Kensington Palace

Attractions, Sightseeing Kensington
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Kensington Palace rooms and artefacts

Spend a few hours hanging out at the fashionable W8 residence of royals from William III to William and Kate

Imagination is overrated. Why try to envisage the corridors that Henry VIII once wandered when you can wander the very same halls yourself? That’s one of the coolest things about London’s Historic Royal Palaces, because you can stand in spots where British history was made, for instance, where Catherine Parr and Henry VIII were wed (Hampton Court Palace) or where less fortunate wife Anne Boleyn was beheaded (Tower of London).

While Kensington Palace isn’t as large as the likes of Hampton Court or the notorious Tower, it has a lot going for it. For one, the modest (in comparison) Jacobean architecture and impeccably groomed grounds are absolutely stunning, but it also boasts a love affair with some of the nation’s favourite princesses. Queen Victoria was born and raised here, and in fact you can see the bedroom in which she was awoken on June 20 1837 and told she was to be queen. The Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret lived at Kensington Palace for 42 years, and Diana the Princess of Wales took up residence at the palace with Prince Charles.

Both Diana and Margaret were renowned for their forward-thinking fashion sense, which not only aped the trends of the time, but also influenced the outfits of those, well, less royal. It’s no surprise then that Kensington Palace has come to be known as the most glamorous of all the royal residences. And, fittingly, it's currently hosting 'Diana: Her Fashion Story', a celebration of Diana's life but also a major new exhibition at the palace, showcasing famous dresses including the velvet gown she wore when she danced with John Travolta at the White House.

The Fashionable Palace is a fitting reputation. When George I ascended to the throne he had the Palace lavishly decorated and during the reign of his son, the king and Queen Caroline entertained London’s in-crowd and were at the heart of eighteenth-century salon culture. Their apartments are included on any tour of Kensington Palace, as are the Queens’ State Apartments from the time of William III and Mary II. You can wander around the grounds and the entrance areas of Kensington Palace for free (the café is a lovely spot on a sunny day and the Orangery does a fabulous afternoon tea), but there are also formal gardens included in the main Palace entry ticket worth wandering if you have time.

Family activities here are strong points, too. 'Digital Missions' are interactive routes around the palace, powered by an app, but for more traditional meanders follow the 'Family Trail', where Queen Mary will guide intrepid kids, discussing her pet pugs, pastimes and favourite flowers.

By: Laura Lee Davies

Posted:

Venue name: Kensington Palace
Contact:
Address: The Broadwalk
Kensington Gardens
London
W8 4PX
Opening hours: Mar 1–Oct 31 daily 10am–6pm (last admission 5pm); Nov 1–Feb 28 daily 10am–4pm (last admission 3pm). Closed Dec 24–26
Transport: Tube: High St Kensington/Notting Hill Gate
Price: £18 (online £16.90), £14.30 (online £13.20) concs., free under-16s. Nov 1–Feb 28 2017: £16.50 (online £15.40), £13.70 (online £12.60) concs., free under-16s. Prices include voluntary donation
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LiveReviews|18
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tastemaker

I love visiting Kensington Palace as it's generally quite quiet and is a beautiful building.  I also think one of the best views of London is from inside Kensington Palace.  It is full of history and the rooms are beautifully set out, with brief descriptions of the history of the palace and its occupants over the years.

tastemaker

Last week I attended the 'Diana, Her Fashion Story.' exhibition in Kensington Garden Palace and it was so wonderful. It was a fresh autumn day and my mother and I started our day with a delicious hot chocolate from the cafe attached. We sat outside and walked around admiring the stunning garden landscapes. We then went in to begin the tour of Diana's iconic clothing, every glass case was full of Diana's stunning pieces, from velvet and glitzy ball gowns to tweed blazers and skirts. A really beautifully laid out exhibition that my mum and I highly enjoyed.

tastemaker

I got to visit Kensington palace after hours as I was photographing an event there. While waiting I took a wander around the impressive rooms that are usually open to the public. The Kings gallery was absolutely stunning and probably one of my favourites. 


What I love about visiting historical places is that it arouses a need to want to find out more about the lives of the people that lived there and what it was like in its heyday. I have since found out that King William iii died in the kings gallery from pneumonia after falling from his horse!


I didn't get a chance to explore the outside so would love to go back and look around the gardens. If you have any interest in people, history, architecture or interiors then I would definitely recommend a trip to Kensington palace. I may actually return for a guided tour myself.

Tastemaker

I find Kesington Palace the most enjoyable palace to visit (over Buckingham, definitely). Tack it down to the smaller crowds, interesting exhibitions or gorgeous gardens, Kesington Palace is not one to miss in my book. Admittedly, I quite like the history of Queen Victoria, and much of the palace is dedicated to her. 


Stroll around the palace, then grab a coffee or scone from the Orangery and go for a walk around the gardens, then neighboring Hyde Park. You will feel like you're walking in a whole other era. 

Tastemaker

A bit like the low key little sister of Kew Gardens, this is a nice place to spend an hour or two away from the crowds, but it lacks a little of the grandness and splendour of some other landmarks in and around London.


The clothing exhibit is really interesting, showcasing some of the iconic dresses worn by Princess Diana, the Queen and Princess Margaret through the years. Such beautiful designs. Much more quiet than the likes of Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace, and the gardens are a lovely location for a picnic or a wander.


As a relatively modern & low key palace which has not be used as a primary monarch's residence in recent times it does not feel as steeped in history or have the grandeur of the big hitters like Windsor, Hampton Court & Buckingham Palace. That is not to say it is without charm & is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon- particularly in the gardens on a warm autumnal day. The highlight for me & well worth a visit in it's own right is the current exhibition showcasing the wardrobes of the Queen, Princess Margaret & Princess Diana. From the exquisite Norman Hartnett dresses of the 1950's "New Look" to the sleek & statuesque designs of the 1990's championed by Diana this is a small but fascinating exhibition highlighting changing fashions & the styles of 3 elegant & timeless ladies. Without the crowds of Buckingham Palace this feels intimate & there's no pressure to rush so you can ogle the beautiful gowns & accessories at leisure.

Tastemaker

Fashion Rules Restyled at Kensington Palace

See some iconic dresses worn by HM The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales.  It’s rare to see these dresses together, but you get a great sense of royal style through the years, by designers from Hardy Amies to Norman Hartnell to Catherine Walker and Bruce Oldfield.  Beautiful dresses in a beautiful location makes for a great nostalgic day out during a special royal birthday year. 

Tastemaker

This is not such an impressive palace like Hampton Court Palace or Tower of London but still worth a visit.

This is the home of Prince William & his family. Queen Victoria was born & raised here and thus expect a really interesting exhibition on Queen Victoria's life. There are 4 different routes to choose from through free booklets given at the entrance. I would suggest you to do all of them as they refer to different periods. In addition, there are several free guided tours running whole day but having attended 2 of them, I don't think you should waste your time this way.

Really interesting & unexpected for a royal palace; Fashion Rules - A great exhibition about the dresses of Queens Victoria, Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana.

As all historic royal palaces in London, there are plenty of things to see & read here; thus, plan ahead. This palace is so immense & beautiful!

Tastemaker

Attractions in London, so many to chose from, palaces though need to be on your agenda for obvious reasons!

Suuuuuure Buckingham Palace is the bigger more glitzy of the palaces but for me, it's Kensington palace for the win every time. Com on guys, this is where some of the most famous monarchs in the world LIVED. Apart from figures like King George (I II AND III) and Queen Victoria, the longest reigning monarch in UK history, this was also where the adored Princess Diana had her home life and raised her children. Buckingham is fab there is no denying, and I have been to the Palace of Versailles (I know I know not in London but if we are looking at palaces objectively!) which I do think is in a league of it's own, but there is something so quaint and nearly normal (ish) about Kensington that really lets you imagine active family life between the walls.

If you have the luxury of living in London and choosing when to go I would highly suggest a spring/summer outing, just one where it won't be wet as enjoying the fabulous gardens is also a high point. Oh my are they stunning. They can be enjoyed even further by a spot of afternoon tea in The Orangery situated IN the gardens themselves or even just a glass of bubbly. Do book ahead for a reservation though to avoid disappointment, well worth it to feel like royalty! All the staff at the palace are friendly and informative and the tour is neither too long or boring but really interesting and the tour guides have a great sense of humour. After the tour is over you can wander through many room on your own (and even try on some of the clothes). In fact on our trip we were particularly lucky as they were celebrating the 300th anniversary of the glorious King Georges! Well if we could have ever picked a better day to go. The palace was swarming with a cast of royal characters brought to life by excellent actors who were engaging members of the public while conversing with eachother as normal, it really added to our experience. This was a special occasion but I have heard if you check on the website for What's On there are often theatrical reinactments around the palace.


The best part? There was a section where you could dress up as a woman from that time to get the full experience. Please see embarrassing photo below.


I fell in love with Kensington Palace and I feel it is a London landmark that is just overlooked too often and gets swallowed up by newer attractions such as The London Eye (meh) and the aquarium (snooze) etc. If you really want to experience a part of real London and learn about the amazing history of the country you simply CAN NOT pass up on a visit to this amazing palace.



Tastemaker

If you’re interested in historical places you’ll like this. I personally enjoyed the tour, even though it seemed a bit expensive for the small part you’re actually visiting. The rooms are lovely; not much furniture but I liked looking at the décor.


The gardens around the palace are great – and bigger than you think. Please do have a look as those are free of charge. The Orangery at the end of the garden offers very nice afternoon teas if a bit expensive.


It’s not a mind-blowing experience but still an enjoyable one; and you don’t even have to leave zone 1.

Tastemaker

A curiously empty experience considering the amount of history that occurred within the walls. The rooms relating to Queen Victoria were by far the most developed and interesting but some of the other wings would be disappointing even for a small stately home let alone one of the great Royal Palaces.  The current Fashion Rules exhibition is worth a look, albeit small in size.  Impossible to recommend visiting at full price, leave it for the tourists.


I did not enjoy my visit to the Kensington Palace. The only bit that I like is the rose garden.


I had previously visited Kensington Palace two years ago. It was in a dismal state. The electricity had been switched off and some art student squatters had moved in. At least that's what it had looked like. The World of Walnut-furnished interior and obligatory guilt accoutrements I had in my mind’s eye had made way for rooms full of arty installations like skeletal trees and headless animatronic princesses lit by a dim neon blue glow. Kensington Palace had undergone the theme park treatment and was now labelled ‘The Enchanted Palace’. Creative? Atmospheric? Certainly. But it failed to enchant me. The problem was it told me very little about the Palace and the rich lives of its super rich inhabitants. Putting my previous experience down to a temporary fit-out (the Palace was undergoing renovation at the time) I decided to pay another visit this summer hoping to actually discover some history. The lights were on this time but there appeared to be no-one at home. The interiors could be seen in their finery but there was hardly any furniture to give any sense of history. No pen-written notes and half-drunk cups of tea on desks to create the feeling of a moment just passed. Hardly any information boards either. Just a few remnants from its previous arty incarnation such as a pack of playing cards stacked in a fireplace. The idea (perhaps inspired by Pride & Prejudice), however, for whispering gossiping voices emanating from window seats in the ballroom was clever because it gave some much need dialogue. But as for snippets of history your Time Out review above reveals more information than I gleaned from my visit.


Having thoroughly enjoyed Buckingham Palace tour/visit some months ago, and being a life-long Royalist, my family and I were pleased to 'take in' Kensington Palace on the 17th of November. What a huge disappointment this was! It was a real waste of money and could not be remotely compared to Buckingham Palace (or Sandringham. or any of the other many Royal venues we have visited). The trip was not helped by having to walk past a tramp in the gardens urinating against the wall, and this on the day of the Israeli demonstration where hundreds of Police were a matter of metres from the tramp's performance! Wills and Kate have chosen a bit of a dump of a 'pile' to make their home.


The "new" Kensington Palace is a chaos of kitschy, "hands-on" art installations that fail to enhance the experience. Only the Victoria tour offers any substance at all. Truly the most disappointing of all the grand house tours I have ever done. Who art directed this mess?


Enchanted Palace: absolutely avoid this complete money-grabbing tacky experience.


Made the big mistake of going to The Enchanted Palace experience this week. The rooms that are open are so atmospherically (ie: darkly) lit, that very little of the actual palace can be seen. Of zero educational value. If your idea of entertainment is audio tapes of unseen little girls crying, displays akin to Hallowe'en shop dressing, then this might appeal. It came across as a very trashy and unimaginative way or raking some money in.