Located in the North West of Kensington, Holland Park is a central area surrounded by grand Victorian townhouses, shops, embassies and attractions such as the Design Museum. With wonderfully decorated gardens, large areas of wildlife, children’s play facilities and sports areas, Holland Park is the perfect place for a picnic.
With Notting Hill to the north, Earl’s Court to the south and Shepherd’s Bush to the west, Holland Park is a prime location, hence why many hotels line the adjacent streets. Holland Park used to be the grounds of a Jacobean mansion, Cope Castle, nestled in the woods. It was built by Sir Walter Cope, the Chancellor of the Exchequer under King James I, in the early 17th Century and became one of Kensington’s first great houses.
In 1616, Cope’s daughter married the Earl of Holland, Henry Rich, who inherited the mansion and changed its name to Holland House. The house was then occupied in 1716 by Joseph Addison, a famous essayist, poet and playwright who remained here until his death in 1719. In the 19th Century, Holland House was associated with literature and politics, hosting visits from the likes of Lord Byron and Disraeli.
Holland House was devastated by bombing during WWII in 1940, leaving only ruins. The remains of the front terrace now serve as a backdrop for a beautiful canopied theatre, Opera Holland Park. Fortunately, one wing was also saved and transformed into a youth hostel.
The park has developed over the years to form one of London’s most wonderful open spaces. Perhaps the most impressive section is the Japanese-style Kyoto Garden. A unique slice of zen in central London, the garden is astonishingly beautiful, with a traditional waterfall and pond filled with koi carp. All of which is enclosed with stone lanterns, Japanese maple trees and even the odd peacock strolling about.
A second Japanese garden, the Fukushima Memorial Garden, opened in 2012. This was an act of gratification from the Japanese people to the British for their support during the destruction caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Holland Park is also a base for the Ecology Centre, a service which promotes the learning and understanding of the environment and biodiversity through education.
Another of Holland Park’s hidden gems is The Orangery. This wonderful glass and stone building is popular for weddings as one of London’s brightest and most elegant venues. The setting was historically one of Lord Holland’s favourite reception areas as the huge windows guarantee an abundance of natural light.
The Belvedere Restaurant attached to The Orangery dates back to the 17th Century and acted as the Summer Ballroom to Holland House. It’s surrounded by lawns, picturesque gardens and an elegant fountain. There are private dining opportunities and it makes a wonderful wedding reception venue.
Down the road from Holland Park, you’ll find The Churchill Arms. Built in 1750, it is one of London’s most historic pubs which was named after Winston Churchill’s Grandparents who were regular visitors.
Aubaine; Kensington is right around the corner from Holland Park, so after a leisurely stroll, feel free to drop in for some Lunch.
Next up: Leighton House Museum