Should you choose to base your stay in London – maybe you’ll be booking one for next year in the coming weeks? – in the Paddington/ Bayswater/ Hyde Park area, then you’ll many attractions and venues nearby, ideal for all the family. Just the ticket then for a short-break enjoyed at the Park Grand Lancaster Gate…
A modern development at the heart of Paddington’s waterways, Merchant Square is home to shops, restaurants and businesses as well as two beautiful lifting bridges and London’s first Floating Pocket Park. Thomas Heatherwick’s Rolling Bridge has become a tourist attraction in its own right and the cantilevered Fan Bridge, designed by Knight Architects, only adds to the attractions of this corner of west London. The three-metre-wide moving structure spanning 20 metres across the head of Paddington Basin uses an action similar to that of a traditional Japanese fan. Both bridges open at midday every Wednesday and Friday and at 2pm on Saturdays.
Serpentine Boating Lake
(The Boat House, Hyde Park, Serpentine Road W2 2UH)
The Serpentine’s Boating Lake is arguably one of the most pleasant places to experience spring and summer in London. With 110 pedalos and rowboats, and a fantastic swimming area there are few better places to forget the bustle and buzz of the big city and float away and relax. The Serpentine Lake gets its name from its curved shape which snakes around to the west of Hyde Park. It’s fed by a pure underground spring which makes it ideal for swimming and has a lido area cornered off for just such activity. It’s a superb feature which divides one of London’s largest Royal Park’s in two. And should you find yourself hungry after pedalo-ing your way around the Serpentine, why not indulge in dinner afterwards at one of the restaurants near Lancaster Gate?
Kensington Palace State Apartments
(Kensington Gardens W8 4PX)
Originally a private country house, public visitors are now warmly welcomed into Kensington Palace, the birthplace of Queen Victoria and home to Princess Diana between 1981 and 1997. Relive the moment in the Victorian Rooms when the young Princess Victoria discovered that she was to become Queen. Admire the family portraits and original furnishings adorning the homely Queen’s Apartments. Revel in the grandeur of the King’s Apartments, saturated with paintings and works of art from the Royal Collection, and find sanctuary in the calming Cupola Room where Princess Victoria was christened (it feels like just the sort of place to savour an India high tea London!).
On permanent display inside the palace is the famed Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection bursting at the seams with outfits from the 18th century to the present day including a range of glamorous dresses worn by HM Queen Elizabeth II and an array of spectacular and unique evening gowns modelled by Diana, Princess of Wales. Note, the state apartments are closed to the public 1st-25th March.
Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground
(Broad Walk W2 4RU)
A paradise for children, the ‘pirate ship playground’, as my two boys call it, is located in the north-west corner of Kensington Gardens – just a short distance from Princess Diana’s former apartments in Kensington Palace. Of the monuments created by the Diana Memorial Fund following her death, it is by far the most loved and most successful. More of a ‘play garden’ than a playground thanks to the beautiful design and landscaping, the play equipment is almost entirely constructed from natural materials. It’s just a simply marvellous place for children and their adults to enjoy adventures.
Open to children 12 and under (adults are admitted with their kids) and designed to enable less able and able-bodied children to play together, its centrepiece is a huge pirate galleon (which upholds Kensington Gardens’ connection with J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan); becalmed in a sandy sea it’s a scramble-all-over plaything all of its own – not least because it’s pretty much life-size!