A guide to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
It’s the borough that is home to Harrods, the King’s Road, the major museums of South Kensington, Kensington Palace and much-loved events like The Chelsea Flower Show and Notting Hill Carnival.
It is one of three London boroughs with royal status - an honorary title due to a borough’s royal links. The other two being Greenwich and Kingston-upon-Thames.
The Metropolitan Borough of Kensington was granted royal status in 1901 because it was the birthplace of Queen Victoria at Kensington Palace in 1819. When it merged with the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea in 1965, the area became known as the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
The borough is the smallest in London at just over 12 square kms and includes fashionable neighbourhoods such as Notting Hill, South Kensington, Holland Park, Earl’s Court, Knightsbridge and Kensington and Chelsea itself.
Its elegant streets are lined with rows of luxury houses, many from the Victorian and Georgian era, and are among the most expensive in the UK. There are also magnificent modern buildings like the Michelin Building on Fulham Road.
Not surprisingly many homes in this esteemed neighbourhood are owned by the rich and famous. Stroll through the streets and you could well pass local celebrities including Sir Elton John, Stella McCartney, Robbie Williams, David and Victoria Beckham or Simon Cowell.
What makes the borough so famous?
The borough’s much-loved Chelsea Flower Show has been held annually for more than a century in the grounds of the Royal Hospital. It is the place to see cutting-edge garden design and is considered the ‘haute-couture’ of the international gardening scene.
Tickets for the show, which traditionally takes place in May, are highly sought after so book early.
Notting Hill is one of the most characterful areas of the borough and each year in August hosts the world's largest street party, the Notting Hill Carnival.
Also in Notting Hill, Portobello Market is a long established street market that runs at weekends. It sells glorious street food, antiques, clothing and lots of other goodies. Even if you’re not buying, just go and soak up the atmosphere.
Other tourist attractions are the iconic 60s hang-out the King’s Road, which stretches 2 miles from Sloane Square through to Fulham and is packed with antique shops, design and furniture stores, cafes, designer boutiques and the Saatchi Gallery.
The borough has many amazing museums to visit - the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum are brilliant year-round but look out for their special exhibitions too.
Beautiful green open spaces and gardens
Kensington Gardens, with its magnificent trees is the setting for Kensington Palace. It is one of eight royal parks, and was once part of Hyde Park with its boating lake and sports amenities.
Holland Park is the borough’s largest park with 22.5 hectares of gardens, large areas of woodland abundant with wildlife, sports areas and a cafeteria.
Within Holland Park is the Kyoto Gardens, a gift from the Japanese city of Kyoto. It is a traditional Japanese garden with tiered waterfalls, a serene pond full of beautiful koi carp, stone lanterns and Japanese maple trees.
Chelsea Physic Garden is London’s oldest botanic garden and houses around 5,000 medicinal, herbal and edible plants.
The borough is a gastronomic delight
Not surprisingly there are some superb places to eat and drink in the borough. Small artisan cafes sit alongside some of the finest London has to offer.
Daphnes in South Kensington has been serving classic Italian cuisine for more than 40 years. Its chic and elegant surroundings are loved by celebrities.
Michelin-starred Bibendum is located in the iconic Michelin House in Fulham Road, Chelsea.
The Ivy Chelsea Garden on the King’s Road is a relaxed venue for all-day dining. Not far away is the ever popular Bluebird, the place to be seen with its own food store and bakery.
Try lobster ravioli or Cornish turbot with langoustine at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay’s three Michelin-starred flagship restaurant in Chelsea.
Now that really is the height of luxury which seems only fitting when you’re in a royal borough.