I’ve spent the past twenty-seven years working in the hotel industry, starting out as a night porter in Edinburgh, Scotland before moving to London in 1986 as a Concierge. Now as Head Concierge of the luxury five star hotel in Kensington, The Milestone in London, one of the world’s oldest and most fascinating cities, it gives me great pleasure to share some of the hidden gems of Kensington with you.
Kensington, right next to London’s West End, is a treasure trove of delights for the curious! Kensington High Street as well as Harrods and Harvey Nichols, is a magnet for shopaholics, while the Kings Road has been legendary since the swinging 60s. Kensington also boasts the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Royal Albert Hall.
The area is blessed with acres of green space. Hyde Park, originally one of King Henry VIII’s hunting parks, is one of the largest parks in London. The 2012 London Olympics will see the Triathlon and Open Water Swimming competitions held here and it’s also home to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and Playground. The park’s Serpentine Gallery is one of London’s best-loved free galleries.
Kensington Gardens is equally lovely, and the setting of J.M. Barrie’s book Peter Pan. Adjacent to the park is Kensington Palace, the former residence of Queen Victoria and more recently Diana, Princess of Wales. The palace boasts unique exhibitions such as “The Royal Dress Collection” and a very touching display of photographs of the much-loved Princess.
Kensington Palace Gardens is one of the most expensive addresses in the world – Lakshmi Mittal reputedly paid £57m for his 160 year old mansion and the street also boasts the London home of the Sultan of Brunei. Kensington is officially the most affluent borough in Britain, so it’s great for celebrity spotting – the list of famous residents, past and present, is endless. Freddie Mercury used to live at 1 Logan Place, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin occupied 29 Melbury Road, while George Michael rented a flat in Adam & Eve Mews. Other famous occupants of the borough include Isaac Newton, artist J.M.W. Turner, Sir Thomas Moore and even Royalty, in the shape of Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria who both lived at Kensington Palace.
As well as the bigger stores Kensington boasts a host of smaller and more specialist establishments. The area is a gold mine for those who collect antiques and works of art. Kensington Church Street is world renowned and offers the widest selection of Art and Antiques in London, with over 60 of the highest quality dealers, selling everything from Oriental ceramics & works of art to European pottery and porcelain, English and Continental furniture to silver, paintings and prints, weapons, walking canes,and glass mirrors to books, clocks and 20th century decorative arts.
The Roof Gardens, the largest and most breathtaking rooftop gardens in Europe, are also a bit of a hidden treasure. Covering an area of one and a half acres they include three very different environments and feature fully grown oaks, mature fruit trees and a flowing stream stocked with fish and wildlife – amazing when you consider the soil is little more than a metre deep! The Spanish Garden is modelled on the Moorish palace of the Alhambra in Granada, there’s a Tudor garden overflowing with evergreen shrubs, fragrant lilies, roses and lavender in the summer months and an English woodland with four resident flamingos and plenty of ducks!
If you’re keen to take a stroll through the back streets you should take a London Walk’s Tour where you’ll discover a host of hidden curiosities – the town house of the 20th century’s greatest Londoner, an American president’s flat, the most astonishing small literary house in the world, and more history and colourful characters than you can shake a walking stick at.
Theatre productions at the Royal Albert Hall are always extraordinary events but the New Year will see two well loved Children shows sure to be even more spectacular than usual. Cirque de Soleil celebrates its 25 year anniversary with Varekai, showing between 5th January and 13th February 2010. Between 24th February and 28th February 2010 the world-famous Imperial Ice Stars are set to dazzle you with their performance of Cinderella on Ice. Both shows are fantastic for the little ones, and in strolling distance from the hotel.
So, all things considered, Kensington has more than its fair share of attractions – and we’d love to welcome you soon.