How to Plan a Perfect Weekend in South Kensington, London
In a city as diverse as London, picking where to stay isn't easy. From foodie-inspired Spitalfields to culturally-rich Shoreditch, there is no shortage of vibrant neighborhoods to choose from. But if it's the royal treatment you seek, South Kensington will do the trick. Here's how to spend the weekend in the West London nabe.
Base yourself at The Franklin – Starhotels Collezione, a chic Victorian townhouse boutique reimagined by Anouska Hempel where luxury is tangible: guest rooms feature monochrome Italian velvets and silks, Penhaligon bath amenities, and mirrors everywhere. The spa has a guests-only hammam, and the restaurant’s Italian menu is overseen by Michelin-lauded chef Alfredo Russo.
From here, it’s just a four-minute walk (literally) to the venerable Victoria & Albert Museum, whose permanent collections on royal jewels and Chinoiserie are no match for the two award-winning exhibits going on now: Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams (through September 2019) and Mary Quant (through February 2020), an English fashion icon during the ’60s London Mod movement who invented the miniskirt.
In between exhibits, fuel up with a coffee at the gorgeous museum café. Still feeling peckish after all those hours on your feet? You’re just a four-minute walk from The Pelham – Starhotels Collezione, whose Mary Quant-themed afternoon tea—dress-shaped shortbread cookies; chocolate feigning as lipstick—can double as lunch and brings the afternoon full circle. After your last sip of tea, walk off all those finger sandwiches and sweets in Hyde Park, one of four royal parks in London. While the park’s 350 acres can’t be tackled in a single go-around, for now, we suggest beginning at the Albert Memorial and veering west towards Round Pond and Kensington Palace’s immaculately manicured Palace Gardens and Sunken Garden, which was modeled after the one at Hampton Court Palace (formerly Henry VIII’s digs) and makes for a stroll worthy of the Queen.
You still might not have room for a multi-course dinner after all those treats, but it’s worth spending the rest of the evening at Bar 190 at The Gore – Starhotels Collezione, just block from the park. The wood-paneled watering hole is most famous for hosting a Rolling Stones launch party during the ’60s. Follow up their creative riffs on Gin & Tonics and martinis with a side of British cheeses and chutney.
Walking and shopping are two favorite London pastimes, and breakfast at the Franklin will kick-start your day on the right note. It pays to be an early riser to beat the mid-day crowds for formal entry to Kensington Palace, the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their three children. Popular exhibits here include the Queen’s State Apartments and outfits and sketches from the wardrobe of Diana. Alternatively, snag early entry to Leighton House. The former studio of artist Frederic Leighton is home to an impressive private collection of Victorian paintings and a pseudo-Islamic hall decked out in 16th-century Middle Eastern tiles.
If you don’t feel like spending a little too much money (and time in line) to have lunch at the palace, hop on the Tube to Marylebone for an elevated tuck-in at The Wigmore. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but this editor loved the three-cheese stovetop toastie and Cornish cod.
Afterwards, walk it off with some retail therapy down Regent Street or Kensington High Street, the stomping grounds of Kate Middletown. This is the home of Fortnum and Mason, purveyor of luxury food, tea, and picnic hampers, as well as prestigious perfumer Floris, where you can create your own bespoke fragrance.
Is it your wardrobe that’s in need of an update? Amanda Wakeley and L.K. Bennett are two luxury British women’s fashion lines famous for their signature styles: Wakeley for cashmere sweaters, L.K. for nude pumps and mini dresses. Toast to the day (and your new possessions) with a pint at The Windsor Castle Pub or The Britannia before an evening show at the landmark Royal Albert Hall.
Yesterday was jam-packed, but today, feel free to take it slow. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast or brunch (served daily) at Muriel’s Kitchen, a bright little bistro on Pelham Street where you can gorge on country-style bites like spelt banana bread, porridge, and avocado on sourdough toast, then wash it all town with a fruit-filled smoothie. After you’ve properly stuffed yourself, it’s off to Portobello Road Market, whose 1,000+ stalls, shops, and arcades are stocked with antiques and flea-market finds that run the gamut from clothing to jewelry to books. It’s the perfect spot for picking up unique souvenirs to bring back to the homeland, wherever that may be.
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