Lying due-west the expanse of green that’s Hyde Park, the smaller, more intimate and really rather charmingly magical Kensington Gardens is perfect for family visitors; itself arguably one of London’s most popular attractions with those who flock to the capital with their kids in two (usually staying at high-quality accommodation such as the Park Grand Hyde Park London).
So, much in the manner that family visitors’ll find many great attractions for the kids, things to do in the summer months and reasons to visit Kew Gardens, Kensington Gardens’ nearby attractions aren’t to be missed…
Kensington Palace and Gardens
A Royal residence for almost 330 years, Kensington Palace was home throughout her childhood to Queen Victoria and, before that, monarchs from the late 17th Century up to King George II in the mid-18th. Unlike at nearby Buckingham Palace where they’re only open in the summer months, the State Apartments here are publicly open all-year-round, with perhaps their major highlights being a display of coronation robes, an array of royal portraits in the Queen’s Gallery, Sir Christopher Wren’s Queen’s Staircase and the one-time private quarters of Queen’s Mary (II), Anne and Victoria. Admission entry includes to the palace’s own gardens, laid out by the 18th-Century Queen-Consort Caroline, its features including a sunken garden, a flower walk and fountains. Plus, don’t overlook the exquisite Orangery, which like the very best Hyde Park restaurants, is ideal for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.
(149 Piccadilly W1J 7NT)
Originally owned by the iconic first Duke of Wellington (legendary for his victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo), Apsley House was bought by the ‘Iron Duke’ during post-army career in politics. With much of the mansion’s conversion into a museum in 1952, it’s home to a supreme collection of fine art by several masters, such as Velazquez, van Dyck, Correggio and Rubens. Indeed, 83 of its paintings were acquired by Wellington from the Spanish Royal Collection in thanks for his military efforts, while the property’s resplendent in many more eclectic gifts presented to its owner following war.
Hyde Park Riding Stables
(63 Bathurst Mews W2 2SB)
Just the ticket if you’re after some fresh air and physical activity following a Hyde Park breakfast, enjoying a horse-riding session courtesy of the Park’s riding stables is a well-worn activity savoured by visitors to the area for many a long decade; unsurprising, given the stables have been the nation’s most recognisable equestrian centre for more than 300 years. Suitable for riders of all ages and disciplines (not least because the stables also offer riding lessons), the routes can amount to a total five miles’ worth of bridleways snaking around the park’s Serpentine lake.
The Serpentine Galleries
(Kensington Gardens W2 3XA)
Finally, who could resist a visit to the sublime Serpentine Galleries? To be found either side of the Serpentine lake in Kensington Gardens (rather than Hyde Park), together the two contemporary art galleries – among the most important in the entire UK – see more than a million visitors pass through their doors each year.) Among the major art world names who’ve seen their work displayed on the galleries’ walls are Man Ray, Andy Warhol, Henry Moore and Damien Hirst. Notably, the newer gallery of the two, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, opened in just 2013 in a 19th Century, its building having originated as a gunpowder store.