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Explore Olympia London

Visit this iconic venue situated among the cream of Kensington’s cultural big-hitters

By Time Out in association with Olympia London
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Olympia London hosts some of London’s top lifestyle and cultural events, from high art to street culture, food, design and fashion, so there’s something to engage and entertain every interest. Annual staples include the Art and Antiques Fair, Olympia Horse Show and Spirit of Christmas, and newer additions such as London Film and Comic Con, the Great British Beer Festival and Salon du Chocolat draw a diverse crowd of all ages. It’s also a great base for exploring Kensington and west London. Within a few minutes’ walk, a short bus ride away, or a stop or two from Olympia’s own Overground station, you’ll find elegant shops, world-class museums, buzzing bars and restaurants and beautiful open spaces. The next show to take place at Olympia London is BBC Good Food Show. 

Top ten attractions in the Olympia area

Kensington High Street

Kensington High Street

Few shopping streets have the special atmosphere of ‘High Street Ken’. More laid-back than Oxford Street, its elegant architecture and rows of great boutiques like Cos make shopping a pleasure. Don’t miss the chic charms of Barker’s Arcade, stop for a cocktail on the terrace of The Roof Gardens next door and wander up Kensington Church Street to browse the antique shops and galleries.

Portobello Market

For decades, W11’s greatest asset has been its market along Portobello Road. The market reflects the breadth of its community – from antiques at the Chepstow Villas to Elgin Crescent end, through fruit and veg and bargain homewares in the middle, to one-off fashions and vintagewear stalls around the Westway, and secondhand goods heading up to the Goldborne Road end. The shops and cafés lining both sides of the market add to the buzz.

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Natural History Museum

There is something to fascinate visitors of all ages at this palace of learning. It’s worth booking ahead for free tickets to the Dinosaurs gallery during school holidays, when pint-sized palaeontologists flock to see the stunning exhibits. However, there’s much more to the NHM than old bones. The new Volcanoes and Earthquakes gallery and the state-of-the-art Darwin Centre have brought this grand museum into the 21st century.

Science Museum

Next door to the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum is dedicated to the past, present and future of technological design and innovation. The hands-on Launchpad gallery is full of fun experiments to try, and exhibits include icons of the modern world, from the early days of steam to the space age – Stephenson’s Rocket to the Apollo 10 Command Module. It’s free to visit, with a charge for some special installations and the 3D IMAX cinema.

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V&A

Tracing centuries of fashion, art and craft, the Victoria & Albert Museum comes right up to date with its blockbuster exhibition for 2014, The Glamour of Italian Fashion, 1945-2014 (April 5-July 27). There are daily free tours and regular workshops to join year-round, and on the last Friday of every month the popular Friday Late events offer live music and performances, catwalk shows, food and drink and the chance to visit the galleries after hours.

Holland Park

West London’s elegant green space is full of contrasts, with lots to see and do beyond walks and outdoor sports. You can wander through the beautiful Japanese Kyoto Garden, explore woodland full of wildlife and see grazing cows and even peacocks. Every summer Opera Holland Park presents a fabulous season of shows at its open-air theatre in the grounds of the Jacobean mansion Holland House, and near the children’s adventure playground the Ecology Centre runs events and activities for children and adults.

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Churchill Arms

A beautiful example of a traditional London pub. Built in 1750, it got its present name because Winston Churchill’s grandparents were regulars; pop in for a pint and you’ll see a collection of memorabilia dedicated to the great 20th-century leader. Festooned with hanging flower baskets and serving great Thai food, it’s popular with the well-heeled local residents, so you might bump into a few 21st-century celebs there, too.

Trailer Happiness

Among the classy bars of west London, Trailer Happiness stands out for its funky sense of fun. Sure, it mixes a mean cocktail and it’s a great place to drink, but its also an experience in kitsch, with a tiki bar theme, retro Tretchikoff paintings of green-skinned ladies on the walls and a DJ hatch for party times. A five-star hangout.

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Betty Blythe

If you think all tea rooms are twee places for Miss Marple types, think again. Adding a splash of retro Hollywood glamour to their 1920s-style vintage setting, Betty Blythe is a fabulous place to enjoy a sumptuous afternoon tea or, if the mood takes you, canapés and champagne. They do beautifully decorated biscuits to take away, too. Booking is advisable at weekends.

Maggie Jones

This quirky restaurant looks like a 1970s country kitchen, but buzzes with a hip crowd of foodies every night. At big old wooden tables, diners feast on stylish versions of comfort food classics like steak, pies and game. Make sure you save space for pudding; you could go ice skating on the thick sugar crust that tops their awesome burnt cream.

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