Kensington Palace


With the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee taking place soon, there’s a lot of interest in all things royal, especially in London (see Diamond Jubilee Exhibitions in London) so it’s very timely that Kensington Palace has now finished its £12 million renovation and is back open to the public.

The Palace has a new entrance, leading directly off the Broad Walk in Kensington Gardens, by the Queen Victoria statue, and there’s now a  cafe for visitors to the palace and the gardens, as well as The Orangery for afternoon tea, making the building much more inviting.

(c) Laura Porter

There are now four routes to explore the palace: a major new permanent display about the life of Queen Victoria, the King’s and Queen’s Apartments and a temporary exhibition space in Apartment 1a, which was Princess Margaret’s home.


 Victoria Revealed

(c) Laura Porter

We often think of Queen Victoria as an old lady who looked miserable and wore black all the time but this exhibition reminds us what a colourful and vibrant young woman she really was and how utterly in love she was with Albert, and he with her. This exhibition takes up most of the first floor of the public side of the building and is housed in the rooms where she would have lived from her birth in 1819 until becoming queen in 1837, when she moved to Buckingham Palace.


 Queen’s Apartments

(c) Historic Royal Palaces

These rooms, while stunning in their own right, are quite dark to visit and have a theatre company’s interpretation of significant events in the rooms’ history. The Queen’s Gallery was used by Queen Mary II for her large collection of caged songbirds hence the paper birds art installation and the twittering audio. You need to interact with the costumed guides to find out what exactly is going on so this style may not suit all visitors.


King’s Apartments

(c) Historic Royal Palaces

The costumed guides linger in the grander and more imposing King’s Apartments but the rooms are larger and lighter and make you feel as if you’re in a royal building. The King’s Staircase with its life-size William Kent paintings are a joy (do look for Peter the Wild Boy) and seeing the King’s Gallery and all the paintings uncovered is an absolute delight. While there are some contemporary additions to the palace’s displays all of the paintings are original.



(c) Nick Wilkinson/

This is the first temporary exhibition and, quite rightly, features the ‘People’s Princess’. The display of Diana, Princess of Wales’s dresses is here until 1 September 2012.


(c) Laura Porter

The transformation of Kensington Palace has been worth waiting for and it’s now a much more inviting building. The new entrance and ground floor public areas truly welcome visitors to the gardens and palace. As well as the new palace cafe, the two gift shops make it appealing to pop in more often too. Do look out for the luminous lace light sculpture, adorned with Swarovski crystals, in the Stone Hall near the entrance of the palace that was inspired by the Royal Dress Collection. There really are now many reasons to return to Kensington Palace regularly (not just because kids now go free) as it has a lot more to discover than just twentieth century history.


Laura Porter writes the London Travel site which is an online travel guide for visitors to London. She fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s. You can follow her on twitter at @AboutLondon.

See Laura’s other articles on the Visit Britain Super Blog.

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8 Responses to “Kensington Palace”

  1. John
    April 2, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    Laura, I’m Not sure how I feel about a display of Diana, Princess of Wales’s dresses. Her dresses were one small facet of her life. What did you think?
    Your photo of the light sculpture is very pleasing, was it difficult to capture?

  2. Laura @AboutLondon
    April 2, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

    There was always going to be something about Diana and many of these dresses have been touring the States so Historic Royal Palaces are right to think visitors still want to see these. Maybe a future exhibition can focus on the person and not her clothes. We’ll see.

    The photo of the light sculpture was a complete fluke as I’m normally terrible at standing still long enough for long exposures but I simply shot on Manual and let my camera guide me to what it needed. I was surprised how well it came out too!

  3. Lisa at Wanderlust Women
    April 3, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    ciao Laura. Thanks so much for this. I was debating whether to visit on an upcoming trip…..doesn’t look like they’ve changed much except adding Princess Margaret’s apt. ….as for Diana’s dresses they have been on display there since her death in one way or another. The Enchanted Palace exhibit they did last year was much better and unusual. Thanks for the heads up on this.

  4. Emma
    April 8, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    I love the idea of art installations as part of the experience -it makes it a destination in its own right even after seeing Windsor Castle and Buckingham

  5. Osama El Habshi
    April 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    it is really worth to see this photos it make you fill as you see great thing in your life

  6. Osama El Habshi
    April 11, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    and the historic royal places are really fantastic where we have to see it , it really
    great thing we cant see it in else place

  7. Joyce Jackson
    May 14, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    I was born in Kensington. Kensington Gardens was my playground! At the outbreak of World War II the place was deserted. My sister and I used to play in the sunken gardens and orangery. My father’s club house used to be behind the orangery.
    I hope to be able to visit London again this year when I attend my school reunion in Hammersmith.
    Joyce M. Jackson

    • Laura Porter
      May 25, 2012 at 10:10 am #

      Joyce, thank you so much for sharing. What amazing memories you must have of this wonderful area. Thank you!

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