Kensington is a lot more than just the South Kensington Museums, although they are wonderful, of course. If you’re bringing the family to London these ideas make a lovely day out in Kensington.
Start the day by simply exploring Kensington Gardens. This was originally part of Hyde Park but West Carriage Drive is now the dividing point for these Royal Parks.
Kensington Gardens was sectioned off when William III bought the land in 1689 so he could enjoy the clean air of country living, as this was not part of the city back then. He liked the place so much he commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build Kensington Palace for him and his wife, Mary II.
The park is open from 6am to dusk daily and it’s free to walk, run and play making it ideal for families. Follow the line of Long Water, heading north, and you’ll discover the adorable Peter Pan statue that was placed there in secret overnight in May 1912 by the author J M Barrie who lived nearby. Let your children count the rabbits and fairies moulded into the base.
If you keep walking towards the north edge of Kensington Gardens you’ll reach The Italian Gardens that you may well recognise as a film location as it’s where Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) and Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) fought in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
Once the kids have had enough outdoor time head over to Kensington Palace which is free for children to visit when accompanied by paying adults. There are free family trails and many of the rooms have children’s activities, plus you can download some ideas before or after your visit.
Within the palace you can explore the rooms where Queen Victoria lived before her wedding, Queen Mary II’s State Apartments and King William III’s State Apartments too. There’s also the Fashion Rules exhibition of royal dresses.
The shop has a children’s section with toys, books and dressing up clothes, and the cafe has indoor and outdoor seating.
Diana Memorial Playground
Once you’ve had a reviving cup of tea, it’s time to enjoy the children’s wonderland that is the Diana Memorial Playground. Adults can only enter with children and the gate always has a member of staff so children are safe inside. It is an amazing place – and is completely free – so don’t be surprised when your children want to run off in all directions. It’s a safe play space so let them explore.
The centrepiece of the fun is the huge pirate ship surrounded by sand but there’s also climbing frames, slides and swings, plus the sensory trail and teepees, and outdoor musical instruments.
When you can eventually drag the children away, do stop and look at The Elfin Oak right by the entrance. It’s fun to try and count the elfs and fairies or simply to choose your favourite one.
Kensington Roof Gardens
This is a real hidden gem as on top of a former department store building on High Street Kensington there is, what many call, London’s Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
There’s a Spanish Garden based on the Moorish style of the Alhambra in Granada, a Tudor Garden with a walled garden and secret corners, and an English Woodland Garden with trees that have a Preservation Order.
But the most popular reason to visit is to see the resident flamingoes: Bill and Ben, and Splosh and Pecks.
Kensington Roof Gardens is free to visit but is often used for private events so you do need to call ahead to check availability: 020 7937 7994.
After a busy day having fun in Kensington, I’d recommend noodles for dinner at Wagamama. It’s a big restaurant with free wifi and there’s a kid’s menu. It’s very family-friendly and they even offer free hot milks for children.
Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and is also a VisitBritain Super Blogger. She fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s. Laura is @AboutLondon on Twitter and@AboutLondon Laura on Facebook. Wagamama image by Garry Knight.
Concierge Tip: Take advantage of our Family Package special offer (valid until the end of April) and the whole family can enjoy these great Kensington museums.