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Hampton Court Palace - worth it?

Hello all!
I'll be solo in London for a long weekend, Feb. 8th through the 11th and I'm trying to settle my schedule. I've been to London a couple of times so I don't feel the need to go to the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, or the other big sites. I'm considering traveling out to Hampton Court Palace on one of the days, but it'll take about an hour and half to get there via public transportation.

My question is: Is it worth the trip? How many Rick Steves triangles would you give it? Note: I know a lot about the Tudor monarchy, having taken a class on monarchy in college in which the Tudors were prominently featured.

Related: Are there any "smaller" sites that you would recommend? So far I'm planning on going to the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Churchill War Rooms, but other than that I'm pretty open to suggestions.

Thanks for your suggestions!

Posted by
91 posts

My wife and I enjoyed our visit. Interesting to see 2 different times periods of history represented at the same castle. Part of it is from the early 1500's and King Henry VIII and part of it is from the 1600's and the renovation by King William III. Would give it 2 triangles, but in the late spring and summer when the gardens are in bloom we would give it 3 triangles! Best rose garden we have seen in our travels.

Posted by
3319 posts

I really enjoy Hampton Court Palace! It is a bit of a train ride but the palace is fascinating and the grounds are beautiful. I personally would award it 3 Rick triangles...if you are already interested in the Tudors then it really is a must-see.
Another place I really like outside of London that would be great solo is Hatfield House out near St. Albans. It's where Elizabeth 1st learned she was queen. One of my favorite stately houses in England. The original family still lives there and it is very well kept with lots of historic bits and bobs displayed around the house. The gardens are especially nice although in February they probably won't be at their best.

Posted by
64 posts

Yes, totally worth it! We went this past September after not going on our previous two trips to London because we thought it was so far out of town.

We left our hotel near St Pancras around 8:00, got to HCP before it opened and stayed until 2:00 pm. It took up a good chunk of our day but we packed in a lot. With palace additions ordered by subsequent monarchs, the Palace feels more like three or four palaces and the gardens are fantastic. They do a great job interpreting the history. We caught one of the interactive re-enactments that took us through the Palace with several actors involving us in the goings on at court. That was fun and informative.

I’m a big Victoria & Albert Museum fan, this past trip I went twice. The details of the building itself are lovely. The cafeteria, across the courtyard from the main entrance, is spectacularly beautiful (the food is good, too) and even the paper cups are pretty.

Posted by
1173 posts

Have you been to the Sir John Sloane Museum. It is a small museum, a house museum and it is amazing. It really is excellent and it is in the RS guide book.

The Wallace Collection is a beautiful museum. It was a mansion and it is charming. I also had lunch at their lovely resturant. It is right down the street from Selfridges.

I not been but next year plan to go to two house museums, the 18 Stafford Terrance and the Leighton House Museum. They both look very interesting and people on the fourm said they were. I found them on a blog and then on Instagram and then read their websites. They are near each other so you could do both on the same day. Do check their times.

I also plan to go to go to Hampton Court Palace and from what I heard and saw on YourTube videos I would say it is worth the trip.

I found the Churchill War Rooms very interesting and went twice on two different trips to London.

If you have not been to the Victoria & Albert museum, well that is a treat. I spent the whole day there this year and had lunch at their beautiful cafe.

Have a great time.

Posted by
646 posts

Yes Hampton Court is worth it.

For other less visited sites, visit The British War Museum for WWI and WWII. If you like Turner, Henry Moore, or The Pre Raphealites, Tate Bririan is well worth the trip.

Posted by
239 posts

It is actually the Imperial War Museum and it covers all conflicts involving UK armed forces from 1914. HMS Belfast, opposite the Tower, is part of it and well worth a visit. Another good museum is the Museum of London, Docklands which deals with the history of the port of London.

Posted by
5693 posts

Absolutely worth it. Simple and enjoyable train ride then easy walk to the palace grounds. In February there won’t be massive crowds which will add to your enjoyment. Garden won’t be in bloom but it still worth walking about. I’m NOT a huge history buff but found the 4 hours I spent there extremely interesting. If so inclined and if the timing works u could make a day of Hampton Court and Strawberry Hill House. Think they are about 30 minutes apart.

Another vote for the Sir John C Ritblat gallery at the British Library. Combine it with a meal at the Dishroom near St Martins college. Walk along the canal by St Pancras docks. This whole area has and is going under a brilliant refurbishment. It’s behind St Pancras Station. Look for the Gas Towers.

Museum of London is stellar. I always tell visitors to go and see it. From there 15-20 minute stroll to the glass covered Leadenhall Market. The Bank of England museum is enroute.

Leighton Museum and the Design Museum are near each other. Both visually intriguing. Lupitas Mexican restaurant before or after is a nice respite. About a 15 minute walk. Then stroll through Kensington Gardens past the palace.

The V & A is well done and definitely worth your time.

However there are a number of interesting smaller museums to discover in London as well. Research.

If you seek interesting non touristy spots see what’s happening at Wilton’s Music Hall. Another true hidden gem is Two Temple Palace. You need to check when it re opens in 2018.

Loads of intriguing markets to visit over a long weekend. Portobello, Bourough, Broadway, Maltby or just wander about Brick Lane and Spitafields.

Are you interested in a street art tour? If so:

Or check out Might be a weekend sojourn that meets your fancy.

I’m a cemetary wanderer. The Highgate cemetary tour where Karl Marx is buried is interesting. Meandered around Brompton cemetary on my last trip. Easy to get to via the Tube.

Posted by
1172 posts

We loved it so I would say for sure worth it. We also really enjoyed the Churchill war rooms.

Posted by
19175 posts

I didn't make it to Hampton Court Palace this year because I spent so much time in museums, among them the Victoria and Albert. The latter is not "small" by any definition.

Posted by
3547 posts

If you can spare a half-day, commuter trains will take you out to Bletchley Park where a relatively new museum is devoted to the clandestine code-breaking operations that played a major role in the Second World War. The massive and intricate gear-based machine that mastered the operation is considered a forerunner of the computer era. The displays give due credit to the many women who were essential in this top-secret initiative, which remained hidden from the general public long after the war ended.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you all so much! These reviews are exactly what I was looking for and Hampton Court definitely seems well worth the travel time. The other suggestions look fabulous too; I'm seeing another trip to London in my future, because 3 days will certainly not be enough!

Posted by
26039 posts

but it'll take about an hour and half to get there via public transportation.

How are you travelling? Bicycle??

It is only 36 minutes each way on the slow train from Waterloo to Hampton Court station and less than 5 minutes to walk over the Thames. Even faster on the fast train - 30 minutes.

You must be staying way out of town?

Posted by
3306 posts

My wife and I found the palace building itself to be very nice as are the gardens. We were disappointed with the scant furnishings, but overall it was worth visiting. After visiting the palace we walked across the street and had Sunday roast at the Mute Swan. If you tire of museums in London and just wanted places that don’t take a long time to see there are little Venice, Camden Lock, Cleopatra’s needle, Covent Garden, Liberty London and the shops on Carnaby street, Leadenhall Market, the original Twining Tea shop, and the SIS/MI-6 building. Other markets have already been mentioned.

Posted by
1238 posts

My wife and I are planning a trip to England (RS tours) with additional time in London at the end. We are planning to go to Hampton Court one the morning and Windsor Castle that afternoon. There is a shuttle that runs between the sites.

Posted by
26039 posts

Do you have more details on the shuttle, Bob?

Posted by
2753 posts

I've been to Hampton Court twice. Once was in December, while cold whether inside or out, we thoroughly enjoyed it. To me it is a main site...I've forgotten the triangle system...I'd give it three if that's the top scale.

Whenever I'm in London, I check to see what the exhibit is at the Queen's Gallery as I enjoy seeing art works there. The war museum is also interesting, again, particularly depending on what the exhibit is. Our last visit there was when they had an exhibit on cooking/rations during WWII, which was very check that as well.

Posted by
26039 posts

Thanks for the link.

I note that instead of closing for 3 days as previously advertised they have completely shut down for 6 months. They do run 4 times in the afternoon but need to be pre-booked.

In my mind the bigger question is why would you want to combine two all-day events into one day? Both Windsor Castle and Hampton Court Palace are large, complex, intense and expensive and well worth most of a full day each.

Posted by
12596 posts

We are planning to go to Hampton Court one the morning and Windsor
Castle that afternoon.

Throwing my vote in with Nigel: while I haven't yet done Hampton, I've been to Windsor and it is indeed more than a 1/2 day excursion. In fact, I'd made the mistake some years back of booking a 1/2 day bus excursion there (for convenience) and when it became apparent that we'd get a scant 90 minutes to explore before having to be back at the bus, we chose to make our way back to London by train when good and ready. I'd been to Windsor many years prior (husband hadn't) and knew there NO way to do it justice in that amount of time; even 3 hours would have been too short, in my book. There's too much to see and absorb. From what I understand, Hampton Court deserves quality time as well.

Anyway, we had a long, leisurely, 5+ hour visit at the castle, a nice walkabout of the town itself, and a couple of memorable (!) hours at a pub with a merry band of locals before catching a train back that evening.

Posted by
1173 posts

I forgot to include one more smaller museum. The Courtauld Gallery is a wonderful museum too and has some important paintings including a Manet. Nice museum to be done in a few hours and not a lot of people go to that museum.

Posted by
8400 posts

@ Bob, I agree with the others that trying to do both Windsor Castle and Hampton Court in the same day is too much. If you just have one day to devote to that endeavor, I would pick one and add the other to your To Do list for the next trip.

If you are doing this at the end of your Best of England tour (a WONDERFUL tour, by the way!!) you may be pooped and not have the energy for both on one day as well.

To the OP, I would give whatever the top amount of triangles are for Hampton Court, even in winter. Since you know a lot about the Tudors you will probably enjoy it even more. That time of year it may not be as crowded so you can also chat with the docents/guards in each room. They are usually extremely knowledgeable and often enjoy interacting with people who are interested in what they are seeing. They can add little tidbits you don't even know to ask. Did you know the horses from the Royal Mews in London come out to Hampton Court (not on display or in a public area) for a vacation in the summer?

editing to add: I just got lost looking at the Hampton Court website. This program looks SO interesting if you have an interest at all in suffragettes! Feb 9 is the last day.

Posted by
1238 posts

I am grateful for your concern. We are long term independent travelers and have done this kind of activity before. Also, as independent travelers we have more than once and will, when necessary, "call an audible" and change our plans.

I was looking just to go to Windsor Castle but noticed their site recommended coming in the afternoon as the morning was when all the tour buses arrive. So what else could we do in the morning? Well Hampton Court is not far away. The gardens open at 9:00 am and the palace at 10:00 am. Depending on timing, and our shuttle reservation, we could eat lunch there or delay it to Windsor. Windsor is an interesting town and we were thinking of having dinner there after seeing the castle and before returning to London with some time to explore. Note, going to Hampton Court and Windsor Castle on separate days would require "wasting" the time of two round trip trains and an extra day we could use in London.

Oh, not only will we be in London at the end of Ricks's Best of England tour, but we will have preceded it with his South England tour. Month long trips are the normal way we travel as that is the best use of the cost and hassle of the plane trips.

Why are we taking the tours when as independent travelers England should be easy? The rental car company told me I was too "old" and they would not rent a car to me. Bummer!!!!

Posted by
26039 posts

My Dad was able to rent cars in England when he was 82.

Look at a different company?

Posted by
1238 posts

At this point we already have paid tour reservations.

Posted by
1013 posts

As someone who’s visited both castles, doing both in one day is pushing it.My suggestion is Windsor Castle as this is actually used by the Queen. Eaton is a lovely town and in certain seasons one can visit Eton College. Save HC for another visit.