British Summer: Kensington Palace

One thing I had to do in my British summer, especially because it was The Queen's Diamond Jubilee this summer, was visit the historic Royal Palaces. So, today we headed to Kensington Palace to visit our first Palace of the summer.

Doesn't it look glorious? From top left, clockwise: William III, Victoria statue with Kensington Palace behind, The Orangery and Kensington Palace Gardens. The Orangery was closed today for a private function so we couldn't have afternoon tea, but it gives us an excuse to return!

Here's the Palace Gate at the south side of the Palace - it's pretty hard to get a clear shot because of all the tourists - but here is one of the places that flowers were laid when Diana, Princess of Wales died. Diana, you see, lived here; other members of the Royal family still do.

Queen Victoria was also born here, which is why one of the areas you can visit is 'Victoria Revealed'. There's also The King's State Apartments, The Queen's State Apartments, plus a temporary exhibition called Diana.

It's actually a shame that I've never been to Kensington Palace before because it would have been rather telling to compare that visit with the experience we had today. That's because Kensington Palace has just had a £12 million renovation to get rid of its "stuffy image" and I can only imagine what it used to be like... Now though the experience is wonderful and full of so many quirky little details that are charming and make your journey through the Palace an immersive, engaging and enchanting adventure.

Kensington Palace does not feel like a stuffy, boring tourist attraction with your usual run-of-the-mill museum-type displays. How it presents the story of the Palace is innovative and I enjoyed it far more than I hoped I would because of this; the conception and curation is truly a joy.

Going up the King's Staircase to his Apartments - in this case, the King in question is George II -  are these delightful little figurines showing those who would have worked for the King. You're encouraged throughout to open drawers, have a bit of a poke around and really take part in the Palace. Instead of cabinets with copious display notes, books are left around the rooms which you can pick up to read about what you are seeing. In the case of 'Victoria Revealed', extracts from her diary are printed everywhere - on the carpet, on tables, on the wall - whereas whispering windows mutter stories to you in the State Apartments.

The visit is a short one - only an hour to ninety minutes spent inside, depending on the crowds - but it's a thoroughly charming one. Little touches like beautifully illustrated Diana wallpaper leading you to the exhibition of some of her dresses or reliving Queen Victoria's Jubilee, so very fitting this year with our Queen's own Diamond Jubilee having took place, make it a delight. 

But, it's not all quirky. This is still a Royal Palace and you have fittings and furnishings fit for Kings and Queens dotted around the Palace, in all their golden glory.

Once you've explored inside, do go and see Kensington Palace Gardens, not to be confused with Kensington Park. Kensington Park is the wider park (it joins up with Hyde Park); Kensington Palace Gardens are right by the Palace and, as you can see below, it's an actual garden. You can only stand by the edge and can't go into the garden, but it's still a sight to behold. (And you don't actually need to buy a ticket to be able to view the garden.)

We decided to purchase annual membership, which is worth doing if you're interested in visiting a few of the palaces over the course of a year. It would have cost us £31.90 (£15.95 each) to visit Kensington Palace, but instead we paid £65 and for that we both get unlimited entry for the next year to not only Kensington Palace, but to Hampton Court Palace (£16.95 entry each), the Tower of London (£20.90), Kew Palace (£6) and Banqueting House (£5) - a massive saving! You also get 10% off the restaurants and shops, a book worth £9.99 and a few other goodies when you join up.

We had a simply wonderful afternoon spent at Kensington Palace. My only niggle was I wish there was more to see and do there because I was having a grand time and was disappointed when I realised we had finished seeing everything - if we hadn't have bought the annual ticket, I would have questioned the value - but I can't wait to visit my next Royal Palace. I've been to the Tower of London before, but none of the others so there's lots to do and discover!

Have you been to any of the Royal Palaces? x

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