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The main entrance to the natural history museum

The DJD Guide to: South Kensington

Our photographers spend lots of time exploring London while taking photos of the capital’s beautiful homes, so they’ve got to know the city very well. We asked them to recommend their favourite places to live, and where to eat, drink, shop and spend time outside – you might have already seen our guides to Chelsea, Mayfair and Notting Hill. Our latest guide provides information about South Kensington – in our opinion, one of the best places to live in London (if you’ve got the budget!). South Ken, as it’s known locally, has great shopping, but also offers lovely residential streets and a surprising number of good schools. It’s no wonder it’s so popular with locals and ex pats alike – did you know it has a large population of French speakers? Find out more about South Ken in the DJD Guide to South Kensington.

In This Post

Gloucester road station

Where is South Kensington?

This West London hotspot is sandwiched between prime London real estate: Hyde Park is to the north, Belgravia to the east and Chelsea to the south. Kensington proper is to the northwest, while Earl’s Court is west. The South Ken post code is SW7, though often people will look as well at SW10 (West Brompton), SW3 (Chelsea) and SW5 (Earl’s Court), which are all nice areas.

South Kensintos zetland arms pub

Living in South Kensington

South Kensington has been compared to more European cities, due to its large number of flats, rather than houses. About 70% of properties in Kensington are apartments, which are popular with continental families (there are lots of Europeans here due to the concentration of embassies in the area). Most of these apartments are within very grand Victorian buildings in long, elegant terraces, usually six or seven storeys high. Very few of these buildings remain as ‘single family homes’, and those that do are very expensive – you’re more likely to find flats and maisonettes. Unlike Notting Hill or Mayfair, you’re not likely to see many garden squares, as in Kensington they are usually hidden behind the terraces. The best places to live in Kensington are in these grand white Victorian blocks, which can be seen on Exhibition Road, Onslow Gardens and Pelham Crescent.

For single family homes, look to the area around W8, such as Bedford Gardens or Sheffield Terrace, or Launceston Place and Kynance Mews (famous for its wisteria) in Queen’s Gate.

Shopping in South Kensington

South Ken is not called ‘Little Paris’ locally for nothing, and in order to support the large French population there are plenty of shops selling all sorts of French wares: Librarie La Page is a French bookshop, there are several French cafés and delicatessens, and local favourite Chanteroy on Bute Street which has a vast selection of imported products. For baguettes – that most French of breads – locals head to ORÉE on the Fulham Road. Bute Street also has great grocery shopping, including Moxon’s the fishmonger for excellent British fish and seafood, plus a thriving Saturday morning farmer’s market (rain or shine) where Londoners can pick up everything from free range eggs to berries, game, organic vegetables and Dorset fish. There is no shortage of supermarkets either, with several small ‘express’ convenience stores and a huge Waitrose in Gloucester Arcade Shopping Centre.

For High Street names, Kensington High Street has all the favourites (COS, Zara, Massimo Dutti). Kensington Church Street is lined with antique stores and homeware boutiques.

South Kensington external property image
Moxon's fishmongers village butchers
The hummingbird bakery external image

Going out in South Kensington

For such a commercially centric area, South Kensington is home to a surprising number of independent cafes and restaurants, with an international slant. Magazine Restaurant has a prime setting in the middle of Kensington Gardens; Daquise has been serving Polish cuisine since 1947; Hjem offers Danish coffee and décor; Michelin-starred Bibendum and upscale Margaux have French-inspired cooking (Chanteroy, as above in the Shopping section, does French baked goods to takeaway too).

Sweet tooths are also well catered for with a branch of the Hummingbird Bakery; Oddono’s Italian-style gelateria and Trevi Italian tiramisu on Bute Street; pastry specialist Maître Choux on Harrington Road and Bake Ahead, which also does baking classes. There are plenty of instantly recognisable High Street names too; South Ken was home to the very first independent Caffè Nero coffee shop (and Waterstones bookshop). Now you’ll find all the home-grown favourites, plus imports like Ole & Steen, Five Guys and Aubaine.

We can’t talk about South Kensington’s attractions without mentioning its famous museums. Semi-pedestrianised Exhibition Road and the area just to the north is home to some of London’s top museums: the amazing Natural History Museum, the beautiful V&A Museum with its rotating exhibitions – some of the best in the world, the Science Museum and the Royal College of Music. Just a touch further and there’s the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Albert Hall, the capital’s most iconic concert venue that’s played host to everyone from the BBC Proms to Led Zeppelin.

the natural history museum
South Kensington property with greenery
south Kensington green areas Hyde park

Green spaces in South Kensington

Along the northern boundary of South Kensington is Hyde Park, which has a network of footpaths, memorials to Princess Diana and other notable figures, various landscaped gardens including the Italian Garden and Kensington Palace Garden, cafes and boating on The Serpentine. There are also lawns around the southern elevations of the Natural History Museum, including a lovely Wildlife Garden.

South Kensington schools and nurseries

Schooling options in South Ken are excellent, with many Ofsted ‘Outstanding’-rated primaries including Our Lady of Victories RCBousfield in South Bolton Gardens, Oratory RC and Servite RC. There are two ‘Outstanding’ state comprehensives, too: The London Oratory RC is for boys 11-18 but admits girls to sixth form and is where former PM Tony Blair sent his sons. St Thomas More RC Language College is co-ed and rated ‘Outstanding’.

As expected, there are plenty of private schools: Glendower and Queen’s Gate (both for girls) in Queen’s Gate; St Philip’s School and Sussex House (for boys); and Hyde Park, Eaton House, The Vale, Thomas’s Kensington and Knightsbridge School (all co-ed).

The area is home to the French Consulate and there is a large French community locally, so naturally there are several lycées to support the younger Francophone population. Most famous (and sought-after) of all is the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle de Londres, a few doors down from the consulate.

the v&a building
victoria & albert museum building

Transport in South Kensington

South Kensington is fantastically walkable – almost everything is within a 30-minute stroll. If you do need to go further afield, however, there are Tube stations at South Kensington (Pelham St) and Gloucester Road on the District and Circle and Piccadilly lines, High Street Kensington (District and Circle) and Kensington, which is opposite Olympia and has District line trains plus Overground and Southern Rail services.

To book an appointment with your local property marketing agency in South Kensington, contact us today.

If you would like to explore the area to visit some of the places mentioned above, we have prepared an area guide flyer to guide you through South Kensington. Click on the button below to download the map.

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