Start your journey in Kensington. South Kensington is home to some of London’s most important museums – the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and The Victoria and Albert are all nestled together on a corner of Exhibition road. Entry is free, though each one will charge for special exhibitions so you can afford to take the whole family. A stone’s throw from Hyde Park, it’s easy to find a comfortable spot for a picnic when everyone has had enough culture for the day.
Just a little further west you’ll find Notting Hill, home to the eponymous film and to an eclectic collection of shops, boutiques and restaurants. You want vintage? Browse through the stalls on the Portobello Market. Or check out the massive Music and Goods Exchange on the corner of Pembridge Road, for clothes, vinyl and retro furnishings. Into contemporary fashion? Try the Merchant – or any one of a host of designer fashion shops in the area. If you miss the annual carnival which takes place every August bank holiday, try Rum Kitchen where you can enjoy fabulous Caribbean cocktails any day of the year – and soak up the alcohol with some great Jamaican food.
A little further out of town you’ll find Hammersmith and Fulham. Football fans should head south and stay at the Travelodge Hotel on the North End Road. Chelsea’s grounds are actually in Fulham, right by Fulham Broadway tube– and there’s a museum, guided tours and a whole host of bars and restaurants in the ground if there’s no match on when you are visiting. Fulham FC is about a mile further west – Craven Cottage is to the north side of Putney Bridge, just south of Fulham Palace. While you are there Bishop’s Park, home to the Palace itself, is worth a visit. At one time the main home of the Bishop of London, the Palace now houses a museum and café. And in the Park you will find ‘Margate Sands’ – a man-made beach on the banks of the lake complete with its own Punch and Judy show as well as play areas for kids, formal gardens and riverside walks.
Chiswick High Street has a wide range of shops and bars. If you want haute cuisine, Hedone has a Michelin star and was voted 63rd in the World this year. Or for something a little more accessible, this cosmopolitan area has some great Indian restaurants (like Potli) rubbing shoulders with Pizza joints such as Franco Manca and contemporary British brasseries like Sam’s – not only is the grown up food great, they have a fabulous kid friendly menu too.
Kew, of course is home to the famous Kew Botanical Gardens, a UNESCO world heritage site. Home to over 30,000 different kinds of living plants it is the world’s largest collection. While you may be happy to browse through the glasshouses, some of which are listed buildings in their own right, there are special events all the year round to keep the kids entertained or just to learn more about the gardens themselves. Stay at the Travelodge Hotel at Kew Bridge and you’ll be there in moments.
Within walking distance, Richmond has the feeling of a small market town, with an intimate but comprehensive shopping centre where the usual high street stores are complemented by local delis and craft shops. And of course there’s Richmond Park – where the country really does come to town. A royal park created by Charles I in 1634 it has over 650 deer of different varieties. It is a vast area, more than 3.6 square miles, most of which is open grass and woodlands. There are a few formal gardens like the Isabelle plantation, two play areas for children and sports facilities including fishing, rugby, running and cycling. The easiest way to see the English countryside without leaving London, it’s listed by English Heritage as Grade I and is a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Next time you visit London it’s really worth going west. There’s plenty to see and do without the stress of the City Centre and you’ll see another side to the Capital – one that make the west of London popular with locals and visitors alike.