If you’re looking for affluence and luxury, then the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is the place to be.
This stylish area of London is home to some of the most opulent homes in the capital, and they also offer plenty of opportunities for up-market shopping and celebrity spotting.
Popular tourist destinations in the region include Kensington Palace, which has been home to royalty for hundreds of years and is currently the official home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. There’s also the Natural History Museum, the Chelsea Physic Garden, Portobello Road Market and the Saatchi Gallery.
But, there’s a lot more to this part of the capital and if you want to learn more, read on.
1. You can get anything you want at Harrods – almost
The massive department store’s motto is “Omnia Omnibus Ubique,” which means “All things for all people, everywhere” in Latin. While this may not strictly be true (even Harrods has to abide by the law), the store has more than 300 departments, so you’ll be hard-pressed to not find what you’re looking for.
One thing you may notice that’s missing from the department store is a pet department. Until 2014, there was a pet shop, which sold pedigree puppies and kittens as well as accessories like diamond-encrusted collars and pet-sized bomber jackets. But even the pet department of the 2000s would have paled in comparison to what was there prior to 1976. Before the Endangered Species Act went into effect, an array of wild animals – including panthers, tigers, camels and elephants – would have been available for sale.
2. The flower show was originally in Kensington
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is an annual event that features breathtaking displays of plant life and horticultural talent from around the world. Each year, the event draws in more than 150,000 visitors – and would see significantly more if the 11-acre site could accommodate bigger crowds.
While Chelsea may be synonymous with the event, it was actually originally called the Royal Horticultural Society’s Great Spring Show and was held in 1862 at the RHS garden in Kensington. It moved to the Chelsea General Hospital’s grounds in 1913.
Want another titbit about the flower show? Garden gnomes were banned until 2013.
3. Medieval names
People have been living in the area for a very long time and in the medieval period, it would have been known as Contessesbregge (the Countess’s bridge), after a local landowner.
Matt Brown from the Londonist told the Olympia blog that the bridge in question, along with the river underneath it, have long been buried over. He also explains that Kensington is probably named after an Anglo Saxon noble called Kenesigne (or something similar). It was first recorded in 1086 as Chenesitone.
4. It’s not Portobello; it’s Puerto Bello.
Until the mid 18th-century, Portobello Road was actually known as Green’s Lane. Then in 1740, Portobello Farm was built. Its name honoured a victory when the Admiral Edward Vernon captured the Spanish-ruled town of Puerto Bello in what is modern Panama. Today, Portobello Road is famous for its bustling market.
5. The Notting Hill Carnival in numbers
This massive street carnival is the second largest carnival in the world, following the one in Rio de Janeiro, and it is the largest street festival in Europe. More than 2 million people attend each year; 9,000 police support the event and more than 40,000 volunteers help to ensure it runs smoothly. According to Time Out, policing costs around £6 million, but the event contributes £93 million to the British economy.
There are more than 15,000 fancy dress outfits on display each year – and it’s estimated that means there are three million sequins, 15,000 feathers and 30 litres of body paint.
6. The Natural History Museum has a Spirit Room
With more than 80 million specimens in its collection, it’s only natural that some items just don’t make the cut for public display at the Natural History Museum. There’s only so much space, even in this massive museum, and architectural concerns – like how much weight the floor can take – have to be considered too.
If you’re lucky enough to get a peek behind the scenes, however, one room you might see is the Spirit Room. It gets its name from the liquid used to preserve various creatures in jars. Specimens stored here include a giant squid named Archie, deep-sea fish, octopuses, mammals and lizards. There are also several shelves of bottled wildlife collected by Charles Darwin on his voyage of the Beagle in the 1830s.
7. London’s French quarter is in South Kensington
If you’d like to sit in a cafe, eating a baguette and sipping on black coffee, but can’t make it across the Channel, then head to Bute Street in South Kensington. This area is home to the largest French expat population in the capital and local residents have transformed it into a petit slice of home.
If you are looking hotel to stay near Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea then you can book Park Grand London Kensington Hotel, it is located on walking distance (9 min (0.5 mi) via Marloes Rd).