Kensington Gardens is one of London’s most popular green spaces and is the perfect destination for a day out.
The gardens were originally built during the reign of Henry VIII to provide a location in London for the king to be able to enjoy his hunt. Over the years it has developed into a lovely garden with stunning trees, flower beds and beautiful lawns – in total, there are some 275 acres to explore, including children play areas, picnic locations and routes to go for a jog.
Princess Diana Memorial Playground
One of the highlights of Kensington Gardens for little ones is the Princess Diana Memorial Playground, which was created in honour of the Royal Family member. Opened in 2000, the playground is one of the most popular attractions in the Gardens and over one million children visit it every year. The main focus of the playground is a large pirate ship and it was originally designed specifically to ensure that it provides an area for both able and less able-bodied children to play together, and many of the features are inspired by the stories of Peter Pan.
If you plan to visit the playground during summer, you may have to queue for entry as numbers to the free site are limited because of health and safety guidelines.
For adults, there is plenty of seating, as well as a cafe close to the playground, serving all the usual food and drink – making it a great place to spend a few hours.
The Peter Pan Statue
Continuing the Peter Pan theme, Kensington Gardens is home to the world famous Peter Pan statue. The statue first appeared without permission in 1912 and was commissioned in secret by author and nearby resident JM Barrie. Initially, there were calls for the statue to be removed immediately, but it is now one of the key sculptures.
The attraction has recently been updated to make use of new technologies. Smartphone users can bring the bronze statue to live by swiping their device on a special plaque located close to Peter Pan.
Art lovers will be pleased to discover that Kensington Gardens is home to not one, but two galleries that showcase a whole host of talent from around the world.
The Serpentine has a varied programme of events that cover contemporary art and architecture and often reflects the changing seasons of the Gardens. While, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery is a gallery that was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects and is based in a 1806 gunpowder store.
Offering 900 square metres of space, the gallery also has a shop and restaurant, as well as hosting various special events throughout the year.
Both galleries are open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6pm when exhibitions are running, while the restaurant is open Wednesday – Saturday 10am – 11pm and Tuesday and Sunday 10am – 6pm.
Entry is free, but visitors are encouraged to give a small donation to help cover the cost of running the Serpentine Galleries.
Take in the Allotment in Kensington Gardens
One of the popular spaces in Kensington Gardens is the Allotment. Open everyday from 9.30am to 4pm, the allotment can be found close to the storeyard.
Visitors are encouraged to explore the area and perhaps also pick up some tips on how to grow their own fruit and vegetables. There are also chicken on the site, which children are bound to find fascinating.
There are also a number of Meet the Expert Days held, where Royal Park staff members are made available to be questioned on all aspects of maintaining and establishing an allotment. There is no need to pre-book attendance – just turn up and ask your questions.
How to get to Kensington Gardens
There are limited parking areas close to Kensington Gardens, so it is advisable to travel using the great transport links available in London. However, there is an area of parking available for disabled drivers at Queen’s Gate or along West Carriage Drive.
Access is easy from Queensway, Bayswater, Paddington and South Kensington Tube stations.
Alternatively, if you wish to be based close to Kensington Gardens for the duration of your stay, then opt for boutique hotel accommodation in Kensington and Paddington.
The Gardens are open everyday from 6am to dusk. If you do find yourself in the park even though the main gates have been closed, then it is possible to exit via turnstile gates located at Temple Gate, Black Lion Gate, Orme Square Gate, Palace Gate and Marlborough Gate.