Holland Park is London’s secret oasis; located between the affluent neighbourhoods of Kensington and Notting Hill, somehow away from the tourist route.
The park stretches over 22 hectares and can be accessed by underground from the stations of High Street Kensington, Notting Hill Gate and Holland Park. Although Holland Park can be visited alone, a more rewarding experience can be had by joining a guided tour to get a better understanding of the park and its features and to learn more about the history of this part of London. Passing the opulent mansions along Holland Avenue, walk uphill to find the entrance to the park.
It is a short walk from the Sun Terrace to a small pond with a statue of Lord Holland. It commemorates Henry Vassal-Fox the 3rd Baron Holland, an English politician of the early 19th Century.
A path connects the pond to the North Lawn and a formal garden; once known as the Portuguese Garden it was renamed the Dutch Garden after international relationships with Portugal turned sour. It looks at its best on a sunny Spring day when colorful tulips can be seen everywhere in the garden.
Walking through the Dutch Garden, past the sundial, there is a giant chess board to keep visitors to the park entertained.
Holland House can be seen from here. Sadly, most of the building was destroyed during the Second World War; part of it has been transformed to include a hostel, a restaurant, a cafe and the orangery with beautiful murals depicting the story of the park.
In summer Holland House forms the background for operas staged in the open-air theater at the park. The nearby Ice House looks like a building that might have been part of the set of the Lord of the Rings movies; beautifully restored it is now an art gallery, providing space for a number of exhibitions during the summer months.
Holland Park has got a number of open spaces and enclosed gardens the most famous being the Kyoto Garden. Built in 1991 to celebrate the Japan Festival in London, this beautifully manicured garden takes visitors on a short trip to Japan. In true Japanese style the garden needs to be visited walking clockwise around it. There are a number of features in the Kyoto Garden including lanterns, lawns designed to resemble waves, a waterfall and a pond with a turtle-shaped island in the middle.
Recently, the garden has been extended to include the Fukushima Garden. It commemorates the gratitude of the Japanese people for the help provided by Britain following the terrible earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011.
When visiting this area of Holland Park there are two things to look out for: try not to fall in the pond while crossing the bridge at Kyoto Garden while taking pictures and, keep an eye out for one of the famous resident peacocks normally found mingling in the area.
Holland Park is also the site for many statues and sculptures, including the aforementioned statue of Lord Holland, the Walking Man, Andrew Burton Annunciation sculpture and a number of temporary sculptures like the curiously named The Eccentricity of Zero by the renowned artist Sinta Tantra.
A visit to Holland Park would not be complete without a stop in the cafe’ for a well deserved break before diving back into the traffic, noise and crowds of High Street Kensington or Notting Hill depending on which way you choose to exit the park.