If you are one of those people who don’t plan ahead and suddenly have the Easter bank holidays thrust upon you, then you will benefit from visiting Hampton Court Palace on short notice.
About a 30-minute train ride away from Clapham Junction, it is still close enough to make a day out of it but just far enough so you feel you are away from the London madness.
On the day we visited, it was a gorgeous sunny day and being Good Friday, a lot of family crowds were present as well. However, Hampton Court Palace is huge so even with crowds you don’t feel overwhelmed or jostled together.
We decided to go for the Full Experience tickets. At £21 per ticket, it includes access to the Palace interiors, and all of its 60 acres of gardens. If you are with kids and just want to have a picnic then I would recommend you don’t pay entry fees to the Palace, as there is a separate ticket for the Maze and Gardens which works out to be a much cheaper option.
Furthermore, if you wished to enjoy the world famous Maze or the newly opened Magic Garden rather than walking the entire stretch of the greens, then there are separate individual entries for that too.
We decided to make full use of the warm weather by skipping the palace and heading straight to the East Front and Gardens towards the back end of the place. The gardens at the back included the Privy Garden, the 20th Century Garden and the Great Fountain Garden.
You can also walk to the Great Vine, the Beautiful Pond gardens or check out the exteriors of the Banqueting House, closed to general public and used only for private functions.
There are ice-cream vendors that also sell non-alcoholic drinks and light snacks and there are also benches for you to have a seat and read or take a break. The vendors are cash only.
Another key feature to check out is the Royal Tennis courts. These are still used by members and it’s quite interesting to watch a live game from the viewing gallery.
For our second phase of the tour, we decided to make use of the still gorgeous sunny weather and venture into the Maze. The Maze is also close to the other parts of the garden such as the Tiltyard Café and The Wilderness. But these spaces are open to public so do expect a lot of crowds.
A brief mention about the newly opened Magic Garden which already seems to be a popular choice for parents with young kids. Never before had I seen so many push chairs at one place! It’s a neat little imaginative new play garden where you can get your kids to roll down slides, climb towers, explore walkways and grottos, build their own sandcastles or simple climb down the various green hillocks while you catch a quick break. On this day, thanks to the great sunny weather and it being a bank holiday this place was absolutely heaving!
We finally decided to explore the interiors of the palace as the sun began to set for the evening. The most interesting bits were the kitchens where you could see chefs dressed in Tudor-style attire, roasting meat or baking bread, talking about the recipes as they worked, like an immersive theatre experience. Henry VIII’s grand apartments and the stunning chapel Royal were my other two favourites. The whole thing took us an hour to navigate but we skipped a few areas; if you wish to absorb every bit of detail on the interiors then allow at least two to three hours to explore the whole palace.
By the end of it all, we had walked for about five hours and were exhausted absorbing all that history. The sun had started to go down, so we both agreed that it was time to call it a day and went off to some nearby pubs to refuel ourselves!
Our two recommendation would be the Kings Arms hotel for some amazing scotch eggs.
However if you want some posh pub grub then the Mute Swan is also a great choice. Situated right opposite to the Palace, they had some good selection of wines and beers and the food looked like top quality.