January 30, 2017

Kensington Palace & Gardens

This autumn the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will begin spending more time at Kensington Palace with their two adorable children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.  The palace was also the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria, and Princess Diana lived here from the time of her marriage to Prince Charles until her untimely death in Paris. Last summer Kensington Palace hosted exhibitions on these two famous residents: Victoria Revealed and Fashion Rules Restyled.

Kensington Palace, London

Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park
After spending a morning indoors touring museums in South Kensington we took a break at two of London’s eight Royal Parks, Kensington Gardens and adjacent Hyde Park. Our first stop was the Lido Bar and Café for a refreshing glass of Pimm’s. The café is located on a man-made lake called the Serpentine near the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain.

Isis, by Simon Gudgeon (2009)

Lido Bar and Café

Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain

Swans on the Serpentine

The Peter Pan Statue, by George Frampton

The Italian Gardens appeared in the film Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. This ornamental water garden was a gift to Queen Victoria from her husband, Prince Albert. The Albert Memorial commemorates the prince consort’s death at the age of 42.

Italian Gardens

The Long Water

The Albert Memorial

Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace today is both a working Royal residence and a Historic Royal Palace open to the public. The exhibition Victoria Revealed explored the life of Britain’s longest reigning monarch (until Queen Elizabeth II surpassed her in September 2015). Her coronation gown was surprisingly tiny. I've been enjoying the new drama about the monarch, Victoria, currently airing on PBS Masterpiece.

Statue of Queen Victoria, Kensington Palace

Portrait of Queen Victoria

The Room Where Princess Victoria was Born

Queen Victoria's Coronation Gown

There were many more dresses on display at Fashion Rules Restyled including those worn by Diana, Princess of Wales, and items from the wardrobes of Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret. A new exhibition, Diana: Her Fashion Story opens at Kensington Palace on the 24th of February. Entry to the exhibitions is included with palace admission.

Fashion Rules Restyled at Kensington Palace

Zandra Rhodes Dress Worn by Princess Diana in Japan

Catherine Walker Gowns Worn by Princess Diana

We’d planned to visit three Historic Royal Palaces while in London (Kensington Palace, the Tower of London and Hampton Court) so we purchased a joint one-year membership. The cost was less than the combined individual admission prices and we skipped the ticket lines. (Membership also includes admission to Kew Palace, the Banqueting House, and Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland.) The Historic Royal Palaces web site has details on the benefits of membership, which is not limited to UK residents.

Tower of London, a Historic Royal Palace

Visitors to Kensington Palace can choose between light refreshments in the casual Palace Café and a full afternoon tea in the elegant Orangery (reservations are recommended). We’d just indulged in afternoon tea the previous day on board the Belmond British Pullman train so we opted for a simple cuppa on the Orangery terrace.

Palace Café Terrace and the Wiggly Walk

The Sunken Garden

The Orangery

The northwest corner of Kensington Gardens is home to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground (only adults with children are admitted) where charming elves and fairies are carved into the trunk of the Elfin Oak.

Elfin Oak, by Ivor Innes (1930)

Time Flies Clock Tower

My Tip for the Day:
A Historic Royal Palaces membership could save you both money and time in ticket lines.

Next: Harry Potter Studio Tour

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