If you’re looking for a fun and educational day out with your kids, you can’t go wrong with Eltham Palace and Gardens. This stunning site in southeast London combines medieval history with Art Deco glamour and has something for everyone to enjoy. Here are some of the best things to see and do at Eltham Palace and Gardens with kids in tow.
Save with family membership: Eltham Palace is part of English Heritage. With a Family Membership starting at less than £100, you’ll get unlimited access to more than 400 historical sites across Britain, such as Dover Castle and Stonehenge.
Activities with kids at Eltham Palace
- Explore the palace. The palace is a fascinating mix of old and new, with a 15th-century great hall and a 1930s mansion. You can admire the beautiful architecture, furniture and artworks, and learn about the lives of the wealthy Courtauld family who lived there in the 20th century. There are also interactive displays and audio guides that bring the history to life.
- Visit the gardens. The gardens are a delight to wander around, with colourful flowers, exotic plants and wildlife. You can see the moat, the bridge and the remains of the original medieval palace. There are also plenty of spots to picnic, play and relax. My kids especially enjoyed the rock garden, the playground and the maze.
- Join the activities. Eltham Palace offers a range of activities and events throughout the year, such as crafts, trails, quizzes, workshops and shows. You can check their website for what’s on and book in advance. My kids had a blast making their own art deco accessories, solving clues in the spy trail and watching a falconry display.
- Check out the cafe and playground. Eltham Palace has really nice cafe and playground close by, with lots of wooden structures for kids to enjoy.
Eltham Palace and Gardens is a wonderful place to visit with your family, and I highly recommend it. It’s easy to get there by car or public transport, and there’s plenty of parking on site. The admission fee is reasonable, and you can save money by booking online or getting a membership. The staff are friendly and helpful, and the facilities are clean and accessible. It’s a perfect way to spend a day off the beaten track in London, learning about history, culture and nature in a fun and engaging way.
The lemur at Eltham Palace
Mah-Jongg was a ring-tailed lemur who lived in Eltham Palace, bought by Stephen and Virginia Courtauld, the wealthy and artistic couple who renovated the palace and added a modern mansion to it. Mah-Jongg was their beloved pet, and they gave him a luxurious room with a bamboo ladder, a heated cage, and a radio.
He also travelled with them on their yacht, where he had his own deckchair. Mah-Jongg was a fun and charming animal, but he could also be naughty and bite people. He even injured a wireless operator on board the Virginia during a farewell lunch for an Arctic expedition.
Mah-Jongg was one of the many exotic pets that were popular among the upper-class society of the 1920s and 1930s. He was also a symbol of the Courtaulds’ eccentric and adventurous lifestyle. Visitors to Eltham Palace can see his room, his ladder, and his carving on one of the timber bosses in the restored medieval Great Hall. They can also learn more about his story and the history of the palace from the English Heritage website. Mah-Jongg is a fascinating and fun aspect for families visiting Eltham Palace.
Events at Eltham Palace
If you’re looking for some fun and festive activities to enjoy with your family and friends, look no further than Eltham Palace! This historic site offers a variety of annual events that celebrate different occasions and seasons, such as Halloween, Easter and Christmas.
Here are some of the highlights you can expect to find at Eltham Palace throughout the year:
- Halloween: Get ready for a spooky adventure as you explore the haunted halls of Eltham Palace. You can join a ghost tour, solve a murder mystery, or carve your own pumpkin. Don’t forget to dress up in your best costume and enjoy some treats (or tricks) along the way.
- Easter: Celebrate the arrival of spring with a delightful Easter egg hunt at Eltham Palace. You can search for hidden clues and chocolate eggs in the beautiful gardens, or take part in some craft activities and games. You can also meet some adorable animals at the petting zoo and learn more about the wildlife that lives at Eltham Palace.
- Christmas: Experience the magic of Christmas at Eltham Palace as you step into a winter wonderland. You can admire the festive decorations, listen to carols, or watch a pantomime. You can also visit Santa’s grotto, where you can meet the jolly old man himself and receive a special gift.
These are just some of the amazing events that Eltham Palace has to offer. Whether you’re looking for a thrilling, relaxing, or enchanting experience, you’ll find something to suit your taste at Eltham Palace. Don’t miss out on these fantastic opportunities to make some unforgettable memories at one of the most stunning places in London!
Henry VIII’s childhood palace
Imagine being a young prince in a magnificent palace, surrounded by gardens, forests and rivers. Imagine having a loving mother who spoils you with gifts, games and adventures. Imagine being free from the burdens of education, etiquette and expectations. This was the life of Henry VIII at Eltham Palace, one of the most influential places in his early years.
Eltham Palace was not just a royal residence, but a playground for Henry and his siblings. He was born as the second son of Henry VII, which meant he was not destined to inherit the throne. His older brother Arthur was groomed to be the next king, while Henry enjoyed a more relaxed and informal upbringing.
He spent most of his time with his mother Elizabeth of York, who adored him and indulged his every whim. Together, they explored the vast estate of Eltham, which included a moat, a tiltyard, a hunting park and a menagerie. They also visited nearby Greenwich and the Thames, where Henry developed his love for sports, music and nature.
Henry’s happy childhood at Eltham Palace shaped his personality and preferences for the rest of his life. He grew up to be confident, charismatic and curious, but also spoiled, impulsive and extravagant. He never forgot his attachment to Eltham, and even after he became king, he often returned to his childhood home. He invested in new buildings and renovations on the palace grounds, such as a chapel, a gallery and a tennis court. He also hosted lavish banquets, tournaments and celebrations at Eltham, inviting his courtiers, wives and foreign guests.
Sadly, Eltham Palace did not last long as a royal retreat. After Henry’s death, the palace gradually declined in importance and condition. It was neglected by his successors, who preferred other residences like Hampton Court and Whitehall. It was damaged by wars, fires and vandalism. It was sold off to private owners, who used it for various purposes such as a farm, a school and a hospital. The only original building that survived is the Great Hall, which was once the largest and most splendid hall in England. It was even used as a cattle barn before the Courtauld family rescued it in the 1930s.
Today, Eltham Palace is a fascinating fusion of medieval and modern architecture. The great hall still stands as a testament to Henry’s legacy, while the rest of the palace reflects the Art Deco style of the Courtaulds. Visitors can explore both the history and the glamour of this unique place, and imagine what it was like to be Henry VIII at Eltham Palace.
Highlights at Eltham Palace & Gardens
- The Medieval Great Hall: Animal explorer maps for kids that can be stamped if spotting different creatures
- The Art-Deco Mansion: Beautifully preserved. It’s like stepping into an Agatha Christie movie from the 1930s.
- The Gardens: See if you can spot the large fish in the moat!
- Play area: Wooden playground – easy to keep an eye on the kids from the cafe
- Events: Our favourite is the annual jousting taking place during summer. Another popular event is the Enchanted Palace experience of light and colour before Christmas as well as their spooky trail during Halloween.
Art Deco style
If you love Art Deco, you’ll be amazed by Eltham Palace. This stunning attraction is a fusion of medieval history and Edwardian chic, thanks to Sir Stephen and Lady Courtauld who transformed it in 1933. They kept some of the original features, like the 15th-century bridge over the moat, and added their own flair with glamorous Art Deco details. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a movie set as you explore the lavish rooms and gardens.
But there’s more to Eltham Palace than meets the eye. Did you know that it has secret escape tunnels that lead to different places around the neighbourhood? These were built during World War II when the palace was used as a military base. If you know where to look, you can still see some of them today. They add a touch of mystery and intrigue to this fascinating place.
Eltham Palace is one of the gems of English Heritage, along with Wellington Arch, Apsley House and Charles Darwin’s home. You can visit them all with an English Heritage membership, which gives you unlimited access to over 400 historic sites across the country. Don’t miss this chance to discover the stories behind these amazing places.
Jousting at Eltham Gardens
We always try to attend the medieval jousting event which is usually being organised every June on the meadow behind Eltham Palace. Not only is it very entertaining for the whole family, but it’s also a nice way for children to learn about Tudor and medieval history. Check the English Heritage webpage for child-friendly events taking place.
Eltham Palace is only a short drive or bus ride from Greenwich, where you can find more amazing things to see and do with your family. You can visit the Royal Observatory and stand on the Prime Meridian line, see the Cutty Sark ship and the National Maritime Museum, enjoy the views from Greenwich Park and the cable car, or hop on a river cruise to central London.