The station is in two parts: sub-surface platforms opened in 1868 by the Metropolitan Railway and the District Railway as part of the companies' extension of the Inner Circle route eastwards from Gloucester Road to Westminster and deep level platforms opened in 1906 by the Great Northern, Piccadilly and Brompton Railway. The station was opened on 24 December 1868 by the Metropolitan Railway (MR, later the Metropolitan line) and the District Railway (DR, later the District line). The MR had previously opened an extension from Praed Street (now Paddington) to Gloucester Road on 1 October 1868 and opened tracks to South Kensington to connect to the DR when the DR opened the first section of its line to Westminster. The original South Kensington station, designed by the MR's engineer John Fowler, had two platforms although it was intended that this would be supplemented as DR services extended. The unused westbound tunnel was used during World War I to store art from the Victoria & Albert Museum and china from Buckingham Palace and, from 1927 to 1939, was used as a signalling school. During World War II it contained equipment to detect bombs falling in the River Thames which might require the emergency floodgates on the under-river tunnels to be closed.
The main station entrance is located at the junction of Old Brompton Road (A3218), Thurloe Place, Harrington Road, Onslow Place and Pelham Street. Subsidiary entrances are located in Exhibition Road giving access by pedestrian tunnel to the Natural History, Science and Victoria and Albert Museums. Also close by are the Royal Albert Hall, Imperial College London, the Royal College of Music, the London branch of the Goethe-Institut and the Ismaili Centre. The station has cash machines, Euro cash machines, help points, wi-fi, payphones and escalators.
Connections: Picadilly Line, Circle Line. London Buses routes 14, 49, 70, 74, 345, 360, 414, 430 and C1 and night routes N74 and N97 serve the station.