Hampton Court Palace – a favourite day trip from London

DaytripfromLondon HamptonCourtPalace

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Hampton Court Palace is one of my favourite day trips from London.

Henry VIII’s Tudor Palace has a long and fascinating history, beautiful grounds and attractions for visitors of all ages. You almost feel like part of living history as you walk in the footsteps of former Kings and Queens of England.

 A brief history of Hampton Court Palace

Visit Hampton Court Palace - view of the baroque exterior at hampton court

Hampton Court Palace was a royal residence for just over 200 years.  With origins in medieval times, the palace was transformed by influential Cardinal Wolsey during the early years of Henry VIII’s reign.

The palace was to become Henry’s favourite residence after he seized the palace from Wolsey. Here the six Queens of England married to Henry played out their tumultuous lives and the palace was the scene of some of the most important events in British history.

England changed forever when the king decided to leave the Catholic Church to pursue his marriage to the now infamous Anne Boleyn. Much of the intrigue and mystery took place at Hampton Court Palace.

Subsequent monarchs made minor alterations however it wasn’t until the late 17th century that the palace was developed with baroque opulence by King William III and Queen Mary II based on the designs of Sir Christopher Wren.

Highlights of Hampton Court

Visitors enter the palace via the main gates into Base Court. Built by Cardinal Wolsey to house his important guests, the buildings remain largely as they were in the 16th century. If you are lucky you might see some historical reenactments taking place.

troops at hampton court palace

Discover Henry VIII’s palace, his six wives and all the court intrigue 

The exhibition leads you through Henry’s life via a tour of the palace apartments in the old part of the palace. After you have learned about his childhood and first marriage your tour takes you through the magnificent Great Hall and the king’s apartments.

If you have read the history of these times it is eerie to see the familiar faces of the past peer at you from the walls. In particular the eyes of Anne Boleyn gaze down soulfully from her portraits. Her ghost is said to haunt the palace.

Visit Hampton Court Palace - great hall and ceilings at hampton court

This is my favourite part of the Hampton Court interior. The medieval palace is so atmospheric with oak panelled walls beyond which you can imagine secret doors and passages that link the rooms and corridors. There are many nooks and crannies to explore.

King William’s apartments

The baroque style of the more recent additions to the palace are in stark contrast to the Tudor wings. The rooms are bright, grand and full of light and enjoy magnificent views over the curated gardens. During this part of the tour you visit the King’s state and private apartments and immediately get a sense of the wealth and grandeur of the era. The mural on the ceiling of the entrance hall by Italian artist Verrio is spectacular.

Visit William III apartments and discover the baroque era at hampton court

Explore the palace kitchens, cellars and chocolate room

As you walk around the palace you get a sense of the logistical effort to run a household of this size. There is no better place to experience this than the palace kitchens which were designed to feed over 600 people twice a day.

This wonderful video shows you the process behind preparing for a feast at the palace in Tudor times.

Fancy trying some Tudor style feasting in your own home? The palace historians have made these wonderful cook-a-long videos using recipes from the era.

During the Georgian era the palace housed Britain’s only royal chocolate kitchen.  Explore these rooms and learn all about the King’s personal chocolatier and admire the elaborate dishes used to serve the treats to the royal family.

Stroll in the beautifully manicured gardens

I love to visit the formal gardens at Hampton Court. It is not difficult to imagine the lords and ladies of court gossiping as they strolled through the beautifully designed gardens to the south and east of the palace.
formal gardens and exterior of hampton court
My favourite gardens are the Pond Gardens that are always vibrant with flowers in bloom throughout the spring and summer. It is also fun to take a leisurely horse-drawn carriage trip around the grounds.

Get lost in the world famous maze

Who doesn’t love the challenge of a garden maze? Commissioned in around 1700, Hampton Court’s maze was described as
[wc_spacing size=”10px”] [wc_testimonial by=”Ernest Law, 1926″ url=”” position=”left”]the most famous Maze in the history of the world, and immeasurably the one most visited[/wc_testimonial] The maze has many dead ends and tricks to keep you on your toes.

Picnic on the grass

On a sunny summers day you can lay down your picnic blanket or pull up a deck chair and admire the beautiful surroundings of the palace grounds. Hampton Court Palace gardens are lush and green, perfect for a few hours of lounging.

picnic at hampton court palace

Visiting Hampton Court Palace with kids

The palace and gardens are wonderful places for kids of all ages to learn and be inspired by its historical past. There are family audio guides, tours and even costumes to help bring the past alive for its youngest visitors.

Kids inspired by history will love discovering the stories of the palace featuring ghosts, unicorns and Tudor feasts.

But even children who love discovering history need a break to play and run about. Now there is a new attraction at Hampton Court Palace that will let them run off some energy and fire their imagination.

Hampton Court’s Magic Playground magic garden Hampton Court Palace

The newly opened Magic Playground (May 2016) is simply amazing. Inspired by Tudor legends, the playground caters for children aged 2-13 and is simply a wonderfully designed space for children to play.

From water and sand play to treehouses and aerial walkways, the playground is one of the best I have seen. There is even a sleepy dragon for children to climb on.

Entry to the Magic Garden is included in the price of your ticket however families can visit the playground without entering the palace by purchasing a Magic Garden and Maze only ticket.

Hampton Court opening times and tickets

The palace is open from 10am every day except 24, 25 and 26 December. You can find more information on opening and closing times here.

Do check the palace website for updated ticketing information as prices change throughout the year and vary based on the attractions you visit. There is no charge for children under the age of 5.

clock court hampton court palace

Getting to Hampton Court Palace

Travel to Hampton Court Palace on the train from Waterloo station in central London. The journey takes 35 minutes and trains run every half hour. The train station is a short walk to the palace.

If you choose to drive, parking is limited. Avoid having to walk for miles to and from the nearest offsite parking area by getting there early.

I haven’t tried this yet but one day I would like to arrive at the palace by boat much like the former kings and queens used to do. The riverboat journey takes around 3 hours from Westminster. More information here.
masterpieces at hampton court palace

Useful information

Visualise your journey with this handy map of Hampton Court Palace and of the palace gardens.

There are several cafes onsite offering hot and cold meals at reasonable prices. If you like to bring your own lunch and snacks there are many peaceful spots throughout the garden to sit down and relax.

Families with small children are well catered for with buggy parks, lockers and toilet facilities. We also appreciated the availability of staff to assist with lift access when our children were younger.

Visit the official palace website for lots of historical information and details of their busy events calendar.

A favourite day trip from London 

formal gardens and banqueting house at hampton court

Hampton Court Palace is one of my favourite places to visit in England. I often take visitors there as there are so many aspects to the palace to explore and discover. It is one of those places where you will find something new and interesting each time you visit.

If you are visiting with children, there are many activities to keep them interested and engaged while you tour the palace and its gardens.  I am sure the Magic Garden will encourage a whole new generation of history buffs to fall in love with Hampton Court Palace.

Looking for more day trip ideas from London?

Jane Austen road trip  | 23 brilliant reasons to visit buzzing Brighton | Whitstable by the sea | Steam training in Jane Austen country | The Greenwich – markets, museums and more | Cambridge

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Wander Mum

49 thoughts on “Hampton Court Palace – a favourite day trip from London

  1. Suzannah Sylvian says:

    I walked past this gorgeous palace a few months ago but didn’t have time to go in. I actually didn’t know about its association with Henry VIII though, and I’m supposed to be a history student. What a great post, very informative about an alternative thing to do in London, as many tourists stay in the city centre.

  2. Ivana says:

    Great! I’m also writing about day trips from London. Haven’t been to Hampton Court though, next time I visit London for sure 🙂

  3. RunawayBrit says:

    I love Hampton Court. I have read a great deal of Tudor fiction, most recently the Shardlake series and this place is so evocatively described. I’m not surprised it is haunted by Anne Boleyn – poor girl!

    • Katy says:

      Ooh I know, she had a ruinous end. Have you read Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies? The BBC adaptation of these is fantastic too

  4. Dora says:

    I love reading posts about London, simply because I was born there. Love your photos and all the information you have gathered here.

  5. Lauren says:

    Wow, those gardens are gorgeous. I can imagine myself picnicking there, which is absolutely one of my favorite things to do abroad. It makes me feel like a local, hehe. Great post, and thanks for sharing! xx


  6. Travel Pockets says:

    I have never been to England, but this is definitely at the top of my list of places to see. And I’ve never checked out a western castle before. I’ve been inside castles in Asia, but this one looks so much more grand. I watched the show The Tudors and loved it!

  7. Wanderlustingk says:

    Holy crap! I’ve been watching a show about this period and seeing the picture of the hall just blew me away. I need to go here. I LOVE CASTLES and pinning this for when I get over to London!

    • Katy says:

      Yay! Glad you liked it. It’s easy to get caught up in central London as a visitor but HamptonCourt is well worth the trip.

  8. Clare Thomson says:

    That new playground looks absolutely amazing! Must take the kids there over the summer. We need to go back in any case because we haven’t seen the Georgian rooms at the Palace. There is so much to do at Hampton Court that we just focused on the Tudor bits last time. Thanks so much for mentioning my post too.

    • Katy says:

      The playground is absolutely fantastic! I think it caters for a broad range of ages too. My kids were of course obsessed by the sand and water 🙂

  9. Marteen says:

    Oh chocolate room!!! Now I definitely have to visit here. When I was training to be a tour guide one of my lecturers was obsessed with Henry VIII. I think he lost count of how many times he has visited Hampton Court. It does look magnificent!

    • Katy says:

      Henry was a very interesting character. You can definitely feel his presence at Hampton Court. Hope you manage a visit there soon

  10. Swati says:

    Love palaces, castles, forts or any other architecture for that matter. This post will be of help whenever I’m in London. Thank you 🙂

  11. Kathy Marris says:

    Wow! This looks like the type of day trip I would like to do from London. England hands down has some of the best historical sites and intriguing history. That is why I love to visit. Next time I will be planning a tour of Hampton Court. Those gardens are incredible!

  12. Lolo says:

    I think I was here when I was like 14 – one of the first times I was in London. Don’t remember much but I’d love to check it out again as an adult! I’ve pinned it for the next time we are in England! #CityTripping

    • Katy says:

      I hadn’t visited for a while too and there has been a lot of work done on exhibitions and restoration. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  13. Phoebe @ Lou Messugo says:

    I haven’t been to Hampton Court for decades! That playground certainly wasn’t there. The kitchens are fascinating, imagine cooking for so many people every day! Crazy. Those wood fires are so efficient but used SO much wood every day. Fab review Katy, now I want to go again! #citytripping

  14. Elizabeth (Wander Mum) says:

    I really like Hampton Court! We live pretty close and this post has inspired to go again soon as we haven’t visited since the Magic Playground opened. My choir sang at the Palace last year for its 500 year anniversary which was a special moment but we haven’t had a good explore for a while. It has a fascinating history and I love the reenactments they do there. We haven’t spent much time in the expansive gardens (although enjoyed getting lost in the maze). Thank you for linking to #citytripping

    • Katy says:

      Wow. Singing at the Palace must have been an amazing experience. Love to hear more about that Elizabeth. You will love the playground. I would go just for that.

  15. Cathy (MummyTravels) says:

    I love Hampton Court – so much history here and so intact still, it’s easy to feel like you’re stepping back in time. My daughter has been twice: once at about eight months as one of our early day trips and earlier this year where she dressed up to have all kinds of fun (very overdue post to come!) #citytripping

    • Katy says:

      Even living here we can’t do everything. London is just one of those places that warrant many return visits. Hope you make it back soon

  16. jess says:

    This place looks so cool. I really love your photos. I felt like I was there, since I always look at the ceiling, too. Following you on Facebook now. 🙂

    • Katy says:

      Thanks Jess, Hampton Court really brings the history of the Tudor era to life. I’m always looking up at ceilings too. Thanks for the follow 🙂

  17. Vyjay Rao says:

    This sounds like a great outing for the entire family. Personally I would be interested in the intriguing history of the palace and wandering in its vast gardens.

  18. Melanie says:

    This is on my list of places to go. I spent a fantastic weekend in Windsor in June, and everyone says Hampton Court Palace rivals Windsor Castle. This post certainly captures the rich history and beautiful images of the area. I visited Kingston Upon Thames last year but didn’t make it to the Hampton Court Palace. Big mistake 😉

    • Katy says:

      Thanks for dropping by Melanie. I think they are both great castles to visit. Windsor Castle is a working castle whereas Hampton Court is steeped in history. I have to admit I prefer Hampton Court but they are both wonderful day trips from London. Hope you manage a trip there soon

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