Kensington Palace has been a royal residence since 1689 and former residents have included King William III, Queen Mary II, Queen Anne and King Georges I and II although it is best known as the childhood home of Queen Victoria and the former homes of the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret and of Diana, Princess of Wales.
The palace is now home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate), the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.
What to see at Kensington Palace
The State Rooms have been open to the public since 1899 and recently (in 2012) underwent a two-year £12 million renovation project. Visitors can now choose four different routes through the palace that include the Kings and Queens apartments plus interactive exhibits and digital presentations that bring the history of the palace to life.
Visitors can also see antique furniture and the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, which includes exhibits of Queen Elizabeth’s wardrobe from the 1950s, Princess Margaret’s wardrobe from the 1960s and 1970s and the wardrobe of Princess Diana in the 1980s.
The King’s apartments that are open to the public are rooms used for audiences, functions and meetings. Rooms open to visitors include the Presence Chamber, the Privy Chamber, the Cupola Room, the King’s Drawing Room and the King’s Gallery and access to this area is via the King’s Staircase. These rooms depict the interior style of the Georgian age and feature works by William Kent, a noted artist and designer responsible for the interiors in many of the State Rooms.
While the King’s apartments are spaces for receiving guests, the Queen’s state apartments are private rooms built for Queen Mary II.
Visitors to Kengsington Palace can also see the Life Through a Royal Lens exhibition (until 30 October 2022), which delves into the Royal Family’s relationship with the camera. This exhibition includes many of the most iconic photos taken of the Royal Family including photos taken by celebrated photographers including Cecil Beaton, Annie Leibovitz, Rankin and Lord Snowdon.
Visitors are also able to see artefacts relating to Princess Diana, one of the palace’s most famous former residents and the Victoria: A Royal Childhood exhibition tells the story of Princess Victoria’s childhood at Kensington Palace.
The grounds of Kensington Palace include beautiful gardens, which have been designed to connect with the neighbouring Kensington Gardens. The gardens include the beautiful sunken garden as well as a more formal English-style garden.
Visiting Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace is one of the more modest-sized royal palaces and is ideal if you want to visit a royal palace but don’t have the time to visit Hampton Court Palace or Windsor Castle. Two hours is plenty of time to see everything of interest here, which is a quicker visit than London’s other royal palaces.
Admission to Kensington Place is free of charge for Historic Royal Palaces members or if you have either a London Pass or the National Art Pass. Admission to the palace includes all public areas and exhibition spaces.
You can enter through the priority entrance if you have a pre-booked ticket or a London Pass. This essentially means that you skip the queue to buy tickets, but you still have to queue up to get inside.