The Royal Treatment: 8 royal places to visit in London

Sep 13, 2020

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Whether you’re a long time monarchist or have only recently learned about the British royal family through the multi-award-winning Netflix drama “The Crown,” London is the place to get close to royalty. Through their various residences, the Queen and most of her family spend a lot of time there — so here’s how you can get the “royal treatment.”

Start your royal experience at the official London residence of Queen Elizabeth II — Buckingham Palace.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2006/07/17: Frontal view on Buckingham Palace. (Photo by Pawel Libera/LightRocket via Getty Images)
(Photo by Pawel Libera/LightRocket/Getty Images)

1. Changing of the Guard

In front of Buckingham Palace, you can enjoy the pageantry of the Changing of the Guard ceremony. It’s a major tourist attraction and usually takes place four times a week at 11 a.m. Expect troops precision marching, regimental bands and bearskins.

It’s completely free and attracts big crowds each day, so arrive early to grab a good viewing spot.

Times: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from August to May, daily in June and July. The event is currently temporarily suspended due to COVID-19.

Cost: Free.

Related: How does the Royal Family fly?

Lifestock via Twenty20
(Photo by Lifestock via Twenty20)

2. The Queen’s Gallery

You can’t just wander into Buckingham Palace whenever you like hoping for a spot of tea with the Queen. Unfortunately, you’re unlikely to see any actual members of the royal family in person during your visit.

However, there are parts of the palace open to the public and one of these is the Royal Collection in the Queen’s Gallery, featuring “old master paintings, rare furniture, decorative arts and images from the vast photograph collection.” Until October 11, 2020, there’s a special exhibition dedicated to George IV and a collection of Dutch and Flemish masterpieces with delicate French porcelain.

Times: Open 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursdays to Mondays.

Cost: $17 for adults, children under 5 go free. Book tickets online in advance here. Combine with a Royal Mews ticket for a small discount.

Related: How to spend a Sunday in London

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 6: Queen Elizabeth II smiles as she arrives before the Opening of the Flanders' Fields Memorial Garden at Wellington Barracks on November 6, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Stefan Wermuth - WPA Pool /Getty Images)
(Photo by Stefan Wermuth/WPA Pool /Getty Images)

3. The Royal Mews

The royal family doesn’t hail an Uber or jump on the tube when they need to travel around London. Built in 1825, the Royal Mews, also at Buckingham Palace is, responsible for the travel arrangements of the entire royal family.

Remember those fancy horse-drawn carriages you witness during royal weddings and other major events? You can view these spectacular state coaches here including the Gold Stage Coach used for coronations. The Royal Mews is also great for children, as it is a working stable — and the Queen herself personally names all the horses!

Times: Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday to Monday during normal times, however, it’s is temporarily closed due to COVID-19.

Cost: $17 for adults, children under 5 go free. Book tickets online in advance here. Combine with a Queen’s Gallery ticket for a small discount.

Photo by Pen_85 via Shutterstock

4. The State Rooms

The only reason this didn’t make the top of the list is that it is only open a few months each year, and only when the Queen is not in residence, which is usually over summer when she stays at Balmoral in Scotland.

But when it is open, there are 19 opulent staterooms furnished with classic artwork and furniture and an outdoor garden with over 350 different types of wildflowers and the famous Buckingham Palace lake.

Times: In 2020, the State Rooms are closed for viewing due to COVID-19 but are expected to resume normal some tours in winter 2020. This is subject to the Queen’s personal schedule.

Cost: $34 for adults, children under 5 go free. Combine with a visit to the Royal Mews and Queen’s Gallery for a small discount.

Related: These are the best times to visit London

Photo by Lorna Roberts via Shutterstock

5. Westminster Abbey

A fairly short walk away from Buckingham Palace is the famous Westminster Abbey. This has hosted numerous royal weddings over the years, including:

  • Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.
  • Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in 1986.
  • Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips in1973.
  • The Queen and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten RN in 1947.

The Abbey holds just over 2,000 people but nearly a billion people tuned in around the world to watch William and Kate’s wedding. We did, too!

You can take a guided tour of Westminster Abbey to ask all of those royal questions like who was the most famous wedding guest or just how long the train on that dress was.

Times: In 2020, the Abbey is determining opening times on a month by month basis. In August, they are open Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Cost: $23 for adults, $9 for children. Buy in advance online here.

Photo by Richie Chan via Shutterstock

6. The Tower of London

After your royal wedding tour has concluded, head down the River Thames to the Tower of London. One of the city’s most famous landmarks, it is also rich in royal history. For five centuries, monarchs used the Tower as their home. You’ll also be treated to amazing views of Tower Bridge, which you can walk across for free.

Taking 20 years to build by William the Conqueror, the Tower is almost 1,000 years old and houses the spectacular Crown Jewels, protected by Yeoman Warders, also known as Beefeaters, who live on the grounds of the Tower with their families.

The nation’s money was also produced at the Tower Mint until 1810.

If you only have time to visit one part of the Tower, don’t miss the Crown Jewels which are viewed by over 30 million people each year. The Coronation Regalia, the heart of the collection, have been used to crown every sovereign since 1661.

Times: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays. Some buildings remain closed temporarily due to COVID-19 though the Crown Jewels are open to the public.

Cost: $32 for adults, $16 for children. Buy in advance online here.

Related: Guide to the best family-friendly restaurants in London

Photo by Will Rodrigues via Shutterstock

7. Kensington Palace

Bring your royal experience through to the current day with your final stop at Kensington Palace. This was the childhood home of Queen Victoria, as well as being the residence of the late Princess Diana. It’s currently home to Prince William and Kate Middleton.

It was purchased in 1689 by King William and Queen Mary for just $25,500, around $5 million in today’s money and is worth many times that now!

Here, you can view an exhibition of Queen Victoria’s life through some of her personal effects and see her childhood rooms. You can then experience the King’s and Queen’s State Apartments, used in times gone by for audiences and meetings. In the 1700s courtiers and visitors stood in the presence of royalty, so there was no need for the sort of furniture you would normally find in a home.

There are also beautiful grounds with a wildflower meadow and the formal gardens.

Times: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays.

Cost: $22 for adults, $11 for children. Buy in advance online here.

Photo by Featureflash Photo Agency via Shutterstock

8. Windsor Castle

The final stop is just outside  London but makes for a lovely day trip. Windsor Castle in Berkshire is the Queen’s country residence, where she retreats to most weekends to enjoy this 900-year-old spectacle, founded by William the Conqueror.

Windsor holds the record as the largest inhabited castle in the world as well as the oldest in continuous occupation. It was also center-stage in 2018 for the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at St George’s Chapel, which you can also visit.

There are also State Apartments and even a Changing of the Guard — a similar but smaller version of the Buckingham Palace spectacle.

Times: 10 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Thursdays to Mondays, March to October and 10 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. November to February.

Cost: $20 for adults, $6 for children. Buy in advance online here.

Related: London from above: Cheap and free alternatives to the London Eye

Photo by Sloukam via Shutterstock

Bottom line

You might not manage an audience with the Queen during your time in London but you can still manage a great glimpse of royal life there. There aren’t a lot of cities with real working palaces, especially those you can tour.

The city is rich in royal history, allowing you to learn all about the monarchy from the past to the present. If you haven’t watched the Netflix series The Crown try to do so before your visit so you’re even more familiar with the life of the U.K.’s most famous family.

Featured photo by Thomas Dutour via Shutterstock

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