The home of royalty

Kensington Palace tour, London, visit Kensington Palace

The home of royalty

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This is the website of travel writer, Michael Turtle. After working in broadcast journalism for a decade in Australia, Michael left Sydney to travel the world indefinitely and write about his discoveries.

Kensington Palace Tour, London

She stares down at me from the picture on the wall, smiling, a portrait of a happier time. A white dress; a thin figure; short blonde hair; pearly teeth; and dazzling eyes. This is the Princess Diana who the people remember.

Kensington Palace tour, London, visit Kensington Palace

In a room full of portraits here at Kensington Palace in London, hers draws the most attention. It’s not surprising – her presence here always did. You only have to cast your mind back to the hundreds of thousands of flowers placed at the gate outside after her death to see how the building and the woman were so intrinsically linked. Once she became a royal, she never truly stopped being one. Kensington Palace may have been her sanctuary at times but it was also her prison.

There are tributes to the Princess Diana here – the portrait, a collection of her dresses, modern wallpaper created with sketching of her. But, although we may associate the palace with her, many imposing women have come before.

Kensington Palace tour, London, visit Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace tour, London, visit Kensington Palace

Before Diana it was Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister. She used Kensington Palace as her residence and would host parties with some of the world’s most glamorous and interesting celebrities. She was a slightly controversial figure, perhaps more interesting in socialising than official duties, but it helped raise the status of the building in the eyes of royal watchers. King Edward VIII (her uncle) had once previously called it the “aunt heap” because of the number of lesser royals who had been given rooms there.

Kensington Palace tour, London, visit Kensington Palace

These are the things I’m learning on my tour of the palace with City Wonders, a guided walk of the building and the gardens (oh, plus high tea!). It’s easy enough to visit the palace on your own and buy a ticket, but I like hearing the stories. My guide, Alison, seems to be able to answer any tricky question I throw her. (“What does the Queen see when she looks out her window at Buckingham Palace?” I throw in at one point.)

Kensington Palace tour, London, visit Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace tour, London, visit Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace tour, London, visit Kensington Palace

Most of Kensington Palace is private and you can’t access it. The latest residents –   William, Catherine, George and Harry – include the second, third and fourth in line for the throne. It’s actually surprising there isn’t more security (although it might just be hidden well). The areas the public are able to visit are essentially a museum made up of some of the older and more historical rooms. Don’t expect to see Diana’s bedroom, for instance.

Kensington Palace tour, London, visit Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace tour, London, visit Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace tour, London, visit Kensington Palace

The history is just as interesting as the stories you read in the magazines these days, though. The most imposing figure presented through the museum is Queen Victoria, the longest-serving British monarch (for now). She was living in Kensington Palace when she became queen at the age of 18. Although she moved to Buckingham Palace after her coronation, the rooms where she grew up have now been dedicated to her life.

Kensington Palace tour, London, visit Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace tour, London, visit Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace tour, London, visit Kensington Palace

On display are fascinating items like childhood toys, presents and even her wedding dress. Photographs show her decline in mood after the death of her husband, Prince Albert. My guide, Alison, explains that Victoria blamed her eldest son for her husband’s because he got sick after travelling to confront him about a scandal.

Kensington Palace tour, London, visit Kensington Palace

The Kensington Palace tour is fascinating but ultimately I find it to be more about the people and their stories than the building itself. Many of the rooms have been decorated with modern artwork or modified to be used as exhibition halls. You don’t get a real sense of what it is like today but you do come away with an excellent understanding of some of the people who once called it home.

You can find out more information here about The Kensington Palace tour

Time Travel Turtle was a guest of City Wonders Tours but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

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11 Comments
  • Jen Seligmann | Apr 17, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    I felt the same in terms of not really getting to see much of the building itself. It was the main reason I visited and I left feeling a bit disappointed. I did however love the main staircase inside regardless of whether it is modernised or not and the gardens in full bloom are beautiful.
    Jen Seligmann recently posted..Music & Memories: 9 Songs From My TravelsMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 23, 2014 at 11:40 pm

      The way it has been presented is much more as a museum than an authentic representation of what the palace would have been like (or is like). I get the feeling people often don’t know what to expect (I was one of them). I enjoyed hearing all the stories from my guide, though, and it was actually a good way to learn a lot more about British royal history.

  • Aimee Barrowclift | Apr 18, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    I completely agree about the walking/guided tours. I’m all for self exploration and discovery, but some places (like this one!) is “hollow” without someone knowledgeable bringing it to life. Thanks for the post – I’ve really enjoyed hearing about it!
    Aimee Barrowclift recently posted..An Afternoon Wandering HCM [Vietnam]My Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 23, 2014 at 11:42 pm

      I’m just like you. You get so much information out of guided tours, it’s important to know which places are worth doing one. I found the same thing with the Tower of London too – there is lots to see but it’s the stories and the history that really make it worthwhile.

  • Carmen | Apr 19, 2014 at 12:22 am

    I really enjoyed our visit to Kensington Palace – I found it much more interesting than Buckingham Palace. Mainly because of the theories that it’s haunted and that a lot of the women who’ve lived there have been there during unhappy times in their lives. Did you learn about the spookiness of the place? I wrote a blog about it too >> http://double-barrelledtravel.com/the-cursed-palace-top-5-haunted-tales-of-kensington-palace/
    Carmen recently posted..An insight into the recent conflict in Kyiv, UkraineMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 23, 2014 at 11:43 pm

      Great post! I didn’t actually learn too much about the spookiness of it so that’s a great read. The women were definitely unhappy there often, that’s true. Maybe I’ll have to go back and look for the ghosts next time!!

  • Christopher | Apr 28, 2014 at 4:40 am

    Well, first of all, I want your camera. Beautiful photos. Striking, brilliant colours. I might have visited this residence years and years ago, but I’ve forgotten now. What a treat for people who aren’t able to travel to London. Your tour was great.
    Christopher recently posted..Another Beautiful Birthday Reading — Lori Fischer reading “Pretty”My Profile

    • Michael Turtle | May 4, 2014 at 8:38 am

      Thanks, Christopher. There’s actually nothing too special about my camera – I use a Canon 600D which is an entry-level DSLR from a few years ago. I do edit the shots a bit to give them a bit more brightness and colour normally but don’t do anything else fancy. I try to make an effort to not take the same shots as other tourists, though. I think if you play around with angles and stuff, you can make things look a lot more interesting.

  • Jennifer | May 20, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    I’ve been to Buckingham Palace when it is open for a brief time in the summer, but not to Kensington Palace. I would love this tour because I am a bit obsessed with the Royals!
    Jennifer recently posted..Cannes Day Trip: Île Sainte-MargueriteMy Profile

  • Mary @ Green Global Travel | Jul 7, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Interesting post and pretty pictures! It sounds like a guide definitely made it more worthwhile. Thanks for sharing!
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..SWEDEN: The Moose Whisperer & the Coolest Moose in SwedenMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Jul 12, 2014 at 6:56 am

      Thanks, Mary. Yeah, I really enjoyed all the stories and extra information.

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