Navigating South Kensington

CZ Kensington

Before coming to London, I had no idea what to expect. Upon arrival, I was overwhelmed by the new sights around me. Kensington looked like an absolute dream. I knew the borough was affluent, but the sheer beauty of the area was astonishing to me. Expensive cars, colorful flower boxes, and posh dogs can be seen on almost all of the streets. We get to live in such a great area in London. However, Kensington is definitely not representative of all of London. There is a bubble that surrounds these areas of London; one that shields you from the normal hustle and bustle of the city. There are many positives to this because crime is not a huge concern and everything is kept very neat here. At night a noise ordinance goes into place which protects the area from any crazy disruptions. However, the biggest downside is the extra expense of almost everything. You have to look carefully to find the right place to buy pretty much everything or you could accidentally pay double or triple the price. Kensington is not the most student-friendly place at first glance, but you’ll soon get the hang of things. Here’s a list of the best places I’ve found:

  • Ryman Stationery: great for school supplies
    • Present your student ID and get a 10% discount!!
    • Multiple locations in the area
  • Café Deco and The Sandwich Shop: great place for a quick meal
    • These are technically two separate places but they’re right by each other. Check out Café Deco (62 Gloucester Road) for cheap coffee and The Sandwich Shop for cheap food (62 Gloucester Road)
  • Sainsbury’s: the best place I’ve found for cheap grocery shopping
    • There is one right up the road from Foundation House (158A Cromwell Road, Kensington) and it’s definitely worth going to for bigger shopping trips because they have generic brands which make things super cheap (but still really good- I’m obsessed with the Sainsbury’s Minced Beef and Onion that comes in a can)
    • However, one major difference is that whatever you buy, you need to be able to carry!!! (this is especially relevant for me and my flatmates because we live on the 5th floor with no elevator) Also, get used to making a couple trips a week because the food here tends to expire quicker than what you’re probably used to and fridge space is probably going to be sparse (my flatmates and I each have one shelf in the fridge)
    • Bring your own bags to save some money because in most big stores you have to pay for your bags—I suggest a backpack if you’re planning on getting cans or something that could be heavy to carry back home
  • Tesco and Waitrose: other grocery options
    • You’ll find various versions of these around- Tesco Express is a super common convenient store and Little Waitrose is one of my favorite places to pick up some groceries if I’m in a rush
    • Waitrose tends to be a little more expensive than Sainsbury’s but it is still really easy to find good deals. They run specials quite often and a great trick to save some money is to go before they close and they usually discount things like their bread and other pre-made food
    • Remember to bring your own bag again!!
  • Franco Manca: super great and affordable pizza
    • There are multiple locations around the area (particularly one right down the road from the South Kensington tube stop)
    • The basic cheese pizza can usually feed two people and it’s only £6
  • Other good places to get food:
    • Pubs have great lunch specials (but make sure to ask specifically for the special when ordering)
    • Bosphorus Kebabs: 59 Old Brompton Road, Kensington (cash only)
    • New Culture Revolution: 305 King’s Road, Chelsea (Chelsea is right next to South Kensington and is a really cool area that is definitely worth checking out)
  • Primark: literally my favorite store in all of London—you have to check it out if you need to bolster your wardrobe or need a blanket for your room
    • Primark has everything you could ever need when it comes to clothing, accessories, shoes, home goods, and luggage. Their prices are unbeatable but the clothes are still really great. I have made too many visits here because it is so great for picking up clothes for the duration of your stay. There are multiple locations in London and even two on one street called Oxford Street which is a huge shopping are in London.
  • Other things to consider:
    • Make sure to ask for tap water when ordering food or else you will most likely get charged for a bottle
    • Tipping is a bit different here because the service is not as attentive as it is back home. Many times the tip is already included, otherwise it’s no more than 10%.
    • There is such a thing as tax-free shopping here for non-UK citizens. If you spend over £50 you can apply to get the VAT (value added tax) tax on that purchase back. Just ask your cashier for the form.
    • Thrift shops are pretty common here (they are usually called charity shops). They are another great place to look for cheap clothes. Also, Brick Lane and Portobello Road have many vintage/charity shops that are fun to check out.
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