Walking Tour of London - Kensington Gardens
Updated: Feb 1
We love Kensington Gardens and because it's on our doorstep we spend alot of time there through the seasons and have put together a walking tour so you can see the best bits. You can find a Google map of the route at the end of this article.
Kensington Gardens is often confused with Hyde Park which sits adjacent and is separated by West Carriage Drive. Unlike Hyde Park it is locked at night and has a more formal garden layout with avenues of trees converging on Kensington Palace.
Our tour takes about 2 hours including stops at each site and we recommend taking refreshments at a kiosk next to the Albert Memorial or visiting the Cafe at Kensington Palace.
There are toilets next to the Italian Gardens or on the south side of the park near to the board walk exit at the end of the Flower Walk.
If you intend to go inside Kensington Palace you will need to book in advance and choose a time slot. Following the most recent Covid restrictions the re-opening has yet to be announced. Please click here for the official Kensington Palace website.
Starting from the Lancaster Hall Hotel, turn left along Craven Terrace and at the end you will see Kensington Gardens, turn left past the Swan pub and enter the park on your right through the gate opposite Lancaster Gate tube station.
On entering the park you will see the Italian Gardens ahead of you .
The Italian Gardens
They were the brainchild of Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria and were completed in the 1860s.
They consist of 4 main ponds with fountains and a central rosette, again with fountain. There are numerous stone statues, carvings and urns along with an ornate shelter which originally housed the pumps for the fountains. With the recent addition of a café behind the pump house this is a wonderful place to sit and observe the colourful park life.
To the left you will see the poshest park bench in London! Queen Anne's alcove was designed by Sir Christopher Wren who is famous for St. Paul Cathedral in the City of London and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.
The Westbourne River once flowed above ground directly into the Serpentine but as the area become more developed and polluted it was redirected underground and the Italian Gardens were supplied with water pumped from boreholes.
When you have finished at the Italian Gardens keep on the path immediately to the right of the gardens where a unique Rolls Royce ice cream van is usually parked in the summer months. Keep on this path until you reach the Peter Pan statue on your right along with a wonderful view of the Long Water with the wide variety of bird life on display.
Peter Pan Statue
In 1912 a statue of Peter Pan appeared without warning or permission in Kensington Gardens and remained ever since. Commissioned by the author J.M Barrie and depicting Peter pan blowing a pipe on the stump of a tree it has proved a popular attraction in Kensington Gardens since. Children love to explore this intricate statue with fairies, mice and squirrels cast into the base.
Continue on this path for a few moments until it opens out into two paths. At this point you will find the most popular spot for meeting the parakeets.
We are often asked ‘Where are the parakeets in Kensington Gardens?’ As their numbers have grown over the past 15 year they have moved from near the Albert Memorial to this spot just past the Peter Pan statue.
It is not unusual to see groups of people taking photos with parakeets perched on their heads or shoulders. Apples skewered onto the railings along this path have become a common sight and seem to do the trick in attracting the parakeets. We recommend bringing a handful of seeds to guarantee a close up encounter.
From here take the left hand path past the Long Water on your left and continue on the right hand fork gently up hill and follow the the path all the way around to the Serpentine Gallery.
The Serpentine gallery and pavilion
The serpentine gallery came into being in 1970 when the tea rooms where turned into a gallery of comptempory art. Click here for the lastest exhibition. Each year the Serpantine Gallery commissions a temporary summer pavilion by a leading architect which is constructed on site and remains in situ for 3 months starting in June.
After the Serpentine Gallery re-join the path running parallel with the West Carriage Drive seperating Kensington Gardens with Hyde Park. Cross the main cycle path and continue straigtht along the path which bends to the right before the Albert Memorial comes into view.
The Albert Memorial
The Albert Memorial is a monument on a grand scale and is a must for any tour of the Royal Parks. It can be found on the Kensington side of the park by the Royal Albert Hall.
Designed by George Gilbert Scott it was built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert after his untimely death from typhoid fever in 1861.
Prince Albert holds a catalogue of the Great Exhibition held moments away in Hyde Park in 1851 and sits on a base surround by 187 carved figures of architects, poets, painters, sculptors and musicians. On each corner of the overall monument are marble sculptures representing Asia, Africa, America and Europe.
If you walk all the way around you will see the Royal Albert Hall which is on the boundary of an area centred around Exhibition Road containing a large number of cultural and educational institutions including Imperial College, The Science Museum, The Natural History Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Royal College of Art and the Royal College of Music, to name a few.
Stop here for refreshments at the Kiosk located next to the Albert Memorial and sit on a bench along the South Carriage Drive. This road is closed to cars and is a great spot to people watch; it attracts cyclists, runners and occasionally a game of roller hockey on a Sunday afternoon. Retrace your steps back from the Albert Memorial and enter through the gates into the Flower Walk.
The Flower walk
The Flower Walk, as the name suggests, is a long straight path adorned with mature trees and curated flower displays through spring and summer. It is a peaceful haven away from the hustle and bustle with benches where park goers and sit and contemplate.
At the end of the Flower Walk there is a public toilet and refreshments kiosk along with the Boardwalk which is a major thoroughfair through the park. Cross over this wide path and take a narrow path on the opposite side leading up to the main gates of Kensington Palace.
Stretching back to 1605, Kensington Palace has a long rich history and to this day is the official royal residence of a number or royals including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Parts of the palace are open to the public all year round including the King's State Apartments and Queen's State Apartment. In addition, you can see the childhood apartments of Queen Victoria where she grew up. Currently you need to book in advance, and more information can be found here. Alternatively you can treat yourself to tea or coffee at the Palace Cafe. If you walk past the terrace of the Palace Cafe you can take a zig-zag path up to what is know as the Cradle Walk.
The Cradle Walk
The Cradle Walk is a spectacular arbour of red-twigged lime, trained over a metal frame which in summer provides an inviting shaded tunnel of green with glimses of both the palace and the hugely colourful Sunken Garden.
As you walk around the Cradle Walk you will be able to see the Sunken Gardens which are not open to the public.
The Sunken Gardens
The Sunken Garden is a formal flower garden created in 1908 based on a similar design to that found in Hampton Court. Prince Harry announced his engagement to Megan Markle in the Sunken Garden, which had been a great favourite with his mother, Diana Princess of Wales.
On the 1st of July 2021 Princes Harry, Duke of Sussex and William, Duke of Cambridge unveiled a statue of their late mother, the Princess of Wales on what would have been Diana’s 60th birthday. You can read more about the statue here.
As you leave the Cradle Walk and the Sunken Garden you exit onto the Broad Walk, cross over directly and you will come to the Round Pond.
The Round Pond
The Round Pond in Kensington Gardens is very much the focal point of the formal landscape features of the park and is home to a huge number of swans, geese and ducks. George II who was the last reigning monarch to use the adjacent Kensington Palace up until 1760 had commissioned the Round Pond which was finished around 1730.
On a Sunday morning it is popular with model yacht enthusiasts in particular the Model Yacht Association and the London Model Yacht Club.
As you reach the other side of the Round Pond continue in a straight line along an avenue of trees until you come to the Physical Energy Scultpure.
Physical Energy Sculpture
The magnificent Physical Energy sculpture is the creation of British artist George Watts who unfortunately died before it was installed in Kensington Gardens in 1907. The statue is very much a focal point given its central location within Kensington Gardens.
Kensington Gardens Tour Map
You can either click on the link below for the map which you can send to your mobile phone or navigate from the map below
Kensington Gardens Frequently Asked Questions.
What is the nearest tube to Kensington Gardens?
Nearest Tubes are lancaster Gate and Queensway on the Central Line for the north side of the park and for the south side there High Street Kensington (turn right out of the entrance and the nearest park entrance is 5 minutes walk.
Is Kensington Gardens Open to the public?
Kensington Gardens is open to the public from 6am each day and closes after dark which ranges from 16:15 in November and as late as 21:45 in July.
Is Kensington Gardens free?
The gardens are completely free entry.
How much does it cost to get into Kensington Palace?
Ticket prices are £17 each for Adults and £8.50 for children. With consessions for 65+ , 16-17 and full time students at £13.60. Family tickets are also available at £25.50 for 1 adult and up to 3 children or £42.50 for 2 adults and up to 3 children.
How long does it take to tour Kensington Palace?
It would be wise to plan on two hours to see the rooms and exhibits. Guided tours are suspended during the Covid restrictions but you will be able to see The King's Gallery, The King's State Apartements, The Queen's State Apartements along with two exhibitions on Queen Victoria's childhood and Royal photography.
Is Kensington Gardens safe at night?
Kensington Gardens is locked at night and if you find yourself in the park when the gates have been locked you will need to exit via a small number of turnstiles. They are located at Lancaster Gate, at both ends of the Broard Walk which runs in front of Kensington Palace or by the road that runs between Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.
Can you see the Royals at Kensington Palace?
Whilst there are a high number of Royals in residence at Kensington Palace it is rare to catch sight of them and their residences are completely seperate from the parts of the palace open to the public. The Duchess of Cambridge has been seen in Kensington Gardens on a number of occasions but it would not be worth going out of your way in the hope of catching a glimpse.