Kensington Palace – Why you should visit this 18th century historical gem
Kensington Palace – A Royal Residence
These days, Kensington Palace is the royal residence for the young royals, who are the direct descendants of Queen Victoria. The Palace is the official London residence for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It was the former home of late Princess Diana. The Palace has a long history of being a residence for the British Royal Family since the 17th century when King William III and Queen Mary II took residence just before Christmas of 1689.
The building was originally a 2-storey Jacobean mansion in the village of Kensington which the Royal couple purchased in the summer of 1689. They then enlisted Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) to design and build a palace that was fit for a King & Queen. A few additions were made to Kensington Palace during the reign of King George I like the Privy Chamber and the Cupola Room. The mural on the walls of the King’s Grand Staircase was painted by William Kent during this period also (more on this below).
To know more of the Palace’s 300-year-old royal history and secrets, you can purchase the new book by Historic Royal Palaces, ‘Kensington Palace: Art, Architecture and Society’ which unfolds the Palace’s story from the time of its foundation to present state.
MyCityMyTown London Series on Kensington Palace
What drew me to the Palace this time was the Exhibition held in honour of 200th year of Queen Victoria’s birth, Discover the real Victoria, made in Kensington, which also coincides with my 3rd instalment of MyCityMyTown Retracing my footsteps Series.
I was excited to visit this exhibition as I am a great admirer of Queen Victoria, as well as the Palace. It was a perfect opportunity as I haven’t been here for a few years, having only a faint memory of the artwork which often gets my attention. Read about the exhibition and what I thought of it in my blog: Victoria – An intimate look at the woman behind the crown and her childhood.
Highlights of my visit to Kensington Palace
Here, I will share with you the highlights of the palace visit. I have also written several other blogs related to Kensington Palace which you can read more of by clicking the links provided at the end of this post. I think a visit here should be high on one’s list because the palace itself is an architectural delight and the gardens are splendid for a rest afterwards.
i) The Cupola Room
The Cupola Room took me by surprise. I don’t recall visiting this room on my previous visits. I was completely and utterly lost for words when I saw the elaborate designs in this room and how splendidly it was decorated. It was different to the rest of the palace rooms. Designed by William Kent (1685 – 1748), who was commissioned by George I in the mid-1720s, he was involved in every aspect of the room’s design, furnishings and decorations
The room is Roman inspired four-sided dome with a steeply curved ceiling and a Garter Star in the centre.
Temple of the Four Great Monarchies of the World
Right in the centre of the room is an ornate musical clock surmounted on a pedestal, called the ‘Temple of the Four Great Monarchies of the World’ which was purchased in 1743 by Princess Augusta and was placed in this room soon afterwards. The name of the clock refers to Assyria, Persia, Greece and Rome – the four great empires of antiquity. These are represented on each of the faces of the clock. I discovered that the clock’s mechanism to play music has stopped. The clock was designed by Charles Clay, a clockmaker who specialised in musical clocks in the form of miniature temples.
The walls are adorned with painted pilasters, marble chimney piece and gold gilded statues. The whole room dazzles in the flickering candlelight – pure elegance.
You can read more about William Kent here, who went on to design the King’s Grand Staircase.
ii) This King’s Grand Staircase
The King’s Grand Staircase is the first link to the King’s State Apartments. The walls surrounding the staircase was painted by William Kent in 1720, depicting George I’s court.
This 18th century artwork is full of intriguing characters, about 45 of them including Kent himself with his mistress. It has presented historians with a puzzle because only 12 of them could be identified from records. This grandiose of a staircase is a “must-see” as you will be walking in the footsteps of royalty and the great and good of Georgian London, all 45 historic steps.
iii) The Ceilings in Kensington Palace
As you can imagine, there are many rooms here, such as the Privy Chamber, the Presence Chamber, the Kings Gallery, the King’s Drawing Room, the Queen’s Gallery, and the Queen’s Grand Staircase. In whichever room you are in, don’t forget to look-up, because you will marvel at some of these pretty sights 😊
Conclusion – Kensington Palace should be on your list!
Kensington Palace is one of the Royal Palaces I enjoyed visiting and the architecture in some of these rooms were mind-blowing. I would recommend that it should be on your list of places to visit in London – I will just add a few more pictures here for you to browse through and related links to other posts on Kensington Palace where you can read more – I hope you would be inspired to visit, explore and discover the stories and secrets behind these walls.
Other posts related to Kensington Palace – please click on the links to read more.
Travel tips and Useful information:
If you are visiting London, you may wish to consider using booking.com who offer a great selection of accommodation to suit your needs. What makes them extra special is the fact that you receive instant confirmation and incur no cancellation fee if you change your mind, and in most instances, you do not pay until you get to the hotel. It is convenient and their prices are competitive. Why not do a search, have a look and give it a go 😊
Sightseeing tours and attractions tickets
To visit Kensington Palace, you can skip the line and purchase your tickets here ⇓⇓⇓
I have carefully selected some sightseeing tours to enhance your experiences in London. You can Get Your Guide here.
Kensington Palace: Opening times
Daily except 24-26 December.
Summer (01 March – 31 October)
Last admission: 17:00
Winter (01 November – 28 February)
Last admission: 15:00
London Underground and trains
High Street Kensington station (10 – 15 minute walk) – for the District, Circle and Piccadilly lines
Queensway station (10 – 15 minute walk) – for the Central line
Notting Hill Gate station (20 – 25 minute walk) – for Central, District and Circle lines
Paddington station (20 minute walk) – for National Rail
Routes 70, 94, 148, and 390 stop along Bayswater Road
Routes 9, 10, 49, 52, 70 and 452 stop along Kensington High Street
Q-Park Queensway (10 minute walk)
Euro Car Parks, Hyde Park/Bayswater Road (10 minute walk)
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