Inside Kensington Palace Royal Residence

Kensington Palace is the real deal. It is home to the young Royals as the London base of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Popping into tea with William and Kate is not on offer but visiting the historic state rooms inside Kensington Palace is open to all.

Queen Victoria statue at Kensington Palace
Queen Victoria outside Kensington Palace

What to see Inside Kensington Palace

From the outside Kensington Palace looks like the rather grand rural retreat that it was to begin with. Inside the interiors remodelled by Christopher Wren and William Kent are dazzling. Once inside Kensington Palace you have a choice of three routes to take the King’s State Apartments, the Queen’s State Apartments and Queen Victoria’s childhood. I would explore them in that order, because it means that you start with two of the most stunning rooms in London and end with Victoria decamping to the other side of the park. You don’t have to choose just one route, once you are in you can do all three. Here are my highlights from inside Kensington Palace.

King’s Staircase

King's Staircase at Kensington Palace painted by William Kent
King’s Staircase

You can almost hear the walls whisper as you walk up the King’s staircase. Forty five people are painted onto the walls and ceilings. These were real people, you could expect to meet if you came to the Georgian court. Those men in red coats are the Yeoman of the Guard, taller than most and fed meat to encourage their height … hence their nickname Beefeaters. The two turbaned men? They are Mustafa and Mahomet the King’s Turkish servants and confidants. The boy in green is Peter the Wild Boy who was found in German woods having been bought up by animals and unable to speak. Peering down from the ceiling is the artist William Kent with his mistress by his side.

Christopher Wren designed this staircase with plain wood panelling. When George I came to the throne he was anxious to make an impression and embarked on some serious interior decorating. James Thornhill who was busy with the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College was expected to get the job but William Kent, a Yorkshireman new to London came in an offer that undercut all his rivals. William Kent deployed trompe l’oeil to great effect.

Cupola Room

Cupola room ceiling Kensington Palace with Order of the Garter by William Kent
Cupola Room Ceiling

The Cupola room was the first room that William Kent redecorated and he pulled out all the stops. He knew that if he impressed with this room then his career was made. Gold and blue walls glimmer, look up to magnificently domed ceiling, except that it isn’t all that domed it is cleverly painted to look loftier than it is in the middle of the ceiling is the Order of the Garter. The centre of the room is dominated by a large ornate clock called the Temple of the Four Great Monarchies of the World not only did it tell the time it also played a series of tunes from Operas popular at the time.

King’s Gallery

King’s Gallery

Paintings, history and the fanciest weather vane I have ever seen are the highlights of the King’s Gallery. In Queen Victoria’s day this room was divided into three and the end part was the young Princess Victoria’s sitting room, it was here that she was told that she was Queen, right in front of the Van Eyck painting of King Charles I. The paintings that you see on the walls are the ones that would have hung here in the room’s Georgian hey day. At the centre of the room is an anemoscope, I have never knowingly seen one before. Essentially is a very fancy weather vane, a series of cogs translates the wind vane on the roof to the dial on the wall. It still works, on the day I visited the wind changed direction from South East to South.

Queen’s Rooms

Privy Chamber Kensington Palace
Privy Chamber, Kensington Palace

The Queens we are talking about here are Mary, Charlotte and Anne. One of the things I like most about a stately home is glimpse down an enfilade of rooms, the Queen’s rooms gives you this in spades. Queen Charlotte entertained the greatest minds in Georgian Britain here. Queen Anne had her final falling out with the Duchess of Marlborough in these rooms. Today’s stars gather for the annual BAFTA dinner for nominees in the Queen’s Gallery.

Queen Victoria’s childhood

Room where Queen Victoria was born Kensington Palace with green bed and baby crib
Queen Victoria birth room

You enter the Queen Victoria part of Kensington Palace via the staircase where Victoria laid eyes on Prince Albert for the very first time. You can take a twirl around the room where they first danced. Not quite so romantically you can see the room in which Queen Victoria was born. Princess Victoria’s childhood is bought to live in the rooms in which she lived. You can see the dolls that she played with and a reconstruction of her rather magnificent toy theatre.

Queen Victoria’s Tiara

Diamond and emerald tiare, earrings and necklace designed by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria’s tiara

Prince Albert was a creative chap he designed many pieces of jewellery for Queen Victoria including this rather magnificent emerald tiara and necklace combo. Also on display are the tiara’s given to Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise when she married, a rather natty tiara that can also be a necklace was a gift from the Queen and a magnificent diamond number from her husband.

Make sure you go to the loo

It is not often that a visit to the loo is to be culturally recommended. At Kensington Palace not only do you get to admire the quirky Princess Diana wallpaper designed by Julie Verhoeven. Look up as you leave the loo and you will see an arch, this is all that remains of the Chapel that once stood here. For fans of The Favourite this is where Abigail Hill married Baron Masham.

History of Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace started life as Nottingham House in the leafy village of Kensington. William and Mary bought it in 1689 as a place to live away from the polluted atmosphere of Whitehall and St James’s Palaces. They promptly called in Sir Christopher Wren to transform it into Kensington Palace. When George I came to the throne he was anxious to impress and set about improving the Palace even more with some impressive William Kent interiors. Queen Victoria was born here, became Queen here but decamped to Buckingham Palace almost as soon as she became Queen.

Who lives at Kensington Palace now?

Diana, Princess of Wales and Princess Margaret both called Kensington Palace home. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their engagement to the world in the Kensington Palace water garden (it is being restored this summer but ordinarily we can all pretend to be showing off a large diamond ring by the pond). William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge live at Kensington Palace. Princess Eugenie, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent also have apartments at the Palace. Not that you can see their apartments. Clever shading on the windows stops you rubber necking at the Royal gardens.

Crown to Couture until 23 October 2023

Crown to Couture is the biggest exhibition that Kensington Palace has ever put on. It has 200 items of fashion displayed throughout the Palace. Silver tissue gowns worn at the court of Charles II. The Rockingham Mantua, so wide its wearer had to to go through doors sideways. Right up to modern day red carpet creations worn by Lizzo and Lady Gaga.

Tea Room and Shop

Make sure you take a look at the shop as you leave it has a great selection of jewellery all of it fit for a princess and the most wonderful salt and pepper pots in the shape of Dash, Queen Victoria’s sandwich. The tea room is open but with outside seating only at the moment, although I confess that I choose outside in normal times too.

How to get to Kensington Palace

Queensway and High Street Kensington tube stations are a 10 minute walk away. Bus routes 70, 94 and 148 run along the North side of Kensington Gardens and the 9, 49, 52, 70 and 452 go along the south of the park. If you are feeling energetic Kensington Palace is a 25 minute walk from both Marylebone and Paddington mainline stations and a 40 minutes from Victoria. Alternatively you could jump on a Santander cycle (my favourite) there are docking stations at Black Lion Gate and Palace Gate in Kensington Gardens.

  • Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens W8 4XP
  • Open: Wednesday – Saturday 10.30am – 5pm
  • Admission: Adult £25.40, Child £12.70 and Historic Royal Palaces members go free
  • Booking advised

Membership of Historic Royal Palaces will get you into Kensington Palace, Hampton Court, the Tower of London and the Banqueting House for free as often as you like. For details of HRP membership check out my guide to London Museum Membership

Inside Kensington Palace London discover the childhood home of Queen Victoria, Prince William and Prince Harry. #London #DaysOut #HistoricHouses


  1. September 18, 2020 / 7:28 pm

    What a treat this was. I had no idea about the origin of the name beefeaters! I remember visiting the palace in 1981 I think it was and seeing Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones’ apartment. Obviously they no longer lived there, but I remember not being at all impressed with it. This post reminds me again of one of the advantages of travelling when older. I *see* now in a way I never did when young, and have more curiosity. I love the description of all the people in the paintings around the staircase. I admit my first thought about Peter the Wild Boy is that he probably wishes he was still back in the woods with his animal friends than in the stuffy and hide-bound British court. Thanks for this lovely tour.

    • September 18, 2020 / 7:46 pm

      Thank you, in one of those weird coincidences I have just read a book that detailed Peter’s later life. He went to live in the country on a pension from the king and is thought to have had a genetic disorder

  2. September 19, 2020 / 12:27 pm

    I visited Kensington Palace with the massive crowds a couple of years ago – much better now without all the people!

    • September 19, 2020 / 12:55 pm

      A good time to visit normally crowded places

  3. September 20, 2020 / 7:20 pm

    In all my time living in London or nearby, Haven’t yet got to Kensington Palace. I think it is about time I put that right. I look forward to seeing Diana’s iconic dress and using the loo!

    • September 20, 2020 / 10:00 pm

      And you get to stroll in the Park on the way there!

  4. September 22, 2020 / 8:54 pm

    Lovely!! Les Enfants Terribles were meant to do that show there, but lockdown came along. I was hoping to see pics from that (as I told many friends to go) #CultredKids

    • September 22, 2020 / 9:02 pm

      Lockdown has stopped so many excellent things

  5. September 23, 2020 / 11:45 am

    Couldn’t agree more Catherine, now is time to see London’s iconic sights without the crowds and Kensington Palace is the real deal! We have been super lucky to have over the years various celebrations (with companies and clients though not Kate and William!) plus our kids to play regularly in the toys rooms and see Xmas and Easter exhibitions. A definite #Culturedkids gem and fabulous to have in our hood ! X

  6. Shelley Whittaker
    September 23, 2020 / 1:02 pm

    There is still so much we need to see and do in London. And now Kensington Palace is high on the list. I have been eager for a trip to London since restrictions have eased but was worried it might be rather busy. Perhaps, it is the perfect time to go! #CulturedKids

    • September 23, 2020 / 1:11 pm

      I have never seen London emptier

  7. September 24, 2020 / 10:21 am

    I love the loo recommendation 🙂 And that emerald tiara and jewels – Prince Albert has amazing taste. I’ve always wanted to visit Kensington Palace. I’ll have to orchestrate a trip to London! #culturedkids

    • September 24, 2020 / 11:34 am

      Well worth the journey from Devon

  8. September 24, 2020 / 10:24 am

    I thought only Prince William with his family lived here, I didn’t know that the other royal family members live here too. #culturedkids

    • September 24, 2020 / 11:35 am

      Kensington Palace is like a Royal apartment block 😉

  9. September 24, 2020 / 8:12 pm

    This would be such a great time to visit with fewer crowds.

  10. September 25, 2020 / 1:43 pm

    I always learn so much from your reviews – I’m clearly due a revisit as I can’t remember almost anything of what you’ve said! So glad you’re feeling confident on public transport again, it’s done me the world of good being able to get back into London when I want to. I haven’t yet taken the kids to Kensington Palace so that’s another good excuse to go #CulturedKids

  11. September 28, 2020 / 11:22 am

    I went with the kids a couple of years ago, and I too loved the rural feel of it. Thanks for the loo tip! #culturedkids

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