Today is the first of my London Bundles that ventures out into the neighborhoods outside the City, yet still considered fairly “central London” (i.e., Zone 1).
Let’s start our journey at South Kensington Tube station (which services the District, Circle, and Piccadilly lines). As soon as you ascend the Underground station’s steps into the light, you’ll find yourself at quite the center of action. Surrounding the station are endless choices of restaurants and shops, so you can dip into a cafe here if you didn’t grab breakfast at your hotel or flat (you know, the perfect abode where London Relocation Ltd. just successfully placed you). Might I recommend the darling Cafe Creperie just Northwest of the station and along the way to where your area tour will continue (make sure you bring cash, though, for those crepes…last time I was there, they didn’t accept credit or debit).
Continuing North on Exhibition Road, you will soon enough see the Victoria & Albert Museum to your right and the Natural History Museum to your left—take your pick (I am, however, partial to the V&A for its artifacts, artwork, and antique furnishings and textiles on exhibit, as well as the special Grace Kelly exhibition currently on display!) Best part of either museum is that they’re FREE.
All right then, mosey onward further North on Exhibition Road, past Imperial College, and hang a left at Kensington Road. You will see that Kensington Gardens is just across the street. You can enter the park if you stay on Exhibition Road, but by walking along Kensington Road, you can go past the famous Royal Albert Hall (the acoustically brilliant concert that hosts the annual Proms) and see the exotic Albert Memorial (that Queen Victoria commissioned in honor of her dearly departed husband in 1875) just across the way inside the park. Once you reach the Southwest corner of the park, enter onto a walkway that will lead you directly to Kensington Palace, where Queen Victoria was born and pronounced Queen and where Lady Diana lived the rest of her years (if you recall the footage of the masses of bouquets mourners piled up outside palace gates, this is the place where those vigils took place). The palace recently kicked off its Enchanted Palace exhibit to offer a bit of avant-garde eye candy while the building undergoes extensive renovation. Venturing inside does come at a price, but just touring the grounds for free is worthwhile—the blooms decking out the Sunken Garden and swans preening on the Round Pond being visual delights.
Enjoy a pleasant stroll on the main walkway (The Broad Walk) between the pond and palace as you continue North and exit outside the Northwest corner of the park. The main road you encounter here is just where Bayswater Road becomes Notting Hill Gate, so hang a left and continue into the well-known neighborhood. Just past the Tube station, you can jog over onto Pembridge Road for a couple blocks until you see the entrance to Portobello Road. Wandering the length of this road will take you past the antique, clothing, and produce stalls that give this area its character (and, yes, you’ll see sites from the movie, including the storefront of the travel bookshop in the film as well as the original shop on which it was based).
Notting Hill is an ideal neighborhood in which to close out your day, with no end to the pubs, cafes, and restaurants to grab your late lunch or dinner, or cinemas to enjoy some seated, passive time to yourself (try the Electric on Portobello for an ultra-cozy recliner as a seat or the Coronet on Notting Hill Gate for its history). From here, you can catch the Tube at the Notting Hill Gate station (District, Circle, and Central lines), or, first, pop down onto Kensington Church Street for more dinner options, including the Churchill Arms pub if you’re thirsty. Cheers!