Some of the best things to see and do in Kingston
- Credit: Kingston First
On the banks of the River Thames and surrounded by beautiful royal parks, Kingston is a bustling shopping destination that’s packed full of history and heritage
The riverside market town of Kingston upon Thames is the perfect place to watch the world float on by. Whether it's strolling the towpath to the neighbouring towns of Surbiton, Twickenham or Richmond, relaxing at one of the waterside bars or restaurants by the town bridge or joining in river life with a stand-up paddleboarding session or a leisure cruise from Turks Pier, this is a bustling town with, as the name would suggest, the River Thames at its heart.
Built on medieval roots, Kingston upon Thames is the centrepiece of one of only five royal boroughs in England and Wales, and even its name is derived from its royal heritage, with Kinges Tun meaning a royal farm or estate.
Saxon Kings are thought to have been crowned here, although these days you're more likely to find an energetic mix of residents, students, tourists and shoppers hitting the streets.
Surrounded by spectacular green space, with the expansive Bushy, Richmond and Hampton Court Palace parks all on the doorstep, it blends 'city' life with a countryside feel. Nothing quite beats heading for a picnic in the dappled shade with a panorama of Britain's past, present and future, as well as herds of majestic deer, after all.
Central Kingston has built itself a reputation as something of a shopper's paradise with the Bentall Centre, its 70-something stores and magnificent architecture perhaps the most prized attraction on that front. The Bentalls department store, which forms part of the centre, began life as a humble drapery shop in 1867 before growing into the business you find here today. Accompanied by John Lewis, Eden Walk Shopping Centre and Clarence Street, among others, the town is a one-stop shop for ticking off that shopping list, whether you're on the hunt for gifts or treats.
The market at Kingston dates back to the early 1200s and if you head to the Ancient Market Place today, you'll find more than 20 stalls, with a particular focus on food and drink - from street food and world cuisine to fresh fruit, veg and bread.
Look up at the balcony of the quirky Italian styled old town hall and you'll spot a statue of Queen Anne, by English sculptor Francis Bird, presiding over all. She's been there since 1840.
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A visit to Old London Road is a must too but make sure to check out the antiques centre and independent shops, as well as taking a selfie alongside the town's famous 'toppling telephone boxes' sculpture. Kingston is also home to the award-winning Rose Theatre, which has seen Hollywood A-listers tread the boards and watch on from the audience over the years.
- The Ancient Market Place - Revamped in 2014, Kingston's Ancient Market Place once again takes pride of place in the town. Open seven days a week, it boasts fresh fruit and veg stalls, international cuisine, jewellery and crafts. It's only a few minutes' walk from Kingston train station, passed The Bentall Centre. The river and the historic Clattern Bridge, which was built around 1175, is only a little further on.
- Tumbling telephone boxes - You'll probably have seen the odd photo of someone leaning against a series of toppling red telephone boxes over the years, and it's a sight that still appeals to the kid in the regular visitor as much as the unsuspecting tourist these days. Officially named Out of Order, this art installation was commissioned in 1988 by Kingston Council and created by the artist David Mach. It's still as eye-catching as ever at the entrance to Old London Road and its independent stores.
- Rose Theatre - Founded by the great Sir Peter Hall and opened in 2008, the Rose Theatre is modelled on the original Elizabethan Rose Theatre on London's Bankside and has grown a reputation for ground-breaking work. They've had some of the world's most famous actors and actresses appear on stage (Dame Judi Dench), direct (John Malkovich) and watch on from the audience (the list is endless) and, as well as producing its own shows, has welcomed renowned theatre companies, such as Royal Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare's Globe and English Touring Theatre.
- Eating out - Kingston is a melting pot of international cuisine, whether you're looking for a riverside haven at The Boaters Inn, an independent traditional pub at The Wych Elm, something for the beer lovers at The Albion, vegetarian paradise at Riverside Vegetaria, a caffeine fix at Beanberry Coffee Company, Turkish delights at Cappadocia… well, you get the idea. And that's before exploring the aforementioned Ancient Market Place, where you can pick up burritos, tagine, pho and more. Dive in.
- Warren House - A hidden gem that's found near Richmond Park, the magnificent Warren House on the secluded Coombe Estate features four acres of landscaped gardens with a picturesque Victorian mansion at their heart. Originally built for banker Hugh Hammersley, it's enjoyed a fascinating life since it was built in 1865. It's a lovely spot for a traditional afternoon tea, but also plays host to business conferences, weddings and you can even spend the night.
24 hours in…
- Morning - It would be a shame to rush things, so why not look at booking into The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel for a minibreak? For breakfast, you could go for your morning coffee fix at the independent Beanberry Coffee Shop which is only a few minutes' walk away. Then it's time to get your bearings and see the sites of central Kingston.
- Afternoon - If you're not in the mood for shopping, we'd suggest you either head to the river for a stroll or go and explore one of the parks of Bushy, Richmond or Hampton Court Palace. How could you not while you're only a short drive away?! If you prefer to take life in the slow lane, how about relaxing at The Boaters Inn with its riverside views and gardens? Idyllic.
- Evening - Make sure to check out the latest shows at the Rose Theatre, as you never know what all-star performance might be heading in its direction, or how about visiting Stein's, the German bar and restaurant, for something a little different. Expect German beer, cuisine and atmosphere, right next to the river. What's not to love?
We've already mentioned Kingston's royal connections briefly, but did you know that the town's most historic landmark is a rock? The Coronation Stone is found in the grounds of the Guildhall, near the 12th century Clattern Bridge. It's the spot where seven Saxon kings are thought to have been crowned. To explore Kingston's history further, try to join one of the Kingston Tour Guide walks which are free and take place every Sunday at 11am from Market House in the Ancient Market Place. Kingston Museum should also be on your to-do list.
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