Royal Palaces – Hampton Court vs. Windsor Castle

With the Jubilee weekend fast approaching and all forms of media saturated with insights into and pictures of our dutiful monarch’s life, you may have been inspired to check out our historic palaces, in between getting tangled up in Union Jack bunting and eating cake in your local street party of course.

For those of you based in London who want to use the long weekend to venture tentatively out of the big smoke but not go too far, two of the options available are Hampton Court and Windsor Castle. Read on for my verdict on which is the one more worth your precious extra holiday time.

Hampton Court

Highlights:

  • The Chapel Royal is just opulent. The deep blue colour, gold gilding and intricate designs on the ceiling make the Chapel Royal a must-see.
  • The riverside location gives this palace a scenic pazazz and approaching it is something to be done slowly to drink in the view.
  • For classics and history geeks the renaissance paintings and classical touches are one of those little extras about Hampton Court that make it an exciting site to explore. The set of nine paintings called ‘The Triumphs of Caesar’ on display are a must-see and look out for the sculpted heads of the different Roman emperors on display on the walls in the numerous courtyards.
  • Want to know how a Tudor kitchen worked and looked – you can have a look at Hampton Court…
  • The King’s Staircase. The stunning paintings that adorn this staircase are made even more amazing by the fact that you don’t really expect to come across the staircase. The paintings depict William III as Alexander Great triumphing over the Stuarts and as you ascend the staircase you feel you are ascending the heavenly heights William III presumably thought he achieved too.
  • The re-enactment people are pretty good too.

Cons:

  • They need more ice-cream flavours (this is of course really important).
  • There needed to be more signage up explaining different rooms although the staff were very friendly and happy to be approached with questions.

Windsor Castle

Highlights:

  • The medieval turrets give this royal home an impressive appearance, that left me mouthing ‘wow’ as it came into view as I approached Windsor on the train.
  • The state apartments are the main thing to see and some are the rooms are majestic, with the walls adorned with portraits of monarchs and war heroes. Some of the rooms are a bit tasteless though…
  • St. George’s Chapel. While not as magnificent as the Chapel Royal, it was very interesting to see the tombs of some of the personages buried there. The Queen’s own father has a memorial area and it is touching to think that this is where the Queen comes to pay her respects to her father.
  • Queen Mary’s doll house. Yes a giant doll house. Where else would you expect to find one built by top designers than the home of a filthy rich monarchy?
  • There are some sweet weapons on display. Wonder if the Queen every had a go with them?

Cons:

  • As mentioned above, some of the rooms are just tasteless. It feels like they have thrown in so many wood carvings and paintings that the rooms feel smaller and claustrophobic, like in poem, ‘Portrait of a Lady’ by T.S. Eliot. And one room had so much gold gilding I felt I had wondered into one of the Ecclestone sisters’ drawing rooms.
  • The rooms sort of all blended into one with no particular one standing out.

Verdict:

Hampton Court wins hands down in my opinion. The architecture and decor of the rooms is more breath-taking and it just feels like there are more interesting things to see.  And the gardens and maze make this a stunning summertime site for a visit.

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