London is a fascinating, diverse, and massive city, so much so that it can even be thought of as multiple cities within one huge city! Everyone knows about the typical tourist attractions that get visitors by the thousands, so what I’d like to focus on instead in this 3-part series are the lesser-known attractions in London. Sometimes, they may not even be attractions at all, but simply interesting places you may never have heard of. Let’s get started, in no particular order, in the Kensington and Bayswater areas!
1. Kyoto Garden in Holland Park
This Japanese-style garden sits in the middle of Holland Park in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It was opened in 1991 as a gift from Kyoto to celebrate the friendship between Japan and the UK, and also in conjunction with the Japan Festival in London that took place in 1992.
It’s a great place to go to for some relaxation, zen, and tranquility. Waterfalls, a pond, and cute wee shrubs dot the garden.
Also in the garden are peacocks! We saw 2 peacocks – who unfortunately never spread their beautiful feathers for us.
There was also 1 peafowl (a female peacock, if you will) – who did in fact display a few times, seemingly out of fear of the nearby birds.
There are also koi fish in the pond, but the water was quite muddy so we couldn’t see them properly.
Nearby to Kyoto Garden is the Fukushima Memorial Garden, which opened in 2012 to thank the British people for their support after the nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011.
Address: Ilchester Place, London W8 6LU
Hours: Daily from 07:30 until 30 minutes before dusk
Transport: Via Holland Park Underground Station (Central line), High Street Kensington Underground Station (Circle and District lines), and Notting Hill Gate Underground Station (Central, Circle, and District lines)
2. Garden Lodge (Freddie Mercury’s Home)
If you were simply walking past Freddie Mercury’s former home and didn’t know that was his home, you’d pass by without blinking an eye. At 1 Logan Place, towering brick walls are in place to shield the house and garden from view.
On the off chance that you don’t know who Freddie Mercury was, he was a singer-songwriter best known for being the lead singer of the rock band Queen. He is known as one of the greatest singers of all time.
When Freddie passed away in 1991, he left his home to his former partner and best friend, Mary Austin, who still lives there with her sons. The outside walls of the home became a shrine when he passed away as fans of Freddie and Queen left letters, gifts, and flowers outside. However, Mary has since taken everything away, thus why I mentioned earlier that if you didn’t know it was his home, you’d pass by without blinking an eye.
Address: 1 Logan Place, London W8 6QN
Transport: Via Earl’s Court Underground Station (District and Piccadilly lines)
3. Kensington Palace Gardens
This is actually not a garden, but a street! In fact, it’s the UK’s most expensive street, with property values soaring upwards of £40 million.It is commonly known as “Billionaires’ Row” due to the wealthy residents, although many are embassies and ambassadors’ residences. Some former residents include the Rothschild family, members of the Saudi royal family, and Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal.
The properties at Kensington Palace Gardens ultimately belong to the Crown Estate, which is a collection of lands and holdings that belong to the British crown, not monarch. This means they are neither government property nor part of the monarch’s private estate. The properties are managed by a public group headed by the Crown Estate Commissioners. When a property is listed for sale, they are sold to buyers on long leases.
Because the street is a very likely terrorist target, both ends of the street have armed police standing guard with big barriers and gates to control vehicle access. Pedestrians are allowed to walk along, usually without any trouble, but as you can now imagine, photographs are not allowed.
Address: Kensington Palace Gardens, London W8 4QG
Transport: Via Queensway Underground Station (Central line), High Street Kensington Underground Station (Circle and District lines), and Notting Hill Gate Underground Station (Central, Circle, and District lines)
4. Leinster Gardens
Like Kensington Palace Gardens, Leinster Gardens is not a garden, but a street. While it is not located in the Kensington area, it is just northeast and really close in the Bayswater area, hence why I included it in this list.
What makes this street interesting is the middle section – 23 & 24 Leinster Gardens to be exact – where there are two false houses. However, similar to Garden Lodge, if you didn’t know about it, you wouldn’t blink an eye.
The false houses are only facades built to look like the neighbouring houses and with nothing behind them.
The reason for this is that the Metropolitan Railway, the world’s first underground railway, had dug tracks running through (perpendicular to the street), demolishing 23 & 24 Leinster Gardens. The open track was a great space for trains to let off steam and smoke, and because this is an upscale neighbourhood, the railway company put up the facades to hide the unsightliness.
If you look closely, you can spot the difference between the real and false houses.
Address: 23 & 24 Leinster Gardens, London W2 3AN
Transport: Via Bayswater Underground Station (Circle and District lines) and Lancsaster Gate Underground Station (Central line)
I hope you now have a few items to add to your London bucket list! Have you ever visited any of these places? Did anything surprise you? Let me know in the comments!