The palaces that once graced London’s river to the south and west of the city centre were built in places that remain popular today, from Hampton Court and Richmond in the west, downriver to Greenwich. There, on a deep meander in the Thames, a vast Tudor palace was the dramatic first sight of the city for anyone arriving by ship. That palace has been replaced by Wren’s handsome Royal Naval College, a stunning riverside building that is the high point of this World Heritage Site and the start of the many delights of Greenwich Park. These include the Royal Observatory Greenwich, home of world time. Richmond’s palace has also disappeared, but opposite the Park lies Kew Palace in the grounds of the incomparable Royal Botanic Gardens. Chiswick House, Ham House and Syon House are the best of a number of palatial mansions near Richmond, while culture is catered for in the Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Horniman Museum.

Greenwich Palace

The ruins of this enormous royal riverside palace lie beneath the Old Royal Naval College green. Many of the Tudor monarchs lived here, including Henry VI, Henry VII and Henry VIII. Abandoned under the Commonwealth in 1652, it was eventually demolished for Wren’s present buildings.

  1. Hampton Court

    Visiting this historic, royal Tudor palace and its extensive grounds is a popular day out from London. As well as family trails and special exhibitions, tours of six separate areas with costumed or audio guides are available. Events held here throughout the year include a week-long music festival in June, which regularly attracts big-name performers. In July, the grounds are filled by the world’s largest flower show, organized by the Royal Horticultural Society. A frequent train service from Waterloo takes about half an hour but for a delightfully leisurely trip, catch a boat from Westminster Pier, which takes about four hours .

    • East Molesey, Surrey

    • Train Hampton Court

    • Open Apr–Oct: 10am–6pm daily; Nov–Mar: 10am–4:30pm daily (last adm 1 hour before closing)

    • Admission charge

    Hampton Court
  2. Greenwich

    The World Heritage Site of Greenwich includes Sir Christopher Wren’s Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich Park, the Planetarium and the Royal Observatory Greenwich where the Prime Meridian, Longitude 0°, was established. In the fine park are the Queen’s House and National Maritime Museum. Greenwich has several excellent restaurants and marine-related shops as well as a market selling arts, crafts and antiques. The old tea clipper, the Cutty Sark , is being restored nearby.

    • Greenwich SE10

    • Train to Greenwich; DLR Cutty Sark, Greenwich

    • Royal Observatory Greenwich: Open 10am–5pm daily

    • Admission charge

    Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

    Clock at Royal Observatory
  3. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

    This former royal garden holds the world’s largest plant collection of around 30,000 specimens. Kew Palace and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage were used as residences by George III, whose mother, Princess Augusta, laid the first garden here. Take a Kew Explorer Bus tour of the gardens – you can get on and off it any time.

    • Kew TW9

    • Train & tube Kew Gardens

    • 020 8332 5655

    • Open 9:30am daily; closing times vary between 4:15–5:30pm in winter and from 6–7:30pm in summer. Call for information

    • Admission charge

    Palm House, Kew Gardens
  4. Richmond

    This attractive, wealthy riverside suburb, with its quaint shops and pubs and pretty lanes, is particularly worth a visit for its attractive riverside walks and its vast royal park There is also a spacious Green, where cricket is played in summer, which is overlooked by the lovely restored Richmond Theatre and the early 18th-century Maids of Honour Row, which stands next to the last vestiges of an enormous Tudor Palace. For some history visit the local Museum, in the Old Town Hall, where the visitor information centre is based.

    • Richmond, Surrey

    • Train to Richmond

    Museum of Richmond

    • open 11am–5pm Tue–Sat, 1–4pm Sun (May–Sep)

    • admission charge

    Deer in Richmond Park

    Carving over entrance to remains of Richmond Palace

    Restored façade of Richmond Theatre
  5. Dulwich Picture Gallery

    This wonderful gallery is well worth the journey from Central London. Apart from the stunning collection, there are regular exhibitions, Thursday lunchtime lectures and friends events, usually including music, food and wine, to which anyone is welcome.

    • College Road SE21

    • Train to North or West Dulwich

    • Open 10am–5pm Tue–Fri, 11am–5pm Sat–Sun

    • Admission charge

  6. Chiswick House

    This piece of Italy in London is a high spot of English 18th-century architecture. The square villa, with its dome and portico, was built for Lord Burlington, with beautifully painted interiors by William Kent. Temples, statues and a lake complete the Italianate gardens.

    • Burlington Lane, Chiswick W4

    • Tube Turnham Green

    • Open Apr–Oct: 10am–5pm Wed–Sun (to 2pm Sat); Nov–Mar: by appointment

    • Admission charge

  7. Horniman Museum

    Recently transformed with a new £13 million development, this distinctive museum appeals to both adults and children. A new giant creepy crawly display sits alongside an interactive gallery devoted to music and world cultures. The café looks over the 16-acre garden.

    • London Road, Forest Hill SE23

    • Train to Forest Hill

    • Open 10:30am–5:30pm daily

  8. Syon House and Park

    This sumptuous Neo-Classical villa is home to the Duke of Northumberland. It has fine Robert Adam interiors and a 40-acre garden landscaped by Capability Brown and dominated by a splendid conservatory. There is also a garden and aquatic centre.

    • Brentford, Middle­sex

    • Train to Kew Bridge

    • Open Apr–Oct: 11am–5pm Wed, Thu & Sun (gardens open 10:30am–5:30pm daily)

    • Admission charge

  9. Ham House and Garden

    This outstanding 17th-century house and garden was at the centre of court intrigue during Charles II’s reign. Its interiors are rich and well furnished and there is an fine picture collection. The menu in the Orangery is inspired by 17th-century dishes.

    • Richmond, Surrey

    • Train to Richmond

    • House open mid-Mar–mid-Nov: noon–4pm Sun–Wed (garden 11am–5pm)

    • Admission charge

  10. Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum

    With a view of the famous Centre Court, the museum tells the story of tennis, from its gentle, amateur beginnings to its exciting professional status today. The first tennis championship were held in Wimbledon in 1877.

    • Windmill Road, Wimbledon SW19

    • Tube Southfields

    • Open 10am–5pm daily

    • Admission charge

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