Kensington is a typical central London district that’s known for its wide range of usually upmarket shops – indeed, Kensington Highstreet is among the best streets for shopping in the whole city.
But there’s so much more about Kensington than just retail locations since it’s also home to several major attractions that rank among the best in London.
So to help you decide where to head when you visit, here are our top picks for things to do in Kensington.
Best Things to do in Kensington
1. Natural History Museum
- Address: Cromwell Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD
For anyone with an interest in the natural world, the Natural History Museum should be high on the list of places to go in Kensington.
Housing around 80 million items representing botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology, the museum is considered one of the most important collections dedicated to life and earth science in the world.
Among the highlights is the dinosaur exhibition, along with the huge blue whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling in the central hall.
The museum is divided into four zones, Red, Green, Blue and Orange, with displays focusing on the history of the Earth, the evolution of the planet, the diversity of life and science in action, respectively.
Entrance to the museum is free.
Also Read: Best Free Museums in London
2. Victoria & Albert Museum
- Address: Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL
The Victoria & Albert Museum – or just ‘V&A’ for short – is the world’s largest museum of applied arts, decorative arts and design, with collections covering 5,000 years of art history from around the globe.
Notable collections include the section on Islamic art, one of the most comprehensive outside of the Islamic world, and the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa are also all well represented.
The V&A is often overlooked in favour of some of London’s other more popular museums, but for those interested in the history of art down the ages, this museum is nevertheless an essential stop on any visit to London.
Entrance to this museum is free.
3. Science Museum
- Address: Exhibition Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 2DD
The third of Kensington’s major museums and this time one for fans of everything to do with science – with displays shared between two buildings, the main building and the Wellcome Ring.
In the main building, you’ll find collections covering everything from energy and space exploration to clockmaking and the development of domestic appliances.
The neighbouring Wellcome Ring, a separate part of the same museum, houses a display called Tomorrow’s World that deals with topical stories in the world of science – along with some other similarly thought-provoking exhibitions.
This museum is among London’s most popular attractions, and it’s a great place to visit with kids – but it’s just as good for science-loving adults too.
Entrance to the museum is free – although some temporary exhibitions inside may charge a fee.
4. Design Museum
- Address: 224-238 Kensington High St, London W8 6AG
Compared to the ‘big three’ museums in Kensington, this is a relatively minor museum, but for anyone with an interest in product, industrial, graphic, fashion or architectural design, it’s still one that’s well worth a visit.
It moved to Kensington in 2016 having previously been located in London’s Shad Thames area, and it houses exhibitions related to all types of design. There is also a library, an auditorium, learning facilities and a restaurant on site.
The ground floor also houses a range of constantly changing temporary exhibitions, so you can return to this museum as many times as you like, and every visit will be different.
The permanent collection and some temporary exhibitions are free, but some temporary exhibitions may require a fee.
5. Serpentine Galleries
- Address: London W2 3XA
Located in Kensington Gardens in Hyde Park, the Serpentine Galleries – or just ‘Serpentine’ as they are now officially known – are twin art galleries next to the Serpentine lake.
The Serpentine North gallery is dedicated to displays of contemporary art and also houses the Serpentine shop, while the Serpentine South showcases the annual Pavilion architecture commission – along with more contemporary art from both established and emerging artists.
The two galleries are located a five-walk from each other, and you can reach one from the other by crossing the Serpentine Bridge
Entrance to both galleries is free.
6. Leighton House Museum
- Address: 12 Holland Park Rd, London W14 8LZ
Located just a four-minute walk from the Design Museum, Leighton House Museum was once the home of painter Frederic Leighton, 1st Baron Leighton, and it now houses a collection of artworks by members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood as well as by Leighton himself.
The building was created by renowned architect and designer George Aitchison on the commission of Leighton and is arguably more of a draw than the artworks it displays.
The house is notable for the qa’a, a type of roofed reception room that incorporates tiles and other elements brought to London from the Near East for its construction. Many other parts of the building also display Arab, Middle Eastern and Turkish influences.
Entrance to Leighton House Museum costs £9, with reduced prices for concessions and children available.
7. Kensington Palace
- Address: Kensington Gardens, London W8 4PX
Kensington Palace is a royal residence and currently the official London residence of the Prince and Princess of Wales.
One portion of the palace, the State Rooms, is open to the public, and the entrance ticket grants you access to the King’s State Apartments, the Queen’s State Apartments and an exhibition on Queen Victoria, who was born and raised at the palace.
Other highlights include the beautifully decorated King’s Staircase and the Jewel Room, and you can also catch a glimpse of Queen Victoria’s tiara.
Entrance to the palace is £16 – or £8 for children.
8. Kensington Palace Gardens
- Address: Kensington Gardens, London W8 4PX
If you don’t want to visit the palace, you can still take advantage of Kensington Palace Gardens and take a stroll around the tranquil and secluded oasis that makes up the palace’s grounds.
Covering a total of 107 hectares (265 acres), the gardens include the Serpentine lake (where the Serpentine Gallery is located), a famous statue of Peter Pan and the Elfin Oak, a 900-year-old tree stump that has been carved with elves, gnomes and fairies.
The gardens also contain many other interesting statues and pieces of public art as well as several fountains and lakes.
Entrance to the gardens is free.
Also Read: 31 Best Gardens in London
9. Albert Memorial
- Address: Kensington Gardens, London W2 2UH
Located in Kensington Gardens but worth tracking down and checking out in itself is the Albert Memorial, a memorial to Queen Victoria’s husband commissioned by the queen after his death of typhoid in 1861 at the age of 42.
In today’s money, the monument cost around £10,000,000 to build and features a statue of a seated Albert beneath an ornately decorated pavilion.
Interestingly, the statue itself is covered with several layers of real gold, and Albert is surrounded by marble figures representing Europe, Asia, Africa and America at each corner.
Visiting the Albert Memorial is free.
10. Royal Albert Hall
- Address: Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London SW7 2AP
Opened by Queen Victoria in 1871 and also named after her beloved husband, the unmistakable Royal Albert Hall is impressive even just to look at from the outside.
However, if you have the opportunity to attend a performance inside, it’s one you shouldn’t pass up, and the Hall plays host to all kinds of shows, from classical music to rock and pop concerts.
Perhaps the most famous event at the Albert Hall is the annual BBC Proms concert, and it has also been the venue for diverse other activities ranging from WWE wrestling and tennis matches to Cirque du Soleil performances.
So if you’re planning to head to Kensington, be sure to check what’s on in case there’s a show you want to see.
- Address: 87-135 Brompton Rd, London SW1X 7XL
Put simply, Harrod’s is quite probably the world’s most famous department store, and if you find yourself in Kensington, it’s an experience that you just can’t miss.
To start, make sure you dress well – because the doormen won’t let you in if you’re looking too scruffy.
Then, once you’re inside, prepared to be dazzled by the exquisite luxury of this unique shopping destination.
You’ll find everything you can imagine there, from clothing to children’s toys and gourmet food – and if you can go there around Christmas, the decorations are particularly spectacular.
Just don’t turn up looking for bargains because this shop is also notoriously expensive!
12. Kensington Mews
- Address: Various parts of Kensington
Mews were carriage houses with attached living quarters built to house coachmen before the advent of cars. They were often built behind large city houses in affluent parts of town so the people who occupied them could live in close proximity to those they served.
Among the best places to see them is Kensington, although of course they are no longer inhabited by coachmen. Nowadays, they are simply a particularly picturesque and quaint part of the city, making them a fun place for a wander and perhaps a photo or two.
13. Notting Hill
- Address: Kensington
Famous to the rest of the world thanks to the 1999 film of the same name starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, Notting Hill has long been known as a cosmopolitan, multicultural part of Kensington, and even aside from its Hollywood fame, it still merits a trip.
If you can go there during August, so much the better since your visit might coincide with the annual Notting Hill Carnival, a Caribbean street party that has grown to become one of the largest street festivals in Europe.
At other times, it’s still a great place for a stroll, and you’ll also find plenty of quirky cafés or pubs to duck into for a quick drink or a bite to eat. There’s no shortage of Insta-worthy streets either, so you’ll have plenty of material to populate your feed.
14. Portobello Road Market
- Address: Portobello Rd, London W10 5TY
Located in Notting Hill and open every day except Sundays, the Portobello Road Market is the place to head for anyone interested in antiques, second-hand goods, vintage items and all kinds of other general bric-a-brac.
Goods on sale include old toys, vintage cameras and countless second-hand books – along with all the quirky London-related gifts you could need to take home when you leave.
There’s also a whole lot more besides, and half the fun is simply exploring the market to see what treasures you can unearth.
Furthermore, there are also plenty of food stalls selling everything from vegetables to cakes and artisanal bread, so you’ll have no trouble finding a bite to eat if you start feeling peckish.
The best day to go is Saturday when the largest number of stalls are open and the whole place is humming with activity
15. Hyde Park Pet Cemetery
- Address: 41 Bayswater Rd, London W2 4RQ
If you’re more into quirky attractions, you’ll want to head over to Hyde Park to check out the Hyde Park pet cemetery, the final resting place for hundreds of animals that were interred there between around 1880 and 1976.
Dogs are the best-represented animal, but the cemetery also contains two cat graves, three monkeys and a number of birds, with the majority of the burials from between the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th.
The pet cemetery is owned by the Royal Parks and unfortunately is not open to the public most of the time due to the risk of vandalism.
However, guided tours are provided on certain days of the year, so if your visit to Kensington happens to fall on a day when a tour is available, this is the kind of memorable attraction that you should make an effort to see.
16. Churchill Arms
- Address: 119 Kensington Church St, London W8 7LN
If you’re visiting the UK from abroad, you’ll want to experience the institution that is the Great British pub, and in Kensington, there’s no better place to head than the unmistakable Churchill Arms.
The outside of this renowned drinking hole is covered with plants and flowers, which at certain times of the year can look nothing short of spectacular.
As you’d expect of a patriotic pub named after one of Britain’s most iconic leaders, there’s also no shortage of Union Jack flags flying outside.
The inside follows the same theme, and it still boasts cosy traditional pub décor and furnishings, something that’s becoming increasingly hard to find nowadays.
Somewhat incongruously, the pub also serves some particularly tasty Thai food, so if you’re in the mood for a red curry or a spicy tom yam goong, it’s also an excellent place to drop by for a bite to eat.
17. Kyoto Garden
- Address: Holland Park, Holland Park Ave, London W11 4UA
Located inside Holland Park, Kyoto Garden was a gift from the Japanese city of the same name to commemorate the close friendship and cooperation between Japan and the United Kingdom in 1991.
It was designed by a famous Japanese landscape designer and features a range of typical Japanese elements.
It is, without doubt, one of the calmest and most tranquil corners of the capital, and you can spend time simply wandering about and taking in the beautiful surroundings.
While you’re there, look out for tiered Japanese waterfalls, ponds filled with koi carp and maple trees.
Entry to the park is free, but it closes half an hour before dusk.
18. Saatchi Gallery
- Address: Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Rd, London SW3 4RY
Perhaps not technically in Kensington – but close enough for us to include it in our list – the Saatchi Gallery is an art space dedicated to contemporary work that was opened by Charles Saatchi in 1985.
The gallery was originally based on Saatchi’s personal art collection and sought to showcase the work of emerging artists. Since then, it has gone on to be recognised as being one of the world’s foremost authorities on the types of work it displays.
The exhibitions in the gallery are constantly being changed, so no two visits will ever be quite alike.
There are usually a number of free exhibitions on the ground floor, but other exhibitions may require you to pay an admission fee.
No Shortage of Attractions and Activities to Keep You Occupied
In Kensington, thanks to the variety of attractions and things to do, you’re unlikely to ever find yourself getting bored – whether you’re into art, science, natural history, shopping, eating, drinking or some of the other quirkier possibilities you’ll find there.
Kensington is known as one of London’s pricier areas, and there’s no shortage of places to spend your money.
However, many of the major attractions there don’t charge you a penny to get in, so you can also enjoy much of the best of what Kensington has to offer without having to spend a fortune.