Day three in London was a grey and brisk Saturday, but one that was greatly enjoyable. Early in the morning, we went to the bustling Waterloo Station to catch a train to Hampton Court. After picking up our customary Starbucks coffees at the station, we boarded the train and enjoyed a 35-minute journey through southwest London. I have taken that very train ride several times, and I always enjoy it. From the train one can see sights such as Tower Bridge, the Shard, and Battersea Power Station- plus, the tracks weave through Wimbledon, which I find fascinating because of the area’s association with the pinnacle of the tennis calendar.
We arrived at Hampton Court Palace just after it opened, and although I visited once when I was younger, this time I was deeply impressed by the size of the Palace and its incredible architecture and attention to detail.
The Palace gates, complete with gilded wrought iron and beautiful stone statues
The earliest part of Hampton Court was built in 1514; after it was given to Henry VIII in 1529, the King built onto it. Later still, in the 17th century, King William III expanded the palace further, and added the grand Baroque section at the rear of the building. My favourite part of the Palace is the Tudor part. Although the later additions are awe-inspiring too, they are perhaps too ostentatious for my liking. The Tudor section has so much character as well as an incredibly impressive atmosphere. You can really feel the history when you are walking through the Tudor halls of Hampton Court.
Tudor alleyway near the original palace kitchens
Gorgeous red brick façade of the Tudor section- I love the striking stone statues lining the walkway. Each statue represents an important family of the era
One intriguing feature of Hampton Court’s Tudor architecture is the incredible array of chimneys. All of these chimneys are made of red brick like the rest of the palace, but each chimney has a different design. That’s right, no two chimneys are the same on the entire palace, and there are a lot of chimneys! It would be amazing to go round and examine each one of them- unfortunately, that would take an age to do, and our visit couldn’t accommodate such diligence since we wanted to spend time in the pub at lunchtime!
Just two of the intricate and unique chimneys
The Tudor kitchens were neat to see and were larger than I expected- as well, they were set up quite nicely, with models of authentic 16th-century fare laid out. There were all sorts of plates and utensils all over, and one room even had numerous stuffed peacocks in it. I could never eat a peacock, but apparently Tudor people did! The kitchens were fascinating, and it wasn’t too difficult to ignore the droves of tourists and instead imagine Tudor cooks rushing round the kitchens.
Part of the old Tudor kitchens, stacked with shining dinnerware to be used at special dinners in the Great Hall
One of my favourite parts of the palace was the Great Hall. It was grand without being pretentious, with soaring wooden ceilings and palatial proportions. The walls were hung with exquisite, if slightly faded, tapestries, and above them were dozens of sets of antlers. Perhaps the original owners of some of those antlers were killed by Henry VIII himself- after all, Henry VIII was a big fan of hunting. The Great Hall truly was magnificent, and definitely a room fit for royal feasts and unparalleled entertainment.
The Great Hall’s amazing ceiling and stained glass window remind me of ecclesiastical architecture, like that of Westminster Abbey
From the relative understatement of the Tudor section, we moved on to peruse the Baroque grandiosity of William III’s part of the Palace. This section has a lovely courtyard, around which are several long galleries containing portraits and sculptures. It was all very beautiful, but the later additions did not feel very cosy or livable to me. Showy and impressive they are, which was probably the point, but not comforting. Were I ever a resident of the palace, I would certainly choose to live in the Tudor part.
The calming courtyard in William III’s palace addition
An undeniably grand staircase and equally showy chandelier, on the way to the galleries
The royal staterooms were very impressive and had many interesting artifacts and pieces of furniture in them. It seems that no expense was spared in their construction, as they featured tapestries, Chinoiserie porcelain, crystal chandeliers, and ostrich feather decorations. Such precious objects complemented the palatial scale of the rooms themselves- the windows, which face onto the orderly Privy Garden, must be ten feet tall and five feet wide.
Royal Bedchamber (I believe it was created for Queen Mary, who was married to William III), complete with tapestries, crystal, and exotic ostrich feathers
The Privy Garden, seen from the staterooms
Hampton Court Palace really offers a wonderful experience, and could easily take up an entire day- there are audio-guides available in several languages, and costumed interpreters roam about the palace and grounds to answer questions and offer insight. The grounds are extensive and beautiful, although we did not spend much time in them on this particular visit. There was a bitter wind, and the pub was beckoning! But I would certainly recommend at least going through the famous hedge maze. My brother and I had great fun finding our way through the maze on my first trip to the UK, and it can be appreciated by kids and adults alike.
So, from the palace to the pub- my favourite pub, the Albion, is located a convenient 5 minutes’ walk away from Hampton Court. The Albion is a lovely cosy pub with delicious food. The atmosphere is welcoming and traditional instead of overly busy and commercial like some central London establishments I’ve been to, and the food is refined pub grub. Plus, and most importantly, they serve my pint of choice: Fuller’s London Pride.
Me and my London Pride… perfect! Image courtesy of Colleen Jacobs
After the Albion, we went up and down the street a bit and did some shopping. The area has some really charming shops and we enjoyed ourselves. There were antique shops, cute gift shops selling stationery and the like, and a sewing shop; and best of all, there wasn’t a mad press of people like there is in central London.
Once we were ready to return to the bustle of the capital, we boarded the train and then took the Tube to Kensington High Street. Since 2009 when I stayed at the Royal Garden Hotel, “KHS”, as I call it, has been one of my favourite shopping spots. We shopped there for awhile and then walked down to the Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall. By this time, it was dark out, and both landmarks were really gorgeous against the black sky.
Royal Albert Hall bathed in golden light
So ended our third day in London! It was on this day that I unfortunately got a sore throat- for me, a sure sign of an impending cold. But that didn’t affect the greatness of the day; we had a memorable time at Hampton Court and a super lunch at the Albion. If you are ever in London, don’t make the mistake of continually staying in the centre of things- Hampton Court and the surrounding area are the perfect testament to the fact that there’s loads of excitement further afield!