England has a long history when it comes to mazes. These mind-boggling attractions have for centuries amused, confused and baffled those brave enough to enter their twists and turns.
A maze is designed to confuse and to entertain, and they became popular amongst royalty and the rich in the 16th century. Indeed, many of the best mazes around today are still found in old country estates. Some of the best are found in and around London, including the iconic hedge maze at Hampton Court Palace that has been there for 300 years. It is undoubtedly a great thing to do whilst in London.
But in London, you can also find a new wave of labyrinths and mazes aiming to test your nerve and your intellect. Escape rooms are well and truly booming across the capital, while you can even enter the revered Crystal Maze, for an experience like no other.
Here are the coolest mazes in and around London.
Hampton Court Palace Maze
Hampton Court Palace Maze is easily the most well known maze in the United Kingdom. Over the centuries it’s confused and baffled many an intrepid maze-goer with its high hedges and elaborate design.
In fact, as far as mazes go this one is legendary because Hampton Court Palace Maze has the distinction of being the oldest hedge maze in the world. It claims to be the most famous maze in the world too, and they probably aren’t wrong about that either.
The maze began life in the late 17th century, meaning that today it’s well over 300 years old. For centuries, people have been trying to find their way around the maze. It was originally designed for William III of Orange, the King of England at the time, and, in the beginning, only a select few royals and guests would have been allowed to enter this labyrinth.
It’s now open to the general public. While you can purchase maze-only tickets, you will want to explore the palace itself too, if you’ve never visited before. Hampton Court Palace is one of the most fascinating royal palaces, particularly given its association with the infamous Henry VIII and his many wives.
The maze has around half a mile of different pathways, all surrounded by expertly maintained hedgerows. It generally takes around 20 minutes to half an hour to reach the centre point from the entrance, but that, of course, depends on your maze talents.
Crystal Palace Park Maze
Not the Crystal Maze – we’ll get to that one later – but the Crystal Palace Park Maze, which is one of London’s best, and easily a competitor for the title of coolest maze.
This is another legendary hedge maze. Although it’s not quite as old as the one at Hampton Court Palace, it still dates back to the 1870s and can claim to be one of the largest of its type in the United Kingdom.
It’s located within the lovely grounds of Crystal Palace Park and is a throwback to the Victorian Era. The Crystal Palace area was named for the Crystal Palace Exhibition Building, which formed the centrepiece of the Great Exhibition in the 1850s. The maze became another addition to the park, as it entertained and amazed the Victorian citizens of London, alongside life-size statues of dinosaurs that were also placed – and can still be found today – in Crystal Palace Park.
The maze is free to explore, and it covers an area of around 1,500 square metres, being 50 metres across in diameter. This is a true labyrinth of hedgerows, so be prepared to get lost time after time, as you turn the corner only to find dead end, after a dead end.
Crystal Palace Park is located in southeast London, an easy train or bus ride from London’s city centre.
Brent Lodge Park Millennium Maze
Head into the suburbs of London, west of the centre towards Wembley, and you’ll find the little known Brent Lodge Park Millennium Maze.
The maze was commissioned to commemorate the start of the new millennium in the year 2000, and for the past two decades, it’s been successfully confusing and frustrating those who enter its rows.
This is a modern hedge maze, but it’s one that’s really designed for kids because the hedges have yet to grow to the same high heights as those of Crystal Palace or Hampton Court. Tall adults can easily see over the top, which, of course, is perfect if you don’t actually want to get lost!
The twists and turns are still confusing enough to disrupt your sense of space and judgement though. Even if you can see over the hedges, you might still find yourself more perplexed than you imagined possible. Don’t be too confident when you start making your way through the maze!
Within Brent Lodge Park you can also find a range of other activities and sights aimed at kids, including the charming Hanwell Zoo, a conservation area where you can find exotic animals from around the world, including marmosets.
Hall Place and Gardens
On the opposite side of London in the far eastern suburbs, you can find the glorious grounds of Hall Place and Gardens. This is a little known county estate that was eventually surrounded by the ever-expanding mass of London, but it’s still a welcome retreat from the outside world.
The maze here is a small affair – and in all honesty, it’s got nothing on the likes of Hampton Court Palace – but it is still a lovely place to visit, especially given the expansive grounds and gardens. You’ll also find that few people visit Hall Place, especially in comparison to Hampton Court Palace.
Hall Place dates back to 1537 and is an often-overlooked piece of history in the London suburbs. This is a heritage-listed house and it’s remarkably well preserved. Inside the house, you can find an eclectic collection of exhibits telling the tale of the house and the former lords and ladies who lived within its walls.
The gardens are the crowning achievement of Hall Place, and you can find some marvellous topiary hedges, shaped into the form of heraldic lions, as well as the beautiful maze.
Blenheim Palace Maze
Take a day trip from London and head out west to Oxfordshire, where you can try out your maze navigation skills at Blenheim Palace. Jump on the train or take the bus from London to Oxford, then make your way into the countryside to one of England’s grandest stately homes.
Blenheim Palace is the home of the Duke of Marlborough and his family, although much of the estate is open to the public. The palace dates back to the early 18th century and its historic importance has led the estate to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The grounds are marvellous and the history held within the palace walls is fascinating, but the real draw of a visit here is, of course, its maze.
Within the vast grounds, you can find the Marlborough Maze, which could be one of the most complicated hedge mazes in the country. The maze stretches for at least two miles, covering many turns, dead ends and false routes towards its elegant centre.
There are even several viewing platforms that you can climb up for an overhead view if you get stuck, which is very common in this maze. When you’ve been wandering around lost for what seems to be an eternity, you’ll welcome a bird’s eye view of the maze!
Hever Castle and Gardens
Just outside London, you can find the historic grounds of Hever Castle and Gardens, which lies close to Tunbridge Wells in the county of Kent.
This wonderful castle dates back over 700 years to the 13th century, and over the years was the home of many infamous characters, including the unfortunate Anne Boleyn, the executed wife of Henry VIII.
There’s a lot of heritage waiting to be uncovered at Hever Castle but, more importantly, there are also two mazes to be completed. You’ll certainly get your money’s worth at Hever Castle, with a Yew Maze and a Water Maze.
The Yew Maze is a classic English hedge maze, and it dates back over a century to when the wealthy owner of the castle decided he needed some outdoor entertainment. It’s marvellously well trimmed, and you’ll need around half an hour to get from the entrance to the centre, and then to find your way back out again.
More impressive even than the Yew Maze is the fabulous Water Maze. This is about as unusual as it gets when it comes to the world of mazes, and the Water Maze at Hever Castle is often sought out by maze enthusiasts. Found on an island, stepping stones and walkways have been raised above the water and lead to a small stone ruin in the middle.
The aim is to get to the stone ruin without getting wet because if you step on the wrong stone you’ll unleash jets of water that can soak the unwary maze-goer. It’s an unusual maze concept, and it adds a whole new level of excitement to the game. Be sure to bring a towel though, and be careful taking your children over the water too!
The Crystal Maze Live Experience
For many years, through the 1990s and now again in its rebooted form, audiences have been mesmerised by the eccentricities of the Crystal Maze, a TV show that forces teams to solve puzzles as they make their way through an exotic labyrinth.
The cult TV show had a huge comeback recently when a live version of the maze was created in London. Fans can now immerse themselves in a real-life Crystal Maze, and try to complete what could easily be the coolest maze in London.
Just like in the TV show, you’ll need a team of friends with you to complete this maze, and together you’ll need to work your way through the different zones while you complete the different challenges to score points.
Each zone has a different theme – Futuristic, Industrial, Medieval and Aztec – and each zone is faithful to the original. You’ll be timed as you enter the different rooms in search of the crystals, and at the end of the maze, you’ll even get to enter the famous Crystal Dome, as you hurry to collect the tokens needed to win the game.
The Crystal Maze has become hugely popular in its live experience form, and can currently be found in the West End. You will need to make reservations in advance though, and ensure that you’ve assembled the best team that you can to complete the maze!
Mazes, while being a lot of fun, might seem outdated to some, a vestige of the Victorian Era and of day’s past. But the spirit of the maze never gets old. It lives on, and the challenge and intrigue can be found in its most modern form in Escape Rooms.
Escape Rooms have surged in popularity in recent years, and the concept is very much the same as a maze, just with more narrative and with more problems to solve. Escape Rooms can be found all over London, and the concept is simple. You are locked in a room, or indeed a maze of different rooms, and you have to escape within an allotted time period. To get out, you have to solve clues and figure out puzzles, while navigating your way around the room, and any other rooms that might be attached too.
Escape Rooms have different themes and backstories, and you have to work as a team to get out. They are modern-day labyrinths, and they couldn’t be more fun. Plus, being inside you don’t need the sun to be shining to complete an Escape Room, as you might want it to be for an outdoor hedge maze!
While you’re in London, getting lost in mazes and seeking a way out from Escape Rooms, check out Premium Tours’ fantastic selection of London tours. As London experts, we know how to make your London experience truly memorable.