If you’re looking for a day trip near London, then Hampton Court Palace would be a great choice. Why? It’s only 40 minutes by train from central London which means it’s super easy to get there.
Plus, there’s lots to see so it’d be easy to spend a full day exploring inside the palace and outside it the beautiful gardens.
This post is a virtual tour of Hampton Court Palace. I hope that it will do the following for you:
- If you’re already convinced that Hampton Court is the best place for your day trip, this post will let you know what to expect so you can make the most of your visit. The different sections of the palace give different flavours of history, so you may choose to focus on a particular part of the palace depending on your interests. Or you may want to spend more time in the gardens if the weather is good. There are many different gardens to explore.
- If you’re still undecided, I hope that this virtual tour will show you some of the great things that Hampton Court Palace has to offer. It’s a great option for a day trip and I hope it inspires you to book your visit here.
But before I dive into the virtual tour of Hampton Court, let me tell you a little bit more about the palace and its amazing history.
A Brief History of Hampton Court Palace
You will find stories and interesting facts about Hampton Court throughout this post, as I explore the different sections of the palace. But before diving in any further, let me provide some context.
Hampton Court Palace was built by Cardinal Wolsey almost 500 years ago. Wolsey was the chief advisor to King Henry VIII during the early years of his reign. In 1529, Wolsey fell out of favour with King Henry, mainly because he’d failed to secure Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon. To win back the King’s favour, he gave Hampton Court Palace to King Henry as a gift.
Henry extended the palace after Wolsey’s death to make it the largest palace in the Kingdom. It was the only place large enough to host the entire royal court.
Hampton Court became house and home to King Henry VIII. Although the King rarely stayed in one place for long, Henry spent a lot of time at Hampton court. And for this reason, the palace became the backdrop for many events in Tudor history.
All six of Henry’s wives stayed in the palace at some point and all three of Henry’s children spent time here.
Since then, the palace has been extended many times, but it’s never been completely refurbished. Each new section of the palace has been added onto the existing building. This means that the palace is a piecemeal collection of architectural styles.
The Royal family stopped living here in the 1700’s. Hampton Court opened to visitors and our fellow day trippers in 1838.
So now you know a little bit more about Hampton Court’s history, let’s take a look inside.
A Day Trip To Hampton Court
Begin Your Tour at the West Gate
Visitors enter Hampton Court via the West Gate, which has changed very little in the past 500 years.
Tudor Kings and Queens liked to show the world how powerful and wealthy they were. One way of doing this was by building lavish and elaborate palaces to live in. Hampton Court was no exception. In fact, it was one of the most luxurious palaces at the time.
The exterior of Hampton Court Palace helped to demonstrate Henry’s wealth. Just imagine being an foreign envoy, travelling from abroad and arriving stunning exteriors of Hampton Court. You wonder who would live in a palace as luxurious as this one!
The King’s Beasts
The Kings beasts welcome you at the drawbridge. These ten heraldic statues originally guarded a moat surrounding the palace and are symbolic of the Tudor dynasty. There are also nods to the heraldry of the Seymour family who rose to power soon after Henry moved into Hampton Court Palace.
This was thanks to Jane Seymour who was Henry’s third wife. Jane died in Hampton Court Palace, shortly after giving birth to Henry’s only surviving son, Edward. Edward would become Edward VI following Henry’s death in 1547.
Enter the Palace – Base Court
Head through the West Gate and enter the Base Court. This is where the King’s visitors would arrive ahead of their meeting with King Henry. The entrance to the royal apartments is opposite the West Gate.
The Hampton Court Chimneys
Look upwards to see another exampe of Henry demonstrating his power and wealth. This time with decorative chimneys. You can see most of Hampton Court Palace’s elaborate chimneys from the Base Court.
You’re probably wondering how chimneys could elevate a person’s status. Chimneys were a new invention in Tudor times. Just having a chimney on your home was a sign of wealth. So it’s no surprise that Henry enjoyed having lots of chimneys and at Hampton Court he made them to be as eye-catching as possible.
I know, I know. – I promised you a thrilling day trip to Hampton Court and here I am, waxing lyrical about chimney design…but take a look. They’re pretty impressive by today’s standard.
The Young Henry Exhibit
The fountain in the Base Court is a replica from the Field of the Cloth of Gold. This was a huge meeting with French King near Calais in 1520. It was no ordinary fountain. This one served wine rather than water.
To find out more about the early years of Henry VIII, look for the Young Henry exhibit. It’s starts in the Base Court. This exhibit will give you more context of what was happening before Henry moved into Hampton Court in 1529. This includes Henry’s first marriage to Catherine of Aragon and his infamous divorce. The Field of the Cloth of Gold is a part of this story.
Henry VIII’s Kitchen
Once you’ve found out more about Henry’s youth, head towards Henry VIIIs kitchens which are in a separate wing close to the base court. I’d recommend going here before heading into the royal apartments. The kitchens will set the scene for the Great Hall. Plus the exit to the royal apartments is at the other end of the palace so you’d need to head backwards to get to the kitchen.
Deliveries of food to the palace arrived the Seymour gate, on the west side of the palace. This gate leads into a separate court leading into the palace kitchens. Inside this section you will find food storage rooms as well as the kitchen areas filled with fresh ingredients.
The Astronomical Clock
Before heading up the stairs at the Anne Boleyn Gateway, head into the Clock Court to see the Astronomical Clock. This clock measures the time, date, moon visibility and high tide at London Bridge.
The clock was helpful to the Tudors who would travel from Hampton Court to London Bridge using the river. The clock allowed for them to plan their trips with the appropriate tides.
This astronomical clock still functions despite being almost 500 years old.
The Great Hall
This splendid dining hall is a jewel in the crown of Hampton Court and this room was host to great feasts and celebrations. This splendor is still evident 500 years later. Huge biblical tapestries line the walls, as they did in Tudor times, complemented by magnificent stained-glass windows.
There is a carved wooden ceiling which will keep your eye fixed upwards.
There’s so much detail in this room, much of it easily missed. I’d recommend taking some time in this room. Although you will spend most of this time looking upwards!
At the head of the Great hall there are two thrones, yet King Henry visited the hall very rarely. The Great Hall was more often a dining room for the palace staff. However on special occasions the hall became the venue for spectacular feasts and entertainment events.
Look closely at some of the carvings and you’ll find another remnant of Anne Boleyn which must have been missed where her symbols were removed. The letter H and A can be found intertwined within one of the carvings.
From the Great Hall, walk towards the Great Watching Chamber. This is where the Royal Guards stood and where noble men would wait for the King’s presence. Gradually the surrounds become increasingly opulent and visitors would move gradually closer to the King or Queen.
The beautiful ceiling here is a restoration of the original Tudor design.
Processional Route and Haunted Gallery
This was one of my favorite rooms at Hampton Court Palace. Probably because of the infamous events that allegedly happened here.
Traditionally the King’s guards would be heavily present here and the walkway was exclusively for the use of the King’s closest advisors. This helps to maintain a safe distance between the monarch and their subjects.
Tudor fans commonly associate this room with the events ending Henry’s marriage to Catherine Howard.
In 1541, Catherine Howard became aware of Henry’s desire to terminate Catherine’s life. Sources claim that Catherine dramatically charged along this corridor, begging forgiveness for her alleged adultery.
The King’s guards stopped Catherine from reaching Henry and it is unknown whether he was aware of these events. From here Catherine traveled from Hampton Court Palace by river to the Tower of London and eventually executed. Some believe that Catherine Howard still haunts this passageway and many have experienced unexplained phenomena in the room.
Today the gallery is home to portraits of the Tudor royal family including a magnificent, almost life-sized portrait of Henry himself.
The Royal Chapel
The Royal Chapel is the final section with Henry VIII’s Royal Apartments and visitors view this from a first-floor balcony. This balcony was the Royal Pew and is where the Kings and Queens would worship privately.
This therefore allowed the King and Queen a safe distance from other worshipers. The three rooms in the Royal Pew were previously two separate rooms. One was for the King, the other for the Queen.
It was within the Royal Pew, that Henry VIII first discovered Catherine Howard’s adultery via an anonymous note. This ultimately led to Catherine’s execution.
The ceiling in the Royal Chapel is spectacular, a reflection of the opulent surroundings required for the Tudor Kings and Queens.
Hampton Court wasn’t just home to the Tudors. The Stuarts and the Georgians also inhabited the palace whilst restoring and renovating sections of the palace.
Time passed and eventually Hampton Court Palace began to lack the grandeur required of a royal palace. The Royal Palace of Versailles in France set a new standard for what a royal palace should look like.
William III and Mary II became joint King and Queen in 1689, by which point Hampton Court Palace was over 150 years old. The joint monarchs began a renovation of the palace with plans to gradually demolish the Tudor sections, replacing them with a more contemporary design.
Due to this renovation, wings of Hampton Court Palace look very different from the original Tudor wing. The full renovation was never finished which is why the main Tudor wings still survive. However, some sections have been lost including the Royal Apartments.
It would be easy to assume that the Stuart sections belonged to a very different palace. Although equally beautiful, the designs are very different from the Tudor sections.
The new wings were designed by Sir Christopher Wren, one of the finest architects of the era. He also redesigned St Paul’s Cathedral following the great fire of London in 1666.
The interior of these sections are stunning, decorated with beautiful frescoes and murals which line the walls and ceilings.
Don’t travel to Hampton Court Palace and miss the amazing gardens. If you can, plan your trip for a day with nice weather as it’s easy to lose track of time here.
There are many different garden areas which reflect the different eras of design at Hampton Court Palace. The Stuart Gardens are beautifully manicured and landscaped with amazing fountains and ponds. These gardens are the perfect companions to Sir Christopher Wren’s extension of the palace.
The Tudor sections are slightly more informal but equally beautiful. Elegant pathways curve around beautiful rose beds. Plus there’s a garden connected to the Tudor kitchens.
The Wilderness Garden includes the Maze, which is small but still takes some time to crack. Make sure you keep hold of your palace ticket as this will cover your entrance into the Maze also.
We had a fantastic day discovering the history of Hampton Court Palace, spending 3-4 hours in the palace. Also make time to explore the gardens which can take 1-2 hours (depending how long you spend lost in the maze of course).
Travelling to Hampton Court Palace – How to get there
The easiest way to travel to Hampton Court Palace from central London is by train. The Hampton Court train station is a short walk from the palace. You can catch a train every 30 minutes from Waterloo Station.
It’s in zone 6 so you can use your Oyster Card.
There’s a car park on site plus additional parking spaces on Hampton Court Green.
Tickets and Opening Times
Entry into the palace costs £22.70 at the gate. However you can get a discount of £3 if you book your tickets online.
The palace is open from 10am – 6pm each day.
Discover Tudor History for Home
Hands up, I love Tudor history. It’s fair to say that I’ve read a few books and watched a few films about the Tudors in my time. If you are reading this thinking you’d like to find out more I’d recommend the following.
What the series lacks in historical accuracy, it makes up for in drama and intrigue. The series is a delicious romp through the reign of King Henry VIII including all six wives. Gripping from start to finish.
his historical account of Henry’s wives is relatively easy to read despite the length of the book. The book focuses mostly on Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn. That’s because these Queens were around for the longest.
I love this book. Susan Bordo is a feminist and looks at how our modern perceptions have marred the reputation of a fascinating and powerful woman.
Katherine Howard doesn’t receive as much attention as some of the other queens. However her story is a fascinating one and her downfall casts light upon Henry’s character at the later stages of his life. Many of these events took place at Hampton Court Palace.
Mary I is a fascinating character from the Tudor times with a compelling story. Many of these events of Mary’s life took place at Hampton Court. This book is part of the Penguin Monarchs series which I love for their quirky and compact style.
The six wives of Henry VIII join forces to create a glittering girl band in this new West End Musical. An alternative slant on the historic events and bringing Tudor history to a new generation.
Travel to Hampton Court Palace – Thank You
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