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A Tour of the Top Five Royal Palaces of London

16 Aug 18
Sightseeing

A Tour of the Top Five Royal Palaces of London

16 Aug 18

Whether it’s royal nuptials, the busby-clad Changing of the Guard troops or a genteel afternoon tea in the palace orangery, few do pomp and ceremony quite like the British monarchy. With 12 palaces and two castles, the UK capital is an excellent place to get acquainted with the regal lifestyle. Allow us to guide you on a tour of our favourite royal palaces in London.

Buckingham Palace

No tour of the royal palaces of London would be complete without a nod to Buckingham Palace, HM The Queen’s official London pile. Its State Rooms, which are open to the public in summer, are troves of glittering chandeliers, opulent furniture, gold embellishments and exquisite antiques and paintings—the Gallery is hung with Rembrandt, Rubens and Titian, among others. These 19 rooms comprise a relatively small portion of the palace, though. The rest is dedicated to 92 administrative offices, 188 staff bedrooms, and, of course, the Queen’s 52 private chambers.

Kensington Palace

With most of the monarchy’s younger set—including the Duke and Duchess of Sussex—in residence at this stately mansion in west London, 400-year-old Kensington Palace is very much at the heart of royal life. While the royals inhabit many of the palace’s wings, a good half of it is open for the public to explore its historic displays—everything from fashion through the ages to its spectacular art collection—and rotating exhibitions. A visit here invites a saunter through Kensington Gardens’ 100 hectares of gardens, ancient trees and immaculately tended flower beds, but to really absorb the palace’s royal ambiance, enjoy afternoon tea at the Kensington Palace Pavilion.

Kew Palace

London’s smallest royal palace has a tragic history—the mentally ill King George III was incarcerated here in the later years of his reign—but a visit to its Royal Kitchens gives remarkable insight into 19th-century working life, and a wander through the princesses’ bedrooms certainly evokes the rich history of the place. The highlight of a visit to Kew Palace? Queen Charlotte’s Cottage. Intended as a country retreat, it was used as a tea stop during strolls around the 30-hectare stretch of Kew Gardens. Enjoy your own pitstop in the nearby airy Orangery.

Hampton Court Palace

Richmond is a large, leafy portion of southwest London, dominated by the rolling deer-dotted wilds of Richmond Park and King Henry VIII’s sumptuous country pile, Hampton Court Palace. This sprawling structure hasn’t been inhabited since the 18thcentury, but the palace is open to the public and hosts a riot of colourful events such as jousting weekends, a food festival, experiential shows and historic talks and walks. Try not to lose yourself in the 300-year-old maze—there’s afternoon tea to be had at the Fountain Court Café!

Windsor Castle

Situated in the picturesque outskirts west of London, Windsor Castle is the oldest inhabited castle in the world. Founded by William the Conqueror nearly a millennium ago, HM The Queen takes up residency here over most weekends and for a month at Easter, as well as hosting occasional state visits at the castle. It rose to fame as the wedding venue for Prince Harry and Megan Markle, and a consequent visit to the castle’s St George’s Chapel—also where Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles received their wedding blessing—is a must to admire its intricate Gothic architecture and tranquil interiors. Time your trip to catch the 45-minute Changing the Guard ceremony at 11am on alternate days.

 

Feature images © DaLiu/iStock; Historic Royal Palaces; Historic Royal Palaces/James Brittain; jvoisey/iStock

 

Further reading

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Our lovingly curated British Collection features stylish short lets in London’s most desirable neighbourhoods, from pretty mews apartments on secluded streets to imposing mansions and grand Georgian townhouses.

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