Tour London’s palaces


England has some of the world’s most fascinating palaces and there are plenty to choose from right in the capital.

Lambeth Palace

Lambeth Palace is the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and is in a prime spot opposite the Rover Thames and next to another famous place – the Palace of Westminster.

Originally named the Manor of Lambeth, the property has undergone a number of changes over the years but it remains an impressive and imposing building.

The Archbishop Stephen Langton was the first official clergyman to live at the palace and oversaw a number of changes including the construction of the Great Hall.

One of the first state function rooms of its kind, the room is a must-see for any visitors because of its grandeur.

The State Drawing Room has welcomed a number of key figures over the years, including the Queen, the Dalai Lama, senior Church leaders and prominent politicians from all over the world.

It also overlooks the beautiful gardens of Lambeth Palace and is a perfect viewpoint to appreciate the splendid of the area.

The Guard Room, which dates back to the 14th century, contains one of the more unusual artefacts in the building in the form of the shell of a tortoise that once belonged to Archbishop William Laud. The tortoise was given to him as a pet in 1633 by his Oxford college and the animal outlived the Archbishop for almost a full century.

One of the later additions to the Palace was the Atrium. Opened in 2000 by Prince Charles, it connects the main Palace building to the 13th Century Chapel and Crypt.

Unfortunately, the Second World War had a major impact on Lambeth Palace and it underwent a massive restoration of the building and its grounds after the conflict was over.  The work included internal renovations for both The Chapel and Lollards Tower, as each were severely damaged as the result of an incendiary bomb.

How to travel to Lambeth Palace

The central location of Lambeth Palace makes it easy to visit. If travelling by the London Underground then there are a number of stations close by including:

Lambeth North (Bakerloo line)

Waterloo (Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern and Waterloo & City lines)

Westminster (Circle, District and Jubilee lines)

Elephant & Castle (Bakerloo and Northern lines)

St James’s Park (Circle and District lines)

Southwark (Jubilee line)

Embankment (Bakerloo, Circle, District and Northern lines)

If arriving by national rail, then there are regular overground train services from Waterloo Station and Elephant & Castle Station.

In addition, there are plenty of car parks in the surrounding area such as:-

Waterloo C Car Park (0.8 miles, 16 minutes’ travel time on foot)

Newington Causeway Car Park (1.2 miles, 25 minutes)

Hungerford Bridge Car Park (0.8 miles, 15 minutes)

APCOA Waterloo Station Car Park (0.8 miles, 16 minutes)

Cornwall Road Car Park (one mile, 20 minutes)

Abington Street Car Park (0.5 miles, ten minutes)

Fulham Palace

Fulham Palace may not be as well-known as some of the other palaces in the city of London, but it certainly offers grandeur and a rich history.

The palace is thought to date back to 704 AD and was occupied until 1975 – over the years it has been the official home of the Bishop of London – a senior position in the Church of England just below the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

It is now open to visitors and offers great guided tours that take in some of London’s most stunning rooms and grounds.

Members of the public can get up close to a number of artefacts and spend time exploring the Palace’s museum and art gallery that explain more about the past of the building.

The Palace has different opening times depending on the time of year. In the summer, visitors are welcome on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays 12pm to 5pm and from Monday to Thursday 12.30pm to 4.30pm.

While in winter, the Palace is open on Sundays from 12pm to 4pm and from Monday to Thursday 12.30pm to 3.30pm.

How to get to Fulham Palace

There are plenty of ways to travel to Fulham Palace, especially if staying at Central London hotels.

Visitors to Fulham Palace can make use of a wide variety of travel options when planning a trip from their central London hotel.

There are a number of parking options in the area, but it can often hard to find a space, especially during peak commuting periods.

Buses may be a better option and there are plenty of routes that stop at Fulham Road, just a few minutes from Fulham Palace.

There are also overground rail services can be reached at the nearby Putney (0.9 miles) and West Brompton (1.7 miles) National Rail stations.

For those who prefer to use the London Underground, there are a number of tube stations close by, including in:

Putney Bridge (District line)

Parsons Green (District line)

Fulham Broadway (District line)

Barons Court (District and Piccadilly lines)

East Putney (District line)

Hammersmith (Circle, District, Hammersmith & City and Piccadilly lines)

Hampton Court Palace

One of the most famous palaces in London is Hampton Court. The favourite home of King Henry VIII is located in the Borough of Richmond and is one of the most lavish palaces in England.

Perfect for a day out, the palace has plenty to see and do including the Cumberland Art Gallery – which includes works from leading artists such as Rembrandt, Caravaggio, van Dyck and Canaletto.

Visitors must also ensure they see the Great Hall, which is a massive room with a hammer-beam roof and some of Henry VIII’s most impressive tapestries on display.

For foodies then a tour around Henry VIII’s kitchens is a must. Once the largest kitchens in England, the cooks used feed some 600 people twice a day. There is also the only surviving royal chocolate kitchen. Originally, built for William and Mary in 1689, it oversaw the creation of some quite amazing chocolate masterpieces.

No visit to Hampton Court is complete without exploring the Palace’s grounds. The formal gardens alone cover more than 60 acres and feature stunning water features as well as a vast area of plants and flowers.

One of the highlights of the gardens is the Great Vine, which was originally planted by Capability Brown and its black grapes are sold in the palace shops when they are in season.

If you are planning to stay all day at the Palace, there is plenty of options for food and drink. One of the most popular choice for families is the Tiltyard Café. The eatery serves hot and cold drinks, as well as cakes, light lunches and hot dishes. It has a great setting as it is in the heart of the gardens and for those with younger children there is also a special kids’ menu available.

For a more formal dining experience there is the Privy Kitchen, which provides hot and cold drinks, pastries, cakes, sandwiches and hot dishes. It’s located in an atmospheric 16th century dining hall.

However, if the weather looks good then do consider taking a picnic. There are plenty of lovely spots to spread out a rug and get back to nature. Alternatively, there are a number of picnic tables in the 20th Century Garden.

During summer, Hampton Court Palace is open from Monday to Sunday 10am to 6pm, with last admission at 5pm. While in the winter opening hours are reduced to 10am to 4:30pm, with last admission at 3:30pm.

Where is Hampton Court Palace?

The nearest train station to the Palace is Hampton Court – it is a short walk to the main entrance – just follow the signs.

Hampton Court station is located in London’s Travelcard zone six, and those travelling from London can get to from Waterloo Station to Hampton Court in around 35 minutes.

There are also regular buses services to the area, with connecting routes via Kingston.

If you prefer to drive to the Palace, then its postcode for sat-nav is KT8 9AU. However, please note parking is limited and costs £1.60 per hour.

For a more energetic day out, you can cycle directly to the Palace as it is on National Cycle Network route number 4 and there are cycle racks provided so you have somewhere secure to lock up bikes.

Another option is to travel by riverboat along the Thames – although boat rides from Westminster can take up to four hours, depending on the tides.

Of course, these are just three of the capital’s main palaces – there are plenty more such as Buckingham Palace, Kew Palace, Etham Palace and Kensginton Palace. But whichever palace you decide to visit during your stat in London you are sure to find it an enjoyable and educational experience.