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Hampton Court Palace vs Blenheim Palace

Hi again,

Onto the next site to coordinate... Buckingham Palace is closed to visitors in late June when we are in London and Holyroodhouse is closed to visitors in early July when we are in Edinburgh. I would like to tour one palace.

We are taking a day trip by train to Oxford so one daughter wants to go to Blenheim Palace, and I must say the website is breathtaking. We had wanted to go to the Cotswolds but are out of time so maybe a day in Oxford and a trip to the Palace would fill that void until our next trip. And, it looks like we can easily take a taxi from the Oxford Train Station.

We also are very interested in the Tudor Family so Hampton Court Palace sounds fascinating. It sounds like the gardens are beautiful and we could explore outdoors and well as indoors.

I would love opinions on these two. Thank you!

Posted by
2759 posts

I would chose Blenheim Palace, it is so beautiful. We were there most of a day. We toured the palace, had a great lunch in the cafe, visited the garden and enjoyed the butterfly house.
Hampton Court is also very nice.

Posted by
4063 posts

They are both wonderful , but the historical focus is different . Read a bit of history to determine what you find most interesting .

Posted by
5813 posts

Blenheim gets my vote. While there, cross the street to Bladon and visit Churchill’s grave at St. Martin’s church. I enjoyed Hampton Court, but most of the rooms were fairly empty. However, it is easy to reach from London.

Posted by
1895 posts

It depends on where your interests lie. I enjoyed seeing Hampton Court as there were interpreters in some of the rooms such as the kitchen and they'd talk about working in a Tudor kitchen. But then I'm a history nerd.

Since you are going to be near Oxford anyway, it might be just as easy to go to Blenheim Palace. Which is more recent history.

Posted by
5251 posts

If you go to Blenheim I suggest the most efficient way is to take the train from Marylebone to Oxford Parkway rather than the City, and take the bus from there. Return to the City itself by bus for the rest of the day.

I think Blenheim Palace is overblown and overwhelming but not in a good way.

Hampton Court Palace is glorious - so many parts from different eras, so much to explore.

Posted by
1079 posts

I’ve been to both and I enjoyed both of them so I think you can’t lose either way! Sorry I wasn’t too much help, lol. If you want beauty and aesthetics, pick Blenheim but if you want history, pick Hampton Court. Hope that helps! By the way, I see that you’re from LA so if you’re interested in coming to a travel group meeting, PM me. Our next one is March 17 at Papa Kristos which I believe is in Koreatown.

Posted by
31533 posts

I'm going to wander off on a completely different tack but one that I think will meet your needs more.

Based on the first paragraph of your question it is clear that you would like to visit a Royal Palace - preferably one used by the Queen - which is furnished and and to your eyes and those of the family looks like a palace inside and out.

Perhaps it is best to not get hung up with the names that building complexes have. What you are looking for is a viewable royal residence.

Windsor Castle checks all the boxes. Windsor Castle has been occupied by the Royal Family since 1110 when Henry I built Royal apartments. Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. It is open to visitors throughout the year.

Founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, it has since been the home of 39 monarchs. Today the Queen spends most of her private weekends at the Castle.

It is fully furnished, and feels and looks like a palace. It is one. Be aware that Windsor Castle will be closed all day on Monday 17 June and closes early on Thursday 27 June (last admission 15:00, Castle closes 16:00). The castle will be open but the State Apartments will be closed on June 14, 16, 18. Best to plan around those dates. St George's Chapel is closed on the 14th and 15th of June. They close when special royal events are happening.

The State Rooms are incredible. The Semi-State rooms are never open in the summer.

In my opinion it is the best place to tick all the boxes. Oh yes, they do a Changing of the Guard too. Meghan and Harry's wedding last Spring was at Windsor Castle, in the St George's Chapel which you can visit when it is open.

And the new Undercroft cafe should be open by then (watch this space)...

Posted by
31533 posts

Nothing against two other places mentioned though...

I love Hampton Court Palace and regularly return (gotta keep an eye on the flower theatre display near the Great Vine and Hampton Court Banqueting House, you know), but it isn't furnished very much, hasn't been lived in by Royalty for yonks, and is designed to show many various periods of history but certainly not as an integrated palace of modern day.

Blenheim Palace (built 1705-1722) has never called out to me for some reason. I visited there many years ago and despite my parents living not far away, and later having a business quite close, I've never returned. It is considerably newer than the others, only dating back to the War of the Spanish Succession- it only has 300 years of history. Very Churchill oriented (always owned by the Churchills (Duke of Marlborough), not royal.

Posted by
4082 posts

I have been to Blenheim and Windsor-I agree with Nigel that Windsor should be your first choice.

Posted by
340 posts

Just throwing in my opinion having visited all three sites a few times:
1 - Windsor Castle
2 - Hampton Court Palace
3 - Blenheim Palace

Nigel is spot-on in his description of Windsor Castle fulfilling your desire to see a palace, and the town of Windsor is very pleasant to wander in. But if date restrictions won’t allow a visit there, Hampton Court Palace and it’s gardens are fantastic.

Posted by
3134 posts

Nigel is spot-on in his description of Windsor Castle fulfilling your desire to see a palace, and the town of Windsor is very pleasant to wander in. But if date restrictions won’t allow a visit there, Hampton Court Palace and it’s gardens are fantastic.

I agree with Mary, and Nigel, and others. Sounds as if you want Windsor Castle as a first choice. I loved Hampton Court as well, but it is totally different than visiting a live, working, royal castle. I haven't been to Bleinham, but will someday. Blenheim is where my daughter had her 'Hen' party, even though they all had their masters in history, still...puts it in a slightly different light, for me at least. LOL

Posted by
13220 posts

I'll just add that technically the Tower of London is a palace, since I know you are planning to visit there. It was a medieval palace as well as a fortress and a prison.

I also vote for Windsor Palace and Hampton Court, both of which I've visited multiple times.

I've also visited Blenheim Palace. Perhaps my visit was colored by having the world's worst docent and then it was bucketing down rain so visiting the gardens was a non-starter. At the time I visited there had been an exhibit on the use of the Palace during WWII to house kids evacuated from London (I think) which I found very interesting. I am not a shopper but there was a very nice gift shop here.

Posted by
1400 posts

I agree with Nigel on Windsor seeming more like a royal palace; just for scale, etc. If you are really into the Tudor, you should do the Tudor era tour at Hampton Court as well as the Tower of London. Read "The Tudor Age" by Jasper Ridley before you go. I have always followed the Tudors in reading and movies...maybe it was genetic because getting my DNA and starting my genealogy...most of my Dad's lines had people alive during their reign. Most of them left for Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1600s. Blenheim has a nice estate...but I didn't find the interiors that memorable. Blenheim and Woodstock does make a great gateway for the Cotswolds, so I would visit when I had more time to visit that and Bath and Wales. Go to Castle Howard near York or Chatsworth near Derby for Wow! When in Edinburgh be sure to visit the Castle; it is a great military museum and has the best view location in town. You can visit Stirling it has authentic restored interiors. I liked Lithlingow where Mary Queen of Scots was born.

Posted by
420 posts

I've been to all 3 and agree with Nigel. Windsor Castle was the best of all three.
There's nothing wrong with Blenheim or Hampton Court. I liked visiting those places, but if you can only go to one:

Choose Windsor Castle

Posted by
2451 posts

I’ve been to all 3 one time, and agree with Nigel and others that Windsor Castle offers the most complete experience. Lovely town too. However, it might be worthwhile to re-visit Blenheim Palace, just to experience “the world’s worst docent”. How bad must that be! Could I be assured of being assigned to him or her?

Posted by
909 posts

I really appreciate the feedback! I wonder if Blenheim Palace would be too much to combine with a day trip to Oxford. We don’t plan to see museums in Oxford but want to see other sites, go to a pub, walk along the river, Christ Church...

I was really hoping to get a taste of the Cotswold but am out of time.

Posted by
31533 posts

If you have time to visit Blenheim Palace in conjunction with wandering through Oxford (know that if you want to visit any of the Colleges (architecture, history) most only open in the afternoon), you have time to wander instead on a bus to Stow on the Wold (or elsewhere - it is too early in the morning for my little grey cells yet) and return. Only a glimpse, but can be done in the time you would have to put in at Blenheim.

I would just stick in Oxford.

I know, I know. Kid in a candy store. It is hard.

Posted by
1167 posts

I can't answer Blenheim vs Hampton. I have been to both. Given my druthers, I would return to Blenheim first as it has been awhile, and I did not spend all the time there I wanted to. I am a fan of London Walks tours and checked their summer offerings. In addition to the ones mentioned below, their list includes a Blenheim and Oxford tour, but I could not locate any 2019 summer dates - might be worth an email.

Our Summer 2019 schedule of trips to The Cotswolds is now mapped out. In Summer 2019 we will go to The Cotswolds on Saturday, May 11; Saturday, May 18; Sunday, June 2; Sunday, June 16; Sunday, June 30; Sunday, July 14; Sunday, July 28; Sunday, August 11; Sunday, August 25; Sunday, September 8; and Sunday, September 22. And our Cotswolds & Oxford trip – which does not go to the same villages the full day in The Cotswolds trip takes in – will take place every Wednesday from May 15 through October 9.

Maybe one of these options would fit your schedule?

Posted by
137 posts

I have not been to Blenheim Palace. I agree it looks beautiful.

My very favorite HCP just does not seem to be getting the love I think it deserves so I'm piping in with my two cents :)

The fun stuff about HCP:

  • It's two palaces in one - both Tudor and and Christopher Wren's new
    palace for William and Mary.

  • You get to wear a cape, which is free as is their audio recording. Who doesn't want to wear a cape? :)
    It has beautiful tapestries hanging in their great hall which are
    considered to be some of the earliest and most important works in the
    Royal Collection.

There are costumed characters running around (usually yelling at each
other comically)

there is Henry VIII's tennis court - that people still play on

the beautiful gardens

the world's largest (??) grape vine

The beautiful king's and queen's rooms from the Georgian era

the Tudor kitchens are active, working kitchens and they sometimes
have food to try

  • The Triumph of Cesar, a massive piece of Renaissance Art, is also hanging there, in it's own gallery by the grape vine.

the beautiful hedge maze

many of the amazing Tudor family portraits you see in books are
hanging in the palace

It just seems that just when you get enough of one thing, there's something totally different to check out.

And yes, Windsor is wonderful as well. They also have a wonderful audio guide that is full of fun tidbits.

Have the best time on your vacation. You'll love it no matter where you go! :)

Posted by
909 posts

Is there a charming town near Hampton Court Palace to explore as well? Part of the appeal of Blenheim is that Oxford is nearby.

Posted by
392 posts

I'm presuming you will take the train to Hampton Court which is at the end of the line and perhaps the only place of interest (unless you want to shop in Kingston) would be Wimbledon but I suspect the tennis will be on at that time which rules out a visit to the museum. One option which would be very pleasant is to take a river cruise down stream to Richmond Upon Thames. This takes 1.45 but it's a nice stretch if River and then Richmond is an upmarket town to perhaps grab some dinner and then head back into London on the tube (district line) or train (to Vauxhall or Waterloo depending on where you are staying). If the weather's good which I hope it will be being out on the Thames fir the afternoon would be very enjoyable.

Posted by
2445 posts

We had 2 days in Oxford and toured Blenheim in the morning and by 2 pm that day we went back to Oxford to see things there, for example, the world-class Ashmolean Museum. That’s in case, you like museums. We didn’t have time to see much of the University but the town of Oxford is old itself and interesting.
The gardens should be pleasant to tour in June, too.

I vote for Blenheim!

Posted by
3969 posts

First, consider going to Windsor Castle as Nigel and others recommended.

As for Hampton Court v Blenheim, I'd choose Hampton Court. Blenheim disappointed me. Now while the land is absolutely breathtaking (plus those magnificent evergreens & game birds), when I went 18 month ago, it seemed like the current owners wanted to bilk as much as they could from the visitors. You are already paying a pricey entrance ticket which for me would be worth it if it were inclusive of all tour opportunities. There was the basic tour but then if you wanted to go for a tour of the kitchens and downstairs, that tour was priced separately. The same for the tour inside the living spaces of the current owners. Now maybe it's different now, but on the main tour, chairs/sofas/etc were jammed into some of the galleries as if we were looking at a storage area amid grand paintings. The area focusing on Winston Churchill's childhood room was pristine however. You can easily get to Blenheim Palace by bus from the train station. The bus will drop you off at the gate and then you have about 1/2 mile to absolutely enjoy the gorgeous vistas.

Hampton Court is fascinating but I'd still go to Windsor Castle first.

Posted by
161 posts

In favor of Hampton Court if you are staying in London because you can take a boat there! You can also take a boat to Kew Gardens (and tube home/back.)

Posted by
10333 posts

We have been to Blenheim Palace twice. I have no desire to return there but the town of Woodstock has some charm. I agree with heading out to Windsor, so much history there.