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Kingston has been under constant redevelopment since I first visited in the 1970s when busses and cars used to thunder through the middle of it and pedestrians jostled on the narrow pavements. The town did look a little tired then and in need of refurbishment but with its retail potential there was never a shortage of money to pay for it. The current town centre is pretty stable now and the developments have moved further out with recent ones completed along the river bank including the new Rose Theatre.
Kingston is an affluent, confident town, a shop window of the wealth of South East England. Itís a shoppersí paradise, with big versions of all the major stores including a huge John Lewis by Kingston Bridge, with the famous Bentalls Department store opposite along with many other shops in the Bentall Centre. It also has many small independent and specialist shops, a town where you can get everything you need at an easy relaxing pace.
There is still a daily market in Market Place, as there has been since the 12C. It is a great place to get fresh fish, fruit and vegetables and other products at cheap prices. They also occasionally have French stalls. All around the market there are cafes and restaurants in side streets and going down to the river which gives this part of Kingston a European feel. There are a few pubs and restaurants along the river, near the bridge if you just want to sit out and watch the swans and the boats go by while enjoying a drink and something to eat, much preferable to shopping.
You can catch a boat upriver to Hampton Court or downriver to Richmond both of which make for a good day out or if you prefer you can cycle or walk along the river banks to the same destinations. Alternatively if you cross Kingston Bridge into Hampton Wick you can walk up through Home Park or even Bushy Park to Hampton Court and see the deer on the way. Itís about a 30 minute walk.
Kingston has good travel links with trains running directly to London and a large bus depot. Traffic can be manic around the one way system but the centre is now pedestrianised for a better shopping experience. There is plenty of parking all around the town in multi storey car parks, try and avoid the popular ones unless you donít mind queuing. Kingston also has a University with the main site just outside of the town as you go towards Surbiton opposite the splendid County Hall building.
A little bit of history; Kingston like so many towns on the river was occupied by the Romans but its major claim to fame is that at least 2 if not 7 Saxon Kings were crowned at Kingston in the 10C while seated on the large Coronation Stone that currently is outside the Guildhall.