Blenheim Palace is a magnificent Baroque mansion and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It’s just a few miles outside Oxford a in the picturesque Cotswold village of Woodstock. The palace is often referred to as the “Versailles of England.”
Queen Anne gifted the palace to John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, as a thank you for defeating the French at the battle of Blenheim in 1794. It’s still the seat of the dukes of Marlborough.
The English Baroque-style palace took almost 20 years to construct, between 1705-24. It’s famously the birthplace of Winston Churchill and it has an excellent exhibit on the statesman.
Inside, the palace is adorned with luxurious tapestries, statues, and elegant period furniture that are sure to leave you in awe.
There are paintings by famous English artists like John Singer Sargent, Joshua Reynolds, Anthony Van Dyke, and George Romney.
Blenheim ticks off a lot of boxes. You’ll want to visit if you’re a fan of the TV series Bridgerton, Winston Churchill, and UNESCO sites.
I’m all three, so was in hog heaven!
Here’s a snapshot of what you can see on a visit:
- Great Court
- Great Hall
- Churchill’s Birth Room
- Blenheim Tapestries
- State Rooms
- State Dining Room (Saloon)
- Long Library
- Churchill’s Destiny Exhibition
Guide To Blenheim Palace: What To See
There are said to be almost 500 rooms in the palace. But you’ll only see a fraction of them. Here are the must see highlights, in the order in which you’ll see them on a visit.
Blenheim is the greatest Baroque manor house and the only non-royal palace in the UK.
It was designed and built by architects Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicolas Hawksmoor. Hawksmoor was the star pupil of Sir Christopher Wren of St. Paul’s Cathedral fame.
The palace is constructed from distinctive Cotswold limestone, which gives it a warm, honey-colored appearance. It’s so pretty in the sunlight!
At the center of the facade, there is a prominent columned portico, reminiscent of ancient Roman architecture. It features massive Corinthian columns and a triangular pediment adorned with sculptural decorations.
From the central block, walls stretch forward to flank the Great Court.
2. Great Hall
The Great Hall is a spacious area with double arched colonnades on both sides, covering nearly 3,000 square feet. At the top row, you’ll find statues in the niches.
The ceiling of the Great Hall was painted by British artist James Thornhill. It portrays the Triumph of Liberty and Peace, featuring the triumphant 1st Duke of Marlborough in Roman attire as he presents his Battle of Blenheim strategy.
Within the Great Hall, you’ll discover marble busts and statues of prominent figures from British history.
3. North Corridor
From the Great Hall, you walk down the North Corridor. It’s lined with portrait busts and paintings. The first two busts are of the 9th duke and his first wife, Consuelo Vanderbilt.
In a cabinet to the left, you’ll see a collection of Sevres and Meissen porcelain.
4. Churchill’s Birth Room
Sir Winston Churchill was a descendant of the Duke of Marlborough.
He entered the world at Blenheim on November 20, 1874, in a rather unconventional manner. His arrived early during a grand ball being held at the palace. He was born in a room being used as a coat closet.
Since then, Churchill’s affection for Blenheim was profound. He famously stating that he made two pivotal decisions there: to come into this world and to embark on matrimony.
Churchill spent many of his formative years here. Throughout his lifetime, he returned to the palace as if it were a cherished touchstone.
The room is now decorated as a bedroom, with period-appropriate furniture, busts of Churchill, Impressionist watercolors he created, and even locks of his hair from his tender years displayed above the bed.
5. Green Drawing Room
In this room, you can see the first of three of Nicholas Hawksmoor’s original ceilings. The other two are in the Red Drawing Room and the Green Writing Room.
The coving and banding was innovative at the time. And it’s all covered in 24 carat gold leaf.
The chandelier dangling from the ceiling was once filled with real candles. They were regularly replaced by staff, who — as a perk — could keep the burnt down candles.
Over the fireplace is a portrait of the 4th duke, George Spencer, painted by George Romney.
6. Red Drawing Room
This is a fabulous room, full of family portraits. At each end, hang two large family portraits that face each other.
One is a John Singer Sargent painting of the 9th duke and his family. The other is a Joshua Reynolds painting of the 4th duke and his family.
Each painting features the “Blenheim Spaniels.” In fact, you can almost play a spot the spaniel game at the palace. There are literally spaniels in centuries worth of paintings.
The fireplace is flanked by “chaperone sofas.” This was for a chaperone to discretely monitor a courting couple, to ensure no untoward behavior.
7. Green Writing Room
The Green Writing Room is a beautiful room, named for the bright green fabric of the chairs and the silk damask wall coverings. This room is home to the first of a series of 10 Blenheim Tapestries, called the “Victory” series.
The first duke commissioned them to celebrate his victories during the Spanish War of Succession. It took over 200 weavers eight years to complete them all and they are magnificent in their detail.
The one on the left depicts the famous Battle of Blenheim. This battle was the first major defeat for Louis XIV of France.
Above the fireplace is a portrait of Elizabeth, the 3rd duchess. Despite her parents’ disapproval, she married Charles Spencer, who would become the 3rd duke.
The Saloon was originally a grand reception room, which was used to celebrate the 1st duke’s achievements. Today, as you can see from the elegantly set table, it’s a dining room used for special events and by the family on Christmas Day.
The trompe l’oeil ceiling is by French artist Louis Laguerre. Among other curiosities, he depicts the nations of the world and the four known continents.
The imposing silver centerpiece is by Garrrard and shows the 1st duke on horseback.
If you’ve watched Queen Charlotte, you will remember that this is where Charlotte sat, alone, waiting for the King George III to join her.
9. First State Room
This room features more of the Blenheim Tapestries.
Above the fireplace is a youthful portrait of the 9th duchess Consuelo Vanderbilt by Carlos Duran. It was commissioned by her mother to advertise her beauty and attract a titled suitor.
Consuelo’s mother gave her the ornate gilded cradle on display in the room. It’s a replica of the one in the Doge’s Palace in Venice. It doesn’t really look usable, but the duchess did rock her children in it.
The red patterned chairs are unique. The 1st duchess had the chairs upholstered with the face of Louis XIV on the bottom. When a guest sat down, he or she would be sitting on the defeated king.
The room also displays a copy of the famous dispatch the 1st duke sent his wife. In it, he told her to let the queen know of his victory at Blenheim.
10. Second State Room
In this Rococo-style room, you’ll find the Blenheim Tapestries and exquisite bronzes on display.
One of the tapestries features a Blenheim Spaniel with horses’ hooves. This dog accompanied the duke into battle.
Above the fireplace, there’s a unique portrait of the 1st duke’s adversary, Louis XIV, seated. It’s a rare depiction.
Why is it here? It’s a result of the duke’s redecoration, perhaps serving as a reminder of his victory over someone seen as supremely powerful.
From this room, you can peer out the window and see all the way to Bladon Church, where Churchill is buried.
11. Third State Room
This room was the state bedchamber, which is magnificently opulent and features more tapestries.
It’s called the “Boulle Room” because of its collection of Boulle style furniture. Boulle was the celebrated cabinet maker of Louis XIV.
The fireplace mantle has examples of 17th century Japaneses porcelain that were gifted to the duke by Samuel Spalding. And there is a bronze 19th century bust of the 1st duke.
12. Long Library
The Long Library was my favorite room.
At 1,287.112 square feet, it’s the second largest private room in any British estate. It runs the complete length of the western facade.
The “noble room of parade” has arched ends, a richly stuccoed ceiling, and a collection of paintings.
It was originally created as a picture gallery. Later, it was converted to a library.
Today, it holds over 10,000 books collected by the 9th duke. At his death, it was one of the finest private libraries in Europe.
There’s a prominent statue of Queen Anne. The 1st duchess commissioned it to remind future generations of the queen’s generosity to the family.
At one end is a fine organ built in 1891 by “Father” Henry Willis with 2,300 pipes. It was commissioned by the 8th duke. But he died before it was installed, so never saw it.
The room is lined with side tables where you’ll find family portraits and ephemera.
13. Churchill Exhibition: “Churchill’s Destiny”
This exhibition is fantastic. It covers several rooms, filled with a history and mementos from his entire life — from his birth to becoming a soldier to becoming a statesman in WWII.
Churchill was the cousin of the 9th Duke. In fact, before the duke had a son, Winston was in line to inherit the title and palace. How different history might have been!
From his youth, you’ll see portraits, a crib, clothing, a leather riding saddle, and locks of hair. You’ll learn that Churchill ardently pursued the ladies, offering up a trip to Blenheim to spark their interest.
At first, he preferred rich and theatrical types, though they didn’t return his interest. In 1908, he met the lively and intelligent Clementine Hozier. Four months later, he proposed to her in the Temple of Diana in the palace gardens.
You’ll learn Churchill was a prolific writer, winning the Noble Prize for Literature in 1953. And how he became prime minister on the very same day the Hitler invaded France.
You can admire his “siren suit,” basically a onsie that he wore for comfort during air raids. He liked it so much he had it made in green and blue too.
There are also cigar cases, campaign items, watches, typewriters, and other personal effects.
There’s even a piece of shrapnel. It fell between Churchill and the 9th duke when they served together in WWI. Had it been one foot closer, it would have ended his life.
In the final room, snap a selfie with an incredibly lifelike Churchill likeness. If you’ve visited the Churchill War Rooms in London, you’ll find this exhibit to be the perfect complement.
14. Family Chapel
You access the Chapel from the courtyard. It was built by the 1st duchess as a monument to her husband.
He had wanted to be buried “in my chapel at Blenheim.” But, since it wasn’t finished, he ended up in Westminster Abbey.
William Kent designed the monument with the duchess’ guidance. The duke is portrayed as a victorious hero, flanked by by the figures of History and Fame.
The furniture in the room wad added later and is from the Victorian era.
The palace is set on many acres. Near the house there are superb rose gardens, a formal Italian garden, water terraces, ponds, fountains, and statues.
Two sphinxes guard the steps down to the second terrace. They bear the face of the 9th duke’s second wife, Gladys Beacon. (A photo of her is in the Long Library).
In the lower terrace, there is a mini version of Bernini’s river gods fountain in Rome’s Piazza Navona.
Farther out, the 2,100 acre park was landscaped by Lancelot “Capability” Brown between 1764 and 1774. He was the most famous landscape designer of the day.
Trees are in their full pomp. There’s also a man made lake where you can rent a boat and float around.
Brown’s master stroke was to build two dams and a cascade near Bladon, resulting in two natural lakes on both sides.
If you’re prepared to do some walking and have the time, you can admire the beautiful Temple of Diana, the Grand Bridge, the hedge maze, the Column of Victory, and the “Harry Potter tree” that appeared in the film the Order of the Phoenix.
Practical Guide & Tips For Visiting Blenheim Palace
Address: Woodstock OX20 1PP, UK
Hours: Open daily 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Tickets: £35.00. Click here to pre-book a ticket.
Audio Guide: You can scan a QR code to download the free audio guide
How To Get To Blenheim Palace:
By Car: From London, the drive is about 1.5 to 2 hours. There is a parking facility onsite. You can walk or take a shuttle to the entrance.
By Train: You can catch a train from London’s Paddington Station to Oxford. From there, you can take a taxi or Uber to Woodstock. Or take a bus from the bus station, just a 10 minute walk from the train station.
By Guided Tour:
If you would prefer to visit Blenheim Palace on a guided tour, there are several that leave from London. You can book a:
- 10 hour tour of the Cotswolds and Blenheim Palace
- 10 hour tour of the Cotswolds, Blenheim, and Downton Abbey
- 10 hour tour of the Cotswolds, Blenheim, and Oxford
- 7 hour private tour of Blenheim
I’ve visited Blenheim twice, on my own and on the first guided tour listed above. Usually, I find visits by guided tour to be rushed. But there was plenty of time to see the palace and some (but not all) of the palace gardens.
You can also book a guided tour of Blenheim from Oxford.
The palace gives daily tours of the palace state rooms and a “lights, camera, action tour” of the filming location at the palace.
On some occasions, for an extra fee, you can also book a tour of the upstairs private apartments, the downstairs private apartments, or a buggy tour of the formal gardens.
How Long Too Spend At Blenheim Palace
I recommend budgeting 2 hours to see the palace. If you want to see everything in the garden, add on another 2 hours for your visit.
Blenheim has an excellent gift shop. You’ll find household items, ceramics, books, toys, chocolates, Christmas decorations, etc. It’s hard to come away empty handed.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to Blenheim Palace. You may enjoy these other England travel guides and itineraries:
- 3 Day Itinerary for London
- 5 Day Itinerary for London
- 3 Day Cotswolds Itinerary
- Hidden Gems in London
- 30 Day Trips from London
- Best Museums in London
- One Day In Canterbury Itinerary
- One Day in Oxford Itinerary
- One Day in Bath Itinerary
- One Day In Stratford-upon-Avon
- Guide to Westminster Abbey
- Guide to St. Paul’s Cathedral
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