Luxury and elegance in city’s Royal borough

The London Eye on the South Bank of the River Thames, seen at night
The London Eye on the South Bank of the River Thames, seen at night
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There are few more vibrant and exciting places to visit for a short break in the UK than London - but anyone would be forgiven for finding the thought of the usual tourist hotspots a little wearing, to say the least.

So for those seeking a more elegant location - but still not too far from the centre of things - Kensington makes a good base for a trip to the capital.

As its one of the world’s most expensive postcodes, city dwellers who actually own property within the Royal borough are likely to be wealthy in the extreme - although a stroll through the elegant, well-kept mews streets at least offers a taste of the millionaire lifestyle.

Starting the journey in style adds a little to the sense of luxury, too - travelling first class to King’s Cross on Virgin East Coast’s new services is well worth it for the extra touches of complimentary food and drinks in more comfortable carriages.

The streets in Kensington are populated with chic boutiques, enticing restaurants and upmarket gastropubs, as well as independent shops - Kensington Church Street is the place for fine art and antiques.

While the area can provide some respite from the crowds, it is still only a stone’s throw from Knightsbridge, with the Natural History Museum, the V&A and Royal Albert Hall all nearby.

We stayed at the Kensington House Hotel, which is perfectly situated for all of these treats.

The townhouse building is hidden behind a 19th century stuccoed facade, and its looks are deceptive - despite appearing fairly compact, the hotel offers more than 40 guest rooms.

The property’s interior also retains many of the original features including the staircase, balustrade and ceiling mouldings.

Our room - a junior suite - was light and airy, with a separate sitting room overlooking a quiet, secluded residential street.

The hotel is virtually opposite Kensington Gardens, which surround William, Kate and Harry’s palatial residence and are perfect for an evening stroll.

The district itself is one of London’s green oases, as the gardens lead to the expanse of Hyde Park.

The park can be navigated by the ubiquitous hire bikes (Boris bikes, if you will), and there’s even a lido for those prepared to take a dip in the chilly water come summertime.

Later, before heading to a concert, we visited The Queen’s Arms, one of several good-quality pubs tucked away in the Kensington mews.

Despite its unpretentious interior, it’s actually something of a find, serving real ales and well-cooked food - including excellent pies and roast vegetable tarts - without a dreaded London mark-up on the bill.

The following day, after breakfast in Kensington House, we went into the heart of the city to sample one of the must-try landmarks - the London Eye.

Without stating the obvious, it is the best way to gaze out over the city, allowing passengers to soar up over the Thames as familiar sights, from Buckingham Palace to London Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral, spread out into the distance for many miles.

A memorable way to round off a well-spent day or two indeed.

The Kensington House Hotel, on Prince of Wales Terrace, offers rooms from £99 per night. Visit www.kenhouse.com or call 02079372345 to book. Virgin East Coast runs frequent services to London King’s Cross from Doncaster - see www.virgintrainseastcoast.com for details.