Hotels in the area :
- Knightsbridge Hotels
- Kensington luxury hotels
- Kensington & South Kensington moderate price hotels
- Kensington cheap hotels
- Earls Court Hotels
Address: Kensington Palace State Apartments, Kensington Gardens, London W8 4PX
24 hour information phone line: (+44) (0)870 751 5170. Phone from 9 to 5: (+44) (0)870 751 5175. Fax: (+44) (0)20 3166 6110
Hours to visit Kensington Palace, the Shop and the Orangery:
1 March – 31 October
Monday-Sunday 10am - 6pm. Last admission: 5pm.
1 November – 28 February
Monday-Sunday 10am - 5pm. Last admission: 4pm. Closed: 24-26 December.
Normal Entry Price: Adult £12.00 Child £6.00
Nearest Tubes: High Street Kensington (District or Circle lines), Queensway and Notting Hill Gate (Central line)
SNIPPETS OF ROYAL INFORMATION
Kensington Palace, perhaps now most famous for having been Princess Diana's Royal residence, is one of the Historic Royal Palaces and is still a functioning Royal residence, whose grounds border the extensive Kensington Gardens to the east.
Kensington Palace has great historical importance, and was the favourite residence of successive monarchs until the death of George II in 1760.
Queen Mary II died at Kensington Palace in 1694, as did William III in 1702, Queen Anne in 1714, and George II in 1760.
Queen Victoria was born in Kensington Palace in 1819, spent her childhood there and there is where she heard the news of her accession to the throne in 1837.
Queen Mary (grandmother of the present Queen) was born at Kensington in 1867. The Duke of Edinburgh stayed there in 1947 between his engagement and his marriage.
Princess Margaret and Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, resided and had their offices in Kensington Palace.
Diana, Princess of Wales (pictured right), had her official residence at Apartment 8 Kensington Palace from her wedding on 29 July 1981 until her death on 31 August 1997.
Kensington Palace today continues to serve as a residence for British princes and princesses and members of the royal family. It houses the offices, private apartments and London residences of The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, The Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.
The palace, a Jacobean mansion originally built for Sir George Coppin in the 17th century, was called Nottingham House after it was purchased by the Earl of Nottingham, Secretary of State to William III, who bought it from him in 1689 because Kensington was renowned for its 'very good Air'. The king suffered from asthma and wanted a place away from the damp riverside location of his current residence, Whitehall Palace. William III commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to oversee the extension and improvement of the house, which since then became a main royal residence.
The enlargement provided several additions to the mansion: Royal Apartments for the King and Queen, the Chapel Royal, a council chamber, the Great Stairs, the Clock Court and the South Front, including the 96-foot Long Gallery.
A wide private road was built from the Palace to Hyde Park Corner, part of which still exists today as Rotten Row.
After William III's death in 1702, Kensington Palace became the residence of Queen Anne. Her principal developments were in the grounds. Her main memorial is the Orangery House, built in 1704 in the gardens north of the palace to serve as a greenhouse to hold in winter exotic plants that graced the gardens in summer. But the Orangery became more than that, a ‘summer supper house’ and a place for entertainment, and its ornamented, embellished interior reflected that. Queen Anne also had a 30-acre garden laid out.
George I spent much money on major alterations, improvements and additions to the palace. Among them were the Cupola Room, one of the three new state rooms, and the other elaborate ceilings and staircases, with liberal use of trompe l'oeil (a painting technique that gives the illusion of reality), painted by William Kent.
George II was the last sovereign to live at Kensington Palace. For his consort, Caroline of Ansbach, Charles Bridgeman created the Serpentine, the Broad Walk, the Basin and Grand Vista, features which still characterize Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park today.
The death of George II in 1760 marked the end of an era in the history of Kensington Palace: it was never again to be the seat of a reigning monarch.
Although expected to reign from Kensington or St James's Palace, Queen Victoria, born and brought up here, after her accession to the throne moved to Buckingham Palace and never got back to stay at Kensington.
In 1912-14 Kensington Palace's State Apartments, filled with objects in display relating to the City of London and royal relics, housed the newly founded London Museum, which later was accommodated in the palace again for a quarter of a century from 1950 to 1975 until its reopening as the Museum of London in the Barbican in 1976.
Open to the public are historic parts of Kensington Palace, including the State Apartments and the Court Dress Collection.
You get to the State Apartments through the magnificent King's Staircase (pictured above), in black marble, decorated with William Kent's paintings.
The State Apartments comprise the King's State Apartments and the Queen's State Apartments.
Many parts of the recently restored King's State Apartments are remarkable, beautifully decorated with art from the Royal Collection of old masters paintings, including Tintoretto and Van Dyck, and preserving their original decor. In particular it's worth seeing the Cupola Room with William Kent's paintings, and the cosier Privy Chamber containing the Mortlake tapestries commissioned by Charles I.
The Queen's Apartments, built and furnished for Queen Mary II in the late 17th century, do not share the grandiose, splendid aura of the King's Apartments, but are more discreet and intimate. That possibly reflects the more public role that the king had. Many furnishings are original, and portraits of members of the family grace the walls.
You may wish to visit the Victorian Rooms, also open to the public. This is the suite of rooms used by Victoria as a Princess and by her mother, the Duchess of Kent, in the early 19th century. You can see Victoria's bedroom, where she first learned that she had just become Queen. The rooms are furnished with and contain many items that belonged to Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert.
The Court Dress Collection, or Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, displays dresses, hats, shoes and other items of royal, state, ceremonial and court dress dating from the 18th century, the age of elegance, to the present day. In the Court Dress Collection don't miss a very rare court mantua, an impressive 18th-century ladies' dress worn at the court of George III in the early days of his reign, made around 1760-1765. See also the gentleman's outfit, the elaborate costume garments worn to Court by an 18th-century gentleman, underclothes, fine lace cuffs and all. Many exhibits of the collection have been worn by members of the royal family and then preserved for posterity.
In Kensington Palace's surrounding neighbourhood are splendid 19th-century mansions, now mostly embassies and diplomats houses.
There is an Orangery Cafe next to the Palace for light lunches and snacks, open all year.
Website: Kensington Palace