Hitting up West London? Brush up on your local knowledge with our West London insider’s guide.
West London has plenty to offer. Not only does it draw crowds of weekend diners to its fantastic restaurants and brunch spots, but it also brings in the punters for the best museums in the city and a selection of palaces that are up there with the best.
But knowing what to do in West London can be a bit of a headache. There’s so much to see, so what should you visit?
Here’s our guide of the top places you shouldn’t miss if you’re visiting west London.
Things to do in West London
Delving into the spots you shouldn’t miss.
Take a Walk in Kew Gardens
These days when you hear Londoners talking botanics they’re more than likely to be talking about gin. It might be worth pointing out that they’ve got one of the UK’s finest botanical gardens right under their noses.
Kew Gardens date back to the 18th century as the gardens of one of West London’s many palaces. Throughout the ages the gardens have become more and more focused on the science of botany and less on the pleasures of royalty, where we’re sure you’ll all agree is a pretty good thing.
There’s still lots of pleasure to be found walking through Kew though. They have such an eclectic selection of beautiful plants from around the world and will regularly put on flower shows or exhibitions of flora from other regions.
Oh, and be sure to check out the greenhouses for the colourful tropical plants.
Pay a Visit to Kensington Palace
West London is not lacking for palaces. One of the finest is Kensington Palace and it should not be missed if you’re looking to live a vicarious royal life for an afternoon. The place is as you can imagine, palatial.
In spite of the fact that royalty still lives in Kensington palace, sections of the grounds and buildings are open to the public. You can stroll through the grand halls and beautiful gardens that many of England’s monarchy have called home.
The palace is also a late work of Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of St. Paul’s Cathedral and much London fame, which is a nice touch of normalcy for a place of such over-the-top opulence.
Find the King’s Mound
Much is made of the deer in Richmond Park. And rightly so. It is undeniably cool that one of London’s most famous parks used to be a royal hunting ground and that you can still see the descendants of the deer they once chased all up close and personal.
There’s something to be said for lesser known spots though. In this case a viewpoint with a clear line of sight all the way back to St. Pauls in central London. It’s known as King Henry’s mound, though which King Henry is debatable.
For real, there’s actually controversy about which King put his name to the hill. Or if it was even a King Henry in the first place – the mound has been used as a burial site for thousands of years.
Next time you hit up Richmond Park you’ll have a very interesting story to delve into. Leave Rudolf for the tourists.
Watch Rugby at Twickenham
Rugby, that classic institution of English sport. There’s a fair chance that you, dear reader, don’t care one bit for it, in which case feel free to skip this segment. No hard feelings.
If you’re still reading it’s probably because the sound 80,000+ people yelling their head off at rugby’s most famous stadium probably makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. If that’s the case, don’t miss an opportunity to catch a game at Twickenham Stadium.
Any serious sports fan’s bucket list shouldn’t be complete without it. The stadium is as iconic as it is grand, and thanks to the fact that rugby isn’t even half as popular as football, fairly reasonably priced to attend.
See a Show at the Royal Albert Hall
If there’s one thing that Britain does well, it’s historic places. As venues go you don’t get more historic than the Royal Albert Hall. Completed in 1871, the hall has all the Victorian opulence you could ask for.
Archways and pillars are adorned with full rococo trim, tiers of seating gracefully climb the walls, and a giant and wholly impressive dome caps the lot. To watch a show here is to walk in the footsteps of some of history and the present day’s greats.
The schedule will have much to offer too. They hold everything from classical music concerts to stand up comedy shows.
At the week of writing this article Ronan Keating is booked in – whether you think that adds to or detracts from the hall’s name is none of our business, but it proves they don’t book featherweights.
Peruse Modern Art at the Saatchi Gallery
You probably already know about the Saatchi Gallery. It’s only one of the coolest art galleries in London. Probably the coolest. But have you ever been there?
The Saatchi Gallery has been at the forefront of contemporary art for decades, showcasing works from some of the biggest names in the game from Damien Hirst to Andy Warhol – who has some permanent works on display here.
They also regularly host temporary exhibitions that never fail to disappoint. A show all about the rise of street art and how it’s impacted contemporary pop culture? Yes please.
How about photographic journalism from the turbulent Trump years of American democracy? Sure, we’ll have that too.
Stroll Around the Kyoto Garden
London has plenty of nice green spaces, but this little gem of a garden in Holland Park is quite special. The Kyoto Garden is a section of the park that takes on the characteristics of a well-manicured Japanese garden.
There’s the perfectly cut lawns, the well-heeled shrubberies and stone lanterns that guide you along the winding paths. You might even spot a peacock or two.
The defining feature of the whole thing though, is the waterfall. It’s cliche to make references to inner peace and zen and stuff in relation to Eastern culture, so we won’t. But for real, this place is hella relaxing.
There’s even a heart warming story to go with the Kyoto gardens. They were actually a gift from the government of Kyoto, donated as a symbol for the ever-close relationship between the UK and Japan.
Wander Along Museum Mile
A guide of things to do in West London wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the area’s excellent museums. We could talk at length about the individual virtues of museum mile’s institutions but there’s so much to talk about that we’re going to bundle them up and save a little space on the page.
That doesn’t mean you have to hit them all in one day though. Taking in the staggering amount of displays at the Natural History Museum and then crossing the road to peruse the vast collections at The V&A would certainly be information overload.
Throw a trip round the Science Museum into that mix and you’re talking a genuine brain meltdown.
Take them a day at a time. Perhaps even make a return visit or two. But absolutely do not miss out on visiting these museums.
Read Next: The Best Museums in London
Rollerblade at Flippers
Looking for fun things to do in West London? You can’t do much better than a few laps around the floor at Flippers Roller Boogie Palace. The rollerblading rink has as much claim to the title palace as some of the other locations in this guide through virtue of its ambition.
The concept was set up in part with Usher after a highly successful New York trial run and actually hails back to a highly popular and star-studded roller disco of the same name in 70’s LA.
In London, a giant rollerblading rink is twinned with a pimped-out American diner that knocks up elevated twists on American classics like a portion of fries with cream cheese and caviar.
Music plays as you glide round the rink, or in our case stumble – which is why Flippers is always such a laugh.
Get Lost in the Maze at Hampton Court Palace
The maze at Hampton Court Palace is a great spot for a bit of West London fun and comes with a very cool bit of history.
The enormous trapezoid hedge maze is actually the oldest surviving hedge maze in the UK. It was originally constructed by William III in around the year 1700 which means people have been getting lost in it for a hell of a long time. Thankfully – so far – everyone has made it out.
Of course, a trip to see the maze will require buying entry to Hampton Court Palace itself, a place that should not be bypassed. The palace has been the haunt of many an English monarch, including the portly Henry VIII himself who would host feasts in the palace’s grand halls.
Hunt for the Famous Dead at Brompton Cemetery
Ok, so now for a spot of the macabre. London has many famous cemeteries. Most of the big ones were zoned in the Victorian era as a response to the growing population of London. More residents = more dead.
If you can get over the fact that telling your friends you want to visit a graveyard might draw some sideways looks, you’ll actually find a very peaceful, interesting place. Interesting mainly for some of the graves you can find in them.
At Brompton Cemetery you can find the resting place of Emmeline Pankhurst, famous suffragette, and Sir John Snow, the man who identified cholera as a waterborne disease. There’s even a native American chief buried here.
Feeling really brave? Don’t forget to check out the catacombs.
Check out an Exhibition at the Design Museum
London’s Design Museum isn’t a place that jumps straight to mind when considering a good, thought-provoking day out in London. That’s most likely because in London there are so many good museums that places like this don’t often make the cut.
If you’re into design though, skip all the rest (or promise to visit them later) and head straight here. At the Design Museum you’ll find heaps of rotating exhibitions that showcase everything from the best to the wackiest of the design world.
Exhibitions will range from displays on how we can use design to create a greener, more sustainable world, to major exhibitions by artists as well known as Ai Wei Wei. We love it.
Things to do in West London: Bars & Restaurants
The restaurants that West London lays claim to won’t disappoint. Nor will its bars. Especially when that bar is Trailer Happiness.
This place has won awards for the quality of its drinks, and much praise from us for the welcoming atmosphere.
Trailer Happiness is actually a rum lounge, a place where owner Sly Augustin and his team mix up some very delightful tiki-inspired cocktails. The setting is a good mix of sleek and laid-back and, after a couple of the exotic drinks, feels just like home.
That magic combination makes Trailer Happiness a great place for hanging out with friends, impressing family on a visit to London, or even that special someone.
In spite of being known as the richer part of town, at one of the best restaurants west London has to offer you can get your fill for under a tenner. Normah’s is a delightfully homely Malaysian restaurant with a wholesome story.
The owner, and restaurant’s namesake, grew up in a family of thirteen kids and took on much of the responsibility in the kitchen. After moving to the UK she’s expanded the scope of her cooking skills to feed hoards of hungry foodies that flock from across London to try out her kitchen’s delicacies.
Our top pick on the menu? Normah’s Beef Rendang, a big hitter of a dish that’s beef gets a four-hour cook off in ginger and spices – minimum – before it hits your plate basically dripping off the bone.
The River Cafe
The River Cafe is something of a London dining institution. If you’re looking for a delish meal, it’s one of the best places in West London.
Over its several decades of business, The River Cafe has shaped the way people dine in the capital and produced some of the finest chefs in the country.
The food could best be described as honest. The ingredients are often the focus of the dish and chances are, depending on the season, you’ll be dining out on the finest Cornish fish or something like Aberdeen steak from Scotland all plated up in delicious Italian style.
The cooking is simple, but exceptional. Not surprisingly, The River Cafe holds a Michelin star then.
Top Shopping Spots in West London
Nowhere for shopping in West London is as iconic as the Portobello Road. Known for its vintage fashion markets and pokey antiques shops, as well as a good food market or two, this section of Notting Hill has been visited by shoppers of all kinds for decades.
The market shifts focus on each day of the week but the main day to go is Saturday when you’ll find most of the vintage clothing.
Our top tip: Get there early. If you leave it too late all the best stuff will certainly have been taken.
Read More: The Insider’s Guide to Visiting Portobello Road Market
Westfield might just be the single largest shopping centre in London, at least it looks that way from the outside. The place is like a village, except that village is LED bright, windowless and crammed full of corporate brands.
Westfield certainly doesn’t have the charm that somewhere like Portobello Road does, but what it lacks in that department is certainly made up for in others. Practically every major brand you could want has a home here and there’s enough restaurants to make your dinner choice anxiety inducing.
It’s BIG American-style mall capitalism. It’s either kind of scary or kind of thrilling.
If you’ve got the money to do your shopping in Chelsea, a trip down the King’s Road is a must. The stretch has been made famous as the shopping strip of A-listers and idols, and of course the cast of Made in Chelsea who fit into neither of those categories.
While you might find one or two better-known brands along the King’s Road the majority of shops are boutique. The fashion shopping here is excellent, as are some of the smaller art galleries you’ll find dotted around.
You’re also never far from a good bar for a post-spending-spree cocktail.
While we’re on the subject of high end places to shop, we can’t forget to give a little nod to Harrods. This department store is up there with the highest of high-end places to shop in the capital.
That reputation also makes it a bit of a tourist attraction. Many people go there just to browse the items on display – things that can be as ostentatious as fossilised mammoth tusks or as commonplace as (very nice) scented candles.
The department store’s motto of “all things for all people, everywhere” may be fundamentally untrue, but who’s counting? Just give us more glamour, dahling.
Places to Stay in West London
Artist Residence is a quaint boutique hotel in Pimlico that has everything you need for a cosy stay in the capital. The rooms are clean, comfortable and individually designed so that no two are the same.
Being close to Victoria Station means it’s also very well connected to the rest of London.
The hotel’s ground floor is taken up by a restaurant that serves stellar food and a very popular brunch menu, and the basement is home to a cocktail bar you shouldn’t pass up on visiting if you’re staying in the building.
The Hoxton is an incredible place to stay in London. They have several branches across the capital and each offer a high service and quality of stay at a decent rate as London hotels go.
The interiors are always sleek and stylish, and you can always rely on the food and drinks to be tasty AF if you don’t feel like venturing further than the hotel restaurant for dinner.
Better yet, the location in Shepherds Bush puts it on a straight shot to the city centre for any business or pleasure you may be heading that way for.
Practical Tips for Visiting West London
- West London can be expensive. If you’re on a budget, staying a little further out could save you a bit of money. Try looking for hotels in Hammersmith or Shepherds Bush instead.
- There are plenty of parks and green spaces around West London. You can also save money by grabbing some sandwiches and having lunch as a picnic rather than eating in a restaurant.