Kensington, London touring Pubs and Thrift Stores

IHG promotions and good deals with Club Carlson reward nights have taken me to different parts of London over the past three years. This week we stayed at Holiday Inn Kensington, a 2016 hotel rebrand still undergoing remodeling from when it was the Kensington Close Hotel. Holiday Inn Kensington Forum is a different, larger skyscraper hotel several blocks away. Web and online map searches were far more likely to give me results for HI Kensington Forum when I looked for information.

By Tube
To get to Holiday Inn Kensington Hotel on the tube travel on the Circle or District lines and get off at High Street Kensington.

On Foot
Exit High Street Kensington Tube Station onto Kensington High Street and turn to your left. Start walking and turn left again onto Wrights Lane. You will see Holiday Inn Kensington Hotel at the end of the street.

Kensington – A Residential Maze

This was my first time walking around this area of London west of Kensington Gardens, Royal Albert Hall and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Most of our hotel stays in London the past two years were reward nights at InterContinental Park Lane and burning Club Carlson points at The May Fair Hotel in Mayfair, east of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. In September 2016, I stayed at Holiday Inn Commercial Road in East London and that hotel was a little less expensive this week, but Kelley preferred the idea of exploring Kensington.

Kelley likes a good pub crawl and I did my best to keep up as we toured Kensington, Holland Park, Notting Hill and Bayswater pubs on an unseasonably warm February day with temperatures topping 60F. I spent part of the day walking around in a t-shirt and sunglasses feeling like I could get a sunburn in London in winter.

A Tourist Perspective

As a tourist from California, my perspective of Kensington is a visitor viewpoint based on first-time exposure to the area. Officially the area is the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea in West London. I explored neighborhoods of Chelsea by the Thames River during a severe rainstorm in September 2015. In July 2015, I walked through Notting Hill and Holland Park one morning when we were staying at InterContinental Park Lane.

This trip familiarized me with an area of Kensington I liked for its residential nature, along with major roads like High Street Kensington, Gloucester Road and Cromwell Road filled with shops, restaurants and a couple of large supermarkets including Whole Foods on High Street Kensington Road and Sainsbury’s on Cromwell Road.

One of the first things we learned while walking around the streets near High Street Kensington Underground Station is the street plan is a maze of upscale residential housing with lots of cul-de-sac dead end roads. Phone maps were essential once we ventured off the main roads. Trying to move in a general direction of west to east or north to south was a frustrating experience of blocked passageways, either by buildings, private gate communities, or closed roads due to construction.

Campden Hill Road

The neighborhoods made for pleasant walks and there is no difficulty finding a pub simply walking aimlessly through residential areas.

Holland Park

Google Maps shows pubs in the immediate vicinity between Holland Park and Kensington Gardens.

Google Maps Kensington pubs

Across the busy road of High Street Kensington, neighborhood roads were quiet and pubs seemed to be filled primarily with locals rather than tourists.

Kensington Elephant & Castle

The Elephant & Castle Kensington, London

Kensington Elephant Castle Craft Beer

Paso Robles, California Firestone Walker Brewery beer in London. No thanks. I can buy that brew for far less at my local Costco.

Kensington Palace

Obligatory Kensington Palace tourist photo for Kelley’s friends.

Camden Town Brewery

We found Camden Town Brewery lager on tap at several pubs. Hopped up craft beer is all the rage these days, but for our tastes, after 20 years drinking craft beer all around the USA since the late 80s, our preference for the past decade are European lagers. That is why I love central Europe for its long tradition of excellent lager brewing. Hard to go wrong with any Czech beer.

The Churchill Arms Kensington with extensive exterior foliage is a pub hard to miss if you find yourself on Kensington Church Street.

Churchill Arms

The place is half traditional English pub and half Thai Restaurant with some of the cheapest pub food around and quite a bit tastier than fish & chips. Lots of antique decor and World War II news articles and stories.

Absolutely Notting Hill

Absolutely Notting Hill magazine.

Holland Park is the area where Edina Monsoon of Absolutely Fabulous claimed to reside, when her house was situated in neighboring Shepherd’s Bush, west of Holland Park.

Holland Park sign

We found great thrift store values at Traid Westbourne Grove and Trinity Hospice Charity Shop on Queensway.

Traid 2

10,000 items of clothing are sent to UK landfill every 5 minutes. Stop the waste, donate clothes to Traid. #secondhandfirst.

When I was invited to New York Fashion Week in 2012 by Starwood Preferred Guest with a complimentary hotel stay at the W Union Square, I made the comment to a PR rep that most of my clothes are second hand items. She said something to me like, “That is information I suggest you don’t share with other people.”

Traid 3

Hey, I recycle too.

As a tourist it was hard to tell what local neighborhood we were in at times. The map looked to me like Notting Hill and Paddington were side by side and I thought we had walked into the Paddington area, but then I learned from the publican at Champions we were on Queensway in Bayswater, east of Notting Hill and west of Paddington. 


We caught the second half of the NBA All-Star Game at Champions pub at the corner of Westbourne Grove and Queensway. With pints averaging 5 GBP, I would have gambled 20p to try and balance a coin on a floating lemon for the chance to win a free pint. But I had no British currency on me. All our transactions for two days in London were electronic card payments.

Churchill Arms toilet

And for another pint, Captain, I’ll tell you some of my real stories as a Home Guard ‘travel blogger’.



About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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