Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace located in the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. Although there was previously a manor on this site owned by The Knights Hospitallers of St. John Jerusalem for many centuries, it was not until Cardinal Wolsey acquired it in 1514 that it began to resemble the magnificent palace that we see today.

Cardinal Wolsey was a favorite of King Henry VIII. King Henry was famous for having 6 wives, amongs other things! In 1528, as his favor declined, Cardinal Wolsey lost Hampton Court to Henry, who set about transforming the palace to accommodate his Court which consisted of over 1,000 courtiers.

By the time Henry finished his building and transformation of Hampton Court in about 1540, the palace was one of the most modern, sophisticated and magnificent in England. Henry VIII owned over 60 houses and palaces, but Hampton Court Palace was, undoubtedly, his favorite! Several other monarchs made their home at Hampton Court Palace, but it's Henry VIII we think about when we visit.

There are so many things to see and do at Hampton Court, but here are my favorite and top choices:

The Maze at Hampton Court -

The Maze at Hampton Court was designed by George London and Henry Wise, and commissioned around 1700 by William III. Planted with Yew trees, the Hampton Court Maze covers a third of an acre, is trapezoid in shape, and is the United Kingdom's oldest surviving hedge maze. An atmospheric sound system has been installed which adds greatly to the experience! I remember running around the maze with friends and getting lost for what seemed forever - It was so much fun trying to find your way to the center!

Great Hall -

This is one of the last, great medieval halls in England. It is part of Henry VIII's State Apartments and is spanned by a magnificent decorated hammer-beam roof. It is also one of Britain's oldest theaters - William Shakespeare's company performed here for James I over the Christmas period in 1603.

Ghost Trail -

Like many older buildings, there are many ghost stories and legends attached to Hampton Court Palace. If you would like to learn more, collect a family ghost trail from the Information Center and start investigating. Maybe you'll see or hear the Hampton Court Palace ghost of Catherine Howard in the Haunted Gallery!

Shopping -

There are 4 palace shops - each stocked with a wide range of products, perfect for gift-giving or as a momento of your visit. Look out for the beautiful stained glass roundelettes with the Tudor Rose on them or, my favorite, the cuddly Henry VIII bear!

The Gardens -

There are over 60 acres of beautiful gardens which lead down to the River Thames. Admire the glittering fountains, stunning displays of over 200,000 flowering bulbs or the 750 acres of peaceful royal park land. Best of all, you don't have to pay extra to visit the gardens.

It is best to allow at least 3 hours when visiting Hampton Court Palace. You need to bear in mind that if you visit all the interior of the palace and some of the gardens, you will have walked over 2 miles so please wear comfortable walking shoes!

There are several cafes and restaurants if you need to take a break. We went into this great cafe there, bought sandwiches and tea, and went out into one of the garden areas to eat. It was great! I sat there imagining the old days when Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn sat in the same area. The prices are reasonable but, if you prefer, you can bring your own picnic to eat at one of the many picnic tables located in the gardens.

If you want a taste of what it is really like to live within a royal palace, there are 2 self-catering apartments that can be rented. They sleep between 6 - 8 people, and can be booked through "The Landmark Trust."

For a really great deal, go to Expedia "Things to Do" and see "Skip the Line: Hampton Court Palace." This will cost around $25 adults, $21 seniors (60+), and $12.50 children (5-15 years). This will include entrance and tours. Really worth it!

Another great Expedia deal under "Things to Do" is "Three Palaces Pass". Check this out! This is a truly marvelous insight into royal history with a single ticket for a trio of palaces - namely, the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace. You do not have to visit all in one day. The ticket is valid for 2 years after you use the first time. I'm sure you will visit all 3 within a few days.

I hear that Prince William and Duchess Kate, as well as Prince Harry all now reside at Kensington Palace while in London. Kensington Palace was previously residence to Prince William and Prince Harry's mother, the late Princess Diana. Queen Victoria also resided here when she found out she was Queen of England in 1837 at 18 years old!

Hampton Court Palace is situated just outside of London, but it is still possible to travel there quite easily.

South West Trains run services direct from London Waterloo to Hampton Court. The journey only takes 35 minutes, and the palace is a 218 yard walk across the bridge from the station. The train service passes through Wimbledon station, where the London Underground District Line begins. You can use a Travelcard if it includes zone 6. There are also regular bus services running from central London.

If you would like a real taste of what life was like in a Tudor Royal Palace, then you should visit Hampton Court Palace. There are ever-changing exhibitions and many fascinating, interactive ways to learn about Tudor life - Why not find out for yourself!

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