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Hampton Court Palace, located on the outskirts of London, is a splendid Tudor palace with beautiful gardens and a rich history. A short train ride from the city, this former home of King Henry VIII offers a glimpse into royal life. Explore the palace’s grand rooms, get lost in the famous hedge maze, and enjoy the winter ice skating rink against the stunning palace backdrop.

A Day Trip to Hampton Court: A Complete Guide for History Buffs, Solo Travellers, and Local Tourists

If you’re a history enthusiast, solo traveller, or local tourist seeking a fascinating day trip, look no further than Hampton Court Palace. Located just outside London, this magnificent Tudor palace, once the residence of King Henry VIII, promises an enriching and delightful experience.

Have you watched “The Tudors”? When strolling in the palace, I can’t help but think about some of the TV show’s scenes!

Getting to Hampton Court Palace

Reaching Hampton Court Palace from London is straightforward and convenient. The palace is located in the borough of Richmond upon Thames, around 12 miles southwest of central London. The easiest way to get there is by train:

  • By Train: Hop on a train from London Waterloo to Hampton Court Station. Direct trains run approximately every half hour; the journey takes about 35 minutes. Once you arrive at Hampton Court Station, it’s a short five-minute walk to the palace entrance.
  • By Car: If you prefer driving, I’ve noticed that ample parking is available on-site. I’ve never risked driving “on the wrong side,” and I don’t know the directions… Enter “Hampton Court Palace” into your GPS and follow their much safer and more accurate directions.

Exploring Hampton Court Palace

The Tudor Palace

Upon entering, you’ll return to the grandeur of Tudor England. Initially built for Cardinal Wolsey and later claimed by King Henry VIII, the palace is a testament to the luxury and power of the Tudor dynasty.

  • Henry VIII’s Apartments: Wander through King Henry VIII’s lavish state apartments, including the Great Hall, adorned with magnificent tapestries, and the Chapel Royal, continuously used for over 450 years.
  • Kitchens: Remember the Tudor kitchens, which were once the beating heart of the palace? These kitchens provide a glimpse into the life of the 200-strong staff responsible for feeding the royal court. If you visit during the Holiday Season, you will get to admire cooks at work and taste some of these past delicacies—an experience I will never forget!
  • The Haunted Gallery: For a touch of the supernatural, stroll through the Haunted Gallery, where the ghost of Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, is said to roam.

The Baroque Palace

The palace’s transformation continued after the Tudors. The Baroque extensions, commissioned by William III and Mary II, add another layer of history and architectural beauty.

  • The King’s Staircase: Marvel at the grand King’s Staircase, adorned with paintings by Antonio Verrio, depicting the triumph of Alexander the Great.
  • State Apartments of William III: Explore the elegant state apartments of William III, which showcase the Baroque style. The rooms are richly decorated and offer stunning views over the gardens.

The Gardens

Hampton Court Palace boasts 60 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, each with its unique charm.

  • The Privy Garden: This meticulously restored garden is a perfect example of Baroque landscaping, with its symmetrical design and ornamental features.
  • The Great Vine: Visit the Great Vine, the world’s largest grapevine, planted in 1768 and still produces grapes today.
  • The Maze: No visit to Hampton Court is complete without a wander through the famous hedge maze. Created in the late 17th century, it’s one of the world’s most renowned mazes and offers a fun challenge for all visitors.

Winter Ice Skating

If you visit during winter, you’re in for a treat. An ice skating rink is set up in the shadow of the palace, offering a magical experience. Glide across the ice with the stunning backdrop of Hampton Court Palace illuminated in the evening, creating a truly unforgettable scene.

Visiting Tips

  1. Tickets: Get your ticket online to avoid queueing at the entrance. Suppose you plan to visit another Historic Royal Palace (Tower of London, Kew Palace, Kensington Palace and Hillsborough Castle and Gardens) during your stay in London. In that case, you might want to consider the membership.
  2. Arrive Early: To make the most of your day trip, arrive early. This will give you plenty of time to explore the palace and gardens without feeling rushed.
  3. Guided Tours: Consider joining one of the guided tours. The knowledgeable guides provide fascinating insights into the history and stories of Hampton Court Palace.
  4. Audio Guides: If you prefer exploring at your own pace, audio guides are available and provide an informative and engaging narrative throughout your visit.
  5. Picnics: The palace grounds are perfect for a picnic, especially during the warmer months. Bring some snacks and enjoy a leisurely lunch in the beautiful gardens.
  6. Photography: Remember your camera! Hampton Court Palace is incredibly photogenic, and you’ll want to capture its beauty.
  7. Gift Shop: Before leaving, stop by the gift shop to pick up some souvenirs and gifts related to the palace and its history. I got the Christmas ambient scent that envelops the whole castle during the holiday. My house now smells of orange and cinnamon every Christmas, and just a few drops a day create the atmosphere.
  8. Christmas: The holiday Season at Hampton Court is a magic moment. The place smells of orange and cinnamon, free events take place all day (grab the daily schedule on the desks at the entrance!), and the blizzard provides an even more intriguing atmosphere to the gardens. It’s the best moment of the year to discover the incredible castle steeped in history and its fascinating past!

Conclusion

A day trip to Hampton Court Palace is more than just a visit; it’s an immersive journey through centuries of history. From the grandeur of the Tudor and Baroque palaces to the serenity of the gardens and the excitement of the maze, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re a history buff, solo traveller, or local tourist, Hampton Court Palace offers a rich and rewarding experience just a short distance from London.

So why wait? Plan your visit to Hampton Court Palace today and enter a world of royal splendour and historical intrigue.

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Silvia's Trips

Hi there! My name is Silvia and after 15 years between the Paris Opera and the Palau de les Arts in Valencia I now run a boutique hotel in Cinque Terre, deal with tourism management and blogging, sail, horse-ride, play guitar and write about my solo trips around the world. For more info about me and my travel blog check my full bio.