We took a trip out to Hampton Court Palace while we were staying in London this half term. Luckily for us the English schools were still hard at work so other than some school visits, the palace was very quiet. We were most interested in seeing the Tudor part of the castle, so after speaking to a lady at the information desk, we set off on two guided tours for kids – one of King Henry’s palace and one of the kitchens. We were given some Tudor gowns to wear but the boys quickly decided these were not cool!
There were also various events on during the day involving actors and plenty of audience participation. We saw one where Queen Elizabeth I was deciding the fate of Sir Walter Raleigh. The kids were far too intimidated by her to say anything. We then saw the old Tudor banqueting hall, chapel and the private pew of King Henry VIII. The corridor leading to it is said to be haunted by Katherine Howard who was dragged down the corridor to be taken to the Tower of London before having her head chopped off.
The gardens were great for a run around and let off a bit of steam and Britain’s oldest maze was a big hit although declared ‘too easy’. We had lunch at the Tiltyard Cafe. The food made us kind of wish we had been organised enough to bring a packed lunch, but the Hungry Caterpillars Den was a big hit. Yes, so even the boys who were too cool to wear the Tudor gown spent an hour playing with the wooden play kitchen, and we got to enjoy a cup of coffee in peace.
So my top tips would be – get some of the children’s guide booklets, get involved with the events and chat to the actors and staff who were so friendly and loved telling the kids tales about ghosts and goings on in the palace. Bring a packed lunch if the weather is nice and enjoy the beautiful gardens (and save some bread to feed the swans on the river on the way back to the station). The children’s audio guides might also be worth checking out.
This website has some great Tudor activities for kids which are great to have a look at before or after a visit. They include some Henry VIII colouring pages, and our personal favourite, a game where you can challenge him to a fight!
Or try this brilliant game and quiz about the life of Henry VIII set in Hampton Court!