Kew Palace along the Thames River is the smallest and most informal of the royal palaces in London. It is surrounded by some very beautiful gardens that the visitor will enjoy as much as the building itself. Kew Palace is a little more than 10 miles from your Safestay Hostel and by using the A3212 you can be there in less than a half an hour.
Using public transport will double your time for arrival but it is worth it. The least complicated way to get there is to walk to Elephant and Castle and take the Bakerloo Subway towards Queens Park. This will take 5 minutes with 3 stops. Transfer to Embankment and take the District Line Subway towards Richmond.
This will take 31 minutes with 15 stops. The penultimate stop would be Gunnersbury if you lose count on the stops along the way. From there it is a short walk to the Palace and Gardens. Your total travel time is about an hour.
The Palace is closed during the winter season and will reopen on March 29, 2014. The visitor must purchase a ticket to the garden in order to access the palace. A single adult ticket is 16.00 British pounds (26.47 in U.S. Dollars).
Children under 16 are admitted free if accompanied by an adult. Special rates apply for concessions, families, groups, and holiday promotions. If you are going to be in London for any length of time this writer recommends you purchase an annual pass for 45 British pounds (74.36 U.S. dollars). This will permit the holder unlimited access to Kew Palace, Kensington Palace, Banqueting House, Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London.
Hours of normal operation for both Kew Palace and Gardens, the cafes and shops they are all usually open between 10:00 and 11:00 in the morning. Closures varies with the season for some of the venues but when open the Palace closes at 5:30 P.M. (17:30). There are 2 guided tours offered daily. One in the late morning and one in the early afternoon. Most of the facilities are open 7 days a week.
There have been 3 Palaces that have been built on the site. The first one is mentioned as a gift from Queen Elizabeth I to Robert Dudley a court favorite. It may have been called Leicester House at the time which was the late 16th century.
The second incarnation known as the “Old Palace” also known as Dutch House, was built in 1631 by Samuel Fortrey, the father of the author Samuel Fortrey. In the 18th century it became under the ownership of the Smith family and later through marriage to a secretary of George II. Frederick, Prince of Wales at the time took a long lease of the place and that is when it once again became part of the royal heritage.
The lease would continue with George III and in 1781 a formal purchase of the property was commenced. Queen Charlotte wife to King George III would die here in 1818. On ascending the the throne in 1837 Queen Victoria gave most of Kew Gardens to the nation retaining the Queen's Cottage alone. In 1887 to celebrate her Golden Jubilee she gave this last remaining vestige to the country as well.
The Third Kew Palace would have been a much grander edifice and construction began in 1802. It would never be completed and in 1828 Parliament would order it to be dismantled. The most famous surviving artifact from the building is a staircase that would later be used at Buckingham Palace.
It is the second incarnation that has survived and has become a modern day tourist attraction. It is built from brick and is an example of the Artisan Mannerist Style. This style of architect uses classical influence in its design. Despite its prestigious name it is not really a palace but more the size of a manor house. Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 80th birthday here hosted by her son in 2006. It then reopened to the public after a 10 year closure for restoration. The painstaking restoration not only was limited to the building but some of the other furnishings as well including period draperies and other fabrics.
The main attraction of the site to many visitors is the extensive and impressive gardens. The Arboretum covers the majority of the gardens 121 hectares (300 acres). Other features to visit include the Waterlily House and the Holly Walk. The Walk displays one of Europe's most comprehensive collections of mature hollies. A number of formal gardens are quite arresting on their own. These would include: the Azalea Garden, the Duke's Garden, the Grass Garden, Plant Family Beds and Rose Pergola, Palm House Parterre, Rock Garden and the charming 17th century style Queen's Garden. There are also a number of glass houses on the property that allow exotic plants from around the world to thrive year round.
The are a number of cafes, restaurants and shops that can be accessed from a number of historical gates. There is a wide variety of food and merchandise on sale to suit almost any taste so one can easily spend the entire day here.
If you would like to know about the Kew Palace and Gardens feel free to visit their website at: http://www.kew.org/