1. Kensington Palace
The most famous attraction inside the park is Kensington Palace, a royal palace in which Queen Victoria was born, Prince William and Kate have an apartment and where Princess Diana had one before she died. Today much of the palace can be visited.Kensington Gardens was originally the western part of Hyde Park but become a hunting ground for Henry VIII. It was then formally separated from Hyde Park in 1728 at the request of Queen Caroline to form a landscape garden, with fashionable features including the Round Pond, formal avenues and a sunken Dutch garden. The Serpentine was created a few years later by damming the River Westbourne.
Look out for a post from me in the Summer on the Orangary – a restaurant overlooking Kensington Palace with probably the most stunning and decadent al fresco views (and good food) in London.
2. Princess Diana Memorial playground
If I had children the Princess Diana memorial playground seems much more fun than the memorial fountain which I always found rather dull. The playground has huge sand pits, several swings and a giant pirate ship I don’t think you’d find anywhere else!.
3. Café and Italian Gardens and Fountains
There is a very nice café on the North side of the Park with lovely coffee and good croissants
It overlooks the Italian Gardens and fountain and is a wonderful place to stop in the morning.
Prince Albert built the Italian Gardens at the North side of the park near Lancaster Gate out of love for his wife Queen Victoria to whom it was a gift.
4. The sculptures of Energy by Watts (a) and of Peter Pan (b)
My favourite sculpture in the park is called Energy by the sculptor Watts. It brims with strength and energy and inspires a sense one can conquer anything so that I never fail to feel uplifted when I run past it, often stopping for a few moments and walking round it.
I also love the Peter Pan statue that brings to life the lovely J.M. Barrie story of the boy who never grew up.
The statue has animals and fairies climbing up to Peter, who stands at the top. In the story Peter flies out of his nursery and lands beside the Long Water. The statue is located on this here at the Long Water. You can use your mobile phone to get a multi-media experience.
5. The Serpentine Lido
Just in Hyde Park, across the Serpentine road separating Kensington Gardens from Hyde Park, is the Serpentine café at the Lido. It is a lovely spot for a coffee or snack lunch and in summer people swim in a zoned off area in front of it. Just be sure to wear something old if you swim -if you don’t want it stained green! And if you find the water cold, just be glad you’re not one of the hearty swimmers in the Serpentine swimming club who complete a 100m race every year on Christmas day!
6. The Princess Diana memorial fountains
As I’ve already said, I personally wouldn’t go out of my way to find the fountain but given the number of times tourists stop me to ask me for directions to it, I will update this with a picture next time I pass it on a nice day. Note it is a good 15 minute walk from the Princess Diana memorial playground – strictly speaking it is just over the serpentine road that divides Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park – near the Lido café.
7. Contemporary art: Serpentine galleries and the Henry Moore sculpture
There are three contemporary art destinations in the park. Of the two serpentine galleries (http://www.serpentinegalleries.org) near each other, one was designed by the famous architect Zaha Hadid who sadly passed away in 2016 just 3 years after designing the Serpentine gallery. Isn’t the roof cool?!
The second serpentine gallery is bigger and often shows better known artists. Every summer a giant art installation is created in its garden. The installation is usually big enough to walk inside and interact with and generally has a café of some kind inside. I always have a huge sense of anticipation when I see it being erected before we know what it is going to be. Some of them have been very cool and fun.
Last but not least is the wonderful Henry Moore arch near the Zaid serpentine gallery.
I often have the pleasure of jogging past this. Moore created the sculpture specially for Kensington Gardens following the 1978 retrospective held for him at the Serpentine Gallery. It was based on a fragment of bone and enlarged from a small model.
8. The Albert Memorial
The marriage of Queen Victoria’s and her husband Prince Albert was a life long love story and she built the Albert Memorial in the South side of the park opposite the Royal Albert Hall to commemorate his death.
9. The flower walk and broad walk
As you walk West from here along the South West side of Kensington Gardens, don’t miss the flower and broad walks and an adorable little sculpture of a dog by the main gate.
10. Queen Victoria
Finally we should end full circle with Queen Victoria outside Kensington Palace – who has had such a stamp on the park being the recipient of the Italian Gardens present from Albert and the founder of the Albert Memorial after his death. She was born at Kensington Palace and lived there till she became Queen.
To help you find my recommendations look up the number above on the map:
Lastly if you’ve enjoyed visiting the Gardens and want an aerial view of them, treat yourself to dinner at the Chinese Ming Jiang restaurant at the top of the Royal Garden Hotel on the South West corner. It is one of the top Chinese restaurants in London and does a dim sum lunch menu. You can book at http://www.minjiang.co.uk