Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

Spot the Royals at Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace is one of the UK’s leading historical attractions, having been home to many royals for more than three centuries and offering visitors lots of stunning sights and memorable experiences. 

Highlights

  • Stroll around the Sunken Garden, where Prince Harry and Megan Markle announced their engagement in 2017.
  • Learn more about Queen Victoria’s early life by visiting her reconstructed residence in the Palace, which includes the young princess’ dollhouse and childhood scrapbook.
  • Gaze in awe at the King’s Staircase, painted by royal artist William Kent, which depicts life at George I’s 18th Century court with vivid colour and humour.

What to see and do

Take a Digital Mission

You and your children can step back in time by taking a digitally-guided tour of the Palace and gardens. Guided by a historical character, you can walk around the Palace and hear tales and anecdotes from your digital friend. This tour includes an app that sets you challenges as you explore. 

Head to the King’s Gallery

This amazing gallery is at the heart of Kensington Palace and houses the country’s best collection of royal artworks. Started in 1725 for George I, the King’s Gallery includes some very rare pieces that people travel the world to see. The gallery has been preserved in its original style, making the whole experience historical.

Immerse yourself in Princess Diana’s style

The Diana: Designing for a Princess exhibition features some of the Princess’ iconic outfits, including the scarlet Jasper Conran suit she wore to name the P&O Royal Princess liner in 1984. You can also see sketches of outfits made by David Sassoon, one of her favourite designers. Some sketches feature handwritten notes from Diana herself, giving you an insight into her love of fashion.

Visit the Sunken Garden for a gentle stroll

Kensington Palace’s Sunken Garden is based on the one at Hampton Court Palace and is reminiscent of the style of gardening popular in the 18th century. 

The garden has terraces of paving and beautiful flower beds, all arranged around a central ornamental pond with several water cisterns. Palace tradition dictates that the gardeners move the flower displays around every spring and summer to keep everything looking fresh and new.

Did you know: (5 interesting facts!) 

  1. The Queen gave Apartment 1A to Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge as a wedding gift in 2011. The royal couple has entertained Barack and Michelle Obama there since. 
  2. The building has stood since 1605 and was originally a two-storey mansion for a wealthy London businessman.
  3. The Palace has served as home to Princess Diana, Princess Margaret and is the London home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their three children.
  4. The Palace is believed to be home to several ghosts, including that of George II. According to those who claim to have seen the ghost, it wanders around the King’s Gallery, mournfully asking for news from his troops, who were fighting the Seven Years War at the time of his death.
  5. Queen Victoria saved Kensington Palace from demolition in the 1890s after it had fallen into disrepair. Parliament agreed to a two-year renovation project.

History

  • 1605: Sir George Coppin built the two-storey mansion for a wealthy businessman. Kensington at this time was a secluded village rather than a part of London so it was ideal as a retreat.
  • 1619: The 1st Earl of Nottingham bought the residence for £20,000 and it became known as Nottingham House.
  • 1689: King William III bought Nottingham House so he could escape the polluted air of London, which made his asthma worse. He engaged Sir Christopher Wren to enlarge the building and the famous architect added three-storey pavilions at each corner, north and south wings and gardens.
  • 1760: George II died suddenly at the age of 76 and became the last reigning monarch to live at Kensington Palace. 
  • 1819: Queen Victoria was born and raised in Kensington Palace and went on to reign for 63 years. She left the Palace in 1837, when she became Queen, to live in Buckingham Palace.
  • 1940: The palace was hit by an incendiary bomb, which damaged the State Apartments and Queen’s Apartments. During WWII, the palace and gardens were equipped with anti-aircraft guns, trenches and sandbags.

Facilities and accessibility

Kensington Palace is accessible to visitors with mobility issues, as well as specially-enhanced tours for partially-sighted, blind and hard-of-hearing visitors. The Palace staff is trained to help with any special needs visitors may have. 

Some of the rooms do have low lighting to preserve artworks and fabrics. Guide dogs and carers are welcome, with (human) carers receiving free entry.

The Palace has a gift shop and café, both fully-accessible, as well as toilets and baby changing rooms. Pushchairs are allowed, but scooters, skateboards and bicycles are not. 

You can also leave pushchairs and other large luggage items in the cloakroom, subject to security checks. 

You can take non-flash photographs inside the Palace, either with a camera or a smartphone, but filming is not allowed. There’s free Wi-Fi inside the Palace; you can simply follow the prompts that you’ll see on your phone.