While the monarchy don’t have as much to do with politics nowadays, the royal family are still very much a big part of British culture. London is steeped in history and as such, it’s full of royal London attractions spanning from kings and queens hundreds of years past to today’s modern descendents.
Now this is a place you’ve probably seen on television before, whether you were tuning into Queen Elizabeth’s coronation or Kate and Will’s fairytale wedding ceremony. In any case, it’s a place tied closely to the royals as the site of every coronation since 1066 and it’s easy to see why with its grandiose stained glass windows, master artworks and impressive architecture. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s worth dipping in (even if you’re not into the royal family).
Pay Liz a visit at Buckingham Palace, nestled amongst many of London’s most beautiful parks. As the official residence of Queen Elizabeth, it’s worth heading over during August and September when the lavish state rooms are open to the public. Currently, you can head over to see the Royal Gifts exhibition where gifts from places as diverse as Hong Kong and South Africa are displayed throughout ballrooms and reading rooms.
Open all year round, the Queen’s Gallery is an offshoot of Buckingham Palace for the public. It’s no surprise that the royal family has amassed some masterpieces in their time and it’s here that a selection are curated and put on display in changing exhibitions.
As the final remnant of King James I’s Whitehall Palace, this impressive structure has seen countless scenes of revelry since 1622. The Palace itself was where King James I lived (before it burned down) and also where he was executed. When you wander in, don’t forget to look up at its grand ceiling frescoes and gigantic chandeliers which will take your breath away.
If you’re keen on military history, the Household Cavalry Museum is the perfect marriage of Britain’s military past and royal lineage. Tucked away within Whitehall’s Horse Guards, it still functions as the headquarters for the Household Division and The Queen’s Life Guard can be spotted training and looking intimidating around the area. If you’re one for pomp and ritual, the changing of the Queen’s Life Guard is well worth seeing – a tradition that dates all the way back 350 years.
While a stable doesn’t usually seem like an obvious tourist destination, the Royal Mews are well worth visiting. It still functions as the royal stables today (Queen Elizabeth is well known for her love of horses) and is also where a number of the gilded carriages are kept. While the ebony and golden Australian State Carriage is currently featured in the Royal Gifts exhibition at Buckingham Palace, there’s a number of stunning coaches to see at the exhibition including the Glass Coach and the Gold State Coach – which has taken every royal to their coronation since 1821.
Located out in East London, the Tower of London is a legacy of a time long past with its stone walls and years upon years of history. It’s worn many hats throughout the years, serving as a fortress, armoury, royal residence, prison and at one point a zoo. The Beefeaters, formerly royal guards, now serve as tour guides that reveal the grand and sometimes bloody history of the tower from stories of the royal jewels through to the execution of Anne Boleyn. Naturally, seeing the Crown Jewels exhibition is a priority for any monarchy buff.
If you don’t mind taking a little day trip, Windsor Castle is Queen Elizabeth’s weekend home and it makes absolute sense. Quieter than her opulent Central London residence, this 11th Century castle and its grounds sprawl over five hectares so there’s lots to explore. From the seren Gothic St George’s Chapel to Queen Mary’s famous dollhouse, there’s lots to see and do here.
Pop over to Kensington Palace and say hi to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who now live there with their family. Beyond being home to Kate Middleton and Prince William, the Jacobean palace is a popular spot on the tourist trail buried deep in the heart of Kensington Gardens. The Orangery is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the royal residence, with marble statues, a lush garden and Roman pillars. (Make sure you stop there for high tea – it’s enchanting.)
Another big day trip from central London, Hampton Court Palace is one of the most opulent royal residences you’ll come across in the UK. It’s not too surprising given who used to live there as it was formerly King Henry VIII’s residence – there’s even a replica crown housed in its halls. It doesn’t do things by halves with gigantic Tudor kitchens and has even broken a Guinness World Records with its Great Vine.