London is a massive city that is home to people of all different backgrounds and religion, the rich and the poor, tourists and residents, Taylor Swift fans and Kanye lovers. But within that mixture are different boroughs that do have distinct identities and values.
One of my favorite districts of the city, South Kensington, is part of the “Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.” You don’t even need to know anything about London to see that title and know that it’s about to get posh. REALLY POSH.
South Kensington is home to three major groups: rich expats (of all backgrounds, but especially French), study abroad students, and celebrities. I lived in South Kensington for about three months when I attended Richmond: The American International University in London. Granted, there were three of us to a room so it wasn’t exactly the height of luxury, but I knew I’d never get the chance to live there again so I milked it for all it was worth. Kensington is also home to Imperial College, a leading UK institution known for its science programs.
It also hosts three of London’s major museums, including the Science Museum,
and the Victoria & Albert Museum. These museums are stunning year round, but especially come to life over the holiday season when South Kensington sees flocks of tourists roaming around the area drinking hot chocolate and feeling generally festive. The ice skating rinks at the Natural History Museum are iconic, and the area holds meets and greets with Santa (or Father Christmas as is traditionally known in the UK).
Kensington’s architecture is classic, a mixture of white facades and columns that give off an air of superiority. This is not a place for hipsters or the ‘up and coming.’ It represents refinement and ‘old money,’ a ‘safe’ space in London for those who just want to sip on their herbal tea served by their butler and talk about the new cultural additions to the museum around the road.
And those celebrities I mentioned? Keep your eyes peeled, because you might just run into a famous face while you’re wandering the streets. David Beckham has been known to be seen in the area, along with Kylie Minogue, Tom Cruise, and the Prince William himself. It’s not a surprise that the royals are hanging around, as Kensington Palace, the former home of Princess Diana, is now used by Will & Kate (and their two royal children).
Even on Kensington High Street, which is packed with upscale shopping and some ‘regular’ choices for us commoners, you can still find signs that you are so not in Kansas anymore.
Have you been to South Kensington? Adding it to your bucket list?
You can find another guide to a London area here, as I explore Battersea just south of the river.