Fodor's Expert Review Kensington Palace

Kensington Castle/Palace/Chateau Fodor's Choice

This is a rare chance to get a glimpse into the more domestic and personal side of royal life. Neither as imposing as Buckingham Palace nor as charming as Hampton Court, Kensington Palace is something of a Royal Family commune, with various close relatives of the Queen occupying large apartments in the private part of the palace. Bought in 1689 by Queen Mary and King William III, it was converted into a palace by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor, and royals have been in residence ever since. Princess Diana lived here with her sons after her divorce, and this is where Prince William now lives with his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and their three children. Prince Harry also shared his cottage on the grounds with Meghan Markle before their marriage.

The State Apartments are open to the public. The Queen's State Apartments are the private quarters of Queen Mary II, who ruled jointly with her husband, William II. By contrast, the lavish King's State Apartments,... READ MORE

This is a rare chance to get a glimpse into the more domestic and personal side of royal life. Neither as imposing as Buckingham Palace nor as charming as Hampton Court, Kensington Palace is something of a Royal Family commune, with various close relatives of the Queen occupying large apartments in the private part of the palace. Bought in 1689 by Queen Mary and King William III, it was converted into a palace by Sir Christopher Wren and Nicholas Hawksmoor, and royals have been in residence ever since. Princess Diana lived here with her sons after her divorce, and this is where Prince William now lives with his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and their three children. Prince Harry also shared his cottage on the grounds with Meghan Markle before their marriage.

The State Apartments are open to the public. The Queen's State Apartments are the private quarters of Queen Mary II, who ruled jointly with her husband, William II. By contrast, the lavish King's State Apartments, originally built for George I, are a stage set, a circuit of sumptuous rooms where Georgian monarchs received and entertained courtiers, politicians, and foreign dignitaries. Look for the King's Staircase, with its panoramic trompe-l'oeil painting, and the King's Gallery, with royal artworks surrounded by rich red damask walls, intricate gilding, and a beautiful painted ceiling. One permanent exhibition, Victoria Revealed, is devoted to the private life of Queen Victoria, who was born and grew up here. Another exhibition is devoted to designer sketches for gowns worn by Princess Diana.

Outside, the grounds are almost as lovely as the palace itself. There are free, history-oriented tours of the gardens on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at noon and 2 pm from May through September. They also make a fine location for a picnic on one of the benches—or head for the delightful café (busy during peak hours) in the Kensington Palace Pavilion, near the Sunken Garden (the café's usual home, the Orangery, is closed for renovations until 2021). An extension adjoining the Orangery is planned to house an educational center. At the Pavilion, you can also indulge in a formal afternoon tea.

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Castle/Palace/Chateau Historical Family Garden/Arboretum Green Fodor's Choice

Quick Facts

The Broad Walk
London, Greater London  W8 4PX, England

0844-482–7799-for advance booking

www.hrp.org.uk

Sight Details:
Rate Includes: £17.50 Mar.–Oct., £16.50 Nov.–Feb., The palace has a wheelchair-accessible elevator, and Kensington Gardens has electric buggies for mobility-impaired visitors, £23, £18

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