South Kensington is a cultural haven. The place for science and the arts in London, it is home to museums, colleges, galleries, a fantastic park and so much more.
I’ve spent countless days milling around South Kensington; school trips as a child, visiting exhibitions, exploring with my family, meeting up with friends and having romantic, cultured days out with my partner.
Virtually everything in South Kensington is free to enter or do. We always learn something new or interesting every single time we go, and it’s definitely one of my absolute favourite places to visit in London.
by Aimée Castles-Greene;
Aimée has lived 20 minutes from central London for 28 years, enjoying and exploring all aspects of the city ever since. In her spare time, Aimée enjoys writing, reading, visiting exhibitions and museums and eating good food!;
What to see and do in South Kensington?
1. Style And Culture At The V&A Museum
If art and design is your thing, so too is the V&A Museum in South Kensington.Collections of dresses and clothing, ceramics, photographs, paintings and so much more are available to view completely free of charge.
Whilst the items themselves are certainly worthy of a few pictures, so too is the exterior of the building. Step outside of the V&A into The John Madejski Garden, grab a coffee and relax by the pool as you take in your surroundings.
If you’re travelling with children in the summer, this is a great spot for them as they can paddle in the pool whilst you kick back, completely free. Equally as enchanting is the Courtyard, completely modern and a cool place to grab a few pictures.
If you’ve got a busy schedule during the day, The V&A is open late on Fridays until 10pm.
— Aimée Castles-Greene
2. Walk With Dinosaurs At The Natural History Museum
One of the most beautiful buildings in London, the Natural History Museum is a firm favourite with visitors of all ages.
Over 80 million items are on display for your viewing and educational pleasure, including dinosaur and mammal skeletons, creepy crawlies and fossils to name but a few!
The NHS allows you to step into the shoes of the likes of Charles Darwin and David Attenborough and explore the wonder of the natural world in an interactive and interesting way.
The Earth Galleries, accessible via an escalator which takes you high up into the heavens through the planet earth, provides an earthquake simulator and an exciting insight into the power of mother nature.
The NHS is also free to enter and has so much to see and do for children and adults alike.
3. Move In With The Royals At Kensington Palace
A stunning royal residence within Kensington Gardens, Kensington Palace is home to many royals including William and Kate, and Harry and Meghan.
Adults can visit and tour the palace for under £20 and that includes entry to their incredibly interesting exhibitions about the Royal Family.
The gift shop is a must if you’re looking to take home a quintessentially British gift and, better still, you don’t need to pay the admission fee to pop into the shop!
If you did want to splurge, you can book afternoon tea in the Pavilion, which is opposite the Sunken Garden: location of Harry and Meghan’s engagement announcement.
This really is a bucket list kind of thing, as you can’t have afternoon tea at any other royal residence in London.
4. Experiment At The Science Museum
The Science Museum is one of the best museums in London for children and adults alike. Free to enter, you’ll be amused for hours as you wander around the highly interactive galleries, watching science come to life before your very eyes!
If you’re looking for a weird or wonderful present for someone, or even a new gadget for yourself, you have to check out the gift shops. Due to their close proximity, the Science Museum and Natural History Museum make for a fun, easy and free day out in London.
5. The Prince Consort National Memorial (Albert Memorial)
For those with a passion for the ornate and the British monarchy, a visit to the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens will be sure to impress!
Designed by George Gilbert Scott, this stunning memorial was unveiled to commemorate the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, in 1872.
You can get some great photos here, as around the base of the memorial are carvings of 187 artists, painters, writers and other famous figures of the arts, to depict Albert’s love of the subject in all its forms.
Take a moment to have a coffee or eat your lunch on the steps in this beautiful part of London.
6. Meet Peter Pan (‘s Statue)
This is a must-see for lovers of classic children’s literature.
J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, adored Kensington Gardens so much that he commissioned Sir George Frampton to create the statue, which has been in situ since 1912.
Part of the Talking Statues Collection, if you have a smart phone, scan the QR code and wait for your phone call from Peter Pan!
7. Mess Around At The Diana Memorial Playground
Built in memory of Princess Diana in 2000, the Diana Memorial Playground is still arguably the best, free outdoor space for children in the city.
Located within Kensington Gardens, you can kick back and relax whilst the little ones explore the pirate ship, play on the mock beach and follow the sensory trail.
It’s a great place to take the kids to burn some energy for free; they’ll be amused for hours.
8. Tour Imperial College London
As part of Prince Albert’s vision for a cultural hub in Kensington, Imperial College has a rich and interesting history of development dating back to the nineteenth century.
If you want to explore the campus, you can book onto one of their student led tours for free via the website, or keep an eye out for their open days.
Imperial College London even offers accommodation to their visitors during the summer holidays in either student halls or, if you want to add a touch of class to your visit, 170 Queen’s Gate, a grade II listed Victorian town house, finished in 1889 by one of the most influential architects of the time, Norman Shaw.
9. On Stage At The Royal Albert Hall
Another beautiful, unique building in South Kensington is The Royal Albert Hall. Opened in 1871 by Queen Victoria, this distinctive grade I building is elegant both inside and out.
Since opening, some of the world’s leading performers and artists have graced its stage and today it also hosts various big events in the British calendar such as awards evenings, concerts, opera, ballet and sports to name just a few!
If you’re not looking to splurge on an evening out but still want to see the Hall in all its stylish glory, you can book onto one of their tours online for a small fee and uncover some of the interesting secrets held behind the curtains – this place is seriously Instagram worthy!
Or, why not check out what’s on and pop down – you might see a celebrity, or a hundred!
10. Creativity At The Royal Society of Sculptors
Founded in 1904, the Royal Society of Sculptors in South Kensington is not only the oldest but also the largest organisation for sculpture in the U.K.
Housed inside a fabulously distinctive building, the Society regularly hold exhibitions of which many are completely free!
If you are feeling creative, you can also book into one of their classes, such as learning to create models with a 3D pen or drawing.
You can take some wonderfully bright and wacky photographs here, amongst some amazing innovative designs and creations.
11. Modern Art At The Serpentine Galleries
Located within Kensington Gardens are the Serpentine Galleries, each connected by a bridge over the Serpentine Lake. If you’re into contemporary art, then this is definitely for you.
The galleries showcase the latest in art, architecture and design and are another great place to get some snaps and see what’s new in the world of modern art and design, and admission to both is completely free!
During the summer months, you can visit the Serpentine Pavilion and the structures designed by Frida Escobedo, who took inspiration for her stunning, modern designs from geometry, water and light.
— Aimée Castles-Greene
12. Refine Your French At The Institut Francais Royaume-Uni
The Institut Francais is the French Cultural Institute, representing all things French in the U.K.
Say bonjour to courses in French, watch French cinema, read French literature, listen to French speakers, get the kids involved in French Children’s activities, festivals and so much more.
If you fancy reading a piece of French literature in a quiet space, you can visit La Mediatheque. Or, if you have children with you, the Bibliotheque Quentin Blake is a library dedicated to French children’s literature. Both have free wi-fi and reading rooms.
The Ciné Lumiére is one of London’s most fabulous cinemas, located within a grade II listed building and will certainly impress anyone who takes in a film there. It’s the perfect place for a romantic Parisian experience, in London!
13. Explore The History Of Music At The Royal College of Music
One for lovers of music, The Royal College of Music is another spectacular building.
Established in 1882 it is the top-rated college for performers in the U.K. Notable alumni include Benjamin Britten, Gustav Holst, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Anthony Hopkins.
You too can walk in their footsteps as the College holds various free events throughout the year, and the RCM museum is home to over 25,000 different musical items from history, including the earliest known guitar!
14. Albertopolis The Cultural Metropolis – Exhibition Road Walk
Prior to being a cultural haven, Exhibition Road was merely market gardens and fields. Known as ‘Albertopolis’, the area was transformed over 150 years ago to become THE place in London for science and the arts.
Begin your walk at the Albert Memorial and stroll down Exhibition Road; you can take some great photos of the buildings and immerse yourself in the years of culture that has developed here since the Victorian era.
Ending at the Royal Albert Hall, this is a fantastic way to take in the museums, colleges and institutions in one swoop.
15. Explore The Baroque At Brompton Oratory Catholic Church
A must-see for lovers of architecture, this neo-classical church looks more like it should be in Budapest, not London.
Beautifully baroque inside and out, this nineteenth century church is often missed as the doors are closed, but you can pop inside to marvel at the beautiful interior and décor when mass isn’t on, free of charge (donations are of course welcome).
Mosaics, domes and ornate detailing make this church a wonderful stop when visiting South Kensington.
Remember to be respectful, and enquire as to whether or not photography is allowed during your visit, as this is still a very active Catholic church.
— Aimée Castles-Greene
16. A Relaxing Stroll Around Hyde Park
No visit to South Kensington would be complete without a stroll around Hyde Park.
The most diverse of the Royal Parks, Hyde Park regularly hosts concerts, large events such as Winter Wonderland, organised walks and marches and meetings, to name just a few of the things that may be going on!
If serenity is more your thing, you can boat on the Serpentine lake, take lunch in one of the cafes and restaurants or explore the diverse wildlife that inhabits the park.
17. Make A Stand At Speakers Corner
Since 1872, Speakers’ Corner has been an official site of public speeches, debate, protest and assembly in Hyde Park.Karl Marx, George Orwell and other notable public figures have all spoken here.
Still today the site is used as a place to demonstrate freedom of speech; you can talk about anything you want, so long as the police do not deem it offensive, it does not insult the Queen, or insight riots or violence amongst the public.
You never know who or what you’ll encounter at Speakers’ Corner.
18. Sculptures, Memorials And Statues In Hyde Park
If you fancy some peace and quiet in the fresh air, Hyde Park has a variety of statues and sculptures to admire throughout the grounds of the Royal Park. On the south side of the Serpentine is the Serenity Statue, inspired by the Egyptian Goddess of Nature.
It’s a wonderfully calm, atmospheric spot to stop and eat your lunch, with views across the lake. The 7 July Memorial commemorates the 52 victims of the London bombings in 2005.
52 stainless steel pillars represent each of the victims, divided into four clusters to represent the four locations of the incidents. It’s a truly moving experience to walk amongst them, reading the inscriptions.
There are so many other statues, sculptures, memorials and fountains to admire within the park, including the first British memorial for the victims of the Holocaust, a statue in tribute of all the animals who have served and died alongside the British armed forces over the years, the Hudson Memorial Bird Sanctuary, war memorials, the Joy of Life Fountain and many, many more for you to explore.
19. Brompton Food Market And Secret Garden
Just around the corner from South Kensington tube station is a lovely little café with a hidden gem out the back; a secret garden eating area in the heart of South Kensington.
It’s so cosy, quaint and also covered – they even provide blankets so you can warm yourself up – you really wouldn’t know it was there!
20. Blue Plaque Hunting
South Kensington is full of blue plaques, commemorating famous people throughout history who have lived within its buildings.
Plaques to look out for in this area include; Sir Winston Churchill, Francis Bacon and William Makepeace Thackery, to name but a few!
Keep an eye out for the plaques on the buildings as you wander around.
— Aimée Castles-Greene
21. Take In A Concert At St Stephen’s Church
This grade II listed Anglican church, where T.S. Eliot was once churchwarden, regularly hosts concerts within its beautiful building for a minimal entry fee – check out their website to see what’s on when you visit and experience a concert with acoustics like no other!
22. See (Lots Of) Food At Wright Brothers
If you like seafood, and lots of it, you have to head to Wright Brothers restaurant.
Champagne, cocktails and HUGE seafood platters are served up here – it’s great value for money for what you get and the selection and variety is impressive.
23. Explore The World At The Royal Geographical Society
Supporting and advancing geographers around the world, the RGS regularly hold exhibitions which are free to the public.
Not only can you learn so much, you can see the amazing work that they’re currently doing for our planet.
It’s an informative and interesting experience for anyone interested in the world we inhibit today.
24. Visit Hyde Park Chapel – Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Recently refurbed to include exhibitions on the principles of the gospels of Jesus Christ and the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the British Isles, you can pop in and see the church free of charge.
25. Outdoor Ice Skating And Markets At Christmas
If you’re visiting in the lead up to Christmas, you can book to ice skate outside The Natural History Museum.
The outside area becomes transformed with Christmas lights and market stalls and the ambience is totally festive.
It’s a great way to top off a visit to The Natural History Museum as the dark nights roll in.
26. Winter Wonderland At Hyde Park
Again, if you’re visiting during the winter months, Winter Wonderland is an absolute must.
Christmas markets, a big wheel, rides, bars, vendors and other amazing festive-themed things move to the park from December to January.
If you don’t fancy paying to go on anything, or to enter the exhibitions, that’s fine because entry to Winter Wonderland is free, you just pay for the extras such as the rides and events.
A little (or big, really) bit of Bavaria comes to London each year and you definitely have to check it out if you’re in the area. There’s even a beer festival!
If you do book tickets for anything, ensure you arrive early as queues for bag searches can get very busy at times.
— Aimée Castles-Greene
27. Maitre Choux For Posh Pastries
Like pastries? You’ll love Maitre Choux.
Regularly posting their beautiful cakes on Instagram, these are the most photogenic cream eclairs you will ever taste – just pop by the window to see what’s on offer – they’re ridiculously beautiful, photo-worthy cakes.
28. Harrods – THE British Shop
If you haven’t been to Harrods, you haven’t lived! Floors and floors of designer wears, gorgeous gifts, beauty products, furniture and the best toy shop in London makes Harrods THE British department store.
The food court is a great place to have lunch (especially the champagne and oyster bar) and, with the amount of celebrities who frequent the store, you never know who you’ll bump into whilst browsing or chowing down.
29. Four Winters For Frozen Delights
Fancy some fro-yo? Four Winters make your ice cream in front of your very eyes using liquid nitrogen.
You can choose from a variety of toppings and flavours and whilst it’s a little pricey, you pay for the experience of seeing your ice cream created specifically for you!
Toppings galore mean you can create your perfect dessert, just how you like it!
30. The Anglesea Arms – Historic Pub
You can walk in the footsteps of Charles Dickens (who lived at no.11), by heading down Selwood Terrace to the Anglesea Arms.
You’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve been transported back to 1920s England, or an episode of Peaky Blinders in this quintessentially British pub.
There’s also a lovely terrace outside for those hot London days.