London is one of the most visited cities in the world and not wonders why, having stunning historic structures that make you travel to the past, mixed with modern buildings that will amazed you with its trendy look and feel. Offering so many things to do, ranges from visiting a palace dated earlies 1800’s to nobby restaurants and cafes, you may get stuck and not knowing where to start, so I decided to create helpful walking-tour guides about the most popular neighborhoods around London, and I will show you the best spots to get those stunning photo shots.
If you enjoy visiting museums, spending time in beautiful open-air areas, taking a coffee in fancy restaurants, wander around the South Kensington neighborhood is a must do activity in London. This lovely neighborhood is one of the most popular and offers incredible experiences to immerse yourself enjoying great views and of course without missing the all-around instagrammable spots.
How to get in there?
You can use The London Underground to reach this neighborhood using the District, Circle and Piccadilly Lines, being the nearest stations: South Kensington and Gloucester Road. If you prefer using the bus you can take the following lines: 14 from the northeast area in the Camden Borough, 74 from the Marylebone district and C1 from the Central London.
History behind this neighborhood
This area received the name of Alexander Estate, before been known as South Kensington. In those time the area was a village. Yes! you read it right, a village in the central area of London that was principally used as farms to supply London with agricultural products like vegetables and fruits. No was after the 1851 when the Great Exhibition have placed, that this area changed forever and started to transform in one of the most beloved neighborhoods in the city. This event consisted in a remarkable international expo with the main purpose to show the industrial, socio-economic and cultural advances that Great Britain have achieved until that moment.
Hereafter, large areas of South Kensington were converted in institutions to promote the arts and science, that finally became in Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, Natural History Museum. The area started to be populated for wealthy resident keen to be part of the new cultural and scientific hub, flooding the streets with elegant mansions and buildings that make this neighborhood iconic.
What Can I do there?
You can find here the most significant museums in London including the Victoria and Albert Museum that house world recognized art and design collections, the Natural History Museum that has large collections of science specimen in botany, zoology, mineralogy among others, and finally the Science Museum that home a great variety of artifacts from astronautics modules to ancient medicals instruments. Touring the museums is a long-lasting activity, so include a couple of hours in your schedule if you like to immerse yourself in a cultural trip in these museums. If you do not have the time, the architectures and impressive designs of their facades well worth a visit, being the perfect background for stunning photo sessions.
The open-air areas around South Kensington, including gardens and parks are great places to relax, enjoy the views or have some snacks during your tour. You can find de southern area of the massive Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, with gardens, memorial statues, sculptures, including the Serpentine Lido where people can practice some sports and spend a great time. Additionally, there are plenty of square gardens surrounding the different zones of the neighborhood, for example: Onslow Gardens, Prince Gardens, Ennismore Gardens, among many others.
Where to Eat in South Kensington?
South Kensington is famous for having a great variety of restaurants that ranges from small independent with hipster vibes to super well-known chains, and everything in the middle. You can choose from a wide selection and surely your palate will be satisfied. The most popular are: Cacciari’s (Old Brompton Road), Coda Restaurant (Royal Albert Hall), Ceru (Bute St), Macellaio RC (Old Brompton Road) among others.
However, if you are looking for a nice meal but also a great spot to take Instagram worthy shots, I’ll give you a list of restaurants which decoration, architecture or surroundings make them popular places to take some snapshots.
-The Hereford Arms (Gloucester Road).
-Aubaine (Brompton Road).
-Chucs Restaurant (Cranley Pl).
For the other hand, if you’d like to grab some snacks and taking them while you’re walking around the streets, or sitting in one of the several gardens options, you’ll find some supermarkets and convenient stores distributed all over the place. The main chains of Tesco and Waitrose have branches along the Old Brompton Road and Gloucester Road. Also, you can find markets offering organic products, among many others, such as The Whole Foods Market.
What About the Coffee?
Having a coffee and why not a delicious pastry is an easy task in South Kensington, with plenty of coffee shops and bakeries, some of them with very beautiful decorations that make delightful experience taking a coffee in this area. It’s also popular for having the largest French community in London and for this reason some people say that you can find any better croissants than there.
Some of the most popular coffee shops and bakeries are: The Kensington Creperie (Exhibition Rd), Caffe Forum (Gloucester Rd), Illy Caffè (Old Brompton Road), Maitre Choux (Harrington Rd), The Garden at Kens Bar (Brompton Rd), The V&A Garden Cafe (Cromwell Rd). There are many that stand up for their coziness, charming decoration, modern atmosphere or any other aspect that makes them the perfect place to have photo sessions and become really popular among the Instagrammers. The most Instagrammables coffee shops are:
-Fait Maison (Gloucester Rd)
-Hummingbird Bakery (Old Brompton Road)
-The Knot Churros (Bute St)
-Elan Cafe (Brompton Road)
Best Walk Tours in South Kensington
South Kensington is a beautiful neighborhood with lovely side streets and mews, massive gardens and parks, buildings and houses with elegant architecture and of course the world class museums. In this guide I created two options where you can have the opportunity to visit different areas and have access to those popular spots.
Walk No .1 Houses and Mews
The architecture is one more attraction in this area, walking along these streets you’ll can enjoy Victorian style, elegant designed houses, lovely gardens squares and even hidden lanes and mews with cozy atmosphere. This walk will be covering houses and gardens walking 1.8 miles and taking around 2 hours to accomplish. Of course, this time will depend on your pace and how much do you want to enjoy those spots.
The walk starts at South Kensington Underground Station, when you exit the station and turn left looking for the Cromwell Mews, a lovely stoned-floor street with brick houses. After taking nice shots on this narrow street, go back to Cromwell Plane and cross the street turning right to Thurloe Street where you can enjoy the classic architecture of the houses what this neighborhood is famous for. This street has plenty of shops and restaurant to grab a snack or enjoy a nice meal.
At the end of this street you’ll find Thurloe Square and walking to the left you’ll find the garden Thurloe Square Gardens with dense vegetation and surrounded by the brown brick and white houses. When the street becomes Pelham St go to right in order to get Oslow Square where you’ll be able to see the brick houses with the white columns and black fences so popular on Instagram. If you continue walking south to Sumner Place, you’ll find a very popular spot on Instagram specially in late Spring when the wisteria flowers bloom.
To reach the Cranley Mews, walk to the west and you’ll find Cranley Gardens, cross the street and and continue walking until the corner, there turn right and you’ll see the lovely houses with varied colors, little flower pots and wooden benches in the front, making a gorgeous contrast with the grey stones of the floor. Additionally, before reaching Cranley Mews you can turn to the left at Ensor Mews and discover another lovely arrangement of tight colorful houses.
After taking shots around the Mews you go back to Evelyn Gardens and enjoy a different architecture in the area with orange brick decoration buildings, and of course a green garden just in the front. Another street where you’ll see this type of buildings is Roland Gardens that you’ll get turning to the left, seeing the black painted houses that stand out among the others orange and yellow brick ones. Crossing Drayton Gardens you’ll find Cresswell Pl which is a narrow street with plane facades and soft colors, this quite long area allow you to take very nice pictures. At the end of the street, you turn right at Old Brompton Road to reach your next destination. Here you’ll find some very nice restaurants if you fancy to take a rest of your exploration.
At this point, you can keep walking and turn left when you find a narrow street that received the name of Dove Mews. To get a very popular area among the Instagram’s spot seekers, Wetherby Pl, you can go back and turn left on Bina Gardens where you’ll see the residentials areas that make this neighborhood so special with a mixture of orange brick facades and white with yellow bricks houses. Continue walking until the street becomes Wetherby Gardens and turn right to reach Wetherby Pl. Then after enjoying the elegant architecture of the area you can continue walking until Gloucester Road and on the corner, you’ll see the famous The Hereford Arms where you can take nice photos in the front of its charming flower-decorated entrance.
If you turn right on the first street, you’ll see one of the cutest street in the neighborhood, Stanhope Mews S with lovely white houses delicately decorated with pot’s plants and creepers. Then you return to Gloucester Road in order to reach the Gloucester Road Underground Station to finish your tour around this beautiful neighborhood.
Walking along this street stop in the charming Fait Mason Salon Thé located on the left side, this cafeteria besides offering delicious coffee and pastries to get along, has a very instagrammable entrance with chairs on the street and lovely background ideal to take amazing shots.
The advantage of this walk tour is you can do it in the backwards direction, if you prefer. Just need to stop in Gloucester Road tube station and start your walking from there.
Walk No .2 Museums and Mews
This area is famous for its world class museums which are very popular destinations among tourists and locals. So, in this walk I included them together the loveliest residentials areas of the neighborhood. The walk tour covers a distance of 2.5 miles approximately and you should save around 2.5 hours to do it, of course without including the time that you may spend if you decide to visit the museums.
Start your walk at South Kensington Underground Station, when you exit the station cross the street at the intersection that goes to Thurloe St where besides enjoying the classic architecture of the residential areas around there, you can enjoy a meal in the variety of restaurant and coffee shops. Also you can stop at the Purdy Hicks Gallery to immerse yourself in the artistic world. Continue walking and find the Thurloe Square Gardens where you can see lovely vegetation in front of elegant buildings that are so common around there.
On the corner turn left at South Terrace, and do not forget to take a picture in the Thin House, just building that get really narrow in one of the edges. It’s actually inhabited and make you wonder how the distribution inside those flats is. While you walk along this street you can enjoy the lovely white houses with rounded doors, there are some red and purples doors that stands out among the others and have become kind of popular place among the Instagrammers. Keep walking and when you come across Brompton Road you’ll be on Egerton Gardens, where the architecture of the buildings changes to orange brick houses giving a so elegant atmosphere to the area, next to a lovely square garden with very tall trees.
Go back to South Terrace or turn right at Alexander Square and then in the first street turn left to get into Alexander Pl. this narrow street has the similar aesthetics of the previous one. At the end of the street you’ll get Thurloe Square continue straight in order to get the Victoria & Albert Museum. Once you there, you can go inside the Museum immerse yourself in the arts and history, but it’s you do not have too much time, you cannot continue without taking some shots in front of this elegant structure. Next you can find the Natural History Museum that is equally impressive and one of the best places for a photo session in this tour. It’s dreamy during the Christmas holidays.
To reach you next destination take Exhibition Road walk along it and turn right into Princes Gate Mews where you’ll find three streets with lovely and colorful facades. I recommend exploring from the southernmost street to the north where you’ll find a path to see another very popular Mews in the area, Ennismore Gardens Mews. Additionally, around the area you’ll find plenty of gardens where you can relax and enjoy the nature in the middle of the city. They are tranquil getaway from the congestion due to the tourist around the museums area.
Go back to get the Imperial College Road, a nice road with tall trees in both sides that create a lovely natural ceiling. Continue walking and go across Queen’s Gate to reach Elvaston Pl to see more elegant yellow brick and white columns houses. When the street finishes, turn left to look for the loveliest Mews entrance and get into a narrow street with those pretty arrangement of tight houses in Kynance Mews. Then go back to Gloucester Road where you find plenty of shops and restaurants and including the trendy café Fait Maison with their lovely flower decoration make it the perfect place to take nice shots while you try their mouth-watering desserts.
Walking along this street and turn right into Queen’s Gate Mews, a narrow street that curve first to right and then to left to discover the mixture of colors decorated the houses. It includes two long streets, giving you a lot to explore.
This walk guide finishes here, so you can go back to get Gloucester Road Station, or continue your walk until you get Queen’s Gate, a very busy avenue with several spots to take nice shots in front of the fancy buildings. When the avenue ends, you’ll see an entrance to get the Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, once there you can walk around, enjoy the memorials and lovely vegetation, or just lay back and relax in any of this massive green fields. It’s a perfect ending for a lovely day wandering around one of the most popular neighborhoods in London.
I hope this helpful guide motives you to visit South Kensington and know more about this charming neighborhood. Just prepare your camera and start taking amazing photos in those many popular Instagram spots. The next links show the route of the walks in Google Maps.
First Walk: https://goo.gl/maps/cJqJL8kwnnGR9Gvp6
Second Walk: https://goo.gl/maps/otPzeNZukgv9ckbx8