Looking to get out of London this weekend? I’ve got the perfect away day for you!
A train journey of just less than an hour from Waterloo will deliver you to Hampton Court Palace – the former home to Henry VIII as well as King William III and Queen Mary II.
The palace is a delightful mish-mash that isn’t easily comparable, with Tudor origins and Baroque finishes that make it truly unique.
Like most royal palaces, it started its life as a simple country house before generations of monarchs transformed it into the sprawling tapestry of buildings and styles it is today.
Situated on the banks of the Thames River and surrounded by beautiful gardens it’s a great day trip from the city at any time of year, but I’d argue that the autumn colours and temperatures display it at its best.
We started with the Tudor section, exploring the Great Hall and taking a moment to warm our chilly fingers by the fire.
There are lots of amazing details so make sure not to skip through the self-guided tour!
One that I loved was this wood carving in the Great Hall – Henry’s ‘H’ intersecting Anne Boleyn’s ‘A’. There were once dozens of them lining the walls but they were erased when Henry’s second wife lost royal favour (and then her royal head!)
There’s a whole exhibit on life in the palace during the Tudor reign which is absolutely fascinating to follow and explore.
Full disclosure: given that I have a Master’s degree in Tudor history I am 100% biased here…
Having seen and learned everything there was to see and learn about Henry’s time at Hampton Court we crossed through the courtyards, travelling about 150 years into the future (from the 16th century to the end of the 17th).
Appropriately I was wearing the ghosts of the past on my feet!
William III and his wife (and co-monarch; you go, girl!) Mary II made massive changes to the palace during their reigns but their original plans to demolish all aspects of the Tudor Palace except the Great Hall didn’t really pan out. After Mary’s death in 1694 William lost interest in the project and it was left to their successor, Queen Anne, to finish the palace and make it what it is today.
But you can’t say the work they did do wasn’t brilliant. I mean, look at it!
There’s no shortage of royal palaces and residences in the UK (check out my post here for more info!) but Hampton Court should definitely be on your list.
There is tons to see and do no matter the weather and its a fun, fabulous day out from London!