The Magic Garden at Hampton Court is much more than just an ordinary playground. Opened by the Dutchess of Cambridge in 2016, the expectations towards were sky-high. Is it one of London’s most spectacular places for children? Hear our experiences after a few visits.
Note: The Magic Garden will be closed from November 2022 – January 2023 and will reopen in February.
Playground or Garden?
Like the Children’s Garden in Kew Gardens, the Magic Garden doesn’t want to be called a playground. We also appreciate that both places are much more than just ordinary playgrounds. At the same time, we prefer to call a spade for a spade and will refer to it as a playground. The play elements matter for young children, no matter how impressive the historical wrapping is. Children, at least the youngest ones, don’t come to admire how the play areas have been integrated into the garden landscape.
Keeping an eye on your children
The playground is really well planned out. One of the key aspects often neglected by playground designers is that parents need a good overview to let children play freely on their own, especially when children of different ages play in different areas of the park. If the playground is too divided and cluttered with bushes and structures, parents must constantly track down their kids, leading to a stressful day for everyone. In the Magic Garden, you have a good overview all the time, especially around the centre of the park, where older children can climb up the hill and toddlers can play in the sandpit.
Crowded during school holidays
Even if the playground is well planned, you still face the danger of losing your child in huge crowds during school holidays. Efforts have been made to reduce crowding by allocating a 2/3 hour slot and a wristband showing which group you belong to. However, many overstayed their allotted time. The cafe area is also very crowded, with parents parking their prams and belongings everywhere, making it hard to find a free table. This particular area of the playground felt cluttered. Surprisingly there is very little space for families to sit down and have a break.
The empty Royal towers
The two royal King and Queen towers are the most impressive structures entering the grounds. We had big expectations about what they might contain, but besides enjoying the view from the top, they felt quite empty. You can take a selfie with a nice background, but there is not much more to them.
Our review of the Magic Garden Playground
Looking at the big picture, the playground is a great addition to Hampton Court as an interesting adventure for children. They have succeeded in inspiring children, making the Tudors period come alive and becoming a door opener to the rich British history. In this aspect, the playground and the palace go hand in hand.
Regarding the play areas, our children had a blast climbing the aerial walkway and going up and down the mound. The sand-pit and water area next to the dragon were the most popular elements for our two-year-old. On the other hand, some other play elements looked interesting from afar, like the royal towers, but they were gimmicky and empty up close.
Creating a magic place for children is not an easy task, especially not with all the expectations of creating a beautiful historical garden closely connected with Hampton Court Palace. In the end, we had terrific fun and would highly recommend going to the playground as part of a visit to the Palace. On the other hand, we would not have travelled from afar to experience the playground on its own.
Note that a family ticket to the playground costs £23.40 on its own, while a family ticket to Hampton Court Palace (playground included) costs £53.10. Check the website for price changes.