Personally, I would give the place 3 stars. My wife gives the place 5 stars. Since we like to compromise, I'm saying 4 stars overall for Kensington Palace.
My wife was hoping to see the Duchess and her family. Unfortunately, we did not. We had to settle for taking a tour of Kensington Palace instead. Our time was pretty limited, but we still got to see all of the inside of the palace which is accessible to the public. Even ate at the Cafe there. Had a free range egg and cress sandwich for $2.95 and a muffin for $2.95 (pounds).
We took the tube and exited at the High Street Kensington (Circle Line). Took us about 15 minutes of brisk walking to get here. Would have been faster, but we stopped to take pictures. The park which surrounds Kensington Palace, is gorgeous. Wish we had the time to explore it.
The admission price is normally 15 pounds per person. If you have a London Pass, you can get right in because it is one of the attractions included with the cost of the Pass. Also if you have the London Pass, you can skip the line to pay and head straight to the girl at the entrance. Saved us a good 20 minute wait.
We took the self-guided tour using one of their informational pamphlets. They've got the pamphlets available in many languages. The tour covers 4 areas of Kensington Palace. Depending on the person, you can take as little or as much time as you want in each area. We covered the "Victoria Revealed " area in about 20 minutes. There is much history to learn about the life and reign of Queen Victoria. We just did not have the time to learn it all. For the "Queen's State Apartments" area, we browsed through really quickly in about 20 minutes as well. The tragic story of the young Duke was heartbreaking.
We spent most of our time at the "Fashion Rules" section and at the "King's State Apartments". The fashion section is what you think it would be about. Dresses of HM the Queen, Princess Margaret, and Diana, Princess of Wales were on display in different rooms. My wife loved it. I, on the otherhand, was bored. The King's State Apartments were much more interesting. The King's Staircase leading up to the apartments is very impressive. The chamber rooms were very well decorated. The Cupola room was terrific. Definitely, do not miss the "King's State Apartments" when exploring the palace.
Unfortunately, we were unable to explore the sunken garden and surrounding park. Two hours was not enough time.
Overall, though, we had a wonderful two hours here. There is so much history to learn. So much decor to admire. Worth the price of admission, especially if you have a London Pass.
The palace and the gardens should really be considered (and reviewed) separately -- the gardens are quite beautiful, free, and don't suffer from the same problems that the palace does. For this review, I'm primarily addressing the tour of the palace. This is the only historical site in London that I was disappointed in.
My most serious complaint is that many of the galleries simply weren't informative. For example, the Victoria exhibit had personal items of Victoria and Albert displayed, but didn't provide explanatory text. There was another totally mystifying exhibit about Prince William, Duke of Gloucester that involved paper birds and blue film on the windows... but virtually no information about the Glorious Revolution or the succession crisis. Yes, the building is undeniably beautiful, but for the ticket price I thought the galleries were quite poor.
My other complaint has more to do with logistics. The museum hasn't given much thought to the foot traffic patterns, so many of the exhibits, particularly the fashion exhibit that showcases Diana's dresses, get terribly congested with people going every direction. The palace map is very slick looking, but not easy to follow.
Although I was surprised William and Kate didn't take me up on my offer to babysit Prince George, I still enjoyed looking into their backyard.
During our walk in the parks, we passed by Kensington Palace. It's not as big as I was expecting, but knowing its the home of William and Kate made me pretty excited.
The following day we passed by it again during a bike tour and our guide gave us some info in the palace. There is a museum in the bottom floor that houses the world's largest underwear. Apparently queen Victoria was as wide as she was tall (53") and the museum has a pair of her knickers to prove it.
Rumor has it William can be found running in the parks near his home with 2 of his security guards....unfortunately the day I was there he was on diaper duty and getting in a quick run wasn't in his cards. Oh well....
My friend and I enjoyed our visit at Kensington. We decided to head here since it was near the Portobello Market and part of the London Pass.
We enjoyed checking out the rooms and got to learn a new card game. We did ask the docent if Kate and William are living at Kensington at the moment. He said their apartment is still being renovated, but it's possible.
Anyways, I think the admission price is quite pricey, but it's worth it with the London pass. Looking forward to the renovations when they are finished whenever I come to London again.
As I've been visiting London often I've been making the rounds to the various Royal sites. Out of all the places visited thus far this was by far the most disappointing. I found many of the rooms to be sparse. Not only in furniture, but more importantly, with the exception of a few rooms there was a lack of explanations of what the purpose of the room was for or what significant historical event took place. I generally had to search in the room high and low to find out about the use of the room and when I did, it was generally of little value. As such, it was very difficult to gain a greater appreciation on the historical significance, unlike Hampton Court where there is a great deal of information provided.
To give some credit, I did feel they did a good job in the Queen Victoria areas. I did learn some new interesting facts here and enjoyed reading the various articles.
I also found the routing of the visitor traffic a bit odd, where they funnel you through and then end up in a bedroom with a mock up of a tree with wine cases containing portraits of the royal family in the attempt to portray the family tree. I didn't think the concept worked well and then to find out that this was the end of the exhibit and had to walk my way back through the same way I came.
In the end, I'm glad I came simply to check off one more palace, but I wouldn't come back here or suggest it to friends as a place to visit. (Unlike Hampton Court which I would highly recommend).
The good side is, I did get the chance to explore the Kensington area and I enjoyed walking about seeing the different places and streets to explore.
When going abroad, I'm trying to visit as much Royal Reservations as possible, but I didn't feel like Kensington Palace was what I was searching for...
Too little to see and because of that, overpriced, in my opinion.
The palace was just OK. I'm glad that I had that opportunity to visit, but I'm not going back, it's the Buckingham Palace.
Gorgeous gardens. This is like the Central Park of London. People can come out here to lay out on the grass in the sun, sit by the lake with swans inside, trees, dogs, bikes can be rented (first 30 mins free) and just a beautiful royal park to be in.
Once inside Kensington Palace, a billion rooms telling the story of the King & Queen of England await. Make sure to visit the gardens outside when done - it's a beauty.
13.75 pounds for students.
What. The. Fuck.
Apparently, Kensington Palace is normally a pretty nice palace to visit. But when I went here, the grounds were under renovation and the rooms that you can tour were decorated with some sort of "Enchanted Palace" theme that I can only assume is meant to appeal to children.
However, I can easily see children being frightened by the... almost creepy vibe that the exhibit puts off.
There are a reasonable amount of nice paintings, which might be the only saving grace of Kensington as long as this exhibit lasts, but the Enchanted Palace thing distracts from them.
Also, the grounds are home to THE most aggressive squirrels I have ever seen. They will come right up to you and stand up on their hind legs, almost as if they're begging for food. They have no fear of humans whatsoever and are therefore difficult to shoo away.
You can have tea here, but the Orangery where they serve tea didn't strike any of the people in my party as all that interesting. It's significantly cheaper than the tea at Harrod's, though.
This was such a let down during our recent visit to London. It's quite expensive with very little to see. The Victoria exhibits were nice but the main draw for me was the recent Princess Diana gown exhibit they have been advertising. It was literally 5 dresses in a room (not some of the more famous ones) with little explanation.
What a disappointment. Make the trek out to Windsor Castle if you want to see a real palace!
With all the wonderful free museums in London, I'm choosy about the places I'll actually pay to see. I wish I had read Yelp before I went to Kensington Palace because I think I would have gotten the sense that this is not worth shelling out the cash.
Perhaps my whole experience soured from the start when the ticket seller slickly said the ticket included a 'voluntary donation' and quickly added 'Is that okay?' without telling us what the value of the not-so-voluntary donation was (£3 added to your entrance fee). Next, I found that the only lift was broken. That could have been mentioned at the ticket counter since my guest was physically challenged and we would have come another day.
The Princess Diana Dress exhibition was small but very cool. Maybe 6 dresses, designer sketches and photos of Diana wearing the fashions at events. One room.
The 'Victoria Revealed' exhibition had some nicely curated objects and paintings in it. For example a vitrine with the lovely little gifts Victoria and Albert gave each other on their wedding day; a fan, a garter, a turquoise brooch, orange blossom tiara and earrings. A dog-earred, word-processed, corner-stapled description of each item lay on top of the case. Other cases in the room contained other interesting things but the notes had 'walked' with a former patron. I found copies in other rooms, too late to go back and use them.
A number of the paintings in all of the rooms at Kensington are significant for their historical documentation of coronations, weddings, births, etc or because of the artist. Lely, Winterthalter, et al. are represented.
The King's and Queen's chambers were sparsely filled but included several interactive cabinets and desks that children 8-12 found interesting. I noticed younger and older children were bored. The exhibition designers seemed to have a great time filling the space with quotations in large calligraphied text on the walls and mirrors. In the state bedroom a large construction of the roots of a tree were peppered with miniature 3-dimensional houses inhabited by paper cut-out characters representing the royal lineage making up the family tree. Interesting idea but stuck in a dead-end room that required people to turn around and back-up on each other which was not condusive to viewing the installation.
Overall the exhibitions were too dark to see and layed out with poor traffic patterns.
Very large gift shop, loads of great stuff for kids and a sizeable cafe. Obvious tourist trap. I'll stick to the free museums. My 'donations' will give me more for my money.
The palace gardens are lovely, the Orangery a sight to behold, the palace.... a huge disappointment.
While undergoing renovations, they've decided to change things up and a portion of the state apartments have been transformed into "The Enchanted Palace." I think the appeal is a bit limited.
We've done similar 'scavenger hunt' type of games at other places, but this just wasn't remotely fun or interesting to my 12-year old son (totally wrong demographic) or myself. After several days seeing London's highlights, a game to find the princesses, was one of the low lights of our trip.
Post renovation, when things have presumably returned to normal, I would give it a second chance. If you are considering visiting, I suggest you check the website in advance to see if 'the game' is up your alley: hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPal…
We loved Kensington Palace! First of all, the park surrounding the Palace is gorgeous. We loved walking through it. The Palace itself is very nice. I really enjoyed going through the Queen Victoria exhibit. There was also an exhibit of beautiful gowns worn by Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana that I really liked.
When I was living in London during the Enchanted Palace exhibit I fell in love with the eerie setting and the sadness that permeated the exhibits. My favorite was the dress taking flight down the stairs and the creepily beautiful room with the dancing shadows. I bought a pass so that I could come back multiple times over the week so that I could sketch all the moving exhibits.
It makes me sad that they felt the need to get rid of that exhibit, hopefully they'll bring it back.
Hrm.. It's like a Disneyland-ish mockery of royal princesses. Quite disappointing.
It's very geared towards your daughters; fantasizing the lives of princesses with only a few facts thrown in. They really try to play up the enchanted princess stereotypes.
A lot of construction is going on, and it seems like that the tour does not show enough of the palace. There's no way that anybody lives in or even uses the rooms that are part of the tour. In fact, the actual building is not even that impressive.
if you are in the area, look at the outside, then move on to Hyde Park. Don't waste your money on this one. (Unless you have small daughters who are really into their princess-phase).
The newly renovated Kensington Palace is open, y'all! And it's great...if you dig a random modern artsy take on history. I love history. Seriously. How can I not living in London. But the new exhibits at Kensington Palace tell stories with an interesting, vague twist. So vague it would help if there were some plaques explaining what was going on. Like for example, in one room there are 12 empty chairs with ribbon-wrapped plates on them. HUH?
Finally my little eye spied stapled packets. They provided information on the exhibits. Aha! No need to go around wondering what was going on...except there were only a few copies and you have to fight a touristy grandma for a copy. Not the best idea. Plaques on the walls with explanations? Good idea. I know it would go against the aesthetic the palace are going for but give me some info for the entry fee!
Luckily I am Historical Royal Palaces member (told you, I love history) so I didn't have to pay, thankfully. The palace was overcrowded on a bank holiday weekend and there wasn't enough info packets to go around so we left early. I'll go back but I think I will read up on the exhibits beforehand so I can be in the know a bit better.
I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and I left feeling a bit confused. While the surrounding gardens are beautiful and breath taking (read: free) the palace was very disappointing. Many of the rooms could be describes as a "hoarders dream" and the explanation behind all the mess and disarray was hard to find and even sometimes nonexistent. There isn't anything to "do" nor is there much to see -- it feels very much like a generic open house. Skip it and head to the garden for a walk with a good coffee in hand.
If you were a fan of Princess Di or just like princesses in general, you have to visit Kensington Palace.
I am not sure if the State Apartments are like this all the time, but on our visit, they appeared to have turned the Palace into a kind of Art Gallery for kids. with ornate displays (or exhibits) most rooms were set up to describe princess life through the experiences of the princesses and queens who have lived at Kensington Palace.
At first I thought it was silly, but you couldn't but get into the game once you started reading the clues. What I thought was neat was that they used dresses made by famous designers (ie Vivienne Westwood) to depict the princess that the room was describing.
Something that caught me off-guard and I did find particularly silly was some "actors" going from room to room looking for the "wild boy". You would understand more if you went and saw them.
Generally, if you have kids, this is a great way for them to learn a little more about palace or even royal life in a playful way. For adults, I'm sure you can appreciate how each room was crafted.
PS: With a "London Pass" entrance is free.
Skip it! Nothing but the name here. They took the goods and left it with nothing worth looking at. It's like walking into a house with no furniture. So, you don't get a sense of how the people there use to live. In other words, pretty much a tourist attraction without the attraction. What a waste of 16£s. Save your money and go else where!
Disappointing especially in light of the recent renovations. They have attempted to make it interactive I suppose but ended up with nothing making sense. You wander through and there are virtually no placards identifying anything or explaining the significance.
TIP - if you plan to visit all or most of the Palaces get the family or individual yearly membership. Saves money of you visit more than one and you skip the queues.
The Kensington Palace exhibits are whimsical, imaginative, and delightful. The exhibitions are a mix of art installation, multimedia and sensory elements (these make you feel like you're in a science museum because you are invited to touch things and interact with the exhibit), and classic history museum.
It is not worth rushing through the routes. It is set up to be taken in slowly, through exploration, sitting down and listening to whispering walls, taking a seat and reading a newspaper from the 17th century that explains the political situation and the latest fads (e.g., tea!), opening chests of drawers and peering inside. Those looking for the traditional plaques on the walls describing each object will be disappointed. Instead, sparse but choice quotations are on the walls. But in the end I think the exhibit gives a holistic perspective on the history and pulls visitors into the period. I learned about political scandals, court gossip, Georgian dances, and many juicy details about King George, Queen Caroline, and Victoria.
The King's State Apartments is the most impressive route in terms of architecture and preserved historic interiors. Starting with the subdued staircase (read The Courtiers by Lucy Worsely for a thoroughly amusing glimpse into each of the characters depicted in the mural here), the rooms progressively become more gilded and elaborate. If you're short on time, wander through the rooms and don't miss the Cupola room.
Queen Caroline's apartments are smaller and less elaborate. Don't rush through this one. There is lots of information in the speakers and newspapers that is necessary to understand the exhibit. My favorite item was the family tree explaining why 43 family members were unsuitable to be the Queen's successor.
Victoria's rooms are not restored entirely to their 19th century appearance, but you'll still get to see the staircase where she met Albert for the first time, the dress she wore on her first day as Queen (only 18 years old and she presided over a meeting with 97 men in the room). I really got a sense of her love for Albert (look for the portraits they drew of each other), and I learned why I had only seen pictures of her in black dresses. I especially loved learning about her life through passages from her diary.
Much of what I got out of Kensington was by lingering. The exhibits were are not extensive nor exhaustive. I did not feel overwhelmed. I felt like I could read and take in every display, which is certainly not the case in most museums. The wardens are extraordinarily knowledgable- ask them questions if you're confused!
I got suckered in here with my wife. Pass on this one. Worth about $5/person, but not $22/person.
I used to be pro-Royal!
What a rip off.
The exhibit was billed as palace secrets or some such BS.
It was the most pathetic excuse for an exhibit imaginable, and I've got a good imagination!
The Diana room was basically giving her and us the finger. There were four or five of her dresses on display in one very small room along with photographs of her wearing them. There was also a scattering of a few pictures on a mantel of her with her boys playing a piano. The entry into this room had the most bizarre wallpaper which looked like a Tim Burton storyboard. Totally grotesque drawings of her in her fashions. A real insult to Diana! So what's new?
The Victoria & Albert rooms were not great either. No explanation of what one was looking at except for a dog eared sheaf of paper hanging next to the window which one had to stand in line to read. I thought, at least they could have emptied the attic. Well, maybe they did, well before they put this exhibition together. There was hardly anything worth seeing and what was there was unexplained.
There was also the smell of fresh paint in a few places which led me to believe that the exhibit was incomplete or very rushed. Whomever they hired to put this together should be ashamed.
The cafe and gift shop was where all the money was spent. Full of tourist junk but probably where they know they will make some money from the great unwashed. It seems like the need for money was driving this. I'm sorry to say it but this Royal Family needs to get in touch with reality on so many levels or get out of the business.
The palace is under renovations and they've put an instillation in which is set up like a kids scavenger game. It's a great change of pace, and the instillations are actually cute (some look like the insides of anthropologie stores). Each room in the palace is dedicated to a different princess, and it's interesting to find out about them if you weren't raised with an English background. I'd definitely suggest trying to hunt down one of the tour guides, they're extremely knowledgeable and we were able to learn everything about Princess Victoria and the Kensington system.
Normally, this is a fine palace to visit. Right now, though, they have a terrible exhibit that completely detracts from the history and beauty of the palace. It is apparently meant to engage the young. Apparently, it does this by disengaging the brain.
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