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travel: London - Holland Park Youth Hostel

A year or so ago we looked at the St. Paul's Hostel close by the famous cathedral and this time we check out a completely different part of London - High Street Kensington and Holland Park. This was Princess Diana's part of town as far as the tabloids were concerned and there are a number of interesting shops in the nearby High Street. Having one night to fill in, we first thought we might check out one of Easy Hotel's capsule like things which the front page of the website says are UK25 a night but once we tried to book (and no phone numbers are supplied), the price turned out to be UK35. We hate this kind of dishonesty and instantly went elsewhere.

Holland Park itself is a very pretty park which was part of Lord Holland's London estate and his fine Jacobean house with lovely ponds is part of the youth hostel. The other part is a 70's era modern building which is also quite pleasant and which has nice open spaces and garden areas. The whole place is actually a bit of a showpiece for how nice this sort of place can be.

We were there in January which we suspect might be amongst the nicer times to be there as there weren't many people around. With the place full it could be a bit if a scrum as there are a lot of beds here. Luck would play a part in how pleasant that might be. Our pet aversion in these sorts of places is groups. The English actually limit the number of places groups can stay, knowing that they're annoying and offputting to other visitors. Holland Park YH, as it happens, is one of the two London hostels (out of five or six) that does take groups but none are there, thankfully.

The staff were extremely pleasant and helpful - in fact the Brits are quite a lot better at this sort of thing than a lot of other countries for some reason ... something that many people mightn't expect. Most of the beds are in dorms and cost UK16 for members or UK22 or so for non-members. There is one single room which costs UK30 a night. In January you might normally expect to share a big dorm with one or two others.

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On the premises are a lounge area by reception, a common room with comfy seats and a TV, a quiet room with desks (in which was an idiot talking on his mobile when we dropped in), and a very pleasant cafe overlooking the garden which serves the included breakfast plus an evening meal for a reasonable price. The breakfast offering was quite wide and we had cereal, scrambled egg, bacon and toast, fruit juice and tea. Very nice it was too. There is also a self-catering kitchen.

A short walk down Holland Walk takes you past part of the park down to High Street, Kensington. Here are clothing shops including Urban Outfitters (whose music section, we noticed, has been really cut back - no turntables or vynyl now, no assistants, and way less stock), American Apparel and the like. There are sports stores, supermarkets, book stores - the usual stuff except a little tonier than the usual homogenised and dead-boring English shopping street.

There's also a Circle Line Tube station as well as numerous busses passing through and it's a short run to South Kensington (shops like Harvey Nichols and Harrods and museums and galleries such as the Victoria and Albert), and Hyde Park is close by. A little further on is Piccadilly and Bond Street.

All in all, this is an excellent and quite cheap place for a certain sort of London stay. Youth Hostels Association UK

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