The West & Southwest London Guide
From Notting Hill’s pastel colored townhouses, to South Ken’s classic Victorian museums, to Knightsbridge with its designer flagships and the legendary Harrod’s, these are the streets of storybook London. There may be less action here in terms of restaurant openings and the like, but these are some of the most delightful streets to stroll. Plus, anyone with serious decorating pursuits will be in heaven checking out Chelsea and Pimlico’s legendary decorator’s showrooms and shops.
Chelsea Physic Garden66 Royal Hospital Rd., Chelsea | +44.20.7352.5646
Beyond being a beautiful place in which to pass an afternoon, this is also London's oldest botanical garden (it dates back to 1673). Don't miss the newest addition, the Garden of Edible and Useful Plants, where you'll find foliage with a variety of uses, from perfume to cosmetics. P.S. Closed Saturdays.
Clifton Nurseries5A Clifton Villas, Maida Vale | +44.20.7289.6851
This historical garden center—in existence since the 19th-century—is where Londoners go to start their urban oases. The variety is as endless as the knowledge of its kind staff. If you're feeling hands-off, there's a design and installation service here to suit your needs both large and small.
Royal Albert HallKensington Gore, Kensington
Since its opening by Queen Victoria in 1871, Royal Albert Hall has been home to innumerable concerts and performances. In fact, it hosts about 350 events per year, ranging from classical concerts (it has been home to the annual summer Proms since 1941) to rock and pop, ballet and opera, awards ceremonies, and more. Every act from Led Zeppelin to Les Miserables, Cirque du Soleil and Adele has graced the magnificent building, which remains one of London's most distinct and treasured landmarks.
Saatchi GalleryDuke of York's HQ, King's Rd., Pimlico | +44.20.7811.3070
Charles Saatchi's gallery is famous for championing artists before the rest of the art world catches on. Legendary for his early support of Damien Hirst and the rest of the YBAs (that's Young British Artists for the uninitiated), Saatchi's roster is still one of the most forward-thinking in contemporary art. The excellent on-site Gallery Mess Cafe and its daily afternoon tea service (there's a boozy version that involves a jug of Pimms and an option for kids, too) deserve mention.
Serpentine GalleriesKensington Gardens, Kensington | +44.20.7402.6075
The Serpentine Galleries are a must-see for contemporary art lovers. Located in a former teahouse, the original Serpentine Gallery continues to champion cutting-edge modern art, and if you continue to walk across Serpentine Lake, the collection extends to the new Sackler Gallery, which was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid. Take the time to explore the grounds, including the Gallery’s Pavilion, which provides a site for architectural experimentation with temporary structures that are always worth checking out.
Science MuseumExhibition Rd., Kensington | +44.87.0870.4868
Here, both adults and kiddos can explore virtually every scientific topic of the modern world, including space, agriculture, energy, time, medicine, psychology, and even identity. There's a 3D Imax theater, an Apollo 4-D Cinema, galleries, hands-on displays, flight simulators, and much more. While it's easy to pretend it's just for the kids, you'll be shocked by how much you'll learn yourself.
Tate BritainWestminster | +44.20.7887.8888
With the 2013 restoration of the grand Victorian building and the chronological re-hanging of the permanent collection, it's all the more paramount you make the trip to this classic art institution. You'll find all the British masters here.
Victoria & Albert MuseumCromwell Rd., Knightsbridge | +44.207.942.2000
The considerable permanent collection at the V&A has been scrupulously curated over the course of almost 200 years—and spans thousands—to fit the museum's design and fashion slant. The visiting exhibit program is just as exciting (currently, its the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibit). With its Victorian flourishes, the actual space that contains the 140+ galleries is one giant piece of art in and of itself.