Kensington Palace

 

This article first appeared on the Visit Britain Super Blog in 2012.

With the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 there was a lot of interest in all things royal, especially in London so it was very timely that Kensington Palace completed its £12 million renovation and reopened 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 a  cafe for visitors to the palace and the gardens, as well as The Orangery for afternoon tea, making the building much more inviting.

Kensington Palace

© Laura Porter

There are 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

Victoria Revealed Kensington Palace

© Laura Porter

We often think of Queen Victoria as an old lady who looked miserable and wore black all the time but this exhibition can remind 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

Queen's Apartments Kensington Palace

© Historic Royal Palaces

These rooms, while stunning in their own right, are quite dark to visit and had 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

The King's Gallery Kensington Palace

© 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.

 Diana

Diana dresses at Kensington Palace

© Nick Wilkinson/newsteam.co.uk

This was the first temporary exhibition and featured the ‘People’s Princess’. The display of Diana, Princess of Wales’s dresses was on until 1 September 2012.

Kensington Palace foyer

© Laura Porter

The transformation of Kensington Palace was 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.

This article first appeared on the Visit Britain Super Blog in 2012.