On a warm summer’s day in London, there is nothing quite like spending the afternoon strolling through royal gardens and stately palaces. Luckily, in this city, you can do just that with incredible ease. Kensington Palace is one of the English capital’s most iconic buildings and every year thousands flock to it to see its marvellous interior, impressive architecture and beautifully manicured lawns.
Explore Kensington Park and The Royal Gardens
Indeed, this 17th century mansion has tonnes of visual appeal, but it’s also got a very rich history behind it – another thing that brings the tourists to the palace. It’s not only the former home to Queen Anne, it’s also the current London residence of the Duchess and Duke of Cambridge and, the most important royal of them all, little Prince George.
The palace itself has actually stood in place since 1605, before it had anything to do with the British monarchy. Back then, it was a Jacobean two-storey mansion, designed and built by the one and only Sir George Coppin. However, this grand house was destined for bigger things and in 1689, King William and Queen Mary – joint monarchs of the time – paid the equivalent of £20,000 for the palace – a snip at today’s prices. It was thought that the house’s location, far away from the Thames, would be better suited to William’s pitiful health, and the two did in fact die within the palace not but ten years later.
Of course, since then, a number of renovations and extensions have been carried out on the palace to make it the structure of magnificence that you see today. In the past, King William III and Queen Mary II, King George I, and King George II all called the place home. At the moment, Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester all drop in from time to time – it’s their place in the city, don’t you know.
A stone’s throw away from all the best executive rooms london kensington, this grand palace is certainly one thing you want to have high up on your London itinerary. Read on to explore the many wonderful things on offer within this grand piece of the city’s history.
Unfortunately, Kensington Palace is not free to enter. This is one of the only drawbacks of the place as the cost for your average family of four can be quite pricey. Never the less, it is a great attraction to visit and well worth it once you get inside. The tickets are as follows:
- Adult gate – £17.50 – Adult online – £16.40
- Adult over 60 gate (with ID) – £14.10 – Adult over 60 online – £13.00
- All children under the age of 16 can enter the palace for free.
Except for Christmas, the palace is open seven days a week – ideal if you’re in town on an off-peak deal! The summer opening times (from March to October) see the building open from 10.00am – 18.00pm every day.
Getting to Kensington Palace
The palace is surrounded by Tube stations and bus stops so getting there is very easy indeed. In fact, it’s so well connected, seeing other sights in the city afterwards is really quite hassle-free as well.
For the High Street Kensington station, take either the Circle or District lines – the palace is a 15-minute walk from here. For Queensway, take the Central line – the palace is a 15-minute walk from here. For Notting Hill Gate, take the Central line – the palace is a 25-minute walk from here.
To Bayswater Road: 70, 94, 148, 390
To Kensington High Street: 9, 10, 49, 52, 70, and 452
Food and drink
The palace is home to a number of fine eating options, but the pick has to be the Orangery. One of the finest venues in all of London, this elegant eatery boasts sensational views of the palace and its gardens – it’s the perfect place for a spot of afternoon tea. Indeed, it’s more so the experience that draws people here; after all, how often can you lunch at a palace?
The Orangery is ideal for breakfast or lunch and, on a nice day, the outdoor terrace is quite wonderful. During the summer, it’s open from 10am until 6pm, with breakfast 10am while 11.45am, lunch 12pm while 2pm and afternoon tea 2pm while 5pm. It is incredibly popular, so we do advise you book well in advance of your trip.
If you are after somewhere a little less regal, but no less tasty then try the Palace Cafe instead. Open from 10am until 6pm, this cool, little place has everything you need for a nice, fast lunch including a healthy lunchbox for the kids.
Things to see and do
There’s lots on at Kensington Palace to keep the whole family occupied. Some of it is outside in the gardens, some of it has been there for years; there’s even a few exhibitions to see, as well.
Victoria Revealed: who better to tell us about the life of a Queen than the Queen herself? Victoria Revealed shows us just what it was like to be a monarch through diary excerpts, personal objects and the very rooms the young Victoria lived in. This is a fascinating exhibition that really gives you an insight into the life so few live, but many dream of.
The Gardens: these beautiful gardens that surround the mansion are the best bit for many tourists, especially on a nice day. You can traipse round at your own pace, taking in the flowers as they come into bloom.
Highlights include the intimate Sunken Garden, the viewpoints of Cradle Walk,and the Formal Gardens, which are sure to be full of vibrant plant life this time of year.
The Queen’s State Apartments: Queen Mary II used to live in these lavish quarters and you can explore where she lived. It’s remarkable to see how royals of old spent their days, languishing in these ridiculously grand rooms.
Fashion Rules: Taking a look at the dress of the modern royals, this exhibition shows you how The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana Princess of Wale were styled over the years – expect outfits fit for royalty.
The King’s State Apartment: If you thought the Queen’s quarters were grand, wait until you see the King’s. These opulent rooms seems to go on forever, surely one man wouldn’t need all this lavish space? One man doesn’t, but a king certainly does.
The King’s Staircase: On his way to the royal apartments, the King would have sauntered past this incredible staircase; now you can do the same. The intricate painting on the wall depicts a scene from King George I’s court. It’s all rather impressive, and you could even say it’s fit for a king.
The King’s Gallery: Within the State Apartments, you will find the splendid King’s Gallery. This room was used for displaying the king’s favourite works as well as for exercise. There are many wonderful paintings in here, including a version of Van Dyck’s portrait of Charles I atop a fine steed – A real masterpiece, it has to be said.
Kensington Palace is located nearby to a number of great London attractions and icons. Just next door, you have the vast Hyde Park, which contains the Serpentine Lake, the Serpentine Gallery and many fascinating monuments such as the Diana Fountain, Speakers’ Corner, Achilles and the memorial to the London Bombings.
For shopping, you also have some of the best options in the entire city very close by in Knightsbridge, the district next to Kensington. Here you will find Harrods, Harvey Nichols and a whole host of other high-end shops.
Some of London’s best museums are also close, and just below Hyde Park, you will find the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). If you walk through Hyde Park, you can quite easily reach all of these fantastic sights and attractions. You are also just a stone’s throw away from Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards Parade, Westminster Palace, Big Ben and the West End, where you’ll find Trafalgar Square, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Gallery and London’s many theatres. You don’t have to fit this all into one day, but it helps that they are all very close to one another (in London terms).