Located in the chic heart of London, Kensington Palace is an imposing red brick mansion that accommodates no less than fifteen relatives of Queen Elizabeth II.
The most popular residents of this royal abode are undoubtedly the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as well as Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle who have been the tenants for a few years.
Unlike Buckingham Palace which opens its doors to the public a few months a year during the summer period, Kensington welcomes visitors all year round.
What is the history of Kensington Palace?
Originally a simple mansion, the palace was acquired in 1689 by the monarchs William III and Marie II who preferred to leave the whitehall palace located in the heart of London and its pollution. The king being asthmatic, he wanted a new residence in a green setting and less distant than the hampton court palace.
For seventy years, Kensington Palace was the favorite residence of British monarchs, although the official residence of the Court remained at St. James's Palace. But after the death of George II in 1760, the palace was made available to secondary members of the royal family.
It is in this palace that Queen Victoria was born and raised before her accession to the throne in 1837. Once queen, she moved to Buckingham Palace but still remains very attached to Kensington. After years of neglect, Kensington Palace is threatened with destruction. The queen insists that the palace of her childhood be preserved and obtain parliament its restoration on condition that the monument is open to the public.
More recently, the palace becomes the official residence of the Prince of Wales and Diana. After their separation in 1992, Diana remained in Kensington while Charles moved to St. James's Palace.
Since the end of 2013, Prince William and Kate Middleton have been living at Kensington Palace with their three children. This royal residence was also the home of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle who since 2019 moved into Frogmore's cottage located within the grounds of Windsor.
Which rooms are open to the public?
The private apartments of the royal family are of course closed to the public but many rooms are open to visitors who will discover many works of art.
The most spectacular rooms are presented, however the list is not exhaustive.
The King’s State Apartments – les appartements du roi William III
The king's apartments consist of the following rooms:
- The King’s Staircase (the king's staircase): Magnificent richly decorated staircase leading to the king's apartments
- The King’s Gallery (King's gallery): Room where King William III died
- The Presence Chamber (presence chamber): Room where the king received courtiers, ministers and foreign ambassadors.
- The Privy Chamber (private room): Queen Caroline's favorite entertainment room.
- The Cupola Room (the cupola): The most beautifully decorated room in the palace
King's Staircase - the King's Staircase
The King's Staircase was created by Kent in the 1720s for George I. The Venetian-style paintings depict 45 figures including Kent himself.
King's Gallery - la galerie du roi
The King's Gallery is the longest and largest room in the palace, where a collection of 1723th century paintings is exhibited. The magnificent ceiling was painted by William Kent in XNUMX.
The Cupola Room - cupola room
The Cupola Room is the work of architect William Kent and houses an XNUMXth century musical clock, known as the “Temple of the Four Great Monarchies of the World”. It sounded in turn the tunes of Handel, Corelli or Geminiani.
Queen's Apartments - the apartments of Queen Mary II
The Queen's apartments consist of the following rooms:
– The Queen’s Staircase (Queen's stairs): In 1734, Queen Caroline invited William Kent to redecorate the stairs leading to the apartments.
- The Queen's Gallery (queen's gallery): Queen Mary II's reading room.
- The Queen’s Closet : Queen's cabinet
- The Queen’s Dining Room (queen's dining room): Room where Mary and William shared their meal.
- The Queen’s Drawing Room (queen's drawing room): Porcelain collection from China and Japan.
Queen's room - Chambre de la reine
Located in the Queen's Apartments, this room was the bedroom of Mary II and her husband William III. It was in this bed that Edward Stuart, son of King James II, was born in 1688 at the palace of St James James.
Temporary exhibitions at Kensington Palace
Diana: Her Fashion Story
Until February 17, 2019, Kensington Palace is dedicating an exhibition to Lady Diana's most beautiful outfits such as her velvet dress, worn at the White House or her blue tartan coat, worn during an official visit to Venice in the 1980s.
Exhibition on Queen Victoria
From May 24, 2019, a temporary exhibition will be dedicated to Queen Victoria who was born in Kensington in 1819. On this occasion, the jewels specially commissioned for Victoria by her husband Albert will be exhibited. Many sparkling jewels of precious stones will be presented to the public like her spectacular tiara of diamonds and emeralds.
Afternoon tea at the Orangerie
Bordering on Kensington Palace, the Orangery was built in 1704 for Queen Anne in 1704. Today, the pavilion houses a restaurant and a tea room where you can have brunch, lunch or tea with scones 😉
Information and reservation
Originally, Kensington Gardens were part of Hyde Park and covered an area of 8 ha. They were fitted out in 1728 by Queen Caroline, wife of George II, who gave the garden its present form. It was at this time that Serpentine Lake was created, which marks the boundary between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
Today, the park covers more than 110 hectares where there are many monuments such as the Albert Memorial, the statue of Peter Pan or the Diana Memorial Playground.
Guided tours of the gardens are organized regularly revealing their secrets. We discover the underground river running through Hyde Park, a hollow tree known to be the annual nesting site of owls and owls.
Duration between 1 hour and 2 hours.
Information and reservations on the Royal Parks website
Established in 1908, the Sunken Garden is an elaborate green oasis with a wide range of flowers, an ornamental pond and fountains.
It is in this garden that Prince William and Kate announced their engagement.
In neo-Gothic style, the Albert Memorial pays homage to Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.
Guided tours are organized every first Sunday of the month between March and December at 14:00 p.m. and 15:00 p.m. Here is the unique opportunity to discover the frieze of 187 sculpted figures but also to learn about the history of the construction of the monument.
Duration 45 min. Without reservation.
Price: £ 9
More information on the Royal Parks website
Diana Memorial Playground
Le Diana Memorial Playground is a play area for children under 12, access to which is supervised.
Located on the edge of Serpentine Lake, a bronze statue represents Peter Pan. It was created in 1912 by sculptor George Frampton.
Serpentine Gallery is a small exhibition hall, a showcase for modern and contemporary international art. Each summer, a temporary pavilion is built where an architect exhibits his works.
Website - Free admission
How long does it take to visit Kensington Palace?
Allow around 2-3 hours for a leisurely tour of Kensington Palace and a relaxed stroll through the gardens.
Where can I buy tickets to visit Kensington Palace?
At your convenience, you can book your entry either on the Great Britain Tourist Office website either on the GetYourGuide website.
The ticket price includes the entrance to the palace and the temporary exhibition.
The visit to the palace is included in 4 tourist passes, to know :
- le London Pass : a smart card that gives access to more than 60 attractions across London and offers a day in the Hop-on Hop-off bus to discover the capital.
Le London City Pass : a card valid between 1 and 7 days which gives access to the main tourist sites and provides an overview of the capital.
- theiVenture London Attractions : saves up to - 40% depending on the choice of your activities
- le Royal Pass : offers priority access to the three most famous royal palaces in London, namely the Tower of London, Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace.
Kensington Palace is free for children less than 5 years old.
Book on Visit Britain Book on GetYourGuide
Practical information for visiting Kensington Palace
- The best time to visit the palace is after lunch, between 14 p.m. and 15 p.m. The majority of tour groups end their tours at this time and you will have another 2 hours before the palace closes.
No audio guide and it's a shame. Take with you your touristic guides for more information. Booklets are available in each room to learn about the history of the place but the explanations are only in English.
What are the opening hours of Kensington Palace?
Summer: March 1 - October 31
Daily from 10h00 to 18h00
Last admission at 17:00 p.m.
Winter: November 1 - February 28
Daily from 10h00 to 16h00
Last admission at 15:00 p.m.
The palace is closed from December 24 to 26 inclusive
Where is Kensington Palace located?
Address : Kensington Gardens, London W8 4PXMetro