West London’s elegant Kensington Palace, with gardens stretching to the edge of Hyde Park, has a storied past. Under the guidance of Queen Mary, in collaboration with Britain’s most famous architect Sir Christopher Wren, the building was transformed in the late 1600s from a “modest mansion” called Nottingham House into a grand palace that a succession of young royals over the past three centuries has called home. It has subsequently been extended, re-decorated and enhanced over the years. Currently, Kensington Palace is the official family residence of TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, but there are several areas open to the public.
Stepping into a convergence of art, history and royal dress, visitors can explore the extravagant interiors of the King’s State Apartments, see the striking private rooms of the Queen’s State Apartments and follow the story of one of the most famous past residents of the Palace: Queen Victoria. Born, raised and home-educated here, she went on to rule the country for 63 years. A permanent exhibition shares a scrapbook of memories, her doll house and other objects from her childhood alongside snippets of stories detailing her complicated relationship with her mother, the time she spent with her German nanny and her early days as Queen.
Tickets, which cover entry to the above experiences, cost £20 for adults with discounted rates available. A recommended donation is not included. Members of the Historic Royal Palaces go free. Tickets may also include entry to temporary exhibitions. Check while planning your visit. Opening hours are 10am to 6pm Wednesday to Sunday with last admission at 5pm. The gardens, shop and Orangery Cafe are also open to visitors. Note that the Sunken Garden is viewable only during normal opening hours.
Visiting With Youngsters? Try This Children’s Playground Nearby.
Opened in June 2000, the Princess Diana Memorial Playground sits within Kensington Gardens, just a few minutes’ walk from Kensington Palace. Although developed as a commemoration of Diana, Princess of Wales, the playground draws inspiration from the fictional children’s character Peter Pan, whose author, J. M. Barrie based his novel Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens in the surrounding park.
The centrepiece of the playground is an extensive sandy area, in which sits a large pirate ship which children can clamber aboard and explore. There are smaller boats nearby more suitable for toddlers. Arranged around the ship but screened off by shrubbery and trees, are other areas that children can explore. These feature tee pee huts, a tree house, a wooden fort, sensory wall, water play area, swings, slides and more. A small shop near the playground entrance sells refreshments including ice cream, snacks, and coffee.
The playground, which is staffed, is restricted to children aged 12 and under, and those accompanying them. This is a popular facility, and queuing is in operation at busy times such as sunny weekend afternoons or school holidays.