Kensington/Knightsbridge Walk (Self Guided), London

Situated just below Hyde Park, Knightsbridge and South Kensington are two adjacent neighborhoods with grand Victorian homes and leafy garden squares. The area is also a shopper's paradise featuring grand luxury stores, whereas museumgoers will find a number of excellent museums on history, science and arts. On this self guided walk, you will visit former Princess Diana's residence, iconic luxury shops and world class museums these famous London neighborhoods have to offer.
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Kensington/Knightsbridge Walk Map

Guide Name: Kensington/Knightsbridge Walk
Guide Location: England » London (See other walking tours in London)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.4 Km or 2.7 Miles
Author: Xena
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Apsley House
  • Hyde Park
  • Wellington Arch
  • Harvey Nichols
  • Harrods Ltd
  • V&A -Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Natural History Museum
  • Science Museum
  • Royal Albert Hall
  • Kensington Palace
  • Kensington Gardens
1
Apsley House

1) Apsley House

Our tour starts with Apsley House, known as Number One, London. This beautiful building stands alone at Hyde Park Corner, on the south-east corner of Hyde Park, facing south towards the busy traffic roundabout in the centre of which stands the Wellington Arch. It is a grade I listed building. The house is now run by English Heritage and is open to the public as a museum and art gallery, although the 8th Duke of Wellington still uses the building as a part-time residence. It is sometimes referred to as the Wellington Museum. It is perhaps the only preserved example of an English aristocratic town house from its period. Standard practice has been to maintain the rooms as much as possible in their original style and décor. Among other things, the house contains the 1st Duke's collection of paintings, porcelain, the silver centrepiece made for the Duke in Portugal, as well as multiple sculptures and furniture. Antonio Canova's heroic marble nude of “Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker”, made in 1802-10 and depicting the Emperor holding a gilded Nike in his right hand, stands 3.45 metres high to the raised left hand holding a staff. The statue was once exhibited at the Louvre, Paris and was bought by the British Government for Wellington in 1816; it now stands in Adam's Stairwell.

The house was originally built in red brick by Robert Adam between 1771 and 1778 for Lord Apsley, the Lord Chancellor, who gave the house its name. Some of the original interiors have survived, including the semi-circular Staircase, the Drawing Room with its apsidal end, and the Portico Room behind the giant Corinthian portico added by Wellington. The house was given the popular nickname of Number One, London, since it was the first house passed by visitors who travelled from the countryside after the toll gates at Knightsbridge. It was originally part of a contiguous line of great houses on Piccadilly, demolished to widen Park Lane; its official address remains 149 Piccadilly. In 1807 the house was purchased by Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, the elder brother of Sir Arthur Wellesley, but in 1817 financial difficulties forced him to sell it to his famous brother, by then the Duke of Wellington, who needed a London base from which to pursue his new career in politics.

Wellington employed the architect Benjamin Dean Wyatt to carry out renovations in two phases: in the first, begun in 1819, he added a three-storey extension to the north east, housing a State Dining Room, bedrooms and dressing rooms. The second phase, started after Wellington had become Prime Minister in 1828, included a new staircase and the "Waterloo Gallery" on the west side of the house. The Waterloo Gallery is, of course, named after the Duke's famous victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. A special banquet is still served annually to celebrate the date — 18 June 1815. The Duke's equestrian statue can be seen across the busy road, cloaked and watchful, the plinth guarded at each corner by an infantryman. This statue was cast from guns captured at the battle. Gerald Wellesley, 7th Duke of Wellington, gave the house and its most important contents to the nation in 1947, but by the Wellington Museum Act 1947 the right of the family to occupy just over half the house was preserved "so long as there is a Duke of Wellington". The family apartments are now on the north side of the house, concentrated on the second floor. The magnificent collection of 200 paintings includes 83 acquired by the first Duke after the Battle of Vitoria in 1813; the paintings were in Joseph Bonaparte's baggage train and were originally from the Spanish royal collection; they were presented to Wellington by King Ferdinand VII of Spain.

Operating hours: Monday to Friday closed; Saturday and Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm. Entry fee: adult - £6.50; child (5-15 years) - £3.90; family (2 adults, 3 children) - £21.30.
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Hyde Park

2) Hyde Park (must see)

Hyde Park is one of the largest Royal Parks in London and a home to several attractions. The most notable of them is the Speakers' Corner on the north-east side, near Marble Arch. This platform for campaigners, preachers, and those seeking to express their views on a variety of subjects, all except criticizing the Queen of course, has been in place since the mid 1800s. Among the historic figures to have spoken here at the time are Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and George Orwell.

The tradition of public speech in this spot dates back hundreds of years to the infamous Tyburn Gallows that use to be nearby. There, between 1196 and 1783, over 50,000 people had been executed, each of which was allowed a final word before hanging. Some of them confessed, others defended their innocence or criticized the authorities. People enjoyed watching the executions and even bought tickets. Eventually, the gallows were dismantled, but the tradition for protest and pleasure at Hyde Park remained.

Not far from away here is a Rotten Row, famous for being Britain's first illuminated street. The lights here were installed back in the 1690s by King William III who built this road to travel between Kensington Palace and St James's Palace. In fear of attack by highwaymen, he ordered it to be lit with 300 gas lamps. The name “Rotten Row” is a mispronounced version of the French “Route du Roi”, which means King's Road.
Another popular sight of the park is near the Grand Entrance at the south-east corner. It is called Apsley House and was originally built for Lord Apsley in 1778. What makes it popular is that for several years this house was the home of the 1st Duke of Wellington who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. It was also the first property on the north side of Piccadilly that came into sight for those entering London from the west, for which reason people jokingly referred to it as 'Number 1, London'. The official address here is 149 Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner, London, yet rumors insist that if you post a letter to “Number 1, London”, it would come here.

Inside the park, there is another tribute to Wellington - the statue of Achilles made from 33 tonnes of bronze sourced from the cannons captured by Wellington's army in France.
Hyde Park is divided in two by the body of water called, the Serpentine. This pond is much popular with nature lovers and photographers, and is also one of the best-known outdoor swimming spots in London. Every Christmas, members of the Serpentine Swimming Club gather here for the Peter Pan Cup organized by the Peter Pan author JM Barrie in 1904. South of the Serpentine is the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial fountain opened on 6 July 2004. Hyde Park also hosts a pet cemetery, near the Victoria Gate Lodge on Bayswater Road. It started in 1881 and contains over 300 pet graves. Today the cemetery is closed for public, except for occasional tours.

Why You Should Visit:
Great place for so many activities! In this park, you can nearly do anything.

Tip:
Take a map with you if you're not familiar with the park, or rent a bike and cycle around.
For nature lovers & photography enthusiasts, add Serpentine Lake to your list.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 5am-12am
3
Wellington Arch

3) Wellington Arch

Wellington Arch, also known as the Constitution Arch or (originally) Green Park Arch, is a triumphal arch located to the south of Hyde Park in central London and at the western corner of Green Park (although it is now isolated on a traffic island). The arch, along with Marble Arch (originally sited in front of Buckingham Palace), were both planned in 1825 by George IV to commemorate Britain's victories in the Napoleonic Wars. The Wellington Arch was also conceived as an outer gateway to Constitution Hill to form a grand entrance into central London from the west. Back in the 18th century, the presence of a turnpike gate at this point led to a strong perception that this was the beginning of London (reflected in the nickname for Apsley House as "No 1, London") and the arch was intended to reflect the importance of the position. The Wellington Arch was built in 1826-1830 to a design by Decimus Burton. Much of the intended exterior ornamentation was omitted as a cost-saving exercise necessitated by the King's overspending on the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace, which was underway at the same time. The arch originally stood almost directly opposite the Duke of Wellington's Apsley House, a short distance from and at a right-angles to its present location. It faced the screen, also designed by Decimus Burton, which still is in its original location and forms the Hyde Park Corner entrance to Hyde Park. It was intended to form part of a grand ceremonial route towards Buckingham Palace.

In 1882-83, the arch was moved a short distance to its present location on Hyde Park Corner to facilitate a road widening scheme. In the new location it lost its original relationship to the entrance of Hyde Park, but acquired a new function as the entrance to Constitution Hill. It is now in the centre of a large traffic island, claimed from what was the western tip of Green Park. Decimus Burton, prolific English architect and garden designer, had envisaged a sculpture of a quadriga on top of the arch. His intentions were realised in 1912 with the installation of a huge bronze designed by Adrian Jones. It is based on a smaller original which caught the eye of Edward VII at a Royal Academy exhibition. The sculpture depicts the angel of peace descending on the chariot of war. The face of the charioteer leading the quadriga is that of a small boy (actually the son of Lord Michelham, the man who funded the sculpture). The angel of peace was modelled on Beatrice Stewart. The statue is the largest bronze sculpture in Europe.

The arch is hollow inside, and until 1992 housed a small police station. Transferred to the ownership of English Heritage in 1999, it is open to the public and contains three floors of exhibits detailing the history of the arch and some of its uses. Visitors can also step onto terraces on both sides of the top of the arch, which give views of the surrounding area. One half of the arch functions as a ventilation shaft for the London Underground network. This causes on average three emergency calls each year to the London Fire Brigade from people believing there is smoke coming from the arch whereas in fact it is warm air and dust from the underground network.

Operating hours: 10 am – 5 pm Wednesday to Sunday; closed Monday and Tuesday. Entry fee: adult - £4.00; child (5-15 years) - £2.40.
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Harvey Nichols

4) Harvey Nichols

Harvey Nichols, founded in 1831 on the corner of Knightsbridge and Sloane Street, is a luxury British department store. It sells fashion collections for men and women, fashion accessories, beauty products, wine and food. It is one of the top high-end shopping destinations in London and is said to be the favorite place to shop of the late Princess Diana who used to live in Kensington Palace nearby. The building also features a lovely dining facility on the Fifth Floor with cafe, bar and several restaurants to choose from.

Business Hours: Mon-Sat 10am – 8pm; Sundays 11.30am - 6pm
5
Harrods Ltd

5) Harrods Ltd (must see)

Argubly the best known luxury department store in the world, Harrods is an emporium of elegance, sophistication, and opulence. The history of this famous luxury store goes back to 1849 when Charles Harrod opened a small shop at Brompton Road in Knightsbridge. It started out in a single room employing two assistants and a messenger boy. But two years later when the Great Exhibition of 1851 took place at Crystal Palace in nearby Hyde Park, it brought many visitors to the area. Harrod store boomed.

Charles Harrod's son (also named Charles) took over and quickly expanded the store into a thriving retail operation selling medicines, perfumes, stationery, fruits and vegetables. Harrods rapidly expanded, acquired the adjoining buildings, and employed one hundred people by 1881. The department store also became well known for its high quality products and excellent personalized service.

Today the store has 330 departments covering 1.1 million square feet (102,200 m2) of retail space. Products on offer include clothing for women, men, children and infants, electronics, jewellery, sporting gear, bridal trousseau, pet accessories, toys, food and drink, health and beauty items, packaged gifts, stationery, housewares, home appliances, furniture, and much more.

The items in Harrods are pricy, but don't let that put you off. There are so many beautiful things, stunning art, ornaments, cutlery, crockery, glassware and cookware, clothes, food and everything else you can imagine can be found in its beautiful historic building! Harrods is a must-visit for any London shopping experience.

Business Hours: Mon-Sat 10 am - 9 pm; Sunday 11.30am - 6 pm
6
V&A -Victoria and Albert Museum

6) V&A -Victoria and Albert Museum (must see)

The Victoria and Albert Museum (often abbreviated as the V&A), is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects. Named after Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, it was founded in 1852, and has since grown to cover 12.5 acres (51,000 square meters) and 145 galleries. Its collection spans 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day, in virtually every medium, from the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa. The holdings of ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewelry, furniture, medieval objects, sculpture, prints and printmaking, drawings and photographs are among the largest, important and most comprehensive in the world. The museum possesses the world's largest collection of post-classical sculpture, the holdings of Italian Renaissance items are the largest outside Italy. The departments of Asia include art from South Asia, China, Japan, Korea, and the Islamic world. The East Asian collections are among the best in Europe, with particular strengths in ceramics and metalwork, while the Islamic collection, alongside the British Museum, Musée du Louvre and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, is amongst the largest in the Western world.

Set in the Brompton district of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, neighbouring institutions include the Natural History Museum and Science Museum, the V&A is located in what is termed London's "Albertopolis", an area of immense cultural, scientific and educational importance. Since 2001, the museum has embarked on a major £150 million renovation programme, which has seen a major overhaul of the departments, including the introduction of newer galleries, gardens, shops and visitor facilities. Following in similar vein to other national British museums, entrance to the V&A has been free since 2001.

Why You Should Visit:
Definitely on the list on unmissable London museums,
Permanent exhibits are always good to see; however, the temporary/special exhibitions are often a stand-out.

Tip:
The museum is several stories high, so plan to do a lot of walking and plan accordingly (try visiting on a Friday evening when the museum is open late.)
At the main entrance pick up a guide suggesting a route based on specific objects. If you follow it, you will visit most parts of the museum and get a really good feel of the collection.
There is a coffee shop type restaurant in the courtyard, though you should also not miss the Main Café, the world's oldest museum restaurant with a charming Victorian-era design.

Opening Hours:
Friday: 10am-10pm; Sat-Thu: 10am-5:45pm
Closing commences 10 minutes before time stated.
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
Natural History Museum

7) Natural History Museum (must see)

The Natural History Museum is one of three large museums on Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London (the others are the Science Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum). Its main frontage is on Cromwell Road. The museum is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 70 million items within five main collections: Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Palaeontology, and Zoology.

The museum is a world-renowned centre of research, specialising in taxonomy, identification and conservation. Given the age of the institution, many of its collections have great historical as well as scientific value, such as specimens collected by Darwin. The Natural History Museum Library contains extensive books, journals, manuscripts, and artwork collections linked to the work and research of the scientific departments. Access to the library is by appointment only.

The museum is particularly famous for its exhibition of dinosaur skeletons, and ornate architecture — sometimes dubbed a cathedral of nature — both exemplified by the large Diplodocus cast which dominates the vaulted central hall. Originating from collections within the British Museum, the landmark Alfred Waterhouse building was constructed and opened by 1881, and later incorporated the Geological Museum. The Darwin Centre is a more recent addition, partly designed as a modern facility for storing the valuable collections. Like other publicly funded national museums in the United Kingdom, the Natural History Museum does not levy an admission charge.

Why You Should Visit:
Huge space; interesting for adults as well as teens.
And, like the majority of London's museums, absolutely free to visit.

Tip:
There are two entrances: the Cromwell Rd one is the main one and usually very crowded, but walk around the corner to the Victoria and Albert Museum side and you will walk straight in.
Once you're in, you can take a free behind-the-scenes tour which lasts about 45min. Numbers are limited; you need to book at the information desk in the Central Hall.
Wear comfortable shoes as there is lots of walking to be done.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5:50pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
Science Museum

8) Science Museum (must see)

The Science Museum is a major London tourist attraction, drawing 2.7 million visitors annually. Like other publicly funded national museums in the United Kingdom, the Science Museum does not levy an admission charge. Temporary exhibitions, however, do usually incur an admission fee.

The museum was founded in 1857 under Bennet Woodcroft from the collection of the Royal Society of Arts and surplus items from the Great Exhibition as part of the South Kensington Museum, together with what is now the Victoria and Albert Museum. This collection contained many of the most famous exhibits of what is now the Science Museum. The Science Museum’s present quarters, designed by Sir Richard Allison, were opened to the public in stages over the period of 1919–28. This building was known as the East Block, construction of which began in 1913 and was temporarily halted by World War I. As the name suggests, it was intended to be the first building of a much larger project, which was never realised.

The Science Museum now holds a collection of over 300,000 items, including such famous items as Stephenson's Rocket, Puffing Billy (the oldest surviving steam locomotive), the first jet engine, a reconstruction of Francis Crick and James Watson's model of DNA, some of the earliest remaining steam engines, a working example of Charles Babbage's Difference engine (and the latter, preserved half brain), the first prototype of the 10,000-year Clock of the Long Now, and documentation of the first typewriter. It also contains hundreds of interactive exhibits. A recent addition is the IMAX 3D Cinema showing science and nature documentaries, most of them in 3-D, and the Wellcome Wing which focuses on digital technology. Entrance has been free since 1 December 2001. The museum houses some of the many objects collected by Henry Wellcome around a medical theme. The fourth-floor exhibit is called "Glimpses of Medical History", with reconstructions and dioramas of the history of practiced medicine. The fifth floor gallery is called "Science and the Art of Medicine", with exhibits of medical instruments and practices from ancient days and from many countries. The collection is strong in clinical medicine, biosciences and public health. The museum is a member of the London Museums of Health & Medicine and its medical collections have a global scope and coverage.

The new Wellcome Wing, with its focus on Bioscience, makes the Science Museum of London a leading world centre for the presentation of contemporary science to the public. Some 170,000 items which are not on current display are stored at Blythe House in West Kensington. Blythe House also houses facilities including a conservation laboratory, a photographic studio, and a quarantine area where newly arrived items are examined.

Why You Should Visit:
A fun place to broaden your horizons. Most exhibitions are free.

Tip:
The shop at the museum has some fine and unusual gifts that make learning fun.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
Royal Albert Hall

9) Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall is a concert hall situated on the northern edge of the South Kensington area, in the City of Westminster, London, best known for holding the annual summer Proms concerts since 1941. Since its opening by Queen Victoria in 1871, the world's leading artists from several performance genres have appeared on its stage and made it one of the UK's most treasured and distinctive buildings. Each year it hosts more than 350 events including classical concerts, rock and pop, ballet and opera, sports, award ceremonies, school and community events, charity performances and banquets.

The hall was originally supposed to be called The Central Hall of Arts and Sciences, but the name was changed by Queen Victoria to Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences when laying the foundation stone as a dedication to her deceased husband and consort Prince Albert. It forms the practical part of a national memorial to the Prince Consort – the decorative part is the Albert Memorial directly to the north in Kensington Gardens, now separated from the Hall by the road Kensington Gore.
Sight description based on wikipedia
10
Kensington Palace

10) Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace is a royal residence set in Kensington Gardens, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, England. It has been a residence of the British Royal Family since the 17th century, and is the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, while the Duke and Duchess of Kent reside at Wren House. Kensington Palace is also used on an unofficial basis by Prince Harry, as well as his cousin Zara Phillips. On 6 November 2011, it was announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would move from their temporary residence, of a cottage on the Kensington Palace grounds, to the four-story, 20-room Apartment 1A, formerly the residence of Princess Margaret. After 18 months of renovations at a cost of approximately £2 million, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge moved into the apartment in October 2013. On 28 March 2012, it was announced that Prince Harry had moved his residence from Clarence House to a one-bedroom apartment at Kensington Palace.

It was the official residence of Diana, Princess of Wales (from 1981 until her death in 1997), Princess Margaret (from 1960 until her death in 2002) and Princess Alice (from 1994 until her death in 2004). Today, the State Rooms are open to the public and managed by the independent charity Historic Royal Palaces; a non-profit organisation that does not receive public funds. The offices and private accommodation areas of the Palace remain the responsibility of the Royal Household and are maintained by the Royal Household Property Section.
Sight description based on wikipedia
11
Kensington Gardens

11) Kensington Gardens (must see)

Kensington Gardens, once the private gardens of Kensington Palace, is one of the Royal Parks of London. Most of it is in the City of Westminster, but a small section to the west is in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The park covers an area of 111 hectares (275 acres). The open spaces of Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park and St. James's Park together form an almost continuous "green lung" in the heart of London between Kensington and Westminster.

Kensington Gardens was carved out of the western section of Hyde Park and designed c.1728-1738 by Henry Wise and Charles Bridgeman, with fashionable features including the Round Pond, formal avenues and a sunken Dutch garden. The park is the setting of J.M. Barrie's book Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, a prelude to the character's famous adventures in Neverland. Both the book and the character are honoured with the Peter Pan statue located in the park.

Why You Should Visit:
Fabulous place to take a walk or enjoy a picnic. Serene setting and beautifully maintained. Boating is one of the main attractions.

Tip:
Be sure to look out for the Sunken Gardens near the Kensington Palace.
Also, bring an apple or sunflower seeds so you can hand-feed the parakeets!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 6am-8pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

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