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Visit Kensington Palace

Home > London > Historic Houses | Museums
by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published February 23rd 2011

Kensington Palace is a place without a formal address. It's sort of 'on the edge of Hyde Park before you get to the first swan pond'. Which probably goes some way towards suggesting just how fine an address this is. When it was first built it had its own driveway all the way from London proper - at the time Kensington was a town on the outskirts of the metropolis, and Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park were this palace's gardens.

It's royal of course, as in Royal Highnesses have lived here, from William III to Prince Harry who, while it's not classed as his official residence, frequently stays here, as it's where he grew up. And with its many corridors and varied apartments, all lavishly decorated, and the helicopter pad, it must have been an incredible place to live as a child. For many people of this generation it will be best known as Lady Di's house. She lived here from her marriage up until her death, and the gates of Kensington Palace are where the incredible floral tribute to her built up in the days following her accident.

The King's Staircase
The King's Staircase
Today the palace's State Rooms have been opened up to us unwashed masses, to help fund their opulent upkeep. Visitors are also welcome to wander the lovely gated gardens, both the walled gardens and the sunken gardens, and to take tea in The Orangery. It's free to stroll the grounds, but if you venture inside these are some of the palatial highlights:

The King's Staircase: as well as being one of the grandest spaces in the palace this is also one of the most intimate, because of William Kent's huge mural of the court of George I. In the mural George's court appear life sized, children hiding behind the bannisters and all.

The King's Gallery
The King's Gallery
The King's Gallery: another George I legacy, this room is the largest in the palace so long that even the huge oil paintings that line its walls appear quite reasonably sized. It's presented much the same as it was in George's day, with the same paintings of bygone royals and the same dial attached to the fireplace with a wind vane extruding from the top, which told the kings when the post was likely to arrive and in which direction his navy would be heading.

Queen Victoria's Bedroom: on the 19th of June 1837, Princess Victoria went to bed in her room in the palace, but when she woke up on the morning of the 20th it was to be told that she was now the Queen of England. Her mother, the Duchess of Kent had a reputation for being quite strict, so poor little Princess Victoria had a very formal upbringing in the palace. After the news came that she was to be Queen, her mother slept in her room every night, even though she was 18, and when she was crowned Queen her mother moved with her to Buckingham Palace.

Some of Princess Diana's dresses are displayed here
Some of Princess Diana's dresses are displayed here
Of course important and historic things have taken place in all the other rooms as well.

The royals who currently reside there are the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. Unfortunately it's unlikely you'll run into them, though it must be strange to live in a house open, at least in part, to strangers. So there are some downsides to royal blood then.

You can still approach the palace on the original driveway if you come via Rotten Row.
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Why? Heavy with interesting history
When: 10am - 5pm in winter, 10am - 6pm in summer, last entrance an hour before closing
Where: A315 Kensington, Greater London, United Kingdom, nearest station High Street Kensington
Cost: 12.50 for adults, 11.50 if you book online
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