Step back in time to the court of Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace. Full of history and haunts, this Tudor masterpiece is a fun place to visit with your family.
Hampton Court Palace dates to the 16th century when Henry VIII made it his home and brought all six of his wives to live here. It was here that his third wife, Jane Seymour, died after giving birth to his only son, Edward. This is also the place where his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, was arrested for adultery, leading to her eventual beheading at the Tower of London. Both women are said to still haunt the palace’s halls today.
The palace was also home to Queen Elizabeth I and King Charles I before his beheading. King William and Queen Mary added to the palace in the late 17th century, and the Georgian kings also put their decorative imprint on the palace. It opened to the public in 1838 and is an easy day trip from London.
Located just fifteen miles southwest of London along the River Thames, Hampton Court Palace is a great day trip for families looking to get out of London. It is easily accessible by train (via Waterloo Station) or boat (a leisurely 3-hour boat ride from Westminster Pier). We took the train, and it is a short 45-minute ride from Waterloo. Exit the train station and walk just across a bridge to access the palace. Enjoy the pretty view of the Thames!
Buy your tickets ahead of time to ensure entry. Be sure to check out the special events at the palace during your visit. We were there during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee so we got to see a real jousting event!
Enter the gates of the palace and walk down the long driveway, taking in the view of the red brick Tudor palace.
Enter through the main gates into the base court.
Stop at the Undercroft Shop (to the left) to pick up your mobile guides, which are a definite must-have to understand what you’re seeing. There is a family tour that has ambient noise along with a usual tour. The palace is vast, and it’s easy to get lost so feel free to ask the friendly guides for help. Or bring your own private guide to help you navigate the palace.
Start your tour to the left at Henry VIII’s kitchens. These interesting rooms will take your kids back in time when preparing food was a long and arduous process, especially for hundreds of people. The docents in each room are happy to talk to you about the details or click on the corresponding link on your guide.
Your kids will like standing in the massive kitchen fireplace!
I loved learning about the early “cafeteria” at the palace.
Next follow signs to Henry VIII’s apartments, the most atmospheric part of the palace. These rooms are a must-see! You’ll feel like you’re in a BBC movie about Henry VIII while walking through these sumptuous rooms, including the timbered great hall and great watching chamber with its tapestries and games.
A long hallway contains portraits of Henry VIII as a young man and an older king, well-known to all of us history enthusiasts.
The history of the council chamber room is steeped in lore as it’s the place where some of Henry’s biggest decisions were made – the establishment of the Church of England, Anne Boleyn’s arrest and beheading, his divorce from Anne of Cleves, and the arrest of Catherine Howard. If these walls could talk…
My son was fascinated with the story of Catherine Howard’s arrest at the palace. She heard of her coming imprisonment and ran through what is now called the haunted gallery to find the King who was in the Chapel Royal to plead her innocence. She never made it and is said to haunt this gallery today, screaming for mercy. I loved this room as well for the portraits of Henry and his family.
Don’t miss seeing the Chapel Royal either from this vantage point or from below (it was closed on our trip).
Exit Henry’s apartments and head up the stairs to William III’s apartments.
You’ll see a huge difference in the decor in these beautiful apartments that overlook the gardens below. Your kids will be fascinated with the Guard Chamber and its display of weaponry.
The Presence Chamber has William’s sumptuous throne and a gorgeous view of the privy gardens.
The privy chamber and bed chamber are fascinating. This isn’t where the King slept but is where he was dressed – in front of others!
Your kids will get a kick out of the 18th century toilet chair!
The downstairs rooms are where William really lived.
As you leave the William rooms, don’t miss the nearby room where Henry VIII married his last wife, Katherine Parr.
The next tour is of the Georgian apartments near the picturesque fountain court.
As an American, I found these rooms very interesting! There is great genealogical information about George III and his predecessors and his descendents.
I loved the mannequins stationed in each room to give you an idea of what people wore during this time period.
After the Georgian rooms, head outside to the gardens to take in the lush grass and beautiful flowers. The east front has an immaculate privy garden with the 17th century facade in the background. You can catch a horse and buggy ride here as well!
The kitchen gardens are interesting as well as the maze and wilderness garden.
There are also tours of several art galleries and the chocolate kitchen you can take before leaving.
Hampton Court Palace is so picturesque that it has served as the location for several popular films and television, most notably Bridgerton. Check out this list before your visit so you can pretend to be Queen Charlotte or Eloise yourself, walking through the beautiful arcades, gardens, and grounds.
With younger kids (6 and under), I recommend seeing the Henry VIII apartments first and then touring the kitchens. You probably can skip the other apartments. There are plenty of exits so you can let the kids run around the gardens frequently between touring inside. Young children will love the ponds and animals in the gardens.
Hampton Court Palace is a place where your kids can pretend to be a knight or lady in waiting for the day. It will make you feel as if you’ve time traveled five hundred years to the reign of Britain’s most infamous monarch!
- Cost: £26/adults; £13/child (5-15); free/children under 5; be sure to check out the family pack of tickets for cost-savings
- Recommended: all ages
- Tour time: 2 – 3 hours
- Gift shops located onsite and online
- Transportation: Easily accessible by trains operated by South Western Railway and by boat. There is also parking onsite.
- Dining options: The palace has several options for dining. We ate at the Tiltyard Cafe which had lots of good choices and was easy with kids. Outside of the palace, 1665 Riverside Brasserie and The Mute Swan pub are just across the street.
- Nearby hotels: I recommend staying in London and making this a day trip. Check out my London guide for recommendations. The nearest hotel to the palace is The Mitre, just across the street.
- Nearby attractions include: Richmond (of Ted Lasso fame!), Kew Botanical Gardens, Kew Palace, Wimbledon, and Chiswick House and Gardens
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