If you have a day you wish to spend learning about a fascinating time in English history this writer would propose a trip to Hampton Court Palace. This was the home of King Henry VIII among others. There are several ways to make the trip from Safestay Hostel. The trip will take you about an hour more or less.
Upon exiting the hostel you will head left towards Elephant and Castle transit station. If you wish to go by train which I advocate you do at least one way the travel card you purchase in London must include Travel Zone 6. You will want to purchase a train ticket to Sutton (Surrey) (First Capital Connect). This will take you 27 minutes (7 stops) The Stop ID: EPH.
You will then disembark at Wimbledon and take the train from London Waterloo to Hampton Court. (South West Trains). This will take 20 minutes and 6 stops Stop ID: WIM. From the Hampton Court Train Station you will need to walk north across the bridge. Your destination will be on the right.
If you happen to be in London in the summer I would highly recommend you avail yourself of the riverboat. You will leave from Westminster Pier. You can either take the Richmond-upon-Thames or the
Kingston-upon Thames. The trip along the Thames is itself a travel experience. Then you can return by train if you wish.
To really enjoy everything that Hampton Court Palace has to offer you will need most of an entire day to experience everything. The facility is open 7 days a week and is only closed 3 days a year. Those dates are December 24, 25, and 26. Hours of operation for the winter season October 26, 2013 – March 29, 2014 are from 10:00 to 16:30 (4:30 P.M.). The last ticket sold is at 15:30. Last entry to the Maze is at 15:45.
The hours of operation for the summer season are 10:00 to 18:00 ( 6:00 P.M.). The last ticket sold is 17:00 for the Palace and 17:15 for the Maze.
Ticket Prices for the next year for the palace, maze and gardens are as follows: individual adults 18.20 British pounds (GBP)($30.09 USD) at the door and the online rate of 17.05 GBP ($28.19 USD).The group rate with a minimum of 15 visitors is 14.85 GBP ($24.55 USD). For children under 16 the rate is 9.10 GBP ($15.04 USD) for an individual, 7.43 GBP ($12.28 USD) for the group rate and 8.52 GBP ($14.09 USD) on line. All children must be accompanied by an adult and children under 5 years of age are admitted free of charge.
Special concession prices for full time students and for those over 60 with identification are for individuals 15.40 GBP ($25.46 USD), group rate is 12.60 GBP ($20.83 USD) and the online rate is14.30 GBP ($23.64 USD). Family rates of up to 2 adults and 3 children are 46.80 GBP ($77.37 USD) and 43.45 GBP ($71.83 USD) on line.
If one wishes tickets can be bought separately for the maze and or the gardens for reduced rates.
The annual membership price for unlimited access for the five palaces is 45.00 GBP ($74.39 USD). This would include along with Hampton Court, Tower of London, Kensington Palace, Banqueting House and Kew Palace. If you plan to visit more than one palace then it will be economical to buy the annual pass.
The original structures of the Palace were begun in 1514 by Cardinal Wolsey. As he fell out of royal favor Henry VIII took title to the palace in 1529 and promptly set about enlarging it.
Later a massive expansion program was initiated by King William III in the late 1600's. This has left the palace with two architectural styles Tudor and Baroque. The unity of the buildings is achieved through the same use of pink bricks and a symmetric balance of all the new buildings with the old.
Two major events are held there annually: The Hampton Court Palace Festival and The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.
Apart the Palace Complex itself as well as the gardens, other interesting features of the site include the maze, the historic real tennis court and the huge grape vine (originally planted in 1769) which according to the Guinness Book of World Records is the largest in the world (measuring over 100 feet).
The tennis court was originally built in the 1520's with a refurbishment in 1628. It is the oldest surviving court in England and has been in continuous use to the present day.
The Maze was created out of hedge bushes originally planted in the late 17th century. It is contained on a 1/3 of an acre and has a ½ mile of paths. There is a possibility that it was a replacement for an earlier one. It has been continually updated since.
Hampton Court Palace holds furnishings and artifacts from the reign of Henry VIII in the early 1500's to the end of the reign of King George II in 1760. Its many royal residents over the more than two centuries of occupation have left behind fabulous paintings, tapestries and furniture.
The Palace is set in 60 acres of formal gardens.
Period actors are employed throughout the Palace representing staff and personages of the past including Henry VIII himself. They can be seen going about what would have been normal activities of the day. Of special interest are the staff that work in the kitchen area where one can see period culinary items prepared daily. Tourists are able to interact with them and ask questions. From personal experience I found them to be quite knowledgeable.
Read more on their official website.