Kensington Palace has been home to more kings, queens, princesses, princes, lords and ladies than you can shake a stick at.
Mind you, if you want to experience a similar level of opulence, then check into the Park Grand London Kensington for a royal experience.
While you’re staying in the area, a visit to the Palace and its expansive gardens is a must. This is a mainstay of both the British royal family and some of the country’s finest architecture. The Palace started out as Nottingham House which was more of a manor house but was renovated and extended by Christopher Wren, the famous architect responsible for St Paul’s Cathedral, in 1689. On completion, the Palace became home to King William and Queen Mary who then proceeded to add on further improvements, including the Queen’s Apartments and a gallery. Every Sunday, the King and Queen would open the lush gardens to the public while they were away in Richmond.
Subsequently, Queen Victoria was born in the palace and lived it in until it was announced that she was to take over reign of the country. Although most assumed she would remain at Kensington, Queen Victoria, in her inimitable way, swiftly moved to Buckingham Palace and continued her rule from there, never returning to live at Kensington. In more recent history, Diana Princess of Wales occupied one of the apartments here for 16 years. The present-day inhabitants are the two Princes, Harry and William, along with William’s wife, Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge, and their two children Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
The best way to discover all the intricate histories, scandals and secrets harboured in walls of Kensington Palace is to join one of the palace tours. While the private residencies are not open to the public, many of the other apartments and wings form a fascinating insight into the royal family over history.
Interactive exhibitions fill the great rooms of the palace and sounds, music, sights and smells bring history alive for its visitors. The guides are a wealth of information, with many interesting (and some fairly scandalous) stories to share as they show you round this great house. There are a number of different routes to choose from, each of which focuses on a different part of its history.
The Kings State Apartments would have seen a lot of action over the years, being the place where the King would meet with his closest advisors. This set of grand rooms leads into the Royal Court where members of the public luckier enough to be granted an audience with the King, would present themselves to his Highness.
By comparison, the Queen State Apartments are rather more cosy and homely and were favoured by Queen Mary II as a place to escape the hustle and bustle of court and enjoy some much-needed relaxation.
There are numerous exhibitions to enjoy through the Palace including Victoria Revealed which tells the story of Queen Victoria’s fascinating life at the Palace, from her childhood through to her meeting and courtship with Prince Albert and her coronation. For the fashionistas out there, the dresses that make up the Fashion Rules exhibits will be irresistible. With garments from the private collections of the Queen herself, her sister Princess Margaret and, one of royal family’s fashion icons, Diane, Princess of Wales. Kensington Palace also plays host to the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection which documents the history of royal taste in its ceremonial dress from the 18th century to the modern day.
Kensington Palace still has a role to play in the royal’s public life and is often used for celebrating great achievements. The Duke of Cambridge invited the England Women’s Football Team to the Palace in July 2016 to congratulate them after their impressive performance at the World Cup in Canada. The Duchess of Cambridge has also hosted events there, including the Place2Be Wellbeing in Schools awards in 2014.
After exploring the interior of the Palace, it’s time to head out into the lush gardens which have just as much to offer. The gardens were overhauled in 2012 and now offer a spectacle of vibrant flora and fauna. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you can relax at The Orangery and enjoy a sumptuous lunch or traditional afternoon English tea.
If you’re enjoying a family day out (and even if you’re not), a visit to the Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground is a must. An enormous pirate ship made of wood stands at the centre of these cleverly designed playgrounds and they attract over 1,000,000 visitors annually. There are lots of different sculptures and toys to engage the children, and some of the more unusual attractions include a sensory trail, a beach around the stranded pirate ship, and even a tepee or two! Set in a beautiful environment with shady trees and abundant plant life, this is also a fantastic place for adults to kick back and relax. The playground was inspired by the story of Peter Pan and has been specially designed to encourage children to use their senses and imagination as they play – and sometimes it’s just too tempting for the adults not to join in!
After a big day out, those lucky enough to be staying at a hotel near the palace, like the London Premier Kensington, will be grateful to have a place to return to for a little royal luxury and a good night’s rest before embarking on the next London adventure.
Good luck with your trip!