I just returned from a wonderful London adventure and although I’ve visited the city before, this was my first time doing a few day trips taking me into the English countryside. A visit to Hampton Court Palace, about an hour from Central London, brought the world of Henry VIII to life. It was a place I’ve wanted to visit since I was a little kid, and it was so easy to get there from the city.
Part of the UK’s Historic Royal Palaces, Hampton Court is a living museum, filled with 500 years of British history you can get up close and personal with. It exceeded my expectations and I think it’s a must-do for any London visitors.
We didn’t get there until about 3 PM, giving us only 90 minutes to explore the palace, but also the late arrival allowed us to tour the buildings virtually alone. While I think we got a good sense of the palace interior, I do wish we spent more time exploring the beautiful grounds, hedge maze and gardens. Having the palace almost to ourselves did add to the somewhat haunted vibe you get there. We were even allowed to peek into some of the unused, unfinished rooms, which were especially spooky.
Hampton Court Palace is inhabited by costumed characters and period-uniformed guards (who serve as guides and are extremely knowledgeable about everything), all of whom engage the guests about the palace’s long history. Since the palace was constructed in stages, during different eras of the monarchy, the walking tour goes from the earliest Tudor parts to the latest Hanoverian-built sections. Some of the historic rooms and areas are occupied by costumed mannequins, further bringing the history to life. This is especially true in the dining rooms and ballrooms.
Train service from London via South West Trains is excellent, with trains running every 30 minutes from Waterloo Station. The Hampton Court train station is directly across the river from the palace and we loved hopping on the train in London and hopping off right in front of the palace after the 40 minute train ride. Train tickets are around $18 per person, each way, and fares can be paid with the London Oyster transit cashless card or by machine in the station in London. Winter season (November to March) admission to the palace, maze and gardens, with an audio tour, is $22.94, with a slight discount for online purchase on the palace website. There are additional discounts for children and students. In-season adult tickets are $25.20 (prices based on November 2016 exchange rates).