All 5 of us and my aunt spent a day at Hampton Court on an extremely sunny Sunday and it was probably the best and most enjoyable day trips we’ve taken in London thus far. I’m not sure why it took us over a year to visit, considering how near it is to where we live.
How we got there
We rode the Southwest train from Wimbledon to Hampton Court and it only took us 20 minutes. There are trains running from London Waterloo to Hampton Court every 30 minutes. Click here for more information on how to get there.
From the Hampton Court train station, it was a short and scenic 5-minute walk to the entrance of Hampton Court.
What we did
We bought our Hampton Court Palace tickets online (£19.20 per adult, £9.60 per child above 5yo) which was cheaper than buying them at the ticket counter. The tickets included access to all the attractions and your own audio tour devices with headsets.
There are so many things to do in Hampton Court and you can probably spend 2 whole days exploring it if you wanted. But since we only had a day, we decided to hit all the popular attractions first: Henry VIII’s Great Hall, Henry’s kitchens, William III’s apartments, the Maze, The Magic Garden and The Great Fountain Garden and The Privy Garden.
The audio tours were definitely the highlight of the trip for me (we love audio tours and wrote about it in my Cambridge post). For each of the attractions, there were both professional tracks (for adults) and "enacted" tracks (for kids). The device would show a photo of what you should be looking at while playing a track and the “guide" would give clear instructions on where to go next for the next track. The tours were so informative and interesting (no yawns here)!
First stop for us was Henry VIII’s Great Hall where we saw gorgeous hammer-beam ceilings and huge tapestries. We particularly enjoyed learning a whole lot more about his wives (apart from what I know from Hollywood movies). Not far off the Great Hall is the Haunted Gallery, which Henry’s 5th wife Catherine Howard is said to haunt with her screams. After Henry ordered her execution, it’s claimed that she broke free from the guards and ran along the same hall, screaming out to the King for mercy.
We then proceeded to Henry’s kitchens, a group of buildings that had interactive displays of how food was prepared for Henry and his lavish parties. There was even a room where they were roasting real chickens and Cruz got to turn the spit over the fire.
William III’s apartments showed how a very different king lived – in relative seclusion (compared with Henry’s grand fetes) and with less money to burn. He did, however, love his gardens. His orangery and private gardens are some of the best I’ve seen.
If there’s one thing about Hampton Court that surprised us the most, it would be the gardens. The Great Fountain Garden is a large space with a large fountain (duh) and perfectly shaped trees. We set our blankets here for lunch while the kids did cartwheels and ran after ducks.
There are a lot more gardens, and we saw The Privy Garden with its symmetrical patterns and marble sculptures and the Lower Orangery Garden. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time (and I didn’t have enough energy) to push the buggy to see all of them. We also saw The Great Vine, which is the oldest vine in the world. It was planted in 1768 and is also the largest in the world. They sell the harvested grapes in the palace shops every September.
The Maze at Hampton Court was planted over 300 years ago and is the worlds oldest puzzle maze. The kids loved this. We had Cruz lead the way and we eventually found the centre of the maze after around 10 minutes.
The Magic Garden
One of the best playgrounds I’ve ever been to, this one has slides, sandpits with little streams running through them, a dragon, battlements and a secret grotto. The kids spent a good hour playing while the adults rested for a bit (with a cheeky ice lolly!).
Before we knew it, it was time to head back. We’re already planning our next trip back, hopefully to watch a movie with the kids with Luna Kids Cinema (https://www.lunakidscinema.com/hampton-court-palace/) or to go to the annual HRP Food Festival which has live cooking demonstrations and talks by world-renowned chefs, live music, activities for kids and amazing food stalls (duh).
Our rating: 5 out of 5. A whole day isn’t enough to experience all the fun, learning and beauty Hampton Court has to offer!
Tips for parents
Bring your own lunch and picnic blankets. Guests are free to picnic at the Great Fountain Gardens, which is a really pleasant experience and a good break from all the walking. Our kids ran around in the sun while we sprawled across our blanket under one of the trees with our home made sandwiches. The concessionaires and cafes inside Hampton Court don’t allow their food to be taken away, plus the prices are pretty steep.
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