london panoramic cityscape
London
Kensington Palace
London W8 4PX
TfL Fare Zone 1
 
 
 
 
 
Kensington Palace is still lived in and used by a number of members of the Royal family. For this reason, only the State Apartments are open to the public. It is one of the nicest palaces to visit because it is quite small, has beautiful gardens and it is set in the very child-friendly Kensington Gardens.
 
The Palace is a fine example of gracious Wren architecture decorated in typically baroque style fit for a King. Successive monarchs embellished the entrance staircase and the State Apartments. The rooms are furnished with treasures from The Royal Collection.
 
The Palace is probably best known as the last home of Diana, Princess of Wales. The Diana, Princes of Wales Dress Collection is a beautiful exhibition displaying some of her specially designed clothes.
 
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Many other famous royals have made Kensington Palace their home. Queen Victoria spent a very happy childhood there until she was woken at 06:00 on 20th June, 1837 with the greeting “Time to get up Your Majesty’”. This is how, at the age of 18, she learnt she was Queen. Visitors can see the very room where this happened.
 
Among the treasures to see are
- Fashion Rules
- Victoria Revealed
- The Queen's State Apartments
- The Palace Gardens
- The King's Staircase
- The King's State Apartments
- The King's Gallery
- Longest Reign
 
For full details of temporary exhibitions and what to see and do, go to Web: Kensington Palace/ Highlights
Allow at least 1.5 hours to view the palace and exhibitions
 
Disabled Access
Fully accessible.
Complete details at Web:Kensington Palace/ Disabled Access
 
Opening Times
- The Palace:
7 days a week all year round, except 24 - 26 December.
10:00 – 18:00 (Closes 1 hour earlier in winter)
Last admissions 1 hour before closing.
 
- The Orangery & Shop
7 days a week all year round, but occasionally closes for functions.
10:00 – 18:00 (Closes 1 hour earlier in winter)
Last admissions 1 hour before closing
Comprehensive details at Web:  Kensington Palace/ Opening hours
 
Admission Prices
There are several ways of buying tickets and making savings.
Your ticket includes access to the palace, gardens, exhibitions and an audio guide.
Comprehensive details at Web:  Kensington Palace/ Tickets
 
Tip:
If you are spending a few days in London and would like to visit other Historic Royal Palaces it might be worth considering a Historic Royal Palaces Annual Membership.
 
Membership confers substantial savings for visitors to five royal palaces. The five Royal Palaces are: Kensington Palace, The Tower of London, The Banqueting House, Kew Palace and Hampton Court Palace.
 
For details about Membership, go to Web:  Historic Royal Palaces/ Membership
 
History
Kensington Palace started life as Nottingham House, a Jacobean mansion in the rural village of Kensington. Joint monarchs, King William III (r. 1689-1702) and Queen Mary II (r. 1689-94), were looking for a healthier place to live. The King suffered from asthma and the Whitehall Palace was damp and did not help his delicate state of health.
 
Wren’s Renovations
William purchased Nottingham House in 1689 and engaged Sir Christopher Wren to turn it into a suitable palace. As the Queen wanted no delays, Wren kept the original house (built in 1605) and added 3-storey blocks with attics at each of the corners, in which to house the monarchs and their Court. Wren re-orientated the house by designing a new entrance to the courtyard on the west side.
 
In 1691 fire destroyed some of the new building and provided an opportunity for a complete remodelling of the approach to the royal apartments so the impressive King’s Staircase was built in marble. William’s last addition was the South Front. The Long Gallery on the first floor housed William’s personal art collection.
 
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In 1694 Queen Mary died of smallpox aged 32, and King William died from a horse riding accident in 1702.
 
Subsequent Royal Residents
Queen Anne (r. 1702-14)
Queen Anne succeeded to the throne and resided at Kensington for some of her reign. She did add a few rooms for her consort, Prince George of Denmark, but mainly concentrated on improving the gardens and building The Orangery (1704-5).
 
The Orangery (now the restaurant) had a dual purpose as a greenhouse for over-wintering of exotic Mediterranean plants such as citrus, and as a summer supper house and place of entertainment.
 
Anne and George were happily married for 25 years, and half of it was spent living at Kensington Palace. Unfortunately, out of 17 pregnancies, only one child survived infancy and tragically he died, at age 11, from smallpox. When Prince George died in 1708, Anne was so distraught that she wouldn’t live at Kensington for 18 months. However, she did come back and spent the last six years of her life there.
 
King George I (r. 1714-27)
The lack of a Protestant heir was a bit of a problem which was solved on Anne’s death in 1714 by the crown passing to a distant relative, Prince George Lewis of Hanover who became King George I. The Palace staff celebrated the new King’s coming to the throne with a massive bonfire in the grounds with 5 barrels of strong beer and over 300 bottles of claret!
 
It was such a success it became an annual event during the king’s reign!
 
Urgent repairs resulting in three new State Rooms
In 1716 a survey of the palace building showed it to be in a sad state of repair. The King’s Surveyor presented designs for rebuilding to the King and the Jacobean heart of the palace was replaced by three new state rooms - the Privy Chamber, the Cupola Room and the Withdrawing Room.
 
Rise of William Kent
The task of decorating these rooms should have gone to the Court Painter, Sir James Thornhill but he wanted £800 for the Cupola Room only. The unknown William Kent offered to paint the room in a similar design for £350. The ever thrifty King George accepted the offer and gave Kent his first commission at Kensington Palace.
 
The King's Staircase
Kent’s work was vehemently criticised by some but was much admired by the King. Between 1722 and 1727 Kent painted extraordinary ceilings, decorated and hung pictures in nearly all the royal apartments at Kensington, and finished by painting the King's Grand Staircase. He has included members of the court, pages and servants and even the royal children are peaking over the balustrade at visitors walking up the stairs.
 
Kent has included himself with his mistress looking over his shoulder, in the ceiling decoration. This staircase is still available to view and is even used.
 
The rebuilding work and George’s dislike of the formal court procedure meant that the new State Rooms were not used much, George preferring to keep to his private apartments.
 
King George II (r. 1727-60)
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Following King George I’s death in 1727, King George II made Kensington one of his principal residences. He would spend 4-6 months there each year making use of the new State Apartments. Rooms were furnished with the latest furniture but no further building took place except for a stable.
 
In 1737 things changed dramatically with Queen Caroline’s death. George shut up half the palace leaving the rooms vacant and unused. He was the last reigning monarch to live there. Instead, Kensington Palace became a home for members of the Royal family.
 
King George III came to the throne but his was a reign interrupted by periods of madness during which his eldest son, George, was Regent.
 
George eventually succeeded his father as King George IV with his only legitimate heir, his daughter Princess Charlotte. When she died prematurely, George’s younger brother William succeeded as King William IV. William had no survivng legitimate children. None of these monarchs ever lived at Kensington.
 
Edward, Duke of Kent’s Residency
King George III’s fourth son, Edward, the Duke of Kent was given the old private apartments of George II to live in. They hadn’t been occupied since the 1750s and were in a very dilapidated state. Edward managed to get the lower floors refurbished by James Wyatt and this is how we see them today.
 
Edward got himself into debt and fled to Brussels to escape his creditors, however, when the young Princess Charlotte, heir to the British throne, suddenly died in 1817, he made other plans. In 1818 he married Victoria, sister of the late Charlotte’s husband, thus putting any children in line for the throne. In 1819 the Duke and Duchess of Kent (Edward and Victoria) returned to England to live in Kensington Palace.
 
Princess Victoria (subsequently Queen Victoria)
On 24 May 1819, Princess Victoria was born in a room that is now the North Drawing Room, and was christened in the Cupola Room. Unfortunately, the Duke lived only nine months after the birth of his daughter.
 
Victoria’s mother (the Duchess of Kent) spent her widowhood acquiring and refurbishing more rooms in Kensington Palace. When King William visited in 1836 he discovered that they had taken over 17 rooms and commissioned alterations without seeking his permission. He was not best pleased.
 
Princess Victoria and her mother lived at Kensington until King William IV died and Victoria became Queen. They then moved to Buckingham Palace.
 
With no monarchs living at Kensington, the Palace became a storehouse and offices. It suffered damage during the Second World War but fortunately the Palace was restored and is in use again as a home for some members of the Royal Family, and the State Rooms are available for public view.
 
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From 1960 the Palace was Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden’s home and Princess Margaret lived there until her death in 2002.
 
Facilities
Within the Palace are toilets, a Restaurant and cafes.
 
The Orangery
Open all year round from 10:00 to 18:00 serving breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas. Admission to the palace not required to enjoy the Orangery. See more at  Web:  Kensington Palace/ Food & Drink
 
Book a table at one of the most elegant venues in London, with an outdoor terrace for fine days and beautiful views of the palace and its gardens.
 
Contact & Further Information
Telephone   +44 (0)8444 827 777 (09:00 to 17:00 GMT)
Mail   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Getting There
TfL Fare Zone 1   Transport for London Journey Planner
To find the best way for getting to Kensington Palace, visit TfL Journey Planner.
 
- By Underground
Queensway & Nottinghill Gate Stations     Central Line 
5-15 minutes walk respectively to Kensington Palace.
 
High Street Kensington Station                District Line and Circle Line 
10 minutes walk to Kensington Palace.
 
- By Bus Bus
Routes Nos. 70, 94, 148, 390 to Bayswater Road or 9,10, 49, 52 and 70 to Kensington High Street.
We suggest that you the TfL 'Journey Planner'
 
- By London Taxi
Ask the taxi to drop you off at the Queen’s Entrance which is accessed from the Bayswater Road via the Orme Square Gate.  
 
Google Maps - Kensington Palace