“You should begin with Greenwich, and if you can, arrive by water,” says Dr David Starkey
The son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York was born in Greenwich, some five miles east of central London, on June 28 1491. The River Thames was “the great highway of Tudor London”. Kings and nobles were forever sailing up and down it in gaily coloured barges – hence the recommended mode of arrival
Although Henry retained a soft spot for the royal palace at Greenwich, which was known as Placentia or Pleasure, his idyllic childhood was spent a little way inland at Eltham.
Here, too, the original palace has gone, but the Great Hall remains intact.
Henry had a lifelong interest in fortifications and armour and his was a “killing culture”, explains Dr Starkey.
Further upriver lies Hampton Court Palace, the residence perhaps most closely associated with Henry VIII. The sprawling palace was originally the home of Thomas Wolsey, the Archbishop of York, but was passed to the King as a gift in 1528.
Henry expanded the palace, constructing the Great Hall, the Royal Tennis Court and vast kitchens to help support his court of more than one thousand people.
Hampton Court was extended further during the 17th century by Sir Christopher Wren.
Another Tudor Palace, Knole in Kent, gives an even better sense of the period and is “an absolute must”, according to Dr Starkey. Henry was “ultra-fashionable” and his palaces were the most stylish in northern Europe.
Elsewhere in Kent is the most beautiful of the great houses that Henry acquired and rebuilt, Leeds Castle, that fairytale vision built on islands in a lake.
“As far as I can say he spends three days there,” says Dr Starkey. “I call it a glorified b & b on the way to Dover.”
That sense of the past brought tantalisingly close to the present is what makes Ightham Mote, a moated manor house in Kent, Dr Starkey’s favourite Tudor property.
Hever Castle also earns special mention for its "magical" exterior.
Henry's largest residence, meanwhile, barely exists today. The Palace at Whitehall was once the largest building in the world, containing an extraordinary 1,500 rooms.
Today, just the Banqueting House - built some 70 years after Henry's death - remains.
St James's Palace was commissioned by Henry VIII on the site of a former leper hospital but played second fiddle to Whitehall. The gatehouse, located on the the north side, still stands today, although the palace is closed to the public.
For real Tudor buffs, a visit to Ewelme, near Wallingford, in Oxfordshire, is a must. Henry was conceived here at the home of the second Duke of Suffolk. The manor house is long gone, but the old church is still there, and some almshouses, and a profound air of old, unchanging England: “A place,” says Dr Starkey, “where you really do feel, 'What’s 500 years?’”