Kensington Gardens has the benefit of being located in one of the most sophisticated areas of the capital and is a great place to spend a day.
Backing on to Mayfair, Kensington Gardens was originally built during the reign of Henry VIII in order to provide a location in London for the king to be able to hunt. It boasts splendid formal avenues of magnificent trees and ornamental flower beds, alongside wide green spaces.
Nowadays, the gardens provide the perfect location to explore with the children, to go for a jog or to enjoy a picnic. However, it may take quite a while to see all 265 acres of the park in detail, so it may be a good idea to have a plan of what areas you wish to visit.
JM Barrie’s Peter Pan Statue
One of the highlights of the gardens is the Peter Pan statue. The iconic piece actually appeared without permission in 1912 and was commissioned in secret by author and nearby resident JM Barrie. At first there were calls for the statue to be removed immediately, but over time it has developed into one of London’s most key sculptures, celebrating the magical world of the character as well as the joys of childhood.
Smartphone users will also be able to bring the bronze statue to live by swiping their device on a special plaque located close to Peter Pan.
Princess Diana Memorial Playground
Children will also enjoy the nearby Princess Diana Memorial Playground, which serves as a tribute to the popular Royal Family member and was opened in 2000. More than one million children play on the site, which is designed as a giant pirate ship and will appeal to kids of all ages – plus it is a great way to wear them out!
The playground was also 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 – so make sure you get there early.
For adults, there is plenty of seating, as well as a cafe close to the playground, serving all the usual food and drink, as well as a cream time – ideal for a summer’s day.
Kensington Gardens is also home to two galleries that showcase a whole host of talent from around the world.
The Serpentine has a comprehensive programme of events that cover contemporary art and architecture and often reflects the changing seasons of the Gardens.
In addition, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery is a recently opened gallery that was designed by Zaha Hadid Architects and is based in a 1806 gunpowder store.
Visitors will enjoy the new 900 square metre space that is home to a gallery, restuarant, shop and social space.
The 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 operating the two spaces.
The Allotment in Kensington Gardens
One of the popular spaces in the 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 chickens 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.
Getting 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 luxury hotel accommodation in Kensington and Paddington.
When to visit Kensington Gardens
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.