South Kensington – London’s Must Do Museum Row
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is one of the smallest in the UK but it is also the most densely populated. Not only that but it contains many of London’s finest museums in a short stretch plus a myriad of other attractions to visit.
Kensington and Chelsea are home to some of the “poshest” and richest individuals in England. But the Borough is a lesson in contrasts. From the mega rich shopping of the Kensington and Chelsea set with Harrods and other up market shops to Kensington Palace (Diana’s home and memorial) the Chelsea Flower show to the Nottinghill Carnval. It all takes place here in Kensington and Chelsea.
Exploring South Kensington – Museum Row
“There is no other city in the world where you will find such first class museums all within walking distance of each other. “The Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851 created the foundations for these grand institutions dedicated to the arts and sciences. It was this investment in the area that set in motion a building spurt with large terraced houses which gives the district its current appearance as a high-class residential area; streets like the Boltons are among west London’s smartest addresses. Catering for this type of resident are the designer shops around Brompton Cross. There’s also a distinct European flavour to modern day South Ken with a French emphasis making it all the more chic.” quoted from London Town.
We had a plan for ensuring that we got the most out of the area and so we headed towards the V & A Museum a place we had wanted to see for years. There were several exhibitions running including:
Winnie the Pooh Exploring a Classic and Opera, Power, Passion and Politics. Now the V & A is free but the special exhibitions do have a cost associated with them from around £8-20. We stood outside the Museum just marveling at the size of the building and the fact that we were finally here. Throngs of kids with teachers were going up the steps their bright glow vests in yellow giving the teachers a way to keep an eye on them. Screaming and laughing the crowds of kids were from around 5 years old right up to teenagers carrying portfolios.
We wandered up the stairs and entered the Museum – it was just incredible, vaulted high ceilings with a gorgeous Chihuly chandelier, marble everywhere just mind-boggling. We decided to forgo the special exhibits as they unfortunately just were not in our budget and began with the fashion exhibit rooms. From Chanel to Alexander McQueen and everything that came before and after these exhibits are absolutely a must see for the fashionphile. Room 40 contains the Fashion exhibits and they run chronologically around the room starting at 1750. From bustles to punk, the exhibit was outstanding and it was such a joy to stare at pannier dresses from the 1700’s and wonder how they maneuvered doorways to Malcolm McLaren’s punk look from the 70’s.
You can wander the museum for hours and take in exhibits from Islamic Middle East, sculpture from 1300 to 1600. In the centre of the Museum buildings is a Garden with a cafe, where you can sit and admire the architecture and enjoy a good cup of coffee before you head back into the galleries. We pretty much just stumbled around in complete awe admiring jewelry from every century to Tapestries, Theatrical exhibits, paintings and artwork from every era. It definitely takes more than a day to see everything you should. Don’t forget, if you get a chance to check out The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square as well.
South Kensington is home to some of the finest museums in the world and the majority are FREE, imagine it free access to some of the worlds greatest treasure.
South Kensington – Museums and attractions
During the day, the Dana Centre is a cafe/bar hidden behind the main routes to South Kensington’s museums. In the evening, it turns into an adults-only venue for discussion about science, technology and culture. Most events involve eminent researchers interacting with the audience in unusual and inventive ways.
On the tube the day before we went to South Kensington, we saw around 50 young kids with their teachers. One of the mum’s told us they were on their way to the Museum to visit with a real astronaut. We noticed loads of groups of school kids at all the Museums and we were really impressed with the kids, the teachers and the experience the kids had in those museums. It’s often assumed that the Science Museum is just for kids. It’s certainly very family-oriented, but there are many galleries aimed at a more adult audience. The Making the Modern World gallery contains a staggering collection of artifacts, including the Apollo 10 capsule. On the last Wednesday of every month, there is an adults-only late opening with music, talks, wine … and no children.
This is the Museum kids love the most, famous for its dinosaur displays (plaster casts of the originals); the NHM holds much wider treasures, including a full-scale model of a blue whale. The building itself is a masterpiece with intricate animal carvings peering out from every corner. If the lineups are long, try the side entrance on Exhibition Road much smaller lines if any.
Charles Saatchi, one of the world’s foremost art collectors, opened his own gallery in 1985. It specializes in cutting-edge contemporary art that most of us just don’t get. Even if the art is not for you, the gorgeous, sparse interiors are worth a look. Although entrance is free, you might want to buy a guide, as the labels on the work really don’t tell you very much.
Classical music, rock, pop and jazz, sporting events, galas, banquets and balls and the world-famous Proms series all take place within the Royal Albert Hall’s iconic oval walls. The brainchild of Prince Albert, inspired by the success of the Great Exhibition, the hall first opened in 1871, ten years after the Prince’s death. Heavily influenced by ancient amphitheatres and the theme of the ‘Empire and the arts, the oval structure’s terracotta walls are decorated on the outside with a frieze dedicated to “The Triumph of Arts and Sciences”. Gas lighting, poor acoustics and old pipe organs have been replaced over the years and the awe-inspiring venue now exists as a testimony to both the architectural and aesthetic achievements of the past – it now features the largest pipe organ in the British Isles.
Kensington Gardens and more..
Kensington Gardens used to be a private park which is now public. Home to Kensington Palace and the Diana Princess of Wales Playground and memorial and many other attractions.
The beautiful grounds includes a formal Italian Garden, the peter Pan Statue and covers over 260 acres. Kensington Gardens is one of 8 royal parks and it used to belong to Hyde Park and you can walk from Kensington to Hyde Park.
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