If you have a penchant for messing about on the river, or just like to sit by the water as swans glide by majestically, then Kingston-upon-Thames might be the neighbourhood for you. With an attractive stretch of the Thames Path to explore, rowing clubs and plenty of bars and restaurants, Kingston’s riverside is perhaps the area’s biggest selling point. However, as a London borough with a station just 25 minutes from Waterloo and sitting on the edge of genteel Surrey, it offers something for both the confirmed city slicker and the would-be country bumpkin.
Once a place where Saxon kings were crowned, there is still something regal about Kingston’s ancient market place, the focal point of the town centre. Today, market stalls from Monday to Saturday offer fresh produce and fish, as well as an enticing selection of takeaway food including savoury pretzels and Moroccan tagines. Overlooking the marketplace is the Grade II-listed Market House, where you’ll find tourist information and a gallery space as well as a community centre, which plays host to everything from Zumba classes to vintage fairs. Moving outwards from this centre, the pedestrianised shopping area and mall – the UK’s seventh largest shopping centre – offer plenty more retail opportunities.
Despite its suburban setting, Kingston plays host to a lively nightlife, with pubs offering live music including the Grey Horse and Ram Jam Club on Richmond Road. Meanwhile, the Rose Theatre – its building based on the Elizabethan playhouse of the same name – opened in 2008 and has been gaining a reputation for its stylish performances ever since.
Among the culinary highlights are the Riverside Vegetaria, a veggie restaurant in a delightful spot overlooking the Thames, and the family-friendly Canbury Arms, serving up an excellent gastropub menu.
For those looking to commune with nature, green space is abundant with Hampton Court Park, Kew Gardens and Richmond Park – the largest of London’s Royal Parks and home to over 600 deer – close at hand.
By rail Kingston station is a 25-minute journey from Waterloo, while the journey from Surbiton takes 20 minutes into town, with both stations falling in zone 6. By bus 57, 65, 71, 85, 111, 131, 213, 216, 281, 285, 371, 406, 411, 418, 465, 481, K1, K2, K3, K4, K5, X26