London has been the stomping ground for many celebrities, but none whipped up a media hysteria in the same way as Diana Princess of Wales. Until her death in August 1997, Princess Diana was well known throughout the ’90s for her marriage to Prince Charles, heir to the throne, and for her philanthropy and charitable work for cancer, HIV and conflict charities.
As a resident of Kensington Palace for 15 years, Diana became well-known in the West London area and rubbed shoulders with many other celebrities during her time in the city. With such a well-documented life, it’s easy to find the spots made famous by the presence of the Princess of Wales.
Guests at the Park Grand Hotel Hyde Park are perfectly placed to explore the life of Diana, the hotel being just a short tube journey from Kensington Palace. If you’re in the city and want to learn a little more about the glamorous but tragic royal, or simply want to follow in her footsteps, then we’ve compiled a list of some of the prime Diana London destinations.
Princess Diana has been at the centre of a vast range of historical events. The late ’80s to late ’90s saw her at the peak of her popularity, and much of her day-to-day life was recorded and reported on by the media. Below are some of the most historic monuments and spots from - and which reflect on - her life.
Kensington Palace - Diana Designing for a Princess
Based within the home she lived in for over 15 years, the 'Diana, Designing a Princess' exhibition is one of the best ways to get a closer look at her style and fashion sense.
With the beautiful drawings and designs shown in the Kensington Palace public gallery, you can glean a real sense of her love for fashion. The gallery is made of original examples of her dresses, alongside sketches and comments from both her designers and the Princess herself.
Diana Memorial Playground
Based in Hyde Park, the Diana Memorial Playground was erected in the early noughties in memory of the late Princess. The playground was inspired by Peter Pan and Neverland, promoting the use of imagination in children’s playtime. The large ship modelled climbing frame is surrounded by a sandpit and several wigwam styled structures.
Named after the Princess herself, Cafe Diana sits opposite Kensington Palace Gardens and is festooned with pictures of the woman herself, alongside letters she sent to the cafe. Diana used to frequent this cafe for croissants and coffee, bringing her children William and Harry in for an Orangina and a slice of cake. Whilst the cafe itself is as normal as the next, the addition of the Diana memorabilia and proximity to the palace paired with the fact that Diana often visited helps this greasy spoon to stand out from the crowd.
St Paul’s Cathedral
This iconic Cathedral was the location for Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981. Attracting over 3,500 guests, the wedding was broadcast internationally and is still considered to be one of the largest events to take place in the cathedral, with 2 million spectators watching their wedding procession from outside.
As mentioned above, Diana loved fashion and so many of her favourite London shops were trendsetting outlets and department stores. On top of this, Diana was famous for keeping her two children grounded through exposure to normal, everyday life. This would play an important role in nurturing the level-headedness that the two princes are now well known for.
Butler and Wilson
Located close to Bond Street, Butler and Wilson is a boutique jewelry and accessories shop. With its lavish prints and colourful designs, it’s no wonder Diana often bought her fashion pieces and gifts for friends from this still popular shop.
WH Smith on Kensington High Street
Legend has it that after school, Diana would disguise Princes Harry and William and take them to the Kensington High Street WH Smith branch, the closest to their homes. Here they could use their pocket money to buy magazines and treats. This is another endearing example of how Diana would try to keep her royal children grounded in British life.
Daniel Galvin Salon
Whilst Diana would often have stylists from this high-end Salon come to her home, she would also have her hair done in the shop sometimes. Daniel Galvin is now an OBE, and has several branches across London, including a Kensington Salon, a flagship Marylebone branch and a boutique in Selfridges.
With her famous blue engagement outfit coming from Harrods, and the fact that at the time of her death she’d been in a relationship with the owners son, it’s no wonder that the 330-department Harrods is associated closely with Diana. Even more so, it had a royal charter for the goods, outfits and homeware for many members of the Royal Family.
Harvey Nichols is a department store located in the Knightsbridge area of London. It was popular with Princess Diana, who would often buy skincare and makeup products from this widely popular luxury goods shop.
Spend an evening like Diana
If you’re looking to enjoy the highlife paired with nightlife, then take a leaf out of Diana’s Book. All of these restaurants and venues are still open to the public and offer up unique entertainment and dining experiences.
Royal Opera House
Princess Diana was a big fan of this Covent Garden-based Opera House and even performed on stage in 1985 to surprise her then husband Prince Charles. With her past expertise as a dance instructor, it’s no wonder that Diana was such a fan of the lavish international ballets still performed at the Opera House to this day.
One of Diana’s more wild stories includes Freddie Mercury of Queen and a rather boyish disguise. When out on the town with the famous singer, Diana was convinced to join Mercury at the famous gay club, the Vauxhall Tavern in Vauxhall. To disguise her from unwanted paparazzi attention, Freddie dressed her up as a young man to get past the crowds!
Diana was likely a fan of many of the restaurants and bars in Hyde Park London and in the surrounding area. With down-to-earth tastes and a penchant for a good atmosphere, a little bit of research will have you dining in some of the best restaurants in the city, all in the knowledge that one of the icons of the 90s was also wining and dining, just like you.