Explore Henry Vlll’s magnificent palace on the banks of the Thames. Don’t miss the splendid State Apartments, the fascinating Tudor kitchens and the world-famous maze.
• Henry Vlll’s breathtaking Great Hall. With a magnificent hammer-beam roof and walls adorned with the exquisite Abraham tapestries, the Great Hall was designed to impress visiting monarchs and ambassadors.
• The Tudor kitchens which kept Henry’s vast court fed. The various kitchen areas give a vivid insight into the lives of the cooks, scullions and servants who worked here.
• The State Apartments built in the baroque style for William lll. The Presence Chamber still contains the king’s throne.
What to see and do
The Great Hall
The breathtaking Great Hall was constructed during the height of Henry’s reign. The building towers above the surrounding buildings to symbolise the monarch’s power. To commemorate his marriage to Anne Boleyn, carpenters constructing the screen at the back of the hall carved the motif of an intertwined H and A. The hammer-beam roof also features Anne’s coat of arms and falcon symbol.
The Tudor Kitchens
Step back to Tudor times and explore the original kitchens, a series of rooms where kitchen boys turned spits with joints of meat to roast over log fires and an army of cooks prepared succulent dishes for the king and his courtiers. Keeping the palace fed was a huge undertaking and a combination of original features and reenactments brings the hustle and bustle to life. These kitchens were in use for over 200 years.
The Formal Gardens
With 750 acres of parkland and 65 acres of formal gardens, there’s lots to explore outside at Hampton Court. The manicured gardens are beautiful at any time of the year but are at their most colourful in spring when 250,000 tulip bulbs burst into bloom. In summer, herbaceous borders add colour and interest and in early autumn, grapes from the Great Vine are harvested. The Hampton Court maze is the oldest hedge maze in the world and was planted in around 1700.
The State Apartments
Built for King William lll, the State apartments are embellished throughout with exquisite wood carvings by Grinling Gibbons. They consist of the Guard Room with its display of weapons, the Presence Chamber, where courtiers and visiting dignitaries would have paid their respects to the king seated on his throne, the king’s bed chambers and the Privy chamber, where only the courtiers closest to the king would have been allowed.
The Haunted Gallery and Processional Route
The atmospheric Haunted Gallery is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of Catherine Howard. The processional route links the king’s private rooms with the chapel and is lined with paintings of Henry Vlll and his family.
Did you know: (5 interesting facts!)
1. Hampton Court Palace was originally owned by Cardinal Wolseley and was stolen from him by Henry Vlll when the cardinal fell from favour. One of its attractions was a fountain flowing with wine where visitors could refresh themselves with a glass or two.
2. Many people have experienced strange sightings and unexplained chills and believe Hampton Court Palace to be haunted. Make up your own mind about the spooks by taking a ghost tour – there are even family-friendly ghost tours.
3. The palace was first opened to visitors during the reign of Queen Victoria and an early visitor was Vincent van Gogh. He greatly admired the art collection with its paintings by the Old Masters.
4. Holy communion is still celebrated in the exquisitely decorated chapel where Henry Vlll himself prayed and visitors to the palace can attend services held here. Recitals and concerts are also held frequently here.
5. Henry Vlll was one of the first players of real tennis and you can still play this game – a cross between modern lawn tennis and squash – on the Royal Tennis Court.
• 1515 – Cardinal Wolseley began building Hampton Court Palace
• 1529 – The cardinal gave the palace to the king when he fell out of favour
• 1689 – King William lll embarked on a reconstruction project with plans by Sir Christopher Wren. Many of the Tudor buildings were destroyed.
• 1690 – The maze is laid out. It was originally planted with hornbeam (it is now yew).
• 1760 – Much of the palace is converted to Grace and Favour residences, rent-free accommodation rewarding services to the monarch.
• 1966 – The palace was used as a location for the movie A Man For All Seasons and has been used numerous times since.
• 2012 – Hampton Court Palace hosted the Road Cycling Time Trial for the 2012 Olympics.
Facilities and accessibility
Hampton Court Palace is one of six Royal Palaces. Food and drinks are not permitted within the historic buildings but drinks, hot food and snacks are served at three different cafes. Gluten-free and dairy-free options are available.
The building has uneven floors and staircases that may present problems to visitors with limited mobility. There is a staff-operated lift to the first floor. Wheelchair users may bring their own wheelchairs. Mobility scooters are available to borrow for exploring outside.
Audio and braille guides are available and some tours are facilitated by guides using BSL (British Sign Language) at no additional cost.