Check out our guide to annual events in Kensington and Chelsea. Some of the more famous events include: the Chelsea Flower Show, BBC Proms and Proms in the Park, the Notting Hill Carnival, the Great British Beer Festival, Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and ice skating at the Natural History Museum.
We also explore some of the lesser-known events, such as: Open Garden Square Weekends, summer garden parties, Pintar Rapido and the Chelsea Christmas Fair. Other events include the monthly Lates at the South Kensington museums, as well as various celebrations for special calendar days, such as Remembrance Day, Shrove Tuesday and Bonfire Night.
The Science Museum Lates happen on the last Wednesday of each month from 6:45pm to 10pm. Each month there is a different theme but the event will always incorporate a pub quiz, comedy shows and a silent disco with DJs and bars on all three floors of the museum. The event has been nicknamed "Drinking and Thinking" by museumgoers.
After Hours at the Natural History Museum occur on the last Friday of each month from 6pm to 10:30pm. Have a glass of wine, whilst listening to live music in the Central Hall. Then check out the natural world in one of the many exhibitions and galleries. They also have scientists who give small talks about specialised subjects and who are also available to answer your questions.
Friday Late at the Victoria & Albert Museum happens on the last Friday of the month from 6:30pm to 10pm. The night typically consists of special installations, performances and debates, as well as the usual museum Lates bars and DJs.
Sugar and lemon, Nutella and banana, powdered sugar and ice cream – InKensington loves a good pancake. Whilst most of our residents undoubtedly make them at home, we have also noticed some events to get free pancakes in the borough.
We’ll keep you updated with such opportunities as and when they appear. Until then, here’s BBC Good Food’s recipe for perfect pancakes. Because Pancake Day shouldn’t be just once a year!
Weed it and reap! Each May, the Royal Horticultural Society proudly presents the Chelsea Flower Show on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Running since 1913, the flower show is a horticultural exhibition, awarding medals to the most flourishing exhibits in different categories such as floral, trees, vegetable or herb gardens, exhibits with educational or scientific interests and photographs of floral arrangements.
You’ll need to pre-order your tickets online, as these are not available at the gate. They sell out quickly though; so don’t take too much thyme. When you turnip to the Chelsea Flower Show – you’ll be re-leafed, cause it’s a bloomin’ good time!
Each summer, Holland Park is host to an opera series under a temporary canopy within the grounds of the park that can accommodate up to 1,000 guests. Opera Holland Park offer a good selection of different opera performances and have also added an opera meant for children with familiar stories, such as Alice in Wonderland.
Opera Holland Park can be great fun for the whole family or perhaps a romantic day out with your spouse. Before the show, pre-book a bottle of champagne and a picnic basket to enjoy in one of the many terrace cafes within Opera Holland Park. Tickets to the shows are definitely affordable and in attempt to be accessible to everyone, they also offer the opportunity for young persons aged 7-18 to apply for one of 1,000 free tickets.
There are over 100 garden squares in Kensington and Chelsea that provide private green spaces for residents living in a property on a square. These are welcome retreats for those who don’t have gardens of their own.
Many of these garden squares will host annual summer parties for the residents in order to bring the neighbours closer together and perhaps raise a bit of money for a charity. They typically entail nibbles and wine, live music and raffles. Whilst many of these parties may remain private to residents living on a square, there are a number of garden parties that are open to everyone. Keep your eyes out for signs posted on garden gates for dates and costs of said events.
Courtfield Gardens West, for example, had their 10th annual summer garden party in June 2014, which was open to everyone. The money they raised through admission costs and raffle tickets went toward the Pluto Appeal. The Pluto Appeal was able to purchase a medical robot called “Pluto", which enables surgeons at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital to perform intricate surgery on children and babies with accuracy and precision.
If you fancy snooping on other garden squares in the area, Open Garden Squares Weekend is the time to do it! Not only can you check out other gardens within Kensington and Chelsea, you can also visit garden squares all throughout London. There are over 200 garden squares now participating! The event is organised by the London Parks & Garden Trust and is in association with the National Trust.
One ticket is valid for both Open Garden Square Weekend days; however, many of the gardens may only be open on one of the two days. Check the website for garden opening times, information on guided tours, maps of the participating gardens, as well as planned activities on the weekend. Summer fêtes, refreshments for sale, activities for children and live music are just some of the happenings you will encounter on your weekend exploring London’s hidden green spaces.
Quite literally, Pintar Rapido translates to mean: "to paint fast". The event covers two days in the summer months where over 400 artists come to paint a scene somewhere in Kensington and Chelsea in one-day. To prevent any cheating, the artists must have their blank canvases stamped at the Chelsea Old Town Hall on the morning of the event and must return their completed works by 8pm that same day. From parks to sleek K&C cafes to architecture – there are no restrictions on what these artists can paint as long as it is within the lines of the borough.
On the second day, the works of art are displayed in the Chelsea Old Town Hall and the winner of the best painting will receive £1,000. Visitors of the exhibition can purchase artwork, as well as meet the artists. Part of the money raised goes to the charity, Campaign for Drawing.
Since 1977, the Campaign for Real Ale has organised the Great British Beer Festival. The beer festival offers a selection of over 800 real ales, ciders, perries or pear ciders, as well as international beers. Since 2006, the festival has taken place within the limits of Kensington and Chelsea and is currently being held at Olympia London just next to Kensington (Olympia) station.
Hundreds of local breweries, as well as the bigger chains will be present to show off their selection of cask ales and other drinks to over 50,000 visitors. Find out about a new local brewery or learn about the range and depth of aromas and flavours in one of the tasting sessions.
The Great British Beer Festival also offers live music and entertainment, as well as a tasty selection of food to pair with your beverages. From sausages, cheeses, meat pies, crisps and pork scratchings – you’ll… beer… in heaven!
Led by the West Indian community, the Notting Hill Carnival is one of the biggest, most colourful street festivals in the world. The carnival happens every year around the August bank holiday weekend and kicks off at Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance.
Whilst you’re there, tuck into some traditional Caribbean food like Jamaican jerk chicken or curried goat with some rice and peas. You can also listen to traditional Calypso and Soca music and dance your little heart out behind the vibrant and pulsating parade floats that transform W11 and W10.
The BBC Proms consists of eight-weeks of classical music concerts and events at the Royal Albert Hall in South Kensington. The Proms is held annually each summer and usually runs from about July to September. From classical symphonies to chamber concerts and vocal artists – the BBC Proms brings a summer filled with musical magic to Kensington and Chelsea.
For you "Prommers" out there, there are plenty of opportunities to get cheaper standing-space tickets if you’re happy to queue for a while. These are only £5, but cannot be booked in advance.
The performance on the Last Night of the Proms is broadcasted live on BBC1 and BBC2 and the music typically entails popular classics, followed by patriotic British pieces. The tickets, however, are extremely difficult to acquire – check the official website for more details. You can always check out Proms in the Park as a lovely outdoor alternative!
Proms in the Park was created in order to accommodate the large demand of people wanting to attend the Last Night of the Proms. The event is held in Hyde Park and consists of its own live concert, as well as a live broadcast from inside the Albert Hall. Bust out your summer hat, pack a picnic basket and wave that union jack flag. The finale generally involves quite a bit of pomp and circumstance, fireworks and is quintessentially British.
"Remember, remember! The 5th of November, the Gunpowder treason and plot!" Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Day is typically celebrated on or around November the 5th. The day commemorates Guy Fawkes, et al’s failed attempts at destroying the House of Lords within Parliament and assassinating King James I. The celebrations typically consist of an effigy of Guy Fawkes over a bonfire, followed by fireworks.
Kensington and Chelsea have a few Bonfire Night celebrations of its own. Many of the garden squares will organise events, so it’s always a good idea keep an eye out for signs posted on garden gates nearer to the time. The Westway Development Trust hold an annual fireworks display in Maxilla Gardens, W10 6NQ, which offers free admission for the public. It’s a great celebration for the whole family, with live entertainment and a fireworks display.
Battersea Park, just south of the river, always hosts a big celebration on a Saturday around 5 November. Tickets for the event must be purchased in advance and typically cost around £8-10. They offer a giant bonfire, a spectacular fireworks display, food, alcoholic beverages, fair games and general merriment!
After World War I occurred; the poppy was one of the only things to grow in the desolate battlefields of Northern France and Flanders. Out of respect for those who sacrificed their lives in this war, it is important that we all remember to wear our poppies with pride on and around November the 11th – Remembrance Day. The Royal British Legion, a charity that supports members of the armed services, sells poppies each year in an effort to fundraise. Poppies can be purchased in most shops and outside of tube stations.
Kensington and Chelsea typically hold a couple of remembrance services within the borough on Remembrance Sunday. All members of the public are welcome to attend these events. In the past they have been held in Sloane Square, as well as at the war memorial on Kensington High Street. Ceremonies typically involve laying the traditional poppy wreaths, a moment of silence and a church service to commemorate the fallen soldiers.
From approximately November to January, the Natural History Museum creates a 1,000 square metre ice rink just outside of its magnificent walls called the Swarovski Ice Rink. Can’t skate? Hire a helpful penguin to hold onto or perhaps just hold onto a friend who knows how to skate.
There is also a smaller rink for small children, as well as a two-story café and bar overlooking the rink. The bar serves up festive drinks like mulled wine and hot chocolate to keep you going. When you’re done, make sure to pop into the Natural History Museum and say hello to Dippy the dinosaur.
From late November to early January, Hyde Park is host to Winter Wonderland, a whimsical Christmas festival. Should you need a bit of help getting in the Christmas spirit, this is the place to venture. Winter Wonderland is exactly as it sounds – a wintry land of yuletide wonders.
It has Santa’s grotto, an ice-skating rink, ice sculptures, German sausages and mince pies, amusement park rides and a Ferris wheel, as well as a Christmas fair brimming with festive bric-a-brac to fill those stockings. What could be more magical than taking your kiddos to see Santa in Hyde Park this Christmas? And for those of you still not convinced – they also serve up plenty of mulled wine and beer!
For three days in mid December, the Chelsea Town Hall is host to the Chelsea Christmas Gift Fair, sponsored by Clever Creations Events. The Christmas Fair provides an opportunity to buy unique, hand-made gifts from vendors selectively chosen from around the UK.
With chocolates, perfumes, toys for children, purses, ties, jewelry and much more– there will be plenty of exceptional surprises to put under your tree this Christmas.
Part of the proceeds from the entry fee will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.