Normally, I don’t consider Kensington Palace to be on the “A” list of things to see in London (especially if it’s your first time). However, they have just completed a major renovation (“refurbishment” as they say in Britain) and this is definitely on my list of “must sees” this year.
A little history - Its habitation by royals goes back to the William and Mary days (late 1600’s) where the famous Christopher Wren (of St. Paul’s fame) helped expand the existing structure. It became the seat of the reigning monarch until George II. Queen Victoria, granddaughter of George III, was born here. Once she became queen, she moved to Buckingham Palace and Kensington fell into disrepair. She always loved it, and helped it from being demolished . Thanks to her, the State Apartments have been open to the public since 1899.
Kensington Palace remains a royal residence (some of the Queen’s cousins that still live there). Most know that the most famous recent royal to have lived there was Princess Diana. The Queen’s sister, Margaret, lived there, and her apartment is going to be renovated so that Will and Kate can move in next year.
The 2 year renovation included updates to the State Apartments as well as the gardens. I remember having to enter through a small side door; you felt like you were entering through a servant’s quarters. They have constructed a grand new entrance so you are awe inspired right from the “get go”. There is a special exhibit to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Victoria, the first queen to reign for 60 years. There is also a small display of Princess Diana’s dresses. I’ve gone to other dress exhibits there and they are always fabulous.
I’ve been to Kensington Palace a couple of times. Usually I’ve gone because of the special exhibits. The State Apartments were fine but, as I mentioned initially, not what I could call of “A” list interest. However, I am looking forward to seeing the new and improved State Apartments complete with their new displays and interactive exhibits. And, since I love taking a good photo, the revamped gardens promise to be a nice treat. I also feel I desperately need an updated picture of the Victoria statue; they’ve cleaned her up quite nicely (see photos above).
Stay tuned for my updated report post-Olympics!