early 1200s but the food's very much on fleek, featuring acai bowls, vegan Ethiopian stews, and steaming bowls of pho.

(A food market of a different kind worth checking out in the borough is Surbiton Farmers' Market, although that only opens once a month.)

Kingston's historic market place
Kingston's pretty town centre. Image: Londonist

We won't do an in-depth rundown of all the bars and restaurants in Kingston, because a) there are looooads and b) we haven't been to a lot of them. Ones on our radar include Incognito Tavern (a Mr Fogg-like greenhouse of a bar serving flowery cocktails and chilli dogs); House of Ming (upscale Chinese dining with picturesque dim sum baskets and glazed duck); and Poor Boys (which, as the name suggests, serves New Orleans-style po boys among other snacky Americana, down by the Hogsmill in central Kingston). We'd also draw your attention to All Saints Church in the centre of town, where you can get a cup of coffee and slice of cake while bathing in the colourful light of the stained glass.

A tall conservatory building full of plants
Incognito is a particularly verdant looking cocktail bar, Image: Londonist

Oh and by the way, if you're sniffing out quality Korean food, the borough of Kingston is THE place be in London — specifically New Malden, which is packed with some incredible Korean eateries. Try Jin Go Gae for barbecue bliss, including Dae-ji Kalbi (slices of marinated pork rib cut) and Ju Mulluck (thick-cut sirloin in sesame oil, cooked on a grill at your table). If you fancy a bit of a sing-song after your meal, Han seems to be the place to go — they have karaoke. For dessert, it's got to be Bingsoo Cafe, serving up Korean style cupcakes with flavours including mango, matcha and green tea.

Splash some cash at the shops

A selection of books, some about Kingston
Waterstones has a decent London section. Image: Londonist

From an ancient market, to a gleaming shopping centre: Kingston town's Bentall Centre is a smooshing together of a Victorian department store with a plasticy 1990s Crystal Palace-esque shopping mall, and although that sounds pretty horrendous, it actually makes for a reasonably chilled shopping experience — plus there's an excellent outlet of Waterstones with a decent London section (feat. books on Kingston history) and a cafe that opens out onto the shopping centre terrace. I think what we're saying here is that the Bentall is flashier than the Whitgift, and more refined than either Westfield.

A stained glass window in a barrel vaulted shopping centre
The Bentall Centre is one of London's better shopping malls. Image: Londonist

Kingston, by the way, is an altogether bougie place to get some shopping done; what with its branches of John Lewis, White Company, Fenwick, Oliver Bonas et al (some of them in characterful centuries-old buildings ffs), it feels like you've died and gone to posh retail heaven.

Swoon over a train station

A panorama of Surbiton station with a yellow taxi to left
A modernist take on the pearly gates of heaven. Image: Matt Brown/Londonist

We've fallen for some train stations in our time, but Surbiton? It's another level. Dare we say it's worth visiting, even if you've no business being in Surbiton. This art deco dreamboat is a modernist take on the pearly gates — and of course, we've penned an article on it.

By the way, if you're looking for the house from the Good Life while you're in Surbiton, you're going to be wandering around for some time: those exterior shots were actually filmed in Northwood.

Scream if you wanna go faster at Chessington

A young family on a gentle theme park ride
Kingston is home to London's biggest theme park. Image: Photos_of_CWOAR via creative commons

There are plenty of places in Kingston where you can scratch your itch for adventure, including White Spider Climbing and Surbiton Raceway. But don't forget the borough's also home to the biggest theme park in Greater London, Chessington World of Adventures — home to World of Jumanji, Go Ape and various other things that'll keep the kids quiet, either by filling them with intense joy, or otherwise scaring them half to death.

(If you happen to be with someone who is absolutely NOT a thrillseeker, drop them off at the nearby Chessington Garden Centre so they can blithely peruse the begonias.)

Travel to the very edge of London

Two lads pouring pints and laughing behind the bar
Go for a pint in the Star. Image: Londonist

Travel much further south than Chessington, and you're in Malden Rushett, the village in the left tippy-toe of Greater London. A few years back, we ventured this way to see if the folks of Malden Rushett considered themselves Londoners (spoiler alert: some do, some don't). We cannot guarantee you'll find as much to do here as, say, Soho but it has got a decent pub or two — plus, since we visited, it's opened The Barn KT9, a rural retreat with a cafe, gym, wellness activities, glamping and what-not. It's possibly the most un-London bit of London there is.

Last Updated 01 March 2024

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