Europe, History & Culture, Shopping

Visit Special Places in London with Context Travel

November 20, 2015

I thought and may have even muttered, “Finally I’ve arrived.” It wasn’t just the sense of victory I felt after overcoming a few navigational hiccups riding London’s Underground Circle and District Lines – there was something else about the place that felt different.

I continued out of Kensington Station to meet Caroline, a knowledgable and fabulous Context Travel docent at the Church of St. Mary Abbots. This was the starting point on our walk through the Kensington and Knightsbridge neighbourhoods – a few very special places in London

Kensington

Founded in the 8th Century, Kensington has a reputation as an area of quality. Originally located 3 miles from the city of London, Kensington eventually became part of London in the 17th century.

Church of St. Mary Abbots

Although the current structure is only 120 years old, St. Mary Abbots Church has been a place of worship for over seven centuries. Considered to be a fashionable church, notable parishioners have included Princess Diana, Beatrix Potter and Sir Isacc Newton.

Church of St Mary Abbots Neo-Gothic style London

Designed by Architect Sir George Gilbert Scott in neo-Gothic Early English style, the spectacular church is 179 feet long and seats up to 700.

Kensington Palace

It only took a glance at Kensington Palace and its gardens to realize that I had arrived at a very special place in London.

Kensington Palace Gate

Located a short stroll from the Church of St. Mary Abbots, Kensington Palace is the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and was once the home of Queen Victoria and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Kensington Gardens

Historically, Kensington Gardens were private and only open to ‘respectfully dressed’ members of the general public on Saturday. Today, runners, dog walkers, and people of all ages enjoy the majestic green space year round from 6 am to dusk. If London were my home, Kensington Gardens would be my playground.

Fall scene Kensington Gardens London

The Albert Memorial

The striking Albert Memorial, commissioned by Queen Victoria as a tribute to her husband, is located at the edge of Kensington Gardens. Prince Albert passed away from typhoid in 1861 at 42 years of age, leaving Queen Victoria to deeply mourn his death for many years.

Albert Memorial Special Places London

Sir George Gilbert Scott designed the 175-foot neo-gothic monument to celebrate Prince Albert’s passions and interests. The memorial shows a gilded 14-foot statue of Prince Albert holding a catalogue of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Albert financed and helped organise this first International Exhibition to showcase Britain, and it was a tremendous success.

Albert Memorial special places London

The broad frieze around the base of the monument signifies Albert’s passion for the arts. Here you will find marble reliefs of 187 individuals – painters, poets, sculptors, musicians and architects all intricately drawn to scale.

At each corner of the monument, sculptures represent the continents of Europe, Africa, America, and Asia.

Albert Memorial corner sculpture Kensington Gardens

Royal Albert Hall

Located across from The Albert Memorial, the iconic Royal Albert Hall is impossible to overlook with its circular design and massive glazed-iron roof.

Albert Hall is one of the special places in London

The Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences opened in 1871 as a venue for national and international exhibitions promoting the Arts and Sciences. Today, the Royal Albert Hall is a popular concert hall in London.

Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum, also known as the V&A, is the world’s leading museum of art and design. The collection at the V&A is eclectic and impressive.

Special places in London V & A Museum

The popular Cast Courts at the Victoria and Albert Museum provide a unique opportunity to view casts of original sculptures, such as Michelangelo’s David and Trajan’s Column, up close and in great detail. Opened in 1873, and built to house post-classical European sculptures, the 24-metre high Cast Courts are home to some of the V&A’s biggest items.

Special Places in London - the V&A Cast Room

A cast of Trajan’s Column.

Knightsbridge

After walking through Kensington, our walk concluded in the charming Knightsbridge neighbourhood.

The Knightsbridge neighbourhood is a special place in London

Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Our first stop in Knightsbridge, the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This popular Roman Catholic church, built between 1880 and 1884, is the church of a community of priests called “The Congregation of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri” or Oratorians. This majestic church, designed in Italianate style, is the second largest Catholic church in London.

Harrods

Founded as a grocery store in 1849, Harrod’s expanded into a luxury department store with the motto Omnia Omnibus Ubique, Latin for ‘All Things for All People, Everywhere’. After a walk through the food hall with Context Travel and shopping the following day, I concur with Harrod’s motto! They have something for everyone.

Macarons at Harrods London

Macarons Harrods Food Hall.

My initial reaction was right, Kensington is special. Knightsbridge is too. Together these two communities are home to many fabulous sights in London. I discovered these special places in London as part of a Context Travel walk called London Orientation – Kensington and Knightsbridge. The walk is typically 2.5 hours, but I experienced a slightly abbreviated version due to a commitment elsewhere in the city.

Booking a Special Places in London Context Travel Tour

  • Prices for the 2.5 hour London Orientation walk are $107/PP for a small group or  $427 for a private tour.
  • Walks are offered in more than 24 cities in North America, Europe, and Asia. Click here for more information or to book a walk with Context Travel.
  • Context Travel limits the tour group size to six people to ensure a conversational atmosphere. The best way to describe the experience is that it like a small, outdoor classroom with a knowledgeable professor.

Travel Tips – Special Places in London

  • You may also want to visit Hyde Park, separated from Kensington Gardens by the Serpentine, a recreational water body. I only glanced at Hyde Park, so decided not to include it in the primary list of special places in London. That being said, I have heard great things about the park.
  • I enjoy the Context Travel walks because the groups are small, and the docents have in-depth knowledge of the city and subject.
  • Admission to museums in London is by voluntary donation.
  • The Gift Shop at the Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the best I have been to, and the inventory includes items from local artisans.

I was fortunate to be a guest of Context Travel on the London Orientation walk. As always, my opinions are my own. If I don’t love an experience, I won’t recommend it!

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26 Comments

  • Reply Maria November 21, 2015 at 11:54 am

    Lovely photos! London is such a wonderful places to explore, there are so many little areas it’s hard to put them all into one post. I think this is a great post, just focusing on a couple of areas :). Harrods is amazing, I love the food court.

    • Reply LuxeTravelFamily November 22, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      Thanks, Maria! I love the food court at Harrods too.

  • Reply Laura November 21, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    This is what makes London such a great and interesting place to visit. There are the places that I’ve always known about like Kensington Gardens, but then there are dozens of other places I’ve haven’t seen or heard about like the churches and museums that make it so much fun to go back to over and over again.

    • Reply LuxeTravelFamily November 22, 2015 at 6:02 pm

      London is such a great place to visit – I can’t wait to return!

  • Reply Hugo November 21, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    Two of the finest areas of London. Lots of things to see and do there. Just walking around is great.

    I’m one of those that runs around Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park!

    • Reply LuxeTravelFamily November 22, 2015 at 6:04 pm

      Lucky you! I will definitely run in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park when I return to London.

  • Reply Sarah Ebner November 21, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    London is full of special places, and this area is one of them (albeit a very upmarket one). It’s funny that it’s not an area I tend to take visitors from out of town (except Harrods) but it is gorgeous, especially Kensington Gardens, and this tour sounds like a lovely way to see it.

    • Reply LuxeTravelFamily November 22, 2015 at 6:10 pm

      Thanks, Sarah. The tour with Context Travel was a fantastic way to explore Kensington and Knightsbridge. I was staying near Piccadilly Circus and appreciated the green space and sense of community in Kensington.

  • Reply Kathrin November 22, 2015 at 2:01 am

    Now I’ve been to London a few times and even lived there for a period of two months, but I’ve never seen the Albert Memorial, or the Royal Albert Hall. I think I have to go again 😀 London is definitely one of those cities you’ll never get tired to visit, because you always discover something new.

    • Reply LuxeTravelFamily November 22, 2015 at 10:40 pm

      I agree that London is a city you can just keep discovering. I am already planning my return!

  • Reply Stefan November 22, 2015 at 2:58 am

    A super write up of my lovely home city 🙂 For me the ultimate highlight is a walk along the Embankment starting from the wheel across the road from Parliament/Big Ben and ending up at Tower Bridge with a detour on Waterloo Bridge for the best views of the London skyline 🙂

    • Reply LuxeTravelFamily November 22, 2015 at 10:42 pm

      Thanks Stefan! You are so fortunate to call London home. Thank you for the suggestion. I am already planning to return to London and I will follow your suggested route.

  • Reply Himanshu November 22, 2015 at 7:15 am

    Loved reading it. Suc a cool calm and composed place.

    • Reply LuxeTravelFamily November 22, 2015 at 10:43 pm

      Thank you Himanshu!

  • Reply Lesley November 22, 2015 at 8:31 am

    I visited London a few years ago and never made it to Kensington Gardens. It’s still high on my list. London is full of beautiful options.

    • Reply LuxeTravelFamily November 22, 2015 at 10:48 pm

      I am so grateful I was able to visit Kensington Gardens; it is a fantastic green space. Within Kensington Gardens, there is a pretty gated garden known as the Flower Walk. You might enjoy this when you return to London. I agree, there are loads of beautiful options in London.

  • Reply Elaine J. Masters November 22, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Walking tours are one of my favorite ways of exploring a new city. This one truly reflects the grand nature of the English Empire. I hope to take one of the Context tours too one day.

  • Reply Megan | Traveling Nine to Fiver November 22, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    This is a great list. I was only in London for 36 hours and definitely need to go back to explore it more. Only thing on this list I’ve already done is Harrods, since I couldn’t miss out on that.

  • Reply Monika November 22, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    I visited London a couple of times but I’ve never been to Victoria and Albert Museum – maybe next time.
    There are always so many places I want to see or see again that some others just get skipped.

  • Reply Cailin November 22, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    London is such a HUGE city and it keeps seeming to get bigger and bigger every time I visit I learn about new things to see and do. I have been so many times but have still yet to visit the Kensington area. Next time! 🙂

  • Reply Karilyn November 22, 2015 at 5:29 pm

    London is one of my favorite cities in the world. Even though I have been so many times, there is still so much left to explore. Thanks for giving me even more for my London to do list for May!

  • Reply Meg Jerrard November 23, 2015 at 12:31 am

    Thanks for these! Love London and have been back multiple times, though one I hadn’t heard of was St. Mary Abbots Church – wow, can’t believe I managed to miss it! It’s on the list for the next trip 🙂

  • Reply Geert November 23, 2015 at 3:03 am

    I must say, I’ve been to London a few times, but a lot of these places are new to me. Thx for sharing them!

  • Reply Francesca @ onegrloneworld November 23, 2015 at 6:58 am

    The Albert Memorial looks beautiful! I’ve been to London twice and it looks like I missed so much! Out of all the things you listed I’ve only been to Harrods. This was great to keep for future reference!

  • Reply Dariece November 24, 2015 at 6:57 am

    I’d really love to visit the Kensington Gardens one day! Everything on this list looks and sounds incredible, though. London sure seems like a truly amaazing place to be.

  • Reply Ugur March 27, 2016 at 2:58 am

    Thank you, loved very much reading this. Running in Kensington; I feel atmosphere and the history. Looking forward to my next business trip to London.

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