Kensington Area Guide

The V&A © Little Me Big City

Kensington kids, a hub for little adventurers filled with museums, parks and places to run, climb and splash and refuel!

Where is it? Kensington borders Notting Hill to the north, Knightsbridge to the east, Chelsea to the south and Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush to the west.

Quick history The name Kensington comes from the ‘town of Chenesi’s people' and it was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. The area was mainly rural until the 19th century when the bustling Victorian suburban area - along with buildings such as the Natural History Museum and the V&A were built.

DISCOVER

The Design Museum, Kensington, London. Photo from the Design Museum's website.

DESIGN MUSEUM224-238 Kensington High Street London, W8 6AG
The world’s leading museum devoted to contemporary design – covering architecture, fashion, graphics, product and industrial design - has just moved to a stunning new location on High Street Kensington. It offers a programme of regular events and activities for families such as a Create and Make workshop for 5-11 year olds and Get into Design workshops for 7-16 year olds. Pre-booking advised. Explorer Kits, Trails and a Chatterbox Activity suitable for 5-11 year olds are available to borrow every day. There is a swish looking onsite bar / restaurant as well as a juice / coffee bar. Entry is free but temporary exhibitions and some workshops have a fee. We think it's best for kids age 5+.

Kensington Palace © Little Me Big City

KENSINGTON PALACE Kensington Palace State Apartments, Kensington Gardens, W8 4PX
A majestic 17th century Royal residence set within Kensington Gardens with some parts open to the public. A free trail is available for kids aged 5-11 and creative workshops for children run during school holidays and some weekends. Preschooler sessions run during term time. There is an onsite family-friendly cafe as well as the grander Orangery restaurant which also has a children’s menu including a children’s Afternoon Tea. The beautiful palace gardens and wiggly walk are perfect for playing hide and seek in. Children have free entry though there is a charge for adults with tickets starting at £15.40. Annual membership of Historic Royal Palaces gives entry here and to other attractions including Hampton Court, the Tower of London and Kew Palace.

Natural History Museum © Little Me Big City

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM - Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD
Not only a super popular attraction (5 million annual visitors!) but a leading science research centre – so you can count on the exhibitions to be up to date and relevant. Home to 80 million specimens spanning billions of years, the most famous of which is Dippy the diplodocus dinosaur who is now no longer on show but will be going on a UK tour in 2018-2020. Dippy’s old home, the Hintze Hall is currently closed for refurbishment and will re-open in summer 2017 with the skeleton of a blue whale, the largest animal ever known to have lived on earth, as the central display. But, don’t worry, there are a couple more dinosaur skeletons around the building for dino lovers. You can also take an escalator journey through the centre of the earth in the Red Zone and find an earthquake simulator, a Moon rock, and a 3,500-million-year-old fossil at the top. Visit the hands-on science centre, Investigate, where you can explore treasures from their collection. Pick up a trail pack for a self-guided tour. The museum runs regular family events (including the popular Dino Snore sleepovers for 7-11 year olds) at weekends and in the school holidays. 3 of the museum eateries (The Restaurant, Deli Cafe, Central Cafe) are family friendly with kids menus and highchairs. In The Restaurant (Green Zone) there are also microwaves to warm baby’s food. Free entry. Top Tip - the side entrance on Exhibition Road usually has a shorter queue than the main entrance on Cromwell Road.

Science Museum London © Little Me Big City

SCIENCE MUSEUMExhibition Road, London, SW7 2DD
Kids are naturally curious about the world around them and the Science Museum is packed with interactive exhibits for them to explore! Even the really small ones – there’s a pre-school area in the basement, the Garden, filled with hands-on exhibits and Pattern Pod, a multi-sensory area. There's also flight simulators (there’s a charge for these), space exploration, steam train, an IMAX cinema (again this bit has a fee) and much more. The star attraction though has to be the new Wonderlab – a truly wondrous, immersive gallery with a ton of cool things to do. There is a charge to enter the Wonderlab but you can get annual passes and we think it’s worth it. Family shows and activities are on on weekends and in holidays. The museum has 4 family friendly eateries, Energy Cafe, Deep Blue (our favourite for it’s funky lighting!) and Deep Blue Terrace as well as a shake bar in the Wonderlab and an indoor area where you can picnic. Entry is free though there is a charge for the Wonderlab and some special exhibitions.
Read our review of the Science Museum>>>>

Serpentine Gallery © Charlotte Coneybeer - Baking Betsy

SERPENTINE GALLERIES Kensington Gardens, London, W2 3XA, Serpentine Sackler Gallery – West Carriage Drive, London, W2 2AR
The Serpentine Galleries (there are actually two, one either side of the Serpentine) house wonderful contemporary installations are often huge and immersive and fascinate children and adults alike. Every summer an outdoor exhibition is staged at the Serpentine Pavillion and an artist is commissioned to design a Family Kit to help children explore this exhibition. In addition, regular Family Days are held, organised in the form of a temporary artist studio. There’s also a family friendly in-house restaurant, The Magazine. Entry to the galleries is free.

The Courtyard garden at the V&A Museum

THE V&A - Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL
Often overlooked on family visits by it’s neighbours (Natural History and Science museums), the super stylish V&A for a fun and creative day out for all the family. Hunt for for sparkly jewels, samurai swords and fabulous theatre costumes. There is something free to do at the museum for families every day – grab a trail or borrow a back-pack and explore. There are also many interactive displays to find. At the weekends and in school holidays, families can see Pop-up Performances and take part in workshops. In the summer, little ones can splash in the water jets in the courtyard garden. There are two cafes in the museum, The V&A Cafe and Garden Cafe – children’s menus and highchairs in the main V&A Cafe. Packed lunches can be eaten in the Learning Centre’s Lunchroom on the 3rd floor. Museum entry is free though there will be a charge for special exhibitions.

RUN AROUND

Diana-Memorial-Fountain-©-Little-Me-Big-City

DIANA MEMORIAL FOUNTAIN Hyde Park, W Carriage Dr, London, W2 2UH
A beautiful water feature, built using 545 pieces of Cornish granite, with the design aiming to reflect Diana’s life. Water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom. There are three bridges where you can cross the water and go right to the heart of the fountain. Visitors are welcome to sit on the edge of the memorial and dip their feet in but this is not a water play feature and visitors are asked not to walk on the fountain. The area is supervised whilst open. There are fenced off areas of grass next to the fountain where you can play and picnic.

Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground © Little Me Big City

DIANA MEMORIAL PLAYGROUND - Broad Walk, London, W2 2UH
A wonderful playground within Kensington Gardens, inspired by the story of Peter Pan and commemorating Diana, Princess of Wales, who adored children. The main feature of the playground is a huge wooden pirate ship though the playground also has a beach surrounding the ship, a sea monster sculpture, giant swing, turtle drum, storyteller’s chair, tepees, a tree-house encampment with walkways, ladders, slides and ‘tree phones’. There’s a sensory trail too designed with children with special needs in mind and a separate area for under 3’s. All of this is designed to spark little imaginations, adventure and story creation. There’s plenty of seating for adults to sit and enjoy the creative surroundings. It gets busy – a queuing system to enter the playground is often in place in the summer. Don’t miss spotting the Elfin Oak sculpture, located next to the playground. Carved the hollow trunk of an oak tree, it depicts figures of fairies, elves and animals. The Broadwalk Cafe which is next to the playground serves flatbread pizzas and ice-creams.

Holland Park - © Copyright Richard Thomas and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

HOLLAND PARK - Ilchester Place, Kensington, London W8 6LU
This is the borough’s largest park with 22.5 hectares of gardens, children’s play facilities, sports areas, large areas of woodland abundant with wildlife and the beautiful Kyoto Garden, a Japanese garden donated by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto in 1991. It is also the base of the borough’s Ecology Service. The Ecology Centre at Holland Park runs a series of family activities including a wildlife club for children (aged 8-14) and school holiday activities (for children aged 5-11). The park’s cafe offers children’s main meals and lunch boxes.

Hyde Park © Little Me Big City

HYDE PARK - Hyde Park, London, W2 2UH
Hyde Park is the largest and perhaps the best known of the Royal Parks. There’s plenty of family friendly fun to be had here including swimming in or boating on the Serpentine, the Serpentine Galleries, dipping your toes into the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, a modern wooden playground to the south of the park, deckchairs to hire and a range of wildlife to spot including wildfowl, birds, bats and minibeasts. There are two family friendly eateries with children’s meal options, a few refreshment kiosks and plenty of places to picnic.

Kensington Gardens © Little Me Big City

KENSINGTON GARDENS - Kensington Gardens, London, W2 2UH
Directly adjacent to Hyde Park (they share the Serpentine Lake), Kensington Gardens is the home of Kensington Palace, two playgrounds (the famous Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground and the more basic Buckhill Playground), the Italian Gardens, Peter Pan Statue and the Serpentine Galleries. The 7 mile, Diana Memorial Walk also winds through the Gardens as well as other Royal Parks. If all that sounds like too much hard walk, hire a deck chair, have a picnic and let your little ones play on the grass. There are tfamily friendly eateries, the laid back Broadwalk Cafe which does yummy kids pizza meals (and pizza for grown-ups too!) next to the Diana Playground, the cafe inside Kensington Palace and the more formal Orangery at Kensington Palace.

DO

Serpentine Lido - photo by Oast House Archive

SERPENTINE LIDO - Hyde Park, London, W2 2UH
Located in Hyde Park, the Serpentine Lido has been a Londoner’s summer escape for over 100 years. Swim in the Serpentine, in an open water area of 30x100metres, play in the paddling pool or playground, hire a sun lounger and grab a bite to eat at the lakeside family friendly Lido Cafe Bar. There’s a strict ratio of 2 adults to every child in the Serpentine and remember, it might be very cold, so children might need wetsuits if you have them. If you happen to be in Hyde Park on Christmas morning you can watch the Serpentine Swimming Club in their famous annual race!

EAT

Broadwalk Cafe © Little Me Big City

BROADWALK CAFE (KENSINGTON GARDENS) - Broad Walk, London, W2 2UH
A fairly simple, friendly park cafe with outdoor seating but serves delicious flatbread pizzas and ice-creams and other items. The cafe is right next door to the Diana Memorial Playground.

Family friendly dining at Comptoir Libanais - photo from the restaurant's website

COMPTOIR LIBANAIS- 1-5 Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2HE
Wholesome Lebanese dining serving delicious breakfasts, mezze (hot and cold), salads, wraps and tagines. The kids menu offers wraps, falafels, hummus or chicken – all for £5.45 including a dessert and flavoured lemonade. Walk-ins only so expect to queue at peak times for visiting the nearby museums (weekends and school holidays).

Family-friendly dining at Gourmet Burger Kitchen (photos from their website)

GOURMET BURGER KITCHEN107 Old Brompton Road, London, SW7 3LE
The original “posh burger” place, GBK serves a variety of hand-crafted burgers cooked to order. Interesting sides, veggie options, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and a kids’ menu (suitable for under 12s) are all on offer. A colouring sheet and crayons are offered to little ones too.

Honest Burgers - Photo from their Facebook page

HONEST BURGERS24 Thurloe Street, London, SW7 2LT
Started in 2010 by two friends who served burgers at festivals and events, the first Honest Burgers restaurant opened in Brixton in 2011. The menu is simple, with a strong focus on using high quality produce such as free range chicken. The children’s menu includes a chicken burger, beef burgers and a vegetable fritter burger.

The Orangery, Kensington Gardens © Little Me Big City

THE ORANGERY The Orangery, Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, London, W8 4PX
The Orangery is the restaurant at Kensington Palace though you don’t have to be visiting the Palace to eat there. It is a rather formal setting, though still relaxed and children are welcome. We love that they do a children’s version of their afternoon teas as well as their usual children’s menu.

Kensington Palace Cafe © Little Me Big City

KENSINGTON PALACE CAFEKensington Palace State Apartments, Kensington Gardens, W8 4PX
The onsite family-friendly cafe at Kensington Palace is open to both those visiting the Palace and those just seeking refreshment. It offers a children’s Very Hungry Caterpillar meal box as well as sandwiches, salads, pastries, ice-cream and drinks. There is a pleasant courtyard seating area in addition to indoor seating.

The Magazine Restaurant at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery

THE MAGAZINE RESTAURANT (SERPENTINE GALLERIES) - The Magazine Restaurant, West Carriage Drive, Kensington Gardens, London, W2 2AR
Based at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, The Magazine is not your usual gallery cafe, it is a stylish restaurant which aims to deliver innovative, high quality international cuisine. Undeniably, a rather grand affair, it does, however, have a children’s menu offering childhood staples such as sausage and mash and pasta with peas and ham followed by ice-cream.

Wagamama © Little Me Big City

WAGAMAMA - 26 High Street, Kensington, London, W8 4PF
Wagamama is a canteen style Japanese inspired chain which is a firm favourite with the LMBC kids. The children’s menu offers a range of smaller sized meals with a real fruit ice-lolly to follow. Wagamama came in at 5th place in the Soil Association’s Out to Lunch league table, being praised for offering creative and healthy choices and using lots of vegetables.

(also museum cafes in the Design Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum and V&A. Our family favourites are the ones at the Science Museum)