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’s tip 💡
Want to know more about the history of London? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the capital. It’s up to you to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide!
Looking for a hotel in London? Be sure to check out the Captain’s article: Where to stay in London? Advice & recommendations
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.
The palace also became the official residence of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle following their wedding in 2018, prior to their departure for the United States.
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 that offer a fresh perspective on the English monarchy
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 the villages of:
- 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
🤔 Watch out for mix-ups 🤔
Don’t confuse Kensington Gardens, which are free to enter, with the Sunken Garden, which requires a paid admission ticket as part of entry 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 : more info 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)
The hop-on hop-off buses that tour the city also make a stop at Kensington Palace.
👉 For more information: hop-on hop-off bus ticket + Thames River cruise.
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.
💡 The London Pass not only gives you access to the iconic Kensington Palace, but also to around 80 other attractions in the capital, including many of the most famous monuments and activities.
👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in London!
👉 Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all the Captain’s suggestions in London!
🛏️ Accommodation: If you haven’t booked your accommodation in London yet, Captain Ulysses highly recommends checking out Booking.com. From youth hostels to luxury boutique hotels: you will find exactly what you need!
If your budget is limited, the Captain recommends looking for an accommodation in Paddington or Kensington: the options are generally more affordable than in the centre and the location is quite convenient.
If you’re budget isn’t too tight, the Park Plaza London Riverbank is a nice option.
And if you’re looking for a very nice hotel, the Captain most definitely recommends the Goring: it is an iconic property right in the centre of London.
🎟️ Activities: For your visits and activities in London, the Captain recomends checking out GetYourGuide, Civitatis and Tiqets. Skip-the-line tickets, cruises, guided tours, activities off the beaten tracks… You will undoubtedly find what 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 spending a few days in the capital, Captain Ulysse recommends investing in a city pass which will give you access to the most iconic monuments and attractions in London. 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 huge city and the airports are quite distant from the city centre. If you want to avoid spending hours in public transports to get to your hotel, you can book 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.
🚌 Transports: The capital being quite spread out, there’s no avoiding taking public transports. The good news is that they 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 that checking out Skyscanner: you’ll be able to find the best deal for the dates on which you plan on traveling to London. 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 Omio, which allows you to travel through 44 countries with 207 train and bus companies, including Eurostar.
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