Kensington & Chelsea area guide
If you’re considering moving to London, one thing’s for certain: you’ll never be bored in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. This characterful corner of the capital is packed full of London landmarks, world-class cultural venues, Michelin-starred restaurants and vibrant nightlife – not to mention some of London’s very best shopping. What’s more, every year the borough bursts into bloom in spectacular style for the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show.
With so much going on, it’s easy to forget that this is a popular residential district too – favoured by affluent residents from far and wide for its fantastic location, elegant homes and the luxurious lifestyle on offer. Join us for a jaunt down the King’s Road and beyond to discover why a Kensington & Chelsea address is among the most highly prized in London.
Areas and architecture
Kensington & Chelsea is most famous for its elegant garden squares and streets of grand townhouses in West London’s distinctive stucco-front style. Yet there’s plenty of diversity available here too – from luxurious mansion flats and traditional mews houses to more contemporary new-build apartments along the riverside in Chelsea.
With its upmarket boutiques and stunning Thameside setting, Chelsea has always been a playground for London’s rich and famous. You’ll find everything here from Georgian houses, Victorian terraced cottages and Arts & Crafts houses, as well as some upmarket new-build developments along the riverside. The area around Sloane Square is one of the most desirable parts of Chelsea.
Kensington & Chelsea is home to many embassies, consulates and world-class amenities and as such its property market attracts considerable international attention. The local community comprises UK and European nationals along with residents from the Middle East and Asia. There’s also a strong French contingent, and with the Institut Français, the Ciné Lumière and the Lycée nearby, the district has been affectionately nicknamed Paris’s ‘21st arrondissement’.
As well as being home to politicians and billionaires, the area appeals to professionals and blue-chip companies relocating their employees, plus families wanting access to the area’s excellent schools and retired couples seeking a bolt-hole in the heart of the city. Overseas investors and wealthy international students will enjoy the proximity to Harrods, Hyde Park and the extensive designer shopping available in the district.
Kensington’s prestigious streets are home to London’s elite including members of the British royal family, and with its old-world mansions, Kensington Palace Gardens remains one of the most expensive streets in prime central London. Elsewhere, the terraced and semi-detached townhouses found around Kensington High Street are among the most sought-after family homes in the capital.
South Kensington remains close to the heart of the action, with great restaurants such Tendido Cero for incredible Tapas and Memories of India Kensington is always good, a favourite with the locals or visitors alike.
There are pretty pastel-painted houses to be found, on streets such as Priory Walk or Cranely Mews. Some of the largest and most expensive homes can be found on The Boltons, Tregunter or Gilston Roads.
Aristocratic Kensington has long been home to the monarchy and earned its Royal Borough status in 1901. The glorious Kensington Palace has been a British royal residence since the 17th century: Queen Victoria was born here in 1819 and stayed until her accession in 1837. Today, the palace is still home to many members of the British royal family, including Prince William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Chelsea’s history is more artistic, with many great painters, poets, musicians and artists living in the district over the years. In the 60s, the Beatles and Rolling Stones resided in the Cheyne Walk area, while the King’s Road has long been a favourite haunt of the fashion pack including the iconic Mary Quant and Vivienne Westwood. In the 70s, the area saw the birth of the British Punk movement.
Drinking and dining
It will come as no surprise that this royal borough has an excellent selection of Michelin-starred restaurants: Claude Bosi at Bibendum includes a stylish oyster bar and Gordon Ramsey’s much-loved 3-Michelin star restaurant can be found in Chelsea. Away from the Michelin scene, there’s the amazing No. Fifty Cheyne, local favourite The Ivy Garden Chelsea and Aubaine on Brompton Road for authentic French cuisine.
Kensington has a thriving café culture with a host of quaint coffee shops and tempting bakeries including the Hummingbird Bakery and artisan pâtisserie Aux Merveilleux. Meanwhile, The Orangery in Kensington Palace Pavilion is the only royal palace in London where you can enjoy a traditional afternoon tea.
Chelsea is better known for its lively (but civilised) nightlife, with a wealth of highly-rated restaurants, bars and clubs such as the luxurious Raffles nightclub and Embargo Republica attracting a younger crowd from across London and beyond. Local Italian restaurant La Famiglia is a long-standing Chelsea favourite, while Caffé Concerto is the perfect place to pick up pâtisserie and watch the world go by.
Popular pubs in the area include the Churchill Arms, Windsor Castle and Fox and Pheasant, while the health-conscious will enjoy getting lost in the cavernous Wholefoods Market or refuelling at Joe & The Juice after a workout in the gym.
One of the top draws of living in Kensington & Chelsea is that you’re never more than a few moments away from some of the very best shops in London, with two of the capital’s most dazzling department stores – Harrods and Harvey Nichols – right on the doorstep.
Kensington High Street is known as one of the capital’s best shopping streets, with a range of luxury furniture, antique and fashion boutiques, while Chelsea truly is a shopper’s paradise: from the glittering designer stores of Sloane Street and Sloane Square to the upmarket stores found along the King’s Road and Fulham Road.
Foodies will adore Bute Street, where you’ll find Moxon’s Fishmongers, Provenance Village Butcher and a bustling farmer’s market on Saturdays. And although not a market at all, Chelsea Farmers’ Market is a quiet enclave off King’s Road with one-off shops and restaurants with al fresco dining: it’s a wonderful place to while away a summer’s afternoon.
Arts and culture
Culture vultures will feel perfectly at home in Kensington & Chelsea: from the iconic Royal Albert Hall to the treasures in the Victoria & Albert, Natural History and Science museums, the area is chock full of some of the most exciting cultural venues in London.
What’s more, The Royal Geographical Society, the Royal College of Art, the Royal College of Music and Imperial College London are all concentrated within a small part of Kensington, which grew out of Prince Albert’s vision for a dedicated area of cultural significance. Soak it up by wandering through the lavish rooms of the King’s State Apartments at Kensington Palace, or take in dinner and a show at South Ken’s own fringe theatre, The Drayton Arms.
Over in Chelsea, the world-famous Saatchi Gallery hints at the area’s artistic credentials, where a number of smaller galleries like Albemarle and Clarendon Fine Art are waiting to be explored. Chelsea Town Hall is home to the Chelsea Public Library and some historically important frescos, while The Royal Hospital Chelsea was built by Christopher Wren in 1682 as a residence for former soldiers and remains home to ‘the Chelsea pensioners’ to this day.
Lastly, no guide to this elegant borough would be complete without highlighting the fabulous Chelsea Flower Show. Taking over the Royal Hospital Chelsea for 5 days each spring, the world’s greatest horticultural event showcases cutting-edge garden design and fantastic floral displays. Held at Chelsea since 1912, the show attracts the cream of British society and is even attended by members of the British Royal Family.
Transport and airports
Boasting an enviable zone 1 location, Kensington & Chelsea is as well-connected as you’d expect. With an incredible wealth of stations to choose from including High Street Kensington, South Kensington, Gloucester Road, Kensington Olympia, Earl’s Court, Notting Hill Gate, Sloane Square and Knightsbridge, which together provide services on the Circle, District, Central and Piccadilly lines, travel between east and west London is easy and residents will usually only have to change trains once to reach the edges of north or south London.
The nearest stations are Kensington Olympia and West Brompton, where trains connect across the capital. To the south, Clapham Junction can be reached within 15 minutes, while to the north, Willesden Junction is around 20 minutes away.
London Victoria, a major London terminus, can be found just south of the district, with trains running across London and beyond including to the south coast and Gatwick airport.
Buses from South Kensington include the 14 (to Warren Street), 74 (to Baker Street) and C1 (to Victoria). There are also two night buses, N74 and N97 (to Trafalgar Square). Victoria coach station is also conveniently located for Chelsea residents.
Kensington’s A4 location means it’s a short hop to the M4, opening up the west of England and making Heathrow airport less than 30 minutes’ drive or cab ride away. The nearby A40 takes you out of London towards Oxford, while the M25 can be reached in just 30 minutes.
Kensington & Chelsea is ideally located for regular international travellers. Heathrow airport is 30 minutes’ drive away or can be reached via the Piccadilly line in less than an hour. Alternatively, the Gatwick Express offers non-stop train services from Victoria, making Gatwick airport accessible in under 45 minutes.
Schools and hospitals
Kensington & Chelsea has some first-class – and highly coveted – primary and secondary schools, including the private Thomas’s Kensington and Hill House Prep where Prince Charles went
The best state schools include St Mary Abbots CE Primary School, Fox Primary School and Holland Park School, while independents include Garden House School, Hawkesdown House, Hampshire School in Chelsea.
Chelsea & Westminster is the nearest NHS hospital with emergency department, while the Royal Brompton offers specialist care for the treatment of heart and lung disease. The world-class private Lister hospital sits just to the south of Chelsea.
Kensington & Chelsea has a charming blend of large London parks and pretty garden squares. As well as being home to the Serpentine Lido, Serpentine Gallery, Italian Gardens and the stunning Prince Albert monument, Kensington Gardens has a memorial fountain in honour of Princess Diana, as well as a children’s playground bearing her name.
In the summer months, Hyde Park hosts a wonderful range of outdoor events for families and young people including concerts and festivals, while the delightful Chelsea Physic Garden is London’s oldest botanical garden with a collection focused on medicinal and plants.
Sports and leisure
Gym bunnies and fitness fanatics will feel very at home in Kensington & Chelsea, with its excellent range of upscale gyms, health clubs and yoga and Pilates studios. Swim at the luxurious Chelsea Harbour Club, hit the gym 24-hours a day at Anytime Fitness, or hire a cricket pitch in the grounds of the grand Royal Hospital Chelsea with friends in summer.
Campden Hill is a popular local tennis club, while Virgin Active Kensington is great for its Pilates and pool. Triyoga Chelsea attracts some of the best yoga teachers in London, and KXU offers spin classes set to thumping beats just moments away from Sloane Square tube.
Considering moving to Kensington & Chelsea?
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