If you're planning to vacation near London, there's no better way to spend a day than by visiting Hampton Court Palace. Magnificent and expansive, the former residence of King Henry VIII is full of history, romance and legend, and it remains one of the most significant British royal residences of all time. Today, the palace is not only open to tourists, it's been used as a filming location for a handful of well-known movies.
One of the best things about Hampton Court is how easily accessible it is. The palace is about 13 miles southwest of London on the River Thames, and a train runs directly from the city to the palace. It's a brief and easy walk from the station to the grounds.
From the birth of kings to the death of queens, Hampton Court Palace has witnessed some of the most poignant moments in British history — and quite a few cinematic moments as well. Here are a few places you won't want to miss.
The front gate takes you into Base Court, where you'll notice a recreation of Henry VIII's wine fountain, rebuilt on the exact spot where the original one stood. This area of the palace was used for the scene in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" when Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) rescues Gibbs (Kevin McNally) from the prison wagon before being captured by soldiers. Base Court was also used for market scenes in "Jack the Giant Slayer," which will be released on March 1.
The Tudor Kitchens
To the north of Base Court are the massive Tudor kitchens where servants prepared food, twice a day, for a minimum of 600 people. Scenes from the 2011 film "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" were filmed in the kitchen area, as were the Brussels scenes from Reese Witherspoon's 2004 drama "Vanity Fair." Visitors looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience can actually stay overnight in a suite on Fish Court, which overlooks the kitchens.
Often confused with Base Court (probably because both courts have clocks), this smaller enclosure of Clock Court showcases some of the architectural improvements William and Mary hired legendary architect Christopher Wren to make in the late 1600s. The all-white colonnade running along the southern wall appears in both "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" and "Vanity Fair." Clock Court is so named because its western tower houses King Henry's massive astronomical clock, which tells not only the time, but also the month, day, zodiac sign, moon phase and high tide.
Hampton Court Park covers a staggering 750 acres, 60 of which are formal gardens. Seen in "Vanity Fair" and the 2005 film "The New World," the iconic Avenue of Yews runs from the eastern facade of the palace, around the Great Fountain, and onward to The Long Water.
Some of the garden’s more formal sections appear in a scene with Emily Blunt and Paul Bettany in the 2009 film "The Young Victoria." If you're young — or young at heart — you won't want to miss the garden maze, built in 1700 for William III.
For details on hours, ticket prices and special events, visit Hampton Court's website.
Content by Zoe Bauer
Top: Flowers in the gardens of Hampton Court Palace just outside London. (Photo by EyesWideOpen/Getty Images)