The renowned Kensington Palace has been a royal residence since the 1600's. It has been home to a number of royals of recent past and present which include Princess Diana, the present Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their young son, Prince Henry of Wales, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Prince Michael of Kent, Princess Margaret and Princess Alice.
Kensington Palace and grounds are less than 5 miles by car from your Safestay Hostel and will take you about 20 minutes in usual traffic to reach. The best public route which in this case is the least amount of time would be (40 minutes). First, walk to Stop V at Elephant and Castle. You will then board the 148 Bus towards Shepherd's Bush. This part of the excursion will take about a half an hour since there are 24 stops. You will disembark at Palace Court (Stop S) and walk the rest of the way. It will take you about 8 minutes.
The part of the palace that is open to the public are mostly the State Rooms. These can be accessed from 10:00 to 17:00 (5:00 P.M.) seven days a week. The last admission is an hour before closure. Prices for admission for adults are 16.50 at the door and 15.40 on line in British pounds. That is 27.16 and 25.35 in American dollars respectively. If you are going to be in London for a longer period of time a combination ticket may be purchased. For 45 pounds a single adult, 67 pounds for 2 adults and 57 pounds for a family ticket one can purchase an annual membership which will entitle you to unlimited access for 5 palaces. In addition to Kensington, this will include the Tower of London, Hampton Court, Banqueting House and Kew Palace. This will work out to 9 pounds per palace on a single visit alone which is a substantial savings.
Highlights of your visit to Kensington Palace will include The King's Gallery, The King's Staircase, The King's State Apartments, The Queen's State Apartments and The Sunken Gardens. In addition, there are two special exhibits Fashion Rules and Victoria Revealed. Fashion Rules is a collection of dresses from the present Queen, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana. Victoria Revealed is a collection of artifacts and personal items that belonged to Queen Victoria that allows the visitor a unique look at this long reigning monarch (1837-1901). Queen Elizabeth II is the great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria.
The largest and longest of the state apartments is the King's Gallery which is almost exactly as it was when decorated for King George I in 1727. There is an impressive display of paintings in the gallery including a copy of Van Dyck's portrait of Charles I. There is also a dial positioned over the fireplace that is still connected to a wind-vane on the roof that still works as it did when first created for King William III. The main attraction of the King's Staircase is a vivid recreation of the court of Charles I painted by the artist William Kent which encompasses most of the wall space.
The King's State Apartments consists of the Presence Chamber and the Privy Chamber, both which are temporarily closed until April 2014. It also contains the Cupola Room the most splendidly decorated room in the palace, as well as the King's Drawing Room, the Council Chamber and Queen's Caroline Closet.
The Queen's State Apartments consist of the Queen's Staircase that Mary II would have used to access the gardens. Also included is the Queen's Gallery and the Queen's Closet where Queen Anne spent her childhood. Further on is the Queen's Eating Room famous for its beautiful paneling that has survived from the 17th century, the Queen's Drawing Room famous for the porcelains that Queen Mary II collected and finally the Queen's Bedroom.
The Sunken Gardens is a more modern addition which was mostly planted in 1908. It is modeled after a similar garden at Hampton Court commonly seen in the 18th century.
Kensington Palace started as a Jacobean mansion built in 1605. At the time it was known as Nottingham House. In the summer of 1689, King William and Queen Mary bought what would become Kensington Palace because Whitehall Palace was deemed to be too close to the River Thames for the asthmatic William. After the purchase the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren was instructed to begin an immediate expansion of the residence. Other alterations and expansions would follow through the years continued by William and Mary's daughter Queen Anne.
King George I spent lavishly on new royal apartments beginning in 1718 with the painting of the staircase by William Kent and in 1722 the addition of the Cupola Room. It was in this room that the future Queen Victoria would be christened in 1819. The last reigning monarch to use Kensington Palace was George II. After his death in 1760 Kensington was only used for lesser royalty. Queen Mary grandmother of the present Queen was born here in 1867. Edward VIII referred to the palace as an “aunt heap” because of the large number of royal relatives in residence. Prince William and Harry would be raised here by their mother Diana. Today it continues to function as a home for the relatives and heirs of the Queen as well as a notable and historic museum.