Hampton Court, London
During my first visit to London last May, I was determined to see Hampton Court Palace and gardens and purchased tickets online in advance of my flight to London. TripAdvisor members provided me with helpful information regarding the best trains to take to Hampton Court from my lodgings in inner London as well as some useful suggestions for a first time visitor.
On my Sunday visit to Hampton Court palace and gardens, the sun finally appeared after several days of clouds and mist. The timing was perfect. The gardens, of which there are several of various sizes, were in full flower and the hollies, boxwood and yews were lush and perfectly manicured. I would need another day or two to fully explore and enjoy all of the gardens at Hampton Court.
The great tudor palace. It transports you back in time perhaps like no other building in England. It's so evocative of its era - the time of Henry VIII - that it leaves you with no doubt about its origins. From the Privy garden to the Anne Boleyn gate to the decorative chimneys the place oozes Tudor. It even has an historic original tennis court, hugely popular at the time in Royal Palaces across Europe.
This was King Henry VIII's palace. He took it from Cardinal Woolsey when he fell out of favour. The palace fell out of favour too, with later Royals, who spent less and less time here, finally abandoning it with the passing of King George II in 1760. Today it is mostly for the tourists, with only favoured royal servants making this their home now.
Hampton Court Palace is a royal residence that was lived in by several different monarchs (including King Henry VIII--you can stock up on merchandise of him there!) and has been added onto by them in different architectural styles. It's a very interesting place if you like architecture or fancy palaces, etc. They also have a few scenarios that actors put on revolving around King Henry VIII, which was a lot of fun. Try to go on a sunny day because the gardens there are huge and absolutely beautiful! (If you'd rather just see the Gardens than the Palace, I think you can actually just get a ticket for those.) There's a hedge maze, beautiful lawns and tulip beds, all sorts of things. If it had been a little bit sunnier and we would have had more time, we definitely would have explored the gardens more! It's definitely a pretty, historic place to visit while in London.
I've visited Hampton Court at least twice, maybe three times, not sure why I never got around to writing it up as a tip. A very common question is should I visit Hampton Court or Windsor Castle and I lean towards Windsor Castle but they are very different to visit.
Cardinal Wolsley lived at Hampton Court until King Henry VIII decided that the Palace should be his so the Cardinal "gifted" Hampton Court to the King. After all a Cardinal can't have a palace superior to the king's, now can he?
There are many ways to get to Hampton Court but I suspect the easiest and most popular is by train. If you have a travelcard, you can show that to get a slight discount on your ticket, ask for a cheap day return, no need to buy in advance. If you have an Oyster you can use that, Hampton Court is in zone 6. The last time I visited I went by riverboat from Westminster but that is a long journey so only something to do if you have some leisure time.
I always suggest the same two places when people ask me about trips out of London.
Windsor castle is a must see , and an easy train ride from Paddington station. Also Hampton Court Palace is worth a visit. Plenty of buses and a good train service make it easy to get to .
Perhaps the most famous maze in the world, the Hampton court maze dates back to the time of William III. With hundrends of thousands of visitors a year it must be a continual battle to keep it in any kind of reasonable shape. The concrete paths and railings are not nice - but what can you do. The garden shed where your 3 quid 50 (included if you pay to visit the palace) gets collected must be the most profitable garden shed in the world.
Lets be honest, the maze is a fairly easy. Putting your hand on the left hand side as you enter (or the right but it will take a bit longer) will get you round fairly easily. I suspect that the maze users may have had ulterior motives. Chasing a lady-in-waiting into a tight corner of an afternoon might be just a bit more fun than ending up in a hedge (or is that what I said already ?)
In 1514 Thomas Wolsey had acquired the site & planned to build his medieval manor here. The plans rapidly assumed the proportions of a magnificent palace with 280 rooms and spacious grounds surrounding it. That same year he became a cardinal & Lord Chancellor.
But when his relationship with the King Henry VIII became rocky, he felt compelled to hand it over as a gift to appease him.
This still didn't save the Lord Chancellor from the block (yes, Henry had him executed!).
If you have visited the Chateau of Versailles you will notice some similarities with the design of this place, from the rear! There is a long corridor similar to Versailles Hall of Mirrors, and there is the Long Water.
One must look around the private apartments of the royals, the receptions for entertaining foreign dignitaries, counsel rooms, prayer halls, banqueting halls, etc. There is an interesting armoury as well.
The building has been extended and altered substantially over the years, most notably by William of Orange. In some sections you can see from external brickwork which parts are from a different era.
The kitchens are very interesting. There are several different rooms for the preparation of the different courses. You can see recreations of a butcher's table (with poultry & peacocks!), a pantry, etc. The food bill in Henry's time was huge - there is a record of how much meat (numbers of different beasts consumed) was needed per year.
The gardens are enormous, and the firewood is collected from it's trees. On the left at the rear, there is a maze to have some fun in. Near it is Henry's famous indoor tennis court, of slightly different dimensions to today's sport - definitely worth a peek.
You can have a relaxing, fun picnic in the massive & well-tended gardens.
The palace is in the south western suburb of London, offering a large site at the King's disposal, to indulge his passions for hunting.
The gardens stretch out for hundreds of acres, with an impressive long canal stretching straight out from the rear of the palace.
Palace buildings cover an amazing 6 acres of land, the gardens cover 60 acres between the Palace and the River Thames and the parkland covers 750 acres.
You can walk over the bridge on the Thames and admire the well-chosen site for the royals. In those days water navigation was vital & efficient - a perfect way for Henry VIII to traverse the Thames eastwards to pass Lambeth Palace (for his private liaisons!), Tower of London (another palace of his) and further east to Greenwich Palace (where both he & his daughter Elizabeth were born!).
We've been there at Easter weekend when they had special events like actors playing scenes from the life of Henry VIII., Medieval dance lessons and Tudor cookery. The palace is beautiful, so is the garden a whole day long programme. Has a fantastic atmosphere, there's a useful audioguide included in the price and the whole staff is really helpful. Don't miss the garden and the maze
What a country we live in! Amongst the traffic, the high prices, you find Hampton Court, home to royalty since 15 hundred and something. As it has been added to severally by various monarchs, a whistlestop tour takes over 2 hours.
Impressive even with one tower covered during renovation in a massive picture of the man himself - see photos.
Fine exhibition on Henry VIII's early life. Excellent, truly excellent audio tour - I listened to the children's one, which I'm sure is better than the formal adult one - really brought the place to life. Lovely grounds, and in winter free access to the deer park behind.
The famous maze is a bit disappointing - very small. Quite why it is famous, I couldn't say.
Go. Go soon, and not just once.
“Fling away ambition. By that sin angels fell. How then can man, the image of his Maker, hope to win by it?”
— Henry VIII (1491-1547)
The Archbishop of York, Thomas Cardinal Wolsey, took up residence at Hampton Court Palace in 1514. Nine years later Henry VIII liked the opulence and grandeur of the place so much that he forced Wolsey to surrender it to him.
It is a curious fact that 50% of Henry’s wives were named Catherine and one third were named Anne. In 1533 he married the first Anne (Boleyn) at Hampton Court; then they honeymooned here. Henry’s much longed-for, and only, son Edward VI, was born here in 1537; the boy’s mother, Jane Seymour, died at the Palace days later. Henry married Catherine Howard at here; they too honeymooned here. Three years later he had her beheaded and married Catherine Parr at the Palace.
The whimsical chimneys of the late Mediaeval palace (Photo #1) are the most delightful part of the building’s exterior. The simple geometric patterns add playfulness to an otherwise drab practical necessity. There are plenty of them; do take note of them when you visit.
“Architecture aims at eternity.”
— Sir Christopher Wren (1632–1723)
England’s only jointly ruling monarchs, William III & Mary II, each enjoyed the location of Hampton Court Palace but found the architecture old fashion. They wanted the whole thing knocked down, to be replaced by a design of Sir Christopher Wren but they ran short on funds.
The South Front (Photo #2), and the East Front, are the Baroque façades to the 1702 addition that Wren completed for William & Mary.
Although St. Paul’s Cathedral is considered by many — including Wren himself — to be his masterpiece; but this perfectly proportioned palace gets my vote for speaking volumes to eternity.
Queen Mary’s Bower (Photo #3) was restored by her 20th century descendent, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1995. It’s planted with fast-growing hornbeam.
Hampton Court Palace is a former royal palace in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, south west London, England. 1 The palace is located 11.7 miles south west of Charing Cross and upstream of Central London on the River Thames. It is open to the public as a major tourist attraction. The palace's Home Park is the site of the annual Hampton Court Palace Festival and Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.
Thomas Wolsey, then Archbishop of York and Chief Minister to the King, took over the lease in 1514 and rebuilt the 14th-century manor house over the next seven years (1515–1521) to form the nucleus of the present palace. Wolsey spent lavishly to build the finest palace in England at Hampton Court, which he was later forced to give to Henry as he began to fall from favour.
The palace was appropriated by Wolsey's master, Henry VIII, in about 1525, although the Cardinal continued to live there until 1529. Henry added the Great Hall - which was the last medieval Great Hall built for the English monarchy - and the Royal Tennis Court, which was built and is still in use for the game of real tennis, not the present-day version of the game.
From the reign of George III in 1760, monarchs tended to favour other London homes, and Hampton Court ceased to be a royal residence. Originally it housed 70 grace and favour residences – one of them was once home to Olave Baden-Powell, wife of the founder of the Scouting movement – but few now remain occupied. One of the warders at the palace in the mid-nineteenth century was Samuel Parkes who won the Victoria Cross in the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854.
In 1796, restoration work began in the Great Hall. In 1838, Queen Victoria completed the restoration and opened the palace to the public. A major fire in the King's Apartments in 1986 led to a new programme of restoration work that was completed in 1995.
Dont miss the famous maze either
Hampton Court Palace is an impressive site. The recent restorations have done a remarkable job in returning the site to something approaching its past glories. The cost of a ticket gives not only gives entrance to the Palace proper, but to the gardens, Maze and tennis court. Period tour guides are available without additional cost to add a bit of flavor. My only problem with the site is it’s restriction on photography inside of any buildings.
The history of the Palace really starts with Thomas Wolsey, then Archbishop of York and Chief Minister to the King, who took over the lease to the site in 1514 and rebuilt the 14th-century manor house over the next seven years to form the nucleus of the present palace.
In 1514 Thomas Wolsey, then Archbishop of York and Chief Minister to King Henry VIII, took over the property and in the following year started rebuilding the existing 14th-century manor house over the next seven years to form the nucleus of the present palace. Wolsey’s intent was to construct a rival for the French palace of Versailles. Unfortunately for him, he did it all to well. After its completion, Wolsey invited Henry VIII to the site and he was very impressed. Impressed so much that the king began to wonder how Wolsey could afford the cost.
Henry VII convinced Wolsey to “gift” the property to him in about 1525, although the Cardinal continued to live there until 1529. Henry added the Great Hall and the Royal Tennis Court, which was built and is still in use for the game of real tennis, not the present-day version of the game.
For the next 200 years, until 1737, the Palace was used by the ruling Monarchs in addition to Oliver Cromwell. In 1796, restoration work began starting in the Great Hall. It wasn’t until 1838 when Queen Victoria completed the restoration that it was opened to the public. In 1986 a major fire hit the King's Apartments causing restoration work which didn’t complete until 1995. At that point, the Palace and Gardens were returned to its former glory
Walking around the Gardens at the palace is a special treat. You can almost picture past kings and queens strolling the paths and enjoying the sites. No matter how many visitors are there, the site is large enough to allow one to find a secluded area all to their own
Hampton Court Palace Gardens, which date back to the time of Henry VIII, encompass sixty acres of formal gardens and 750 acres of royal parkland. It is considered one of the great palace gardens of England. Each year 200,000 flowering bulbs are planted around the 8,000 trees on the gardens and estate. The oldest tree being medieval English
Oak, that is said to be over 1,000 years old. The Baroque-style privy garden has recently been restored and is the site of the annual great flower show each July.
There is an old grape vine inside a glasshouse that is still harvested. It was believed to have been planted around 1768, and at 238 years old and over 36.5 meters long, the Great Vine at Hampton Court Palace is the oldest and largest known vine in the world.
Center point in the garden is the Golden Jubilee Fountain. The fountain was inaugurated in November 2002 by Queen Elizabeth II and consists of five jets rising out of the eastern most end of the canal, the largest of which is 30 meters in height.
The maze at Hampton Court was planted in the Gardens in 1702, and is probably the most famous hedge Maze in the World. While no longer the largest, it still covers an area of a third of an acre, with paths that are half a mile long.
While the layout doesn’t appear to be over complex, don’t be embarrassed if you find yourself lost. Allow yourself at least 30 minutes time to find the center. Be sure to bring a camera and take a picture next to the plaque at the center of the maze that states you were victorious.
If you find yourself hopelessly lost, place your right arm on the hedge and start walking, making sure you “never” loose contact with the hedge. This will either take you to the center or out of the maze, depending which way you were headed. This isn’t the shortest way, but it will always work. I wonder if lab rats have figure this out yet.