Nestled in the heart of Kensington Gardens, Kensington Palace is an invitation into the enigmatic universe of the British crown.
Follow Captain Ulysses on a tour of this sumptuous residence which remains today the home of illustrious members of the royal family.
⚓ The Captain Ulysses’ favourites in London ⚓
👉 Accommodation, flights, activities, city pass … Find all the Captain’s suggestions at the very end of the article!
👉 Want to know more about London’s history? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free tour of the city.
You’re free to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide at the end of the tour!
Brief history of Kensington Palace
The origins of Kensington Palace
Let’s go back in time to the beginning of the 17th century, shall we? In 1619, the 1st Earl of Nottingham set his sights on a small renaissance mansion built 14 years earlier in the village of Kensington (which was, at the time, outside the capital) and decided to make it his personal residence.
Seventy years later, in 1689, the freshly crowned King William of Orange (William III) and his wife, Queen Mary II, bought Nottingham House from the 2nd Earl of Nottingham. The new British monarch was indeed asthmatic and wanted to wants to take up residence in the countryside, far from the unbreathable atmosphere of the capital.
The Golden Age of Kensington Palace
At the couple’s request, major expansion works quickly started to make the small mansion a palace worthy of the British crown. The project was entrusted to famous architect Christopher Wren – known, among other things, for designing St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
For the following 70 years, Kensington Palace (also called Kensington House ) was the favored residence of British monarchs: Queen Anne, King George I and King George II.
In 1819, the queen to be, Victoria, was born at the Palace of Kensington, where she spent the first 18 years of her life, until her accession to power in 1837. The palace later became the residence of secondary members of the royal family.
The Prince and Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace
In 1981, Prince Charles and Princess Diana took in turn residence at Kensington Palace, where their sons, William and Harry, spend the first years of their lives.
In 1992, the couple separated: Prince Charles left Kensington Palace for St. James’s Palace and Queen Elizabeth authorized Lady Diana to stay at Kensington Palace. When Lady D. tragically passed away, many Britons gathered at the gates of the palace to lay wreaths in her memory.
Kensington Palace today
Today, Kensington Palace continues to be inhabited by famous members of British royalty: Prince William and his wife Kate, as well as their children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
Le palais devient également la résidence officielle du Prince Harry et son épouse Meghan Markle à la suite de leur mariage en 2018, avant leur départ pour les États-Unis.
Visiting Kensington Palace and its gardens
As you can imagine, only part of Kensington Palace is open to the public. There’s no chance of incidently running into the Duke nor the Duchess of Cambridge during your visit!
But Kensington Palace is an invitation to discover the daily lives of illustrious monarchs of the past and remains as such one of London’s top attractions. You will be able to explore:
- The Queen’s state apartments (where Mary II once lived)
- The King’s state apartments, with the sumptuous King’s Staircase and the equally stunning Cupola Room
- The beautiful gardens of Kensington Palace ( sunken garden )
- Temporary exhibitions offering a new perspective on English royalty
💡 Les expositions du moment à Kensington Palace 💡
• Life Through a Royal Lens, du 15 mai 2020 au 30 octobre 2022 : une rétrospective fascinante invitant à (re) découvrir les photographies les plus emblématiques de la famille royale
Located to the west of Hyde Park (to which they belong), Kensington Gardens extend over 1.1 km2. Weather permitting, Captain Ulysses can only recommend taking some time to leisurely wander through the gardens.
While exploring Kensington gardens, be sure to have a look at:
- The Albert Memorial, erected in memory of Queen Victoria’s husband
- Peter Pan statue, in homage to the work of famous Scottish author JM Barrie
- The Serpentine Gallery , a contemporary art museum known for its temporary exhibitions showcasing the works of emblematic artists, such as Man Ray, Henry Moore, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jeff Koons
- The Italian Gardens , with their lovely fountains
🤔 Careful of mix ups 🤔
Do not mix up the Kensington Gardens (free admission) with the Sunken Garden (payable admission included in the entrance ticket to Kensington Palace).
Afternoon tea in Kensington
Built by Queen Anne in 1704, the Orangery is now home to a café-restaurant, where you’ll be able to try a 100% British specialty: afternoon tea.
On the menu: scones, marmalade and sweet treats of all kinds. Bon appétit!
If you wish, you can also sprinkle this gourmet moment with a pinch of discovery with a guided tour of Kensington Gardens including the afternoon tea ! Find out more here.
Getting to Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace is located in Kensington Gardens, west of Hyde Park.
The nearest public transport is:
- Underground: High Street Kensington (District, Circle and Piccadilly lines) and Queensway (Central line) stations
- Bus: lines 70, 94 and 148 (stop on Bayswater Road) / lines 9, 49, 52, 70 and 452 (stop on Kensington High Street)
Hop-on hop-off buses criss-crossing the capital also stop at Kensington Palace.
Opening hours of Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace is open every day of the year, except for December 24, 25 and 26. Opening vary with seasons:
- From March 1st to October 31: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last entry at 5 p.m.)
- From November 1st to February 29: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (last entry at 3 p.m.)
Visiting Kensington Palace should take roughly 1.5 hour.
Admission to Kensington Palace is:
- Adults: £19.30
- Children (5-15): £9.60
- Seniors (over 65), students and young visitors (16-17 ): £15.40
- Family pack 1 (1 adult + up to 3 children aged 5-15): £28.90
- Family pack 2 (2 adults and up to 3 children aged 5-15): £48.30
A donation can be added to the price of your entrance ticket if you want.
To save time (and money), you can also book your tickets online.
💵 🤩 👍 London Pass 👍 🤩 💵
The entrance to Kensington Palace is also included in the London Pass. The pass also gives access to some 80 London attractions, including many of the capital’s most emblematic monuments and activities: the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Shard, Westminster Abbey, the London Bridge Experience, the Churchill War Rooms, Windsor Castle, a cruise on the Thames, a one-day hop-on hop-off bus tour…
Captain Ulysses therefore highly recommends opting for the London Pass if you’re planning on visiting quite a few attractions: you’ll quickly make a return on your investment!
👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in advance!
Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all the Captain’s suggestions in London!
🛏️ Accommodation: Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Booking.com to book your accommodation in London. From youth hostels to luxury boutique hotels: you will no doubt find exactly what you need!
If you’re running on a tight budget, the Captain recommends looking in Paddington or Kensington where accommodations are generally more affordable than in the centre and the location is quite convenient.
If you can afford it, the Park Plaza London Riverbank is a really nice option.
And if you’re looking for a chic boutique hotel in London, the Captain most definitely recommends the Goring: it is an iconic property right in the centre of London.
🎟️ Activities: to book visits and activities in London, the Captain recommends GetYourGuide, Civitatis and Tiqets. Skip-the-line tickets, cruises, guided tours, activities… You’ll undoubtedly find everything you need… and more! Keep in mind that London is a very touristy city: if you want to avoid queuing for hours, skip-the-line tickets are great time savers!
🎫 Citypass: if you’re planning on spending a few days in the capital, Captain Ulysses recommends investing in a city pass which will give you access to the capital’s top attractions. There are 2 options: the London Explorer Pass and the London Pass (which also includes a 1-day hop-on-hop-off bus tour.). These passes have 2 major advantages: the discounts and the skip-the-line accesses.
🚐 Transfers: London is a sprawling city and the airports are quite distant from the city center. If you want to avoid spending hours in public transports to get to your hotel, you should consider booking a transfer from the airport. A car will be waiting for you at the airport and will take you wherever you want in the city centre. Find out more here.
🚌 Local transport: given the size of London, there’s no avoiding taking public transport. The good news is that they the underground and the bus network are quite easy to navigate! You can also opt for a hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus tour, which includes an audioguide and stops at the main attractions and monuments in the city.
✈️ Flights: to get to London, there are plenty of options: planes, buses, trains and even ferries. For your flights, the Captain highly recommends Skyscanner: you’ll be able to compare multiple offers to find the best deal for the dates on which you’re planning on traveling. If your dates are flexible, you will even be able to compare prices over several weeks in order to find THE best deal. London is also easily accessible by bus and train. To book your trips, the Captain warmly recommends Trainline, a platform on wich you can book your train trips in 44 different countries with 207 train and bus companies, including Eurostar.
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