Hampton Court Palace, once home to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Henry the 8th, William III of England, and many others. Below you’ll find my Hampton Court tour of the famed Henry VIII palace as well as recommendations on how to get there by train, how long to spend, and other useful tips! I had wanted to visit Hampton Court Palace since 2006! I missed it yet again in 2013! But this year, the 500th anniversary of Hampton Court Palace, I finally made it! It was meant to be, clearly!
Hampton Court History
In the 13th century, Hampton Court Palace started as a manor for the Knights Hospitallers of St John Jerusalem. They eventually rented out the property and land to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey on a 99-year lease. Starting in 1514, he began transforming it from a private house, then into a vast palace complex. His goal was to build a palace to impress the whole of Europe. It was so opulent; it attracted the eye of King Henry VII. Once Cardinal Wolsey fell out of favor in 1528, the Palace was Henry’s!
Train to Hampton Court Palace
Having gotten a discounted ticket to Hampton Court Palace from YHA London Oxford, I was on my way! It’s a quick ride from the Waterloo train station to the Hampton Court train station, and I was there. It took about an hour and 15 minutes to get from London to Hampton Court Palace by train. The station is just across the road from Hampton Court, so it’s completely walkable.
Edit: Do check the directions from wherever your accommodations are because the Waterloo start point may not be the easiest or quickest for you. I highly recommend the Maps.me app for directions! I have since mapped this out and no longer see this train arriving at the Hampton Court station, but instead, the Teddington train station, which is a 1.8-mile walk away. It certainly may have changed in the five years since I’ve been. Do check before visiting as taking the train to Hampton Court Palace may no longer be the best route!
Starting My Hampton Court Tour
Walking up to Hampton Court Palace was simply magical; there are no other words for it. Maybe it was the fact that I’ve waited so long to see it or the fact that I’m a history nerd, but either way, it was simply breathtaking. So much so, that I actually stood in the middle of the road staring at it. Till a truck honked at me to move over. Oops!
I arrived around 10:30 am and was handed a guide of the palace and garden. As well as a schedule of events on the Hampton Court tour. Because it’s the 500th anniversary, they’ve really outdone themselves. Before visiting Hampton Court, make sure to check their schedule for what’s happening on the days you’re in England. There may be something special going on certain days, so you can then plan around it.
Hampton Court Tudor Reenactment
On the schedule at around 11 am was a Tudor Welcome time play or Tudor reenactment, which started below the great clock. Some fantastic actors came out in period clothing and performed as if it were still King Henry VIII’s time. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was giddy. I love this sort of thing! The actress portraying Anne Boleyn was my favorite of the group. And thankfully, my stored knowledge of Anne’s life from history class and the Tudors tv series kicked in. Spoiler: not everything in the Tudors was true.
The Hampton Court Palace Great Hall
From the courtyard, under the great clock, we followed them into the Great Hall, where one of the actresses asked me ‘if I’d heard the rumors’ (though she might have used the word whispers, I can’t recall now). I happily played along, though I only guessed it was about Henry and Anne.
We proceeded into the wine cellar where we were asked to keep quiet so we would not be heard by Anne and her ‘boyfriend’ (for lack of a better word) Henry Percy. Henry Percy is primarily remembered as the betrothed of Anne Boleyn, whom she was forced to give up before getting involved with King Henry VIII. As the scene unraveled, I came to realize it was the breakup scene. Sad, but marvelously performed. The actors they have at Hampton Court Palace are top-notch!
Anne Boleyn at the Palace
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn had several plans for Hampton Court Palace. It is today estimated that he spent £18 million to extend and improve the Palace. He upgraded it by adding…
- Tennis courts
- Bowling alleys
- Pleasure gardens
- A 1,100 acre and hunting park
- Kitchens which covered over 36,000 square feet
- A chapel
- The Great Hall
- The Great House of Easement – a lavatory system which could seat 28 people at a time
- Lead pipes to carry water from Kingston’s Coombe Hill, 3 miles away, to the palace
- Paintings – Henry VIII commissioned Renaissance artist Hans Holbein as his Royal painter
Surprisingly, there are very few remnants of Anne Boleyn’s reign at Hampton Court Palace. I took photos of two such examples below. The H and A entwined was the symbol of their union. The first image is over a passageway, and the second is inside the Hampton Court Palace Great Hall. All others to my knowledge were erased when she was dethroned.
Source: The Anne Boleyn Files
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey’s Apartment
After the time plays finished, I wandered around some of the galleries. There’s some fascinating art on the Hampton Court tour, like this piece below. I liked how the water was painted. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like that before. From the gallery, I then found myself in Cardinal Thomas Wolsey’s apartments. There’s some graffiti in his fireplace that says ‘Who tries it, knows it.’ Not quite sure what to make of that. Though It gave me something to think about while I made my way through the rest of the gallery.