Hampton Court Palace is somewhere I had always wanted to visit but never quite got around to. It’s an amazing family day out.
The first thing you notice when you arrive is how big it is. It’s massive, and most of it is hidden from initial view so it’s even bigger than you think. It makes Blenheim Palace look small. It also has extensive grounds for you to explore. Near the car park there is the kitchen garden, wilderness, rose garden and the world’s oldest puzzle maze. This is also where you can access the Magic Garden. This is the adventure playground part of the gardens. It has elevated walkways, towers, sand and water play, wild wood paths and even a dragon! It is only open at certain times of the year and it was sadly shut when we visited. We will be back!!!
Once you’ve gone through the palace there are also the formal gardens. Again, these are vast (over 60 acres) and have so many different areas. Impressive highlights include the longest herbaceous mixed flower border in Britain, the largest vine in the world (it’s 250 years old) and an exotic flower collection. Despite being on site for 6 hours we didn’t really get chance to look around the gardens at all! Again, that’s another reason for us to go back.
Back to the palace itself; the palace has four massive courtyards and very distinct phases of building. The front of the palace looks nothing like the back! The first courtyard you come to is all about Henry VIII. You can explore the kitchens (at 75 rooms it’s actually a street rather than “a” kitchen!) and the story of a young Henry. You can also access a couple of galleries from here. There’s no sign to tell you what it is, but there’s a replica of the wine fountain in the first courtyard, complete with drunks! The boys thought that was hilarious.
As you come in the front of the palace you’d be forgiven for thinking the massive building with all the stained glass is the church. It’s actually the Great Hall. It was under-going some restoration when we were there but it will reopen soon. Within Henry VIII’s apartments you can see a copy of Henry’s crown and walk down a corridor that is apparently haunted by Katherine Howard!
The staircase that leads up to William III’s apartments seems unassuming as you go through a door in the corner of clock court but once you’re in there it is a staircase like no other. It’s a little bit odd though because it’s become a thoroughfare between clock court and fountain court and either side of it is all very cold stone and outside, then you stumble across this epic staircase!
Throughout the day they have lots of events going on. When we visited they had a walking play which was really good fun. There would be a little skit in one area, then you’d all be led off to another area by one of the actors, there’d be another bit of acting, off to a different area and then another scene. Different mini-plays were held over the course of the day. You could either pop in and out (we only watched one play) or you can watch all of them, but it would take up most of the day. We only stumbled across the play by accident (we quite literally walked into one of the actors as she was about to walk on “stage”) and I did find it a bit confusing where we should have been to pick up the next part of the play 15 minutes later. N.B. If you’re planning on taking part in the play make sure you take a pen or pencil, you’ll need it.
There was so much to do that we didn’t manage to explore all of the palace, and like I said we didn’t explore much of the grounds either. I think you’d have to visit two or three times to really do this place justice. Someone mentioned that they found getting around quite confusing, I can can see why. Make sure you definitely get a map.
Very helpfully they have a buggy and bag store. It’s free but you do need a £1 coin to operate the lockers. They’re a decent size, although there were no tags on the keys so you have to be careful not to lose them. The buggy store isn’t secure but it is indoors. If you have anything of value then just stick it in a locker.
We had such a lovely time and there is still lots to explore. There are very few places we’ve been to where you physically couldn’t do everything in just one day, and Hampton Court Palace is one of those.
Walk-up price, family ticket – £65.10. £58.50 if booked online.
Blue Peter badge holders get in for FREE. CSSC card holders get 2 adults and 2 children for FREE
Parking / How to get there
Parking – on-site but it is expensive. The closest car park is £1.60 per hour. One slightly further away is £1.50 per hour. The car parks are small and can fill up quite quickly, particularly at weekends and in the holidays. If you can use public transport then I would.
Address – Molesey, East Molesey KT8 9AU
Numerous dotted around the site, including baby change
Cafe on-site. Picnics are welcome and there are various places you can have them.
Rating – 4 / 5 – for me the really expensive parking charges lost the palace one point.
I’m Vicky and I am a mum of three living in Aylesbury. I set up Free Time with the Kids to review free and cheap family days out in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire, mainly because I kept forgetting all the fabulous places that were recommended to me!! I love getting out and about with the kids (and hubby of course) and we have adventures all over the place. My reviews tell you all the things you need to know about the family days out and activites we’ve done such as how much it costs, if there’s parking, toilets and if there’s a cafe or if picnics are allowed. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch email@example.com or get in touch via Facebook