Kensington, as well as being home to some of the most exclusive hotels and upmarket boutiques, is one of the best places in London to take children to. Apart from the inherent safety and pedestrian-friendly nature of this classy area, Kensington is densely populated with educational attractions, including three of London’s most famous and well-regarded museums.
Each of the three – the Victoria & Albert Museum, The National History Museum and the Science Museum – is a world class attraction, best experienced if you have a whole day at each one. But if you’re just planning a daytrip, their close proximity to each other means you can easily get round all three, focusing on the one your child is most interested in, and spending an hour or so in the others.
The closeness of these three institutions is no accident; the area was developed as a cultural and education district in the wake of – and built on profits from – Prince Albert’s famous Great Exhibition in 1951, which brought together the greatest technological and architectural achievements of the Victorian age.
If possible, you should give yourself a night or two in Kensington to fully experience its charms. Get tickets for a show at the Royal Albert Hall, and spend a couple of days either side exploring the museums. Some of the world’s finest hotels are found here – try millennium.co.uk for some gorgeous Kensington hotels.
The Victoria & Albert Museum – known locally as the ‘V&A’ is recognized the world over as the greatest museum dedicated to decorative arts. Modern exhibits sit alongside ancient artefacts, giving the viewer a timeline of cultural history from the earliest civilizations to the 20th Century. It boasts the largest collections of art and sculpture outside the countries from which they originate, including pieces from Italy, Japan, China and India, as well as a thorough history of British design from the last 500 years. A fascinating, sprawling space, better for teenagers and older children with an interest in history.
If you’ve got younger children, they may get more out of the Science Museum, which traces the development of our understanding of science and the influence of scientific breakthroughs on daily life. Chockfull of interactive exhibits, it’s quite possible to spend three or four hours in here before the kids get tired.
Just down the road is the Natural History Museum. Built between 1873 and 1881, the palatial façade alone is worth the visit. Inside, Britain’s largest collection of fossils tells the story of life and its evolution. Kids will rush to see the full-scale dinosaur exhibits.
The area is also home to Imperial College, London, one of the world’s leading scientific, engineering and medical research institutions, and the Royal College of Music, teaching modern and classical music to such luminaries as Andrew Lloyd Webber, Gustav Holst, Benjamin Britten and Rick Wakeman. It’s another building which is well worth a look if you have the time, as is the famous Royal Albert Hall.
Image: Kensington gardens by edwin.11 on Flickr
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