Feeling like you're out in the country in LondonBesides the city center, Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, Soho, Oxford Street, Hyde Park, and the icons that symbolize London, it's highly recommended to walk around the different neighborhoods that make up the city, each of which has its own unique character.
A tour of Kensington and nearby Notting Hill:The Kensington neighborhood is located west of the city center. As long as you're in London, it's well worth it to devote at least a few hours to touring the neighborhood, especially if you've come with children. The neighborhood is crossed by High Street running east to west, which is one of the best streets in London for shopping. The most renowned international brands have shops there. The neighborhood is characterized by a wealthy population and many private houses in the north and south sections. The neighborhood also serves as the residence of most of the European consulates. In the southeast section of the neighborhood, which faces the city center, one can find some of the most interesting museums in London: the science museum and the nature museum, which are highly recommended for children, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, one of the largest and most prominent museums of design in the world. However, if you'd like to lose yourself a bit in London and get away from the bustle of the city, your best bet is to take a walk in the parks and in the neighborhood's palace, and from there to continue on in the direction of Notting Hill and the markets in its vicinity. Here are some points of interest for a tour of one of the most elegant and exclusive neighborhoods of London, that can turn a day in the city into a relaxed and interesting rural experience not far from the busy center.
Parks:Holland Park - The large park gives one a feeling of wilderness within the city, (especially its northern section). In the park one can find picnic areas, a playground area for children, cafes and a variety of sports facilities that mainly serve the local residents for tennis or golf practice or other activities. The park also has an enchanting Japanese garden and an open air theater which is used every summer by the Holland Park Opera.
Kensington Gardens – Situated in the extension of the west side of Hyde Park, the gardens are a wonderful place to walk around and find relief from the noise of the city. In the park one can find a large circular pool that attracts the water birds in the area, a beautiful sunken garden next to the palace in the park, an Italian garden with a wealth of fountains and statues, a great play area for children, built in memory of Princess Diana, with a wooden pirate ship on a beach next to a café, and the royal family's charming palace, where they still reside. One may enter certain parts of the palace every day between 10:00 and 18:00 and view the paintings, the sculptures, and the rooms occupied by the royal family in the past. Also located in the gardens are the Serpentine Galleries, showing modern and contemporary art. Admission to the galleries is free, and the artists whose work is exhibited there are world-famous artists in their fields.
Markets:Portobello Market – a street market, open every day except Sunday, where one can find nearly anything – new and used clothing, antiques, old records, and more. A word of warning – the market is usually very crowded and full of tourists, but it's still highly recommended. The market is divided into areas where you can find different types of merchandise and runs through the middle of Notting Hill. On the weekend the market also becomes a food market for anyone interested in sampling, among other things, the characteristic local cuisine.
Notting Hill Farmers' Market – open every Saturday between 9:00 AM and 1:00 PM, a hidden gem. The market isn't large, but it's always full, and offers wonderful meats, sausages, local dishes, breads, and other good things.
Interesting to know:Kensington Palace was the palace where Princess Diana and Prince Charles lived after their marriage, and was Diana's residence after the divorce and until her death. The palace was the home where Princes William and Harry grew up, and they attended school in nearby Notting Hill. Today the palace serves as the residence of the princes and their spouses. The adjacent Kensington Palace Garden Street is the most expensive street in London.
If you're fans of Peter Pan, you may not want to miss his statue, which is located in the northeast section of Kensington Park, where it was erected in 1912 in an initiative led by James Matthew Barry, creator and author of the story of Peter Pan. The statue was erected in Kensington Park because it was there that the author first met the children of the Lewellen Davis family, whom he later adopted, and who were the inspiration for the story.
When you walk through the streets of the neighborhood, pay attention to the round blue signs that appear on some of the houses, each commemorating an important person who once lived there. Here's a small sample of the familiar names who lived in Kensington: General Allenby, famed poet T.S. Eliot, mystery writer Agatha Christie, and one of the most important authors of the modern era, James Joyce.
By Gali, an Israeli who has lived for many years in London, lives and breathes the city and knows every hidden corner. Gali guides tours in Hebrew for Israelis who are looking for a special experience in London. You can see the range of Gali's tours on her website and book tours at LocalYoo