From the outside, Kensington Palace seems like a deserted, almost eerie building, perched on the edge of Hyde Park. But inside the palace there is a treasure trove of royal rooms, items, paintings and even wardrobes that any royal enthusiast will appreciate.

Kensington Palace has been a royal residence for almost 300 years, and today it serves as the official London residence for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, along with their two children Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

During the 17th century, the palace was surrounded by lush countryside, and was considered to be the “perfect rural retreat” for members of the royal family. King William III and Queen Mary II first moved into the palace to help treat the king's asthma, as it was believed that the air surrounding Kensington Palace could “help cure without medicines.”

But a dark cloud has always lingered over Kensington Palace, as it is said to be haunted by several different spirits. Not only that, but those who once resided inside the palace lived a depressing, and often isolated life. Both Princess Diana and Princess Margaret were said to have been unhappy when they lived at Kensington Palace, and Queen Mary II contracted smallpox within weeks of moving in; (she died shortly after at the age of 32). Furthermore, Queen Anne got pregnant 17 times when living at Kensington Palace, but none of her children survived to adulthood.

As a matter of fact, Kensington Palace was such a sad and dismal place for so many females who once lived there, one of the staircases was painted with portraits of valets, maids and babies in the hopes of “dispelling the curse” hanging over the palace.

Nevertheless, some pleasant as well as important royal events have taken place inside Kensington Palace throughout its history. Not only was Queen Victoria both born and raised there, she also met her future husband Albert inside the palace, and was even given the news of her accession at Kensington Palace in 1837 as well.

Kensington Palace, Kings Drawing Room. By David Bramhall Kensington Palace, Kings staircase. By Jim Deane
Kensington Palace, Orangery restaurant Kensington Palace, Queen Victoria statue. By Alexis Brett Kensington Palace, The Kings Gallery. By Dan Mumford

Kensington Palace Highlights

Despite its depressing history, Kensington Palace is essentially a hidden gem in Hyde Park, and thousands of tourists visit the palace each year.

If you choose to take a tour of Kensington Palace, there are four different “routes” which are included in your admission ticket. These routes include “Victoria Revealed” (an exhibition on the life of Queen Victoria), the King's State Apartments (which educate visitors on the Hanoverian court), The Queen's State Apartments (which focuses on the palace's many royal residences like William and Mary, and George I), and “Fashion Rules” (an exhibition on the wardrobes of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and Princess Diana).

In recent years the Kensington Palace State Rooms underwent a massive renovation, and as a result the majority of the rooms inside the palace look as if they've changed very little since the 17th century. Some of the many highlights inside the palace include The King's Staircase, The King's Gallery (the largest of the state apartments inside Kensington Palace), and The Privy Chamber (where Queen Caroline used to entertain guests).

Make sure you spend some extra time in Queen Victoria's residence so you can read personal letters between her and Prince Albert, and even see her childrens' toys and clothes. Also be sure to check out the Kensington Palace gardens, which are famous in their own right.

Special Tips

  • Kensington Palace can be a hit or miss for a lot of visitors, so if you're not interested in England's royal history, or even if you have small children with you, then this attraction may not be for you.
  • If you plan on visiting another palace in London (or even plan on visiting Kensington Palace more than once), make sure you buy an annual membership for £48 which grants you unlimited entry into London's six royal palaces for 12 months.
  • If you plan on visiting Hyde Park as well as Kensington Palace, it may be a good idea to tour the palace first in case you get tired out walking around the park.