Kensington Palace

Top choice palace in Kensington & Hyde Park

Image by Clifton Wilkinson Lonely Planet

Built in 1605, Kensington Palace became the favourite royal residence under William and Mary of Orange in 1689, remaining so until George III became king and moved out. Today, it's still a royal residence, with the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and his wife Catherine) and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Prince Harry and Meghan) living there. A large part of the palace is open to the public, however, including the King's and Queen's State Apartments.

The King's State Apartments are the most lavish, starting with the Grand Staircase, a dizzying feast of trompe l'oeil. The beautiful Cupola Room, once the venue of choice for music and dance, is arranged with gilded statues and a gorgeous painted ceiling. The Drawing Room is beyond, where the king and courtiers would entertain themselves with cards.

Visitors can also access Victoria's apartments where Queen Victoria (1819–1901) was born and lived until she became Queen. An informative narrative about her life is told through a few personal effects, extracts from her journals and plenty of visual props.

Replacing the long-running Fashion Rules exhibition and running until 2018, Diana: Her Fashion Story celebrates the stunning dress sense of the former Princess of Wales. Admission is included in the ticket to the palace.

Don't overlook the splendid gardens, including the charming sunken garden and the 'cradle walk' arbour that surrounds it. The gardens are one of the venues of Luna Cinema, a highly popular open-air cinema that runs in the warmer months, screening modern-classic cinema.

Book online for cheaper rates. Unlimited year-long admission to Kensington Palace, the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kew Palace and Banqueting House is £50 (see the website for details) and is well worth considering. Also see online for details on activities for kids and tots too.