I drive past Hampton Court Palace every week, but apart from my annual ice-skating session at Christmas, I never go there. When I’m abroad, I’m always cramming everything I can into my sightseeing itinerary, but when something’s so close to home, I tend to ignore it. I guess my thinking is that I can visit it any time – but I never actually get off my backside and go.
So, with a sunny, plan-free Sunday on my hands, I invited my mum along.
As it was such a nice day, we ambled around the gardens first.
Once we’d done a loop around, we ducked into the palace. It’s made up of two parts – the original Tudor Palace, built by Cardinal Wolsey for Henry VIII in the 16th century, and the Baroque Palace commissioned by William III and Queen Mary II in the late 17th century.
We started off in the Baroque section, snooping around the king’s bedchambers, studies and receiving rooms (all filled with tapestries, paintings, frescoes and antique furniture, natch).
I need a kitchen dedicated to chocolate in my life.
To get to the Tudor part of the palace, you’ll walk underneath the huge Zodiac clock. It’s pretty complex, showing the astronomical signs, lunar phase and river tide details, as well as the time and date. Puts Big Ben to shame, really…
In the Tudor section, you can wander around Henry VIII’s apartments, visit the Harry Potter-esque Great Hall, and nose around Henry’s kitchens. They sometimes have Tudor cooking demos going on – I had no idea what this chap was making, but it smelled pretty good.
Make sure you pop inside the Chapel Royal – it’s got a gorgeous ceiling decorated in blue and gold, plus you can see a replica of Henry VIII’s crown (it’s huge).
You can pick up a free audio guide near the front entrance of the palace. It’s really detailed and well worth getting if it’s your first visit. You can also borrow Tudor capes and tunics to swan around in…
Well, when in Rome!
Getting to Hampton Court Palace
- The station is just across the river from the palace – trains from Waterloo take about half an hour.
- If you’re driving, you can park at the palace or the train station, but you have to pay. I always park down Hurst Road. There are yellow lines for the first little bit, but then it’s free to park and you’re less than 10 minutes’ walk from the palace.
- If you’re looking for somewhere to eat after you’re finished, I can recommend The Mute Swan and the Carlton Mitre Hotel’s riverside terrace. They’re both just across the road from the main entrance.