Words: Matthew Thacker
Kensington is a magical place, and never more so in the winter season. Although the parks are stunning in the summer, they are never more hauntingly beautiful than when enveloped in frost or snow on a crisp December morning.
And while the shops may be busier in the run-up to Christmas, that’s more than made up for by the warmth they provide: both in terms of relief from the cold, and the fuzzy feeling you get from buying that perfect gift for someone special.
Still not convinced? Try these recommendations for the ideal Kensington Christmas.
First off, we have Kensington Palace. While its existence won’t be news to anyone, it’s the sort of place you’ll decide to go to on your next free Sunday and never get round to. And even if you have been already, it holds a special charm at this time of year, as it undergoes a lavish decoration, complete with a huge Christmas tree.
There are also several free educational and decoration-making events for children on the Saturdays leading up to 25 December – perfect for keeping the kids busy during the school holidays.
Second idea, after wandering about Kensington Gardens, bustling from shop to shop trying to find the perfect gift, or taking in the new Design Museum, one thing you will definitely need is a bit of time to relax. Recharge with an award-winning afternoon tea at the Royal Garden Hotel. With views of the Kensington Gardens and a residential pianist, you can find your own haven in the midst of all the mayhem that Christmas brings.
The restaurant is also stunning, with pre-theatre dining available for those catching a show at the Royal Albert Hall, and offering a show-stopping five-course lunch on Christmas Day itself. Roast Tournedos of Norfolk Bronze Turkey and all the trimmings, followed up with the Royal Garden’s own Christmas Pudding and washed down with a glass of Champagne? Yes, please.
Finally, you’ll need a perfect way to end the day. If you like a dance, then the Roof Gardens are just your ticket. Spanning one-and-a-half acres, 100ft in the London air, the setting is spectacular, and while there is free access to the grounds during afternoons, the venue really comes to life at night.
You’ll need to dress up – ‘no effort, no entry’ is the rule – but the cocktails are well worth it. And if you’re after a more relaxed evening, try the Brackenbury Wine Rooms. Forty wines are available by the glass, and the bar doubles as a wine shop, in case your taste buds are tickled into taking a bottle home.