One of London’s treasured outdoor spaces, Kensington Gardens is a sprawling 265 acre park fit for kings and queens. These beautiful gardens were designed in the 17th century as a private park for King William III and Queen Mary II for their royal residence at Kensington Palace, which is located on the western edge of Kensington Gardens. Since then the fresh air and natural setting have been enjoyed by royalty for centuries. After opening to the public in the 18th century, Kensington Gardens quickly became a favorite spot for Londoners as well for a leisurely stroll surrounded by nature.
Today it is treasured more than ever by Londoners living in the Notting Hill, Kensington, and South Kensington neighbourhoods surrounding the gardens. While many London visitors only think to visit the gardens in the summer, locals know what an incredible gift it is to have Kensington Gardens right at their doorstep. As it’s a neighbour to many of our London vacation rentals in Kensington and Notting Hill, join us on a tour through Kensington Gardens to savour its beauty throughout the seasons!
As the temperatures drop in the winter months that doesn’t keep Londoners away from Kensington Gardens. Bundled up for the weather, it’s a much-loved natural escape from the busyness of city life. Against the backdrop of the bare-limbed trees, resting gardens, and tranquility of the Round Pond, locals set out for a refreshing run or brisk walk, enjoy long dog walks through the quiet setting, or perhaps let the kids burn off some energy. London resident Kortney Gruenwald, founder of The Modern Jetsetter magazine, finds winter in Kensington Gardens especially enchanting. “Winter is yet another veil of magic to be admired in Kensington Gardens,” she shared with London Perfect. “It is the social heart of my magical borough, and though quainter in size and fame than her conjoined brother Hyde Park, she is during winter the crown jewel of London havens.”
While it snows quite rarely in London, there’s nothing quite like seeing Kensington Gardens turned into a winter wonderland. If it snows during your London visit, bundle up and join the locals out celebrating the quiet beauty that nature gifts us with during the winter months.
Even without a dusting of snow, Kensington Gardens has plenty to discover through the winter months. A visit to Kensington Palace, home of the The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, is a must while staying in London any time of the year. A royal residence since 1689, it’s fascinating to visit inside the palace and walk in the footsteps of Queen Victoria through her re-imaged childhood rooms as well as take in the richness and historic detail of the King’s and Queen’s State Apartments. Outside the palace, you can admire the elegant Orangery built in 1705 for Queen Anne and beautifully landscaped gardens.
Just in front of Kensington Palace overlooking the Round Pond and gardens is a stately statue of Queen Victoria sculpted by her daughter Princess Louise. It’s the spot, perhaps more than all others, where the royal history of Kensington Gardens blends with today’s park enjoyed by locals and visitors from around the world.
When spring arrives, London bursts into bloom. These are heady days where the bright faces of daffodils cheer the spirit and the soft pink of blossoms fill parks with their welcome color and sweet scents. Spring is the ideal time to stroll around the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace and to explore the meandering pathways surrounding the Round Pond. Floral photographer extraordinaire Georgianna Lane has shared with London Perfect the best spots to see the early spring blooms in London and even more tempting photos in her beautiful book London in Bloom.
Walking through Kensington Gardens in the spring, as blossoms flutter to the ground, is a regenerative experience. In London in Bloom, Georgianna writes, “Reveling in the return of light and the joyous explosion of blooms, Londoners flock to the parks, little caring about the still-chilly temperatures. The rush of city life may be invigorating, but March in a London green space offers a more natural form of exhilaration.” If you haven’t thought of traveling to London in the early spring, Georgianna’s beautiful photos have a way of changing minds rather quickly!
Kensington Gardens is at its very best on a sunny summer day when it’s full of families, happy dogs chasing after darting squirrels, and the green of the park bursting in every direction. Perfect for families with kids–or the kid in all of us–Kensington Gardens is home to the Diana Memorial Playground, which opened in 2000 in honor of Diana, Princess of Wales. The centrepiece is a huge wooden ship for climbing and the best imaginative adventures. Whimsy has a firm place in Kensington Gardens. Georgianna Lane captures this beautifully in London in Bloom when she writes, “A favorite is Kensington Gardens, deeply associated, through centuries of literary references, with magic, pixie dust, and fairies. Reclining on the lawn in quiet contemplation, a visitor might be given to conjuring childhood fantasies and imagining an enticing land of adventurous possibilities. This lovely oasis is, after all, the home of Peter Pan.”
A bronze statue of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens honors the park’s fictional resident and was commissioned by Peter Pan author and local resident J.M. Barrie (1860-1937). Inspired by Kensington Gardens, he had the statue made to capture the imaginative spirit of Peter Pan who is surrounded by fairies, squirrels, rabbits, and mice. Across the Long Water you’ll find The Arch, a six-metre high sculpture by British sculptor and artist Henry Moore (1898-1986). While decidedly more stately than Peter Pan, the Roman travertine arch cuts an impressive figure, especially against the lush green backdrop of summer.
Art is a firm fixture in Kensington Gardens thanks to the Serpentine Galleries. Opened in 1970, the Serpentine Gallery is a pioneer of contemporary art and regularly hosts exhibitions from emerging artists as well as internationally celebrated artists. Summer is the perfect time to visit since the Serpentine Gallery commissions an architect who has not yet worked in the UK to design a temporary Pavilion that is constructed outside the gallery. About five minutes away, across the Serpentine Bridge, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery is a another gallery space that was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects. Together the two gallery spaces have put Kensington Gardens on the map as a cultural destination thanks to their programme of exhibitions and events that take place throughout the year.
The ornate Victorian splendour of the Albert Memorial is the highlight of the southern side of Kensington Gardens. The memorial was built in 1872 to commemorate Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, who had died in 1861 at the age of 42. As you walk around the memorial, take some time to look at the elaborate sculptures, decorations, and the incredibly detailed ornamental frieze that all depict Albert’s passions and social interests. At the centre is Prince Albert who is seated facing the Royal Albert Hall, named in his honor, and holding in his hands a catalogue of the Great Exhibition from 1851 that he helped to organise in nearby Hyde Park.
At the northern side of the garden you’ll find the Italian Gardens, a gift from Prince Albert to his wife Queen Victoria in the 1860s. The Italian Gardens were inspired by the royal family’s holidays at the Osborne House on the Isle of Wight where Prince Albert took an avid interest in the garden designs. It features four elongated octagonal basins with fountains, carved urns, and a particularly scenic overlook of the Long Water at the southern edge. Beautiful any moment of the year, it is especially lovely as the trees take on autumnal hues and the light shines golden in the late afternoon.
As the days shorten and the chilly air returns to London, autumn is a peaceful time to enjoy a walk through Kensington Gardens. Enjoy the crunch of leaves underfoot, pick up conkers (carefully!), and catch the season when the red bricks of Kensington Palace seem to take on an appropriately autumnal hue. Whatever season you have to experience Kensington Gardens, we hope you’ll spend some time savouring everything it offers to Londoners and visitors alike!