Last updated: 01/10/2019
Discover details on how to visit Kensington Palace, a palace full of history, which was once the official residence of Prince Charles and Princess Diana and is now home to Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.
THE PALACE OF KENSINGTON
Since 1689, Kensington Palace has served as a Royal Residence. It is divided into two parts: state apartments and a private side where members of the royal family live today. Several generations of royals have passed there: King William III and Queen Mary I; Queen Anne; King George I; King George II and several Princes and Princesses. In 1960, Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, moved into one of the Palace Apartments. In 1981, Prince Charles and Princess Diana also moved into another set of apartments in the Palace.
After an 18-month major renovation, in 2011, Prince William and Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, moved to Kensington. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge moved into the famous apartment 1A, which has 20 rooms and is the same apartment that Princess Margaret lived in until her death in 2002. Today the family still has three more members: Prince George, born in 2013; Princess Charlotte, born in 2015; and Prince Louis, born in 2018.
In 2012, Prince Harry, who lived in Clarence House with her father, Prince Charles, and stepmother, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, moved into another apartment also in Kensington Palace and became a neighbor of her brother William. However, after his marriage to American actress Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, the couple moved with their son Archie to California in 2020.
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WHAT TO VISIT IN KENSINGTON PALACE
Get to Kensington Palace from the gardens side (see Getting There at the end of the post). You will pass the statue of Queen Victoria and walk to a green entrance, as shown in the picture below.
Buy your tickets on the right (buying online is cheaper!) and head to “The Vestible” to show the ticket clerk and start the tour. If you want, you can use the restrooms before starting because there are only restrooms near the entrance and near the Palace Café. When you go to the bathroom, notice the cute signs:
Now it's time to start exploring Kensington Palace! They exist 4 visiting routes inside the Palace, marked in different colors (Permanent Exhibitions: King's Royal Apartments and Queen's Royal Apartments and two temporary exhibitions). Through these routes, it is possible to discover 4 centuries of history of the palace. All routes are located on the upper floors as in the drawing below.
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For those who want to do many things and visit many paid places in London, the suggestion is to purchase one of the cards that give you direct access to attractions and ride the tourist bus, saving a lot! O THE LONDON PASS is the most famous of them. The card can be purchased in versions of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 10 days. It entitles you to admission to over 60 of London's top attractions and 1 day tour on the hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus. In addition, the card offers more than 20 exclusive special offers at some of the city's shops and restaurants. See the full list of included attractions in this link. Price: from £69.
Let's start by talking about the King's Apartments and Queen's Apartments. Both areas are permanent exhibits within Kensington Palace and open to the general public.
K- KING'S STATE APARTMENTS
This part of the Palace called “King's State Apartments” refers to Georgian Era (1700s). Here you can explore the restored rooms of the court of King George II and Queen Caroline, discovering items that reveal her tastes in music, fashion, and the arts. At the beginning of the tour you will come across an imposing and beautiful King's Staircase“, with beautiful paintings on the walls. Another highlight of the visit to “The King's Gallery“, the largest room in the entire Palace, full of works of art and a splendorous ceiling.
Q - RAINHA STATE APARTMENTS
“Queen's State Apartments” depict the Era of the Stuarts (1690s). Here it is possible to discover more about the tragic history of the Stuart Dynasty through an authentic presentation of the intimacy of the apartments created by Maria II and her husband William III. The rooms are much simpler when compared to the King's Apartments. The last room of the visit was the room in which Queen Mary died on December 28, 1694. She had contracted smallpox a week earlier and died at just 32 years old.
From now on we will talk about the Temporary Exhibition areas of Kensington Palace. We will not go into too much detail, as the idea is to give an example of what you will find during your visit, but it is not guaranteed that when you visit the Palace these exhibitions will be present. It's worth checking the official website for more information, okay?
Temporary Exhibition Dates:
- Victoria Revealed: until February 27, 2017
- Fashion Rules Restyled (in the area of Modern Royalty): until January 5, 2017
M - MODERN ROYALTY
This exhibition area of the Palace refers to the Windsor Dynasty in the 1900s. This is the current dynasty of Queen Elizabeth II. This part of the tour"Fashion Rules Restyled” explores the wardrobe of three royal women: Queen Elizabeth II; his sister Princess Margaret; and the Princess of Wales, Diana. The purpose of this exhibition is to show the care in royal costumes, fashion trends and the tricks of royal dresses. The dress code is: high impact; attention to the details; prominent accessories; knowing how to mix fashion trends with costumes suitable for diplomatic situations; and correct use of colors.
- Curiosity: the exhibition even has a dress (off-while with light pink embroidery) that Lady Di wore it at a banquet at the Itamaraty Palace, in Brasília, with ex-president Fernando Collor, in 1991. As the Brazilian team had just lost in the World Cup to Argentina, the costume designers were careful that no part of Diana's costume made reference either to the colors of the Brazilian flag, either. to those of Argentina.
V - REVELATIONS OF QUEEN VICTORIA
The exposure "Victoria Revealed” highlights the long reign of Queen Victoria in the 1800s. Learn more about the woman, wife and mother behind the crown. In this exhibition it is possible to take a tour through the rooms where Victoria spent her childhood and became Queen. The first room on the promenade is where Victoria had her first meeting with the Council, as soon as she learned that she was the new Queen, at just 18 years old.
Victoria reigned for 63 years (it was only recently surpassed by Queen Elizabeth II) and after the death of her husband, Albert, Victoria spent the rest of her life in mourning (it was 40 years!!!), wearing only black clothes. Curiosity: London's largest decorative arts museum is named after Queen Victoria and her husband (Read more: V&A – Victoria and Albert Museum in London).
KENSINGTON PALACE GARDENS
Kensington Palace Gardens were Princess Diana's favorites. And no wonder, they are really beautiful and worth exploring after visiting the Palace. You can write a whole post just about the gardens, so let's just talk about some highlights:
- Sunken Garden: Created in 1908, the garden is semi-detached with paving and ornamental flower beds, around an ornamental pond with fountains. Without a doubt, it is one of the most beautiful areas of the gardens, with colorful and very showy flowers. Sunken Garden are next to the Palace.
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- Cradle Walk: An arched pergola that surrounds the garden, forming tunnels of plants. It's a delight to walk around, sit on the benches and relax with the beautiful view of the Sunken Garden.
- Formal Garden: Many people confuse and think that the Hyde Park occupies all that green expanse when we look at the map. Well, half of what looks like Hyde Park is actually today. Kensington Gardens. The park offers beautiful views, great areas to relax and have a picnic, as well as incredible beauties such as the Italian Gardens, with beautiful decorative fonts. Other Kensington Gardens attractions are the Peter Pan statue, O Albert Memorial and the Serpentine Galleries.
There are two places inside the Palace to eat. The Café inside the Palace and the Orangerie, in a building next door.
- Serves sandwiches, cakes, teas, coffees
- There is no need to pay admission to the Palace to visit the Café, as access can be made through an external door.
- Open from March to October from 10 am to 6 pm
- Check the menu in this link
- It serves more elaborate meals in a more sophisticated atmosphere.
- There is no need to pay admission to the Palace to access the Orangerie.
- Open from 10 am to 6 pm
KENSINGTON PALACE GIFT SHOP
Once your visit is over, you can do some shopping at Palace shop which is next to the Palace Café. There you can buy several real souvenirs, key chains, tea and dinner sets, cookies, chocolates and much more.
- Summer (April to September): 10 am to 6 pm
- Winter (October to March): 10 am to 5 pm
HOW TO GET
Kensington Palace is located in Kensington Gardens, close to Hyde Park. Note on the map below that the entrance is through the gardens and not on the side of the Palace facing the street. To arrive by metro, you can use the following stations:
- Notting Hill Gate: Central Line (red), District Line (green), circle line
- Queensway: Central Line (red)
- High Street Kensington: District Line (green), circle line (Yellow)
- Address: Kensington Gardens, London W8 4PX
- March 1st to October 31st: 10 am to 6 pm
- November 1st to February 28th: 10 am to 4 pm
- Entrance: £17 – sign in this link to buy
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