Like most people I love traveling to new places but there’s something equally as exciting about returning to a destination for a second, third or even fourth time. With the basics under your belt and at least a little bit of familiarity with the location, it’s nice to be able to dive deeper into a city and seek out pockets that you might not have been able to get to the first time. That was certainly the case for me with Kensington and Notting Hill in West London, which I recently explored on a beautiful spring day. Here is a snapshot of some of my favorite highlights in these neighborhoods and the surrounding area.
10:00 am – Kensington Palace
We arrived at our first destination early so that we could walk right in without waiting in line (we were literally the first visitors that day), and were welcomed by the palace’s beyond pleasant staff. Kensington Palace has been the residence of notable royals for years (including William, Kate and Harry today), and its well-organized exhibit illuminates the life and times of those who once lived here. I was actually drawn to Kensington Palace on this particular trip because of the newly re-opening of the “Fashion Rules Restyled” exhibit featuring the fashion of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana. Other exhibits trace the palace’s first residents William and Mary, through King George and one of my personal favorites, Queen Victoria. We also enjoyed the palace’s lovely Sunken Gardens with flowers fountains and benches to take it all in, as well as the vast green of nearby Kensington Park.
12:00 pm – Portobello Road Market
Heading north, our next stop was the Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill. This self-proclaimed “world’s largest antique market” is open every day of the week and we were lucky to be there on Saturday, which is the market’s largest day. Occupying the entire street, pastel buildings provide a colorful backdrop to stalls of eclectic items ranging from silver serving ware to Scottish tartans, jewelry, household items, furniture, fresh produce and food vendors galore. The Portobello Road Market was definitely fun to browse (if only we could take that antique mirror back with on the plane with us) but also a great place to assemble a grab bag lunch – a large container of raspberries for 1 pound, baguette sandwiches and a couple of sweet tarts for snacking later in the day. A shoppers and foodies delight, plus there were also a handful of street performers that added to the market’s all-around fun vibe.
1:00 pm – Notting Hill
Next, we headed just west of Portobello Road to the iconic Notting Hill neighborhood that has been made famous by countess movies over the years. Just a warning, these blocks of elegant Victorian Houses – many with adorable stoops and cheerfully painted exteriors and doors – will inspire home envy for sure. Plus, when we were there many of the neighborhood’s cherry blossoms and magnolia trees were beginning sprout pink their pink buds, as if Notting Hill wasn’t already oozing with charm. It was quite possibly picture-perfect in every way. This affluent neighborhood also boasts high-end shopping and restaurants if your wallet will allow for it. ;)
2:00 pm – Hyde Park
Last time I was in London the city’s iconic park was overtaken the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland holiday market plus it was on the chilly side, not necessarily the right combination for a leisurely stroll in the park. But on this particularly beautiful spring day it was the perfect place for a midday break. Formerly the hunting grounds of King Henry VIII, Hyde Park spans more than 350 acres and is one of 8 Royal Parks scattered throughout London. Tons of other people had the same idea we did as Hyde Park was buzzing with couples strolling, families playing on the grass and even a handful of fearless swans splashing about the water. We snagged a couple of abandoned green and white stripped deck chairs (which are usually available for rent from March through October) across from Serpentine Lake where we sat and watched the rowboats and peddle boats go by – one of the many recreational activities available in the park. Afterwards we took the long way out, weaving among blooming trees, flowers and patches of cheery daffodils blanketing the green.
3:00 pm – Harrods
Feeling rested and ready to go our last stop was the nearby department store mecca, Harrods. Not only is it home to every designer brand imaginable – a shoppers, or at least window shoppers delight – one of my favorite things at Harrods is its illustrious food hall. Part market and part eatery, food options ranging from meat and cheese to produce, sweets and sushi span an entire floor of the store. It’s a great place to grab a bite or buy a few tasty souvenirs to bring home. Many visitors may also want to the memorial dedicated to Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed (Harrods was formerly owned by Dodi’s father Mohamed Al-Fayed), which includes a lipstick-stained glass purported to be from their last meal together in Paris and a possible engagement ring that was purchased the day before their tragic car accident. Leaving the store, the formerly blue skies had given way to fast-building gray clouds followed by cool London rain, giving us just the right amount of time to make it back to our hotel after an otherwise perfect weather day.
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