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Hampton Court Palace

  • Attractions
  • Hampton
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

Frolic in the maze where kings and queens once played then see where Henry VIII ate his scoff

To cut a long story short, Hampton Court Palace was originally built by Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, as a showy country retreat to host state visits. Unfortunately, he did such a grand job of out-blinging the king, that Henry pretty much seized Hampton Court Palace from Wolsey as compensation when the Pope wouldn’t let him divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon so he could shack up with Anne Boleyn.

Thus history was made. Hampton Court Palace has long been remembered as the Tudors’ stomping ground and some of the wondrous sixteenth-century quarters that still stand proud remain the best bits to visit. Like the kitchens, which once housed the factory-sized production team that fed around 600 people in court twice daily. Or sniff out the spice rooms and cellars, where the king stashed his goodies, including French wine, local game and Italian olives.

For those wanting to delve deeper, see if you can track down and tack onto one of the free talks or tours, which run at regular intervals. Or, for a little more excitement, have a look for the resident LARPers, who act out ‘encounters with the past’ (including meeting Henry VIII’s courtiers) in full costume in various places around the palace.

The history of this place isn’t solely devoted to the Tudors, of course. The building’s royal allegiance extended to King James, too, who invited none other than Shakespeare himself to host a series of Christmas plays at the palace. Following that the Georgian King William III and Mary II made new additions, including the grand staircase adorned with Italian fresco and a set of rooms that were used by George I’s private chocolatier so that he could have drinking chocolate whenever he pleased.

From the Tudor indoor tennis court to the Royal Maze, from the King’s private loo to the brand new Magic Garden adventure playground (inspired by the medieval joust), Hampton Court Palace is several different visits in one place. If you love history and art, buy the ticket for the Palace and the Gardens, or if you have children with you who just want to run around, buy the Magic Garden and Maze ticket. And while you decide what you want to do, wander the rose gardens for free and enjoy a coffee in the Tiltyard Café.

Written by
Laura Lee Davies


East Molesey
Rail: Hampton Court
£23, £19 concs, £11.50 under-16, £41 family (1 adult and three children), £57 (two adults and three children). Online and after Nov 1 cheaper.
Opening hours:
For 2017 Mar 26-Oct 28, 10am-6pm; Oct 29-Mar 2018; Magic Garden open Apr-Oct 29, 10am-6pm.
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Hampton Court Palace Tulip Festival

Henry VIII’s former gaff is already one of the most splendid-looking buildings in London, but fill it with 10,000 tulips and you’ve got something mighty special to look at. Hampton Court Palace’s Tulip Festival is one of the biggest planted displays of the colouful flowers in the UK and is a good excuse to celebrate the start of spring. See the buds pouring out of the Tudor wine fountain and in floating tulip vases, and spot rare, historic and specialist varieties. There are also expert talks on the flowers and craft activities themed around them. The palace’s expert gardeners predict the displays will look at their best in mid-April, so don’t wait around to visit. 

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