If you enjoy gorgeous gardens and historic buildings, the Tulip Festival at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey is the ideal day out for you. It’s an easy ride from central London and the perfect venue for seeing spring flowers at their finest. With over 110 000 bulbs planted each year, you are guaranteed an explosion of spring colour.
This year, the Hampton Court Tulip Festival is running from 14th April – 1st May 2023.
We have updated this post for 2023. Read on to find out about our day out at the first Tulip Festival in 2021.
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Although they have been growing tulips at Hampton Court Palace since the reign of Queen Mary II in the 1690s, this spring saw its inaugural Tulip Festival. Preparations started last August with the mass planting of 100 000 bulbs in the pots, planters, and beds around the royal gardens. Yesterday, we went along to see what it was like.
The Tulip Festival at Hampton Court Palace was the ideal place for a catch-up after the easing of lockdown restrictions. Vibrant spring flowers set against the backdrop of Henry VIII’s magnificent Tudor palace provided the perfect landscape for our rendezvous. Plus, we had the bonus of blue skies and glorious sunshine, making the day even more complete.
The hard work of the gardening team has paid off and the tulips have been in bloom since mid-April. By the time of our visit to the Hampton Court Tulip Festival, the palace gardens were a mass of colour and looked spectacular.
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The gardens at Hampton Court Palace
The gardens at Hampton Court Palace are always impressive, but the tulips create an extraordinary display. We were free to take a self-guided tour, choosing our own meandering route through the courtyards and formal gardens. It was ideal for a relaxed stroll and catch up.
The Baroque-style gardens at Hampton Court are very symmetrical and look stunning with the solid blocks of colour from the tulip blooms. Many beds have one bold colour, such as vibrant yellows or brilliant reds, for a dramatic effect.
The sheer number of bulbs in each area makes all the difference. I clearly have a lot to learn in my own garden, where the colour relies on isolated blooms dotted about randomly.
The Lower Orangery Garden
In addition to the vast quantity of flowers, there is a wide variety of tulips. In fact, the Tulip Festival is host to over 80 different varieties of rare and specialist tulips. Furthermore, some are historic varieties, reflecting the long history of tulip-growing at the Palace.
In the Lower Orangery garden, you’ll find a special display with tulip varieties dating back over 400 years. Careful planning means some were even selected to emphasise the red bricks of the Tudor courtyard!
Of course, whilst in the gardens, you can appreciate the year-round highlights of the royal gardens. You can’t miss the shapely, historic yew trees which form a majestic avenue up to the palace in the Fountain Garden. Plus, you’ll find water features, marble sculptures, covered walkways and royal carriages.
If you enjoy the Tulip Festival at Hampton Court Palace, you could return for the annual Flower Show in late summer.
The fate of the tulips after the festival is not yet known. It’s most likely that the gardening team will dig them up and dry the bulbs in readiness for next year. Tulips are not as good in their second season, but I am sure they will enhance a garden somewhere. Let’s hope so, as it really was a fantastic day out.
Practical information for your visit to the Hampton Court Tulip Festival:
Tickets for the Hampton Court Tulip Festival
The Hampton Court Tulip Festival is running from 14th April – 1st May 2023.
You can buy your tickets in advance online. Tickets for adults are £15*, but admission for members is free.
You cannot get into the Palace itself, but do walk through the courtyards on arrival and can see the palace exterior. The Tulip Festival is open from 10am until 5.30pm.
*to be confirmed
Where to eat on a visit to Hampton Court Palace
The Tiltyard Café at Hampton Court sells a choice of hot and cold food and has both indoor and outdoor seating. You can also get drinks, snacks and ice-creams from the Wilderness Kiosk. You can eat a picnic in some areas of the gardens.
Alternatively, there’s a good choice of cafés and restaurants the other side of the bridge beside Hampton Court Palace. You should book in advance, as their riverside location makes them extremely popular.
We went to Eight on the River, at East Molesey Rowing Club. This is a 10-minute scenic walk along the towpath next to the River Thames. They had a good selection of lunch dishes and all-day breakfast and some lovely views.
Directions to Hampton Court Palace
Getting to Hampton Court by car
Hampton Court Palace is in East Molesey, Surrey in south-east England. The postcode is KT8 9AU. It is easy to get to via the M3/A308 or A3/A309. There is limited on-site parking on site or at nearby Hampton Court Green car park. Parking currently costs £1.60 per hour.
Getting to Hampton Court by train
It is easy to get to Hampton Court from central London. Regular trains run from London Waterloo and take about 35 minutes.
The nearest train station is Hampton Court, which is only a 5-minute walk from the palace.
Have you been to the Tulip Festival at Hampton Court Palace? We’d love to hear your comments below.
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