Image: Kathryn, under creative commons licence.
History? Check. Horticulture? Check. A children’s playground called The Magic Garden complete with fiercely territorial dragon? Check.
Hampton Court Palace lives up to its reputation. The 16th century building offers magnificent gardens and beautiful rooms to explore, all of which are steeped in the monarchy’s history. It’s the perfect destination for any budding historians that you may have -- particularly those with a Tudor obsession. All of King Henry VIII’s six wives visited the palace at some point.
If Hampton Court Palace inspires your kids to plan further fun and informative days out, why not consult our guide to Hever Castle, the 13th century childhood home of Henry’s second wife Anne Boleyn?
What to see with families
Two garden trails are ripe for exploration. Help Tobias Gibbons, head mole-catcher to Queen Elizabeth I, to find the Tudor beasts and courtiers who have sneaked out of their paintings and hidden in the gardens. Just ‘Follow the Molecatcher’ trail, and download a guide from the palace’s website. A history and horticulture trail is a more adult option, or a perfect trail for wildlife enthusiasts to follow.
The Magic Garden is Hampton Court’s children’s playground -- look out for mythical creatures and a secret grotto! Download a map from the website, where you can also find details of quiet sessions for guests with autism.
Government guidelines are being followed in The Magic Garden to ensure the safety of all visitors. A one-way route is in operation, with a maximum stay of 90 minutes for all visitors as a result of reduced capacity.
Social distancing must be followed, and an enhanced cleaning regime is in place, with hand sanitiser available at the entrance. Certain areas may remain closed. If you’re in further doubt, why not check our guide on the new normal at playgrounds, which has a list of handy tips and tricks to keep your family safe.
Other coronavirus measures
As with other reopened venues, Hampton Court Palace has new policies and procedures in place to help your family stay safe.
Tickets must be pre-booked in advance, with a timed entry slot. New time slots are released every week on a Monday, and tickets will be non-contact print at home or mobile. Social distancing must be followed, and one-way routes have been introduced. Cleaning has been enhanced, and hand washing and hand sanitation facilities are available. All payment points are contactless.
For safety reasons, The Maze remains closed; children’s playground The Magic Garden opens from 29 July.
Cardinal Wolsey began the original Hampton Court Palace in the early 1500s, but King Henry VIII soon took it over. It became a symbol of his glory and power. He hosted huge parties and extravagant banquets.
William III and Mary II took the throne in 1689, and commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build a new baroque palace. Wren had initially planned to demolish the whole palace, but instead created Fountain Court (the part of the building that overlooks the magnificent Great Fountain Garden).
Under William and Mary’s reign, many of the gardens that now contribute to the grandeur of Hampton Court were imagined and constructed -- that’s when The Great Fountain and Privy Gardens were first built.
Sir Christopher Wren was also commissioned by Queen Anne to remodel the Chapel, which had been ransacked during the Commonwealth. Prior to its destruction, there had been a stained glass window at the chapel’s east end depicting Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey and Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife.
Georgian kings and princes then occupied the palace before Queen Victoria opened it to the public in 1838.
Hampton Court Palace is rumoured to be rife with ghosts -- the most noted of whom are two of Henry VIII’s six wives. It’s always worth keeping an eye peeled for these two infamous ghosts...
Jane Seymour was Henry’s third wife, and the only one to bear him a son, who later became King Edward VI. She died as a result of complications from childbirth at the palace, and is reported to appear as a pale figure on the Silverstick Stairs, which once led up to the room in which Jane gave birth and died.
Katherine Howard, his fifth wife, is also supposed to haunt the palace. She was arrested there as a teenager for adultery, but broke free of her guards and ran along what is now called the Haunted Gallery, screaming to Henry for mercy. Reports of sightings for her ghosts are far more frequent than those of Jane Seymour.
Where? Hampton Court Palace is situated in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, in East Molesey KT8 9AU.
Opening Times? Wednesday-Sunday, 10.30am-5pm, with last admission at 4pm on the 3.30pm slot.
Cost? Members go free, adults are £24.50 and kids £12.20. Note you can download a visitor map from their website.
Access/facilities? Toilets are open with disabled facilities, and there is accessible parking onsite. Carer tickets are also available. Wheelchairs and mobility scooters cannot be hired at the moment.
Baby changing facilities are available at Base Court. If visiting with very young children, you may take pushchairs and buggies, but there is a Buggy Park off Clock Court should you wish to use it.
Food/drink? Some serveries remain closed, but The Wilderness Kiosk is open for snacks and hot drinks from 11am-4pm. The Tiltyard Cafe is also open from 10.30am-4.30pm. Picnics are very welcome -- and why would you not, have you seen The Privy Garden?!
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