Seventeenth century Kensington Palace is found at the heart of royal life in London. The historic residence is the home of many members of the extended monarchy, including William, Kate and their young family, and Harry and Meghan who are due to move to Frogmore Cottage in Windsor in the spring of 2019.
Kensington Palace though, is very much open to the public, and you can tour through the stately rooms, learn more about the royals past and present who have lived here, and admire the elegant, landscaped gardens.
It’s a beautiful part of royal history in the centre of London. For anyone with an interest in British heritage and traditions, then Kensington Palace is a must visit attraction when you are in the capital.
- 1 Where Is Kensington Palace?
- 2 The Best Time to Visit Kensington Palace
- 3 How Much Does it Cost to Visit?
- 4 Restaurants and Cafes
- 5 Touring Kensington Palace
- 6 The History of Kensington Palace
- 7 A Royal Residence
- 8 The Kensington Palace State Rooms
- 9 The King’s State Apartments
- 10 The Queen’s State Apartments
- 11 Queen Victoria Exhibitions
- 12 The Gardens
Where Is Kensington Palace?
Kensington Palace is superbly located on the edge of Hyde Park, in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Kensington Gardens, where the palace is located, is separated from Hyde Park by the Serpentine, while Hyde Park is just across the road from Buckingham Palace and The Mall, making the whole area rich in royal history and perfect for exploring in a day.
You can easily walk between Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace in half an hour, although you may take longer stopping off along the route through London’s most iconic park.
If you are travelling into London to visit Kensington Palace, then the nearest train station is Paddington, while the nearest tube stations are High Street Kensington or Queensway.
Both tube stations are just a short walk away, with Queensway on the Central Line and High Street Kensington on the Circle and District Lines.
You can also make use of tube stops at Hyde Park Corner, Green Park and Victoria if you are looking to explore the other royal palaces in the area too.
There are also plenty of bus stops close by, while the main intercity National Express coach station is at Victoria. Being a popular tourist spot in a busy area of London, you’ll also find that Kensington Palace is usually featured on many hop-on hop-off bus routes, or there will be stops close by that will give you easy access to the grounds.
The Best Time to Visit Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace is open throughout the year, and you can visit regardless of the weather or the season.
The main indoor exhibits can be toured anytime, however you may find the gardens to be best viewed at different times of the year. In summer, it can be hot, while in winter the gardens may be beautifully layered with frost but freezing to wander through. In spring you can experience the gardens in bloom, while in autumn they are resplendent in different colours as the trees shed their foliage.
Generally speaking, the busiest time of the year in terms of tourist numbers is summer, a trend that is the same across the capital. From May to September, you can expect things to be at their peak and for lines and queues to be at their lengthiest.
The palace operates different opening hours through the year, and is closed for 3 days over Christmas, on the 24, 25 and 26 of December.
From 1 March to 31 October, Kensington Palace opens at 10am and closes at 6pm, with the last admissions being at 5pm.
From 1 November to the end of February, doors open at 10am but close earlier, at 4pm, with the last admission being at 3pm.
To avoid the crowds, you might want to consider arriving early to get in just as the doors open, particularly in summer.
You can check the Kensington Palace website before travelling, in case there are any unexpected closures, as some areas are temporarily shut off to the public for restoration or refurbishment.
You can also check the website for any seasonal events that may be held here. Over Easter, events are often held in the gardens, such as Easter egg hunts, while over the Christmas period there may be festive events too.
The temporary exhibitions can also change, although generally this does not happen that frequently.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit?
To explore Kensington Palace you need to purchase a ticket. You can do this on the door or you can reserve online, in advance.
Current prices, as of 2019, are £19.50 for an adult and £9.50 for a child. If you are hoping to visit lots more palaces in and around London or are returning more than once, then you may want to consider purchasing membership to the Historic Royal Palaces group.
HRP are a charity that looks after many of the royal palaces in the country, and an annual membership costs from £53 per adult, with discounts for family passes. Membership gives you unlimited access to the palaces through the year and a discount in many of the shops and cafes.
Restaurants and Cafes
Kensington Palace has several restaurants and cafes that are open to the public, while within walking distance you’ll find plenty of other options.
If you get hungry during your tour, then call in at the Palace Cafe, where you can pick up a light snack, a cup of coffee, or a cold drink for some light refreshment.
Kensington Palace Pavilion and Tea Room is open daily for breakfast and lunch, but the highlight here is the traditional Afternoon Tea, which you need to book in advance. There’s little else more authentic than relaxing on the pavilion, while enjoying sandwiches and cake in the grounds of a royal palace.
Touring Kensington Palace
You can quite easily self-guide your way around Kensington Palace, as the exhibits and displays are clearly labelled and simple to navigate.
You can purchase a guidebook, complete with map and extra information on the rooms and history of the palace and grounds on your way in, if you’d like to learn a little more during your tour and take home a souvenir.
How long you spend at Kensington Palace will depend on your interest and your pace, but you’ll require a minimum of one hour and probably no more than three hours.
The History of Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace has a fascinating past that’s waiting to be discovered on your tour through the grounds. While nothing can compare to walking through the elegant interior of the palace and its lavish apartment, here’s a brief journey through 300 years of royal history to spark your intrigue.
While the palace may now be in the heart of the affluent Kensington area, when it was first built in the 16th century, this was just a small, rural village in the countryside, far from the chaos of the City of London.
In the late 17th century the ruling monarchs, King William II and Queen Mary II, bought the palace and grounds for the very reason that it was far from London – at least at that point in time.
The palace became the main residence of King William II, as he was in ill health and required the fresh air. Since then, the palace has always been crown property, although Buckingham Palace would in later years become the favoured residence of the reigning monarch, and Kensington would become home to other members of the royal family.
After their purchase, William and Mary began to build and expand the property, a process that has continued throughout the years. Famous British architect Christopher Wren added much of the detail you see today during Queen Anne’s day, which is also when the landscaped gardens began to take shape.
In the 18th century, King George II was the last reigning monarch to actually live at the palace whilst they held the Crown, but many more important royals would still call Kensington Palace home.
Perhaps the most notable resident was the future Queen Victoria, as she was raised in the palace and spent much of her childhood here before becoming Queen.
The palace was also the home of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. Even after divorcing Charles, Diana still lived here until the tragic accident that resulted in her death in Paris.
A Royal Residence
Kensington Palace continues to fulfil its role as a royal residence today, despite large parts being open to the public and the grounds receiving thousands of visitors.
As well as being home to the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, who have lived here for decades, the palace has also become home to the younger generation of royals, many of whom have been captivating the world with their marriages, and public and private lives.
Kensington Palace became the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – otherwise known as William and Kate – after their marriage in 2011.
Harry has been living in a cottage on the grounds for some time, and after his marriage to Meghan in 2018, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have continued to live here, although they will move to Windsor in the spring of 2019.
The size and scale of the palace ensures that, despite the large number of residents, they have their own private lodgings and space within the grounds, which are usually renovated in a grand and expensive fashion before they move in.
The Kensington Palace State Rooms
The section of the palace that can be visited by tourists primarily consists of the Kensington Palace State Rooms, which were refurbished and reopened to the public as recently as 2012. The palace has had a long history of tourism before this, reaching back to the Victorian era when it was a popular sight.
The staterooms encompass some of the most historic elements of Kensington Palace, including rooms used by Queen Victoria, and apartments lived in by King William and Queen Anne, amongst others.
The King’s State Apartments
The King’s State Apartments are one of the grandest and most regal parts of the palace that visitors can explore.
The rooms here are incredibly well refurbished and offer you a glimpse into the Hanoverian past of the monarchy, as you are taken on a historic journey through the apartments lived in by the Georgian kings.
You’ll find intriguing relics from past inhabitants, and you’ll be given a revealing insight into how the past kings and queens of the United Kingdom lived their daily lives.
The Queen’s State Apartments
The Queen’s State Apartments are another fascinating area of the palace open to visitors, and here you can explore the rooms that were originally ordered to be built by Queen Anne during the initial expansion of the palace after its purchase by the royal family.
The wonderful apartments were Queen Anne’s personal rooms, and she lived here for many years after the death of her husband, King William II.
The rooms are beautiful, and you’ll be given an insight into the lives of their former occupants, with a particular focus on the story of Queen Anne.
Queen Victoria Exhibitions
Queen Victoria, who ruled as monarch during the height of the British Empire, spent much of her childhood at Kensington Palace, and the residence had a particularly special place in her heart.
There are rooms dedicated to Queen Victoria’s legacy, where you can learn more about her early life in the palace and her life as Queen.
You’ll find fascinating exhibits collated from her personal items, which will give you a unique feel for her upbringing and daily life.
Much of the extensive Kensington Gardens that surround the palace can be explored too. They are incredibly beautiful throughout the year, as they change colours with the passing seasons.
At the Pavilion you can enjoy a taste of leisure royal style, as you relax in the gardens and enjoy the lawns – and afternoon tea too if you really want to indulge.
You can tour through the Sunken Garden, photograph the iconic palace fountains, and enjoy wonderful views of the architecture of the buildings from the outside.
Kensington Palace is a marvel of history and royal tradition. For anyone visiting London, it’s a must see attraction to enjoy a glimpse into the inner workings of the monarchy that have called the palace home for 300 years.
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