Have you heard about Hampton Court Palace in England yet? You should! Not only is this 500-years old royal palace an incredible work of architecture, you also have the chance to peek behind the scenes of the public lives of Henry VIII, his wives and children ánd experience an incredible British movie location at the same time!
We will have a look at who lives in Hampton Court (or at least: who did), we’ll dive a bit into the Hampton Court history, share some fun Hampton Court Palace facts with you and take you on a tour of the building and incredible gardens.
As there was a special exhibition going on at the time of my visit, about the filming of the movie ‘The Favourite’ in Hampton Courts kitchen, garden and several rooms, I’ll share some of my photos about that as well in this article.
If you’d like to see Hampton Court Palace inside and out, then keep on reading, because I’m going to show you all!
HOW TO SEE THE MOST OF HAMPTON COURT PALACE ENGLAND
Hampton Court Henry VIII Palace
I must confess that even after having lived in the UK for over 5 years and after visiting many Royal palaces, castles and other historically important places throughout the country… I find the British Royal Family still very confusing. There have been so many Queens, Kings, marriages, divorces, love affairs and other scandals going on, that it’s really hard to remember exactly who is who and where they worked, lived and loved.
Today, we’re visiting an important location in British history, as we step through the gates of Hampton Court Palace and learn more about the people who lived here… and the movies that were filmed in the more recent times!
When was Hampton Court built?
The original Tudor palace on the location of what we now know as “Hampton Court Palace”, was built in the early 16th century.
Who built Hampton Court?
The palace was originally built for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a favourite of King Henry VIII, who was King of England from 1509 until his death in 1547. Wolsey wanted to create a grand building where he could host both the King and the royal court, as well as monarchs from all across Europe.
Who lives at Hampton Court Palace?
Nowadays, nobody actually lives at the palace, but back in 1529, when Cardinal Wolsey fell from favour, King Henry the 8th moved in and heavily enlarged the building in years to come. Along with St James’s Palace (in Green Park in London), it is one of only two surviving palaces out of the many owned by King Henry VIII.
By the 1530s, the King Henry VIII Palace was a not just a palace, but it was also a hotel, theatre and vast leisure complex. He used the palace to show his power and wealth, with expensive art, lavish banquets and extravagant court life.
You might also know some of Henry VIII wives: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr.
He hasn’t been very lucky in his choice of women… and also hasn’t been very loving toward them as well: he divorced his first wife Catherine of Aragon (who was first married to his brother) when she couldn’t have a son and he banished her and forbid her to see her daughter Mary, then he had Anne Boleyn executed (after also failing to produce a male heir and allegedly plotting his death), third wife Jane Seymour died after giving birth to future king Edward VI (it is said her ghost, a ‘white wraith’ appears on the anniversary of her death, NICE.), then he hated Anne of Cleves on first sight and bought her off to then hurriedly marry 17 year-old Catherine Howard instead… who then cheated on him and got executed for it (her ghost is also said to still be around…to scream for mercy. YOU KIDDING ME?!) Oh and his last wife Catherine Parr heralded a three-year battle for the identity of the Church of England. Fun Fun Fun. He also had an illegitimate son, if you care a this point.
The once handsome prince who had impressed Europe with his brains and looks, died at Whitehall Palace in 1547 at the age of 55, bloated and with the name of being a tyrant in his last years.
A century later, in 1689, when William III and Mary II took the throne, they commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build an elegant new baroque palace on this location. When the royals left in 1737, impoverished aristocrats moved in.
Queen Victoria (who reigned from 1837 to her death in 1901) opened the palace to the public in 1838.
Who owns Hampton Court?
In 1989, the agency Historic Royal Palaces was established to look after five of the Royal Palaces in the United Kingdom: Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace. In 1998, they became an independent charity and have a contract with the Secretary of State to manage the palaces.
In short this means that Hampton Court Palace, as well as the other palaces in Historic Royal Palaces’ care, are all owned by The Queen ‘in Right of Crown‘. This means that she holds the palaces in Trust for the next monarch and by law cannot sell, lease or otherwise dispose of any interest in the palaces.
Hampton Court Palace Tour
There are some great Hampton Court Tours that you can do during your visit, which I can highly recommend since you learn so much and hear all these fantastic stories behind-the-scenes of this amazing palace.
We started by going through the kitchens, then the apartments and ended in the stunning gardens. Hampton Court is so large, we spend all day here and I would still happily go back to explore even more.
Hampton Court Kitchens
We started our tour in the Henry VIII home kitchens, which wasn’t at all what I expected. Back in the days, a kitchen wasn’t just one room with a stove (and definitely not a fridge!) as we know it now, but it was actually a whole area with buildings and places to store and prepare food both inside as outside!
Henry VIII’s Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace were the largest of Tudor England. There were an average of 200 cooks and other staff available to make sure over 800 meals a day (later even up to 1600 meals a day!) were served up. You can only imagine how hard the work in the kitchens must have been if you look on the photos below and see the incredible large ovens, for which fire had to be kept running pretty much all day.
The kitchens were really a central part of palace life and they were divided into different departments, each controlled by a Sergeant and a team of yeoman and grooms.
But it wasn’t just physically hard work, it was also hard on the mind, as the cooks had to consider for each meal, just how much every person in the King’s household would earn in terms of food. You can see the lists below on which you can see just what a difference the meal for the King and Queen and the meal for a simple maid or servant was. Talking about food as a status symbol!
Hampton Court Chocolate Kitchen
On the photo above, you can see us enjoy a typical Tudor snack: chocolate!
This wasn’t something that was known in the early days, and even when they had access to it, most people didn’t even enjoy it. But that soon changed as it became another tool in showing your power and wealth.
At Hampton Court, there is even a “Chocolate Kitchen”, which is a small but specialized series of rooms built by Christopher Wren (around 1690) and used by royally-appointed chocolate makers to prepare this expensive delicacy for kings and queens.
The royals loved chocolate in liquid form to drink at breakfast time, served in the bedroom. It wasn’t until later that chocolate also became a popular hot drink.
Hampton Court Palace Rooms
One of the most important additions that King Henry made were the Hampton Court Great Hall (including the famous Abraham Tapestries) and the Royal Tennis Court… You probably wouldn’t believe it, but during our day-long visit, we managed to completely miss both of these locations. HOW?!
Our tour brought us from the kitchens straight to William III’s Apartments and I believe that when we were left on our own to explore… we were so confused of which part of the complex we actually were, we simply forgot to check out Henry VIII’s apartments (the red route on the map), which is more in the center of the palace. You wouldn’t think we missed anything when you look at the photos below, really, as there is so much to admire.
We did manage to see a lot of other beautifully decorated rooms, such as the Royal Chapel, the Guard Chamber, the Presence Chamber, the Privy Chamber, the Great Bedchamber and Little Bedroom and Williams III’s Private Apartments.
Hampton Court The Favourite Film Locations
Several movies have been shot at the stunning location of Hampton Court Palace, but most recently (and the reason for my visit) was that of “The Favourite” with actresses Olivia Colman (Queen Anne), Rachel Weisz (Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough) and Emma Stone (Servant Abigail).
During my visit, some of the costumes from the movie were shown in the palace, but at the moment they are no longer on display. Luckily I took plenty of photos!
All filming locations at Hampton Court for The Favourite are:
- Henry VIII’s Kitchens
- The Cartoon Gallery
- Fountain Court
- The Queen’s Drawing Room
- The Chapel Royal
Hampton Court Palace Gardens
The Hampton Court gardens are visited by thousands of people every year, but once they were the exclusive playground of kings and queens. In every era, new ideas and designs arrived and today you can still see the traces from the hard work by royal gardeners from the Tudor Palace through to the Victorian times.
The monarchs worked closely together with their gardeners and have all influenced the gardens in different ways. Cardinal Wolsey laid out the first small knot gardens in the early 1500s, before Henry VIII took over the palace and added a Privy Garden for some quiet time, and later, art collector Charles I created a simple Italianate style garden to display his classical statues.
William III and Mary II (1689-1702) created the Great Fountain Garden on the East Front, with the addition of no less than 13 fountains and two avenues of Yew trees. What is now known as The Pond Gardens, was once a medieval fish farm. It also provided shelter for tender exotic plants, particularly those collected by Mary II from all over the world.
No matter what the time period, Hampton Court Gardens have always been at the cutting edge of design and when the gardens opened to the public on the orders of Queen Victoria in 1838, Hampton Court park and gardens became a highlight of a visit.
Other gardens on the palace grounds are The Royal Kitchen Garden, (a walled garden growing food for the royal table, you can buy the produce in Summer!), The Tiltyard (a tournament area laid out by Henry VIII with five towers to watch the jousting) and The Rose Garden (planted with old English scented roses to delight visitors).
The Hampton Court gardens free entry (to the East Front Gardens) is something to take advantage off, as they are open all year round to enjoy!
Hampton Court Palace Magic Garden
I had never heard about the magic garden Hampton Court opens in Summer, but this garden and children’s play area was formally opened by the Duchess of Cambridge in March 2016 ,so it must be important! It was designed by Robert Myers Associates together with leading play experts and built on the site of Henry the 8th Castle tournament grounds.
This garden is special, because it’s inspired by Tudor motifs and legendary heraldic creatures and kids can go wild here as there is child-friendly planting, several towers and walkways to play on and even a complete amphitheater for play and performances. Oh… and did I mention that they also have a steam-breathing dragon here? The Magic Garden Hampton Court is where the fun is at, is seems!
Hampton Court The Great Vine
At the end of the Pond Garden you can find a glass house containing the world-famous Great Vine (ok, I hadn’t heard about it before). This is thought to be the oldest (and largest) in the world! While it wasn’t blooming when we visited, and so a little under-whelming, it’s still amazing that you can look at something today that’s been planted back in 1768 (by Lancelot Capability Brown). Wow!
Hampton Court Palace Maze
One attraction in the Palace gardens that has been popular since it opened back in the 17th century, has to be The Hampton Court Maze. You can find it North of the Palace, in the Wilderness Area of the gardens, which is also full of elegant Hampton Court Flower beds.
They are not quite sure why it was built (historians believe it was for William III in the last years of his reign and completed by Queen Anne’s gardener, Henry Wise), but nevertheless, it’s really quite fun to enter! As the oldest surviving hedge-maze in the world, you really don’t want to miss this!
I can honestly say that I was super impressed by my visit to Hampton Court. I did not expect to have such a good time at a Royal Palace and learn so much! Even though we almost spend the entire day here, I still don’t think I’ve seen it all. The Hampton Court Palace history is so fascinating and because we got a guided tour, I got to learn a lot about this incredible Henry 8th Palace, the gardens and all the people living and working in and around the building. I would go back any day to explore more. Highly recommend a visit.
Hampton Court Events
If there is one thing that’s for sure, it’s that there is always something going on at the palace! Here is a short overview of some of the best Hampton Court Palace events:
In Spring, join the Easter Lindt Gold Bunny Hunt! This family-friendly Hampton Court festival is designed for children aged 3-12 years old and their families.
In Summer, you can attend the Hampton Court Palace Festival in June for a series of music concerts. This annual musical event was established in 1993 and it’s known for presenting a wide range of artists across the music genres. The Hampton Court music festival has featured big names in the past, such as Sir Elton John, Kylie Minogue, Eric Clapton, Tom Jones, Andrea Bocelli and many more! Before the Hampton Court shows, you can enjoy a picnic in the beautiful East Front Gardens.
If you’re planning to attend some of the Hampton Court Palace concerts, then get your tickets in time, because thousands of people will be in line for a place spot in the court of the palace. VIP Hampton Court Concerts and Dining Packages include exclusive after-hours access to the palace’s State Apartments, a welcome drink and three-course dinner served where royalty once dined and entertained.
Another idea for Summer is to get tickets to the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. This is the largest flower show in the world held in early July by the Royal Horticultural Society. At this Hampton Court garden show, you can find hundreds of show gardens and pavilions, as well as shows, local food and many shopping opportunities.
In Fall, you have The Luna Cinema in August. Hampton Court shows hit films under the stars on the East Front Lawns of the Palace.
Also in August, it’s time for the tasty Hampton Court Palace Food Festival. This event is part of the larger Historic Royal Palaces Food Festivals series, and brings you a selection of artisan producers, street food, pop-up bars, a line-up of live cooking demonstrations and entertainment within the backdrop of an iconic Historic Royal Palace. I’ve never visited before, but it sounds like the Hampton Court Food Festival is amazing for foodies!
In Winter, you have to check out the Hampton Court Palace Ice Rink and the many Hampton Court Palace Christmas Family Activities that are being organised.
For all events, check the Hampton Court whats on page on their website.
How to Visit Hampton Court
Here is all the information you need to plan your Hampton Court palace visit:
Official Hampton Court Website
Where is Hampton Court Palace?
Hampton Court is located in the borough of Richmond upon Thames, 12 miles south west and upstream of central London on the River Thames.
The palace close to London shouldn’t be mistaken with Hampton Court Herefordshire, which is a 15th-century fortified manor house (also with amazing gardens and a maze), that is referred to as “Hampton Court Castle”.
The Hampton Court Palace address you are looking for is: Molesey, East Molesey KT8 9AU
What are the Hampton Court Opening Times?
The Hampton Court Palace opening times are Monday to Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00 in Summer (29 March – 03 November) and Monday to Sunday from 10:00 to 16:30 in Winter (04 November – 27 March).
Last admissions to the palace is 17:00 in Summer and 15:30 in Winter, for the maze this is 17:15 in Summer and 15:45 in Winter.
Hampton Court Palace hours are the same every day, as the palace is open daily except 24-26 December.
Where to Get Hampton Court Palace Tickets?
2019 Hampton Court Palace prices are £23.70 (adults), £11.90 (kids 5-15), £18.90 (concession), £59.10 (family with 2 adults and up to 3 children) and £42.10 (family with 1 adult and up to 3 children). The Hampton Court prices might be high, but let me tell you it’s totally worth it! There is so much to see and do in and around the palace, you can easily spend the entire day here and not get bored.
Your ticket includes access to the palace, maze, gardens and the (summer only) Magic Garden, as well as full admission to the exhibitions, live historical re-enactments, a multi-language audio guide and children’s activity trails.
Hampton Court Tickets are valid only on the date selected and are non-transferable. At the moment, I can’t find any Hampton Court 2 for 1 tickets, but if I do, I’ll let you know!
Visit Britain Shop is the official shop of the British Tourist Authority.
Even More Discount: The Three Palace Royal Pass
If you’re spending a bit more time in England and are thinking about visiting more of the Royal Palaces around London? Then you might want to look into the Three Palace Royal Pass. With this pass, you get access to Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace and The Tower of London.
This pass is cheaper than when you buy individual tickets, as you save 5% on an adult ticket and 10% on a child ticket! The pass is open-dated and valid for 2 years, so no worries, you can totally spread out your visits.
Visit Britain Shop is the official shop of the British Tourist Authority.
Interested in a Hampton Court membership? > Find out more
Is there Hampton Court Parking?
There is limited Hampton Court Palace parking available, but during busy periods, they do advice to arrive by public transport (read below for information about the London to Hampton Court train)! Parking on-site is £1.60 per hour and there are also 9 disabled parking bays available on site. Parking on site is free for Blue Badge holders.
Nearby parking includes Hampton Court Green, Hampton Court Train Station and Bushy Park. Multiple public car parks are also located nearby in Kingston upon Thames.
Directions to Hampton Court: The palace is on the A308 and is well signposted from all major local roads. Follow the brown tourist attraction road signs.
How to Get to Hampton Court from London?
Looking at the map, it might seem that Hampton Court is quite far from London, but actually getting to Hampton Court by train is super quick and comfortable. So if you’re asking me on the best way of how to get to Hampton Court Palace, then I’d say the train!
Train from London to Hampton Court go from London Waterloo station to Hampton Court station, which is really only a 5 minute walk to the palace itself (you cross the bridge, then you’ll see the gate). Trains to Hampton Court run from every 30 minutes and the train also stops at Vauxhall, Clapham Junction, Earlsfield, Wimbledon, Raynes Park, New Maldon, Berrylands, Surbiton and Thames Ditton. It takes a total of about 35 minutes in total.
The best thing about this journey, is that Hampton Court station is located in zone 6 of London transport, which means you can use your Oyster card on trains from Waterloo to Hampton Court! So easy and cheap!
For Hampton Court train times, please check: tfl.gov.uk/plan-a-journey
The best tip for foreign travellers is to get a Visitor Oyster Card, which you can arrange before you travel, so you already have your Oyster Card at home, ready to use as soon as you arrive in London.
Hampton Court River Cruise
And perhaps a fun thing to do: there are also river boat options between April and October! They run services between Richmond and Hampton Court, which takes about 2 hours. Richmond Underground Station (District Line) is a 5-10 minute walk from the Richmond Pier.
You can also take services from Westminster (takes about 4 hours) and Kingston-upon-Thames (takes about 45 minutes).
Are there Hampton Court Palace Restaurants?
Short answer: Yes! There are actually many places to eat in Hampton Court, such as the Tiltyard Café, Privy Kitchen Café and Fountain Court Café. From a quick sandwich, to soups, salads and hearty hot meals, it’s all here.
TIP: You can also bring your food and a comfortable blanket from home and enjoy a picnic in the iconic gardens of Hampton Court Palace.
Best Hotels near Hampton Court Palace London
While you’re probably going to stay in London and travel to Hampton Court on a day trip, perhaps you’re interested in some accommodation in the area. While I couldn’t find a Hampton Court hotel, I did find some unique other accommodation options around Hampton Palace:
- Hampton Court Palace Boat House
- The Hampton Court Snug
- Hampton Court – Riverside View
- Hampton Court – The Kings Rest
Who needs a Hampton Court Palace hotel, when you can also sleep on a boat?! Have a look:
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Hampton Court Map
Looking for a handy map of the Hampton Court England palace and the gardens? Here you can download them:
Hampton Court Palace Map > Download Here
Hampton Court Palace Gardens Map > Download Here
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Disclaimer: My Hampton Court UK visit, including a guided tour, was kindly offered to me by Royal Historic Palaces, I paid for my own transport!