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Park life and chic design makes for a capital weekend

PUBLISHED: 14:53 29 March 2018 | UPDATED: 09:48 05 April 2018

Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall


Few areas of London are more culturally rewarding than Kensington. Home to a globally renowned collection of museums and art galleries, the musical splendour of the Royal Albert Hall, the chic boutiques of Sloane Street, Kings Road and Knightsbridge, all surrounded by the green swathes of Hyde Park, this royal borough offers a sophisticated take on the capital.

This cosmopolitan vibe is only heightened in the spring and summer months. With its wide, leafy boulevards and pavement-set cafés, this is one of London’s more continental-inspired neighbourhoods. And such an international flavour is reflected in treasures housed in the its world-famous museums. Not least at the V&A, where five millennia of human creativity are on display, from ancient Buddhist statues to Da Vinci sketches to Alexander McQueen dresses. Free to enter, you could easily while away a whole day taking in these historic treasures. Then there are the special exhibitions – none more eagerly awaited than this summer’s celebration of the life and work of a towering cultural icon. Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up tells the story of the groundbreaking Mexican artist through an intimate collection of personal artefacts and clothing.

On the other side of Exhibition Road, the Natural History Museum is home to the same evolutionary riches, including the recently installed blue whale skeleton that dominates the main hall. And at the opposite end of the animal scale, summer’s Sensational Butterflies exhibition gives visitors the chance to see hundreds of live butterflies and moths from all over the world in a technicolour extravaganza that brings a jungle habitat to the heart of London.

Kensington PalaceKensington Palace

Closer to the chichi buzz of High Street Kensington, the recently re-located Design Museum adds further lustre to this cultural sheen. A dynamic open space with a soaring central atrium, the museum is topped off by the permanent collection, which celebrates 20th-century design, from Henry Ford to the iPhone. And there’s an added draw this summer: Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008-18 presents political messages conveyed in graphic design.

Just as the V&A and Natural History Museum are a stone’s throw from the wide open green spaces of Hyde Park, the Design Museum backs onto the tranquil oasis of Kensington Gardens – home to Kensington Palace and this summer’s happiest of happy couples, Harry and Meghan. The Palace Gardens, open to all, make for a vibrant scene in spring and summer via seasonal displays surrounding an ornamental pond.

Women's March, Wellington, NZ, © Andy McArthur, Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008-18, The Design MuseumWomen's March, Wellington, NZ, © Andy McArthur, Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008-18, The Design Museum

Kensington combines a magical blend of bijou charm with stately British heritage. And nowhere is this marriage more vividly portrayed than in the stylish surroundings of the hotel that shares its name.

Being welcomed through The Kensington’s imposing, framed double doors by a bowler-hatted doorman is to step back in time to a more genteel, service-oriented age. Certainly the hotel’s grand, stucco façade – a group of four 19th-century townhouses – and the Victorian grandeur of its high ceilings, heritage décor and open fireplaces, evoke something of a bygone era. Yet there is also a modernity to the colourful, quirky furnishings and the attentive staff, lending the personal, familiar vibe of a sophisticated members’ club.

The K Bar at The KensingtonThe K Bar at The Kensington

Take the K Bar, with its cool ambience, and creative cocktails. An artisan-gin infused aperitivo before tonight’s Prom at The Royal Albert Hall, perhaps? Choose from the menu brimming with fresh, seasonal produce at Town House restaurant or enjoy a post-concert whisky from the extensive list to round off the evening… Either way, taking in The Proms, the world’s most famous music festival at the nearby Royal Albert Hall is a must. The celebration lasts all summer, as some of the world’s finest orchestras, soloists and conductors descend on London for an eclectic, riotous eight weeks of musical riches. All within a short stroll of The Kensington – meaning you can make like a tourist, but live like a local.

Have a look at how you can enjoy a stylish weekend in London at The Kensington here or call the hotel team at 020 7589 6300

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