London has been the official residence for the reigning British monarch for centuries so it is the ideal destination if you are interested in discovering more about the Royal Family, the history of the British Monarchy or you simply want to play at being a Prince or Princess for the day. From Crown Jewels to Golden Carriages, we have the lowdown on the best royal attractions to be found in the city.
Of course no list of royal attractions in the city could even begin without first giving mention to the Queen’s official London residence. Buckingham Palace is one of only a few working palaces which remain in the world today and can boast a whopping 775 rooms including 19 State Rooms. Over the summer the Palace opens its doors for a tour of some of these State Rooms, a special exhibition which changes each year, the gardens of the Palace and more. Of course if you aren’t lucky enough to see inside the Palace then you can still stand and admire the exterior and watch the Changing of the Guard which takes place daily.
Household Cavalry Museum
Once you have witnessed the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, make sure you factor in some time to visit the Household Cavalry Museum and see behind the scenes of this famous performance of pomp and pageantry. You can discover the history of the Household Cavalry, see rare uniforms, watch real troopers prepare their horses and even try on some real helmets and cuirasses.
The Royal Mews
Another royal attraction worth visiting if you are planning to see Buckingham Palace is the nearby Royal Mews. This working stable is home to the royal collection of coaches and carriages including the highly prized Gold State Coach which was used as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Celebrations in 2002. The Royal Mews are also home to the cars which are used for state occasions such as coronations, royal weddings and state visits. It is occasionally possible to see the horses who reside here too although this cannot be guaranteed as they are sometimes undergoing training or taken outside of the city.
Hampton Court Palace
Made famous by the well known King Henry VIII, Hampton Court Palace offers a unique insight into the life of this incredibly infamous British Monarch. Hampton Court was visited by each of Henry’s six wives, was in fact the place he proposed to Jane Seymour and it was said to be his favourite royal residence. These days you can take a tour of Henry’s State Rooms, wander through the Tudor kitchens, discover 500 years of history with costumed guides and audio tours or visit the 60 acres of gardens including the world’s largest maze. Although Hampton Court Palace is set a little bit further afield from Central London, if you have a particular interest in the life of King Henry VIII then this is a real must see palace.
As you might have guessed, Kensington Palace can be found in the heart of London in Kensington Gardens. As well as being the official London residence for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (otherwise known as Prince William and Kate Middleton) there is also an exhibition which shows the life of Queen Victoria, both growing up and once she was Queen, a fashion exhibition which showcases dresses worn by HM The Queen, the late Princess Diana and Princess Margaret as well as the opportunity to wander through the King and Queen’s State Apartments. If you are staying at one of the 5 star hotels in London then a trip to Kensington Palace is a fine attraction to visit during your visit.
The Tower of London
Another absolute must visit for anyone with an interest in the history of the British Monarchy is the Tower of London. Perhaps most famously known as a place of execution, the Tower of London has over 1,000 years of history to offer and has been, at various points since it was first constructed: a palace, a prison, an arsenal, a zoo, a place of execution and now it is the home of the Crown Jewels. There is so much history to discover here that you could easily spend an entire day wandering around and still only have scratched the surface of all that this historical landmark has to offer. The Tower of London also has interactive trails for children, regular live performances and special events taking place as well.
When it comes to royal residences in London, Kew Palace is perhaps one of the lesser known but it is still worth a visit nonetheless. It was originally the home of the daughters of George II before being the family home of George III and is the perfect place to go if you want to experience life exactly as it was during the reign of George III from the reconstructed rooms and kitchens to the upper floor which has been left untouched for hundreds of years. Of all the royal buildings in London, Kew Palace feels like the most intimate and offers a real insight into Georgian life for the royal family.
Although not officially royal buildings, the eight Royal Parks in the city all have some connection to the British royal family and are all excellent places to explore if you want a wander in some fresh air surrounded by mature trees, cultivated gardens and an abundance of wildlife. The parks include Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, St James’s Park, Richmond Park, Bushy Park, The Green Park, Regent’s Park, Greenwich Park as well as the trust being responsible for Brompton Cemetery, Victoria Tower Gardens and Grosvenor Square Garden. These parks cover 5,000 acres of historic parkland between them and are visitied by millions of Londoners and tourists each year. Many also offer recreational activities including boating, playgrounds, horse riding, sports facilities and much more. It is also possible to find a number of self-guided walks online which will take you to the most centrally located of these parks.