Royal palaces in london

10 Beautiful Palaces In London You Have To Visit

Hands-down, London is one of our favourite cities in all the world… not least because it is home! Now, in my opinion, one of the best things about our city is the amount of history hiding around every corner. The same goes for palaces in London – there’s just so many to explore.

Obviously, if it’s your first visit to London, you’ll be wanting to see some of those famous sites, some of the secret spots in the city and the best markets. You might even want to take a day trip out of London to visit places like Cambridge or Oxford, too! Anyway, I’m rambling…

…With that in mind, I wanted to show you some of my all-time favourite palaces in London to visit. Yes, there will be one or two ‘famous’ palaces you’ll likely know, but I really hope I can show you a good few that are totally new to you. ♔

Take a look at t 10 of the most beautiful palaces in London to visit. 👑

1.) Kew Palace

A little less known that some other places in London, Kew Palace is not one to be missed! Perched near the banks of the River Thames, it was the summer home of King George III and it’s easy to see why.

Now, Kew Palace was originally much larger than what can be seen today, but you can still see the ‘Dutch House’ element of the palace by walking through Kew Gardens itself.

Also, if you fancy a little nose around inside, pop over and visit in the Summer season. It’s one of the few palaces in London that closes in the winter season. It’s one of the oldest buildings to visit within Kew Gardens and well worth a gander.

2.) Winchester Palace

Truth be told, I’d passed Winchester Places tens of times without ever realising it was a palace! Nestled on the side of Clink Street, it was once the most important palaces in medieval England. Apparently, the palace itself dates back over 700 years and is easily one of the older palaces in London to see.

Although in ruins, you can still see the walls of the Great Hall as you walk through Clink Street. Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for the rose window that’s right on top of the west gable.

Winchester Palace is one of those points you’ll spend about 10-minutes seeing as it’s quite small. With that in mind, you can easily pair this up with a visit to Borough Market, the Golden Hinde ship and a stroll over from Tower Bridge or The Globe.

3.) Buckingham Palace

Possibly one of the most famous palaces in London, Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of the monarch. Perched within Westminster, Buckingham Palace is easy to visit on most days. Take a stroll down the Mall or St. James’s Park or book tickets to head inside and visit the State Rooms.

Now, if you do want to head inside, you can buy tickets when it opens to the public for 10 weeks a year. It typically opens from the end of July until the end of September and can be bought here. After heading inside, take a wander around Buckingham Palace Gardens (with your ticket) and explore one of the biggest private green spaces in Central London.

4.) Hampton Court Palace

Nestled in south-west London, Hampton Court Palace is one of the larger palaces in London to explore. With over 500 years of history and lots of influence from Henry VIII, Hampton Court Palace has still survived to this day (unlike his 6 wives). 😱

The palace itself is open most days of the year and hosts a whole heap of events, ghost tours and the most famous maze in the world!

Just make sure to book your tickets online before your visit. It’s always cheaper to book direct, too.

5.) Tower of London

Now, you might not think of the Tower of London as a palace, but it is! Officially known as Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, it’s home to a long (and sometimes) dark history that can be explored today.

Being one of the palaces of London, it wouldn’t be complete without a bit of royal flare, would it? Once inside, make sure to visit the Crown Jewels which are housed within one might walk-in safe. You’ll also see the biggest cut diamond in the world and around 23,000 other gemstones!

With almost 1,000 years of history, there is so much to see inside. Book your tickets online and also head across to Tower Bridge whilst you’re here (it’s right next door).

6.) Banqueting House

The Banqueting House might not sound like one of the palaces in London, but it’s actually part of the lost palace of Whitehall which was the medieval home of the Archbishop of York. Nowadays, the Banqueting House is all that stands to explore.

Once inside, make sure to head right for the main hall and see the nine paintings by Rubens which were installed almost 400 years ago. Apparently, this was also the setting of the royal healing ceremonies too. This was all the rage in the middle-ages when monarchs were said to have the power to heal.

7.) St James’s Palace & Clarence House

Built in the 18th Century, Clarence House and the adjoining St. James’s Palace is situated a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace itself. Now, although St. James’s Palace isn’t open to the public, you will be able to visit Clarence House (that adjoins it) in August each year.

Now, it’s best to book tickets in advance of your visit on their website. Just remember, you won’t be able to take any pictures inside but you will get time to explore the gardens too.

8.) Lambeth Palace

Now, Lambeth Palace is another one of the palaces in London I’d passed so many times and not even realised it was a palace. Perched (just) south of the River, in Lambeth, it is the is the official home of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Now, Lambeth Palace isn’t open to the public but there are a few ways you can get to go inside. Tickets are sold intermittently, so check Ticketmaster here for the latest listings. There’s also a Fete (like a small festival) that is always on the last Saturday in June, during this time, you can gain access. It’s called the North Lambeth Parish Fete and runs every year.

Alternatively, you can visit during one of the garden ‘open-days’. This is when the palace opens the property once a month in summer. Entry is usually around £5. You can see their open-day dates, here.

9.) Kensington Palace

Perched with Kensington and Chelsea area of London, Kensington Palace is one of the prettiest palaces in London to explore. The royal family have been using this as one of their residences in London for almost 300 years.

Today, it’s the official home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Wills & Kate), the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Harry & Meghan), amongst a few others. This was also the palace where Queen Victoria grew up before moving to Buckingham Palace.

Nowadays, you can visit Kensington Palace on most days by buying your tickets online.

10.) The Palace of Westminster

The Palace of Westminister isn’t always thought of as one of the palaces in London, but it is.

With almost 1,000 years of history, the Palace of Westminster is the beating heart of governance. Now, you can easily view the Palace of Westminster from the outside but it can be a little more tricky to explore inside.

That being said, if you are a UK resident you can actually be invited to go inside for free. All you need to do is ask your local Member of Parliament to invite you. This can usually be done by email (and I’ve done it a few times). You can read all about it on the official website here. Just remember it might take up to 6 months to get an invite, so plan ahead.

At present, the Elizabeth Tower (and Big Ben) are going through a big restorative project so it’s likely to be covered up for a few years. 😩

Read more on the secret spots to visit in London, below

15 Amazing Secret Spots You Have To See In London!

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10 Royal Palaces of London

London’s Royal palaces are intriguing and many people from all over the world come to visit England’s capital city to view these grand architectural structures for themselves and to learn the fascinating history behind them.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace has been the official residence of Britain’s monarch since the reign of Queen Victoria in 1837 to Queen Elizabeth II who resides there today. It is the most famous of the royal palaces in England and throughout the summer the public can enjoy a visit to its State Rooms, which the Royal Family still use today.

St James’s Palace

St James’s Palace, closely located to Whitehall Palace and St Jame’s Park, the palace was used by King Henry VIII as a hunting lodge. It is one of the oldest Royal palaces in the city, built around 1531 to 1536.

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace is the birthplace of Queen Victoria and was the home of Diana, Princess of Wales, between 1981 and 1997. Once a private country house, it is now open to the public and you can observe the Victorian rooms with original furniture and family portraits. Along with the 242 acre Kensington Gardens, it is definitely a must-see during a visit to London.

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is the oldest remaining English Tudor palace. The spectacular Tudor and Baroque architecture is admirable, as well as the beauty of the 60 acre Hampton Court Palace gardens by the riverside. The Hampton Court Palace Maze dates back to 1690 when it was created to entertain William III. Another highlight is the Home Park comprising of 700 acres which has its own herd of royal fallow deer.

Kew Palace

Kew Palace was built in 1631 and is the birthplace of King George IV. The palace is located in the greenery of Kew Gardens and has been open to visitors since 2006.

Banqueting House

Banqueting House is the only remaining part of Whitehall Palace, due to a fire. What once used to be the largest European royal palace and originated from the 14th century. It is still used today as a venue for royal special events.

The Palace of Westminster

The Palace of Westminster is famously known as the Houses of Parliament and is the home of UK politics today, however it was built in 1042 originally for use as a Royal residence. As well as the Clock Tower that houses Big Ben, the palace also has the Jewel Tower, built in 1365, in which King Edward III used to keep his treasured belongings.

Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace is a Medieval palace where Henry VIII grew up was later acquired in the 1930s by a wealthy family, who repaired the Great Hall and built on a house with a fantastic Art Deco interior design. Coupled with its lovely gardens, visitors can explore this wonderful site for themselves.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle, built by William the Conqueror over 900 years ago, is still used as a royal residence today and is often the setting for official State events. You can observe the gothic architecture of the St George’s Chapel, the venue of Prince Edward’s wedding in 1999. Other stunning sights include the St George’s Hall, the Royal Library, the Drawings Gallery and the Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House.

The Tower of London

The Tower of London is without a doubt one of the most well known buildings in the world, with over one thousand years of royal history. The Tower of London, built by William the Conqueror, was once a palace, prison and a place of execution.

London’s Royal Palaces

For centuries the various royal families of Britain have resided in London, building palaces and castles throughout this capital city. For visitors to London who want to see all things royal – here is your list of London’s Royal Palaces ()!

A – Buckingham Palace

Beginning live as a house built by the Duke of Buckingham, today Buckingham Palace is the most famous residence of Queen Elizabeth II. Known the world over and the centre of royal engagements such as weddings, coronations and jubilees, Buckingham Palace is a top destination for visitors from around the world. In front of the palace is situated the famous balcony where various members of the royal family have made public appearances over the last century – including William and Kate who famously appeared on the balcony and shared a kiss after their wedding in 2011.

Open to the public? The Queens Gallery and the Queen’s Mews are open all year around. The State Rooms are only open when Queen Elizabeth is on holiday during the summer.

Dates:

  • State Rooms – 1st August to 27th September
  • Queen’s Gallery – Daily (aside from holidays and planned closures)
  • Royal Mews – Daily (aside from holidays and planned closures)

Times:

  • State Rooms – Vary depending on date. Check the website before you go: www.royalcollection.org.uk
  • Queen’s Gallery – 10:00am – 5:00pm
  • Royal Mews – 10:00am to 4:00pm or 5:00pm, depending on date. Check the website before you go.

Cost:

  • State Rooms – £20.50 for adults, £11.80 for children, Under 5’s are FREE
  • Queen’s Gallery – £9.75 adults, £4.95 children, Under 5’s are FREE
  • Royal Mews – £8.75 adults, £5.40 children, Under 5’s are FREE
  • Nearest Tube Station: Victoria or Green Park

B – Palace of Westminster

Better known as the Houses of Parliament, the Palace of Westminster was originally built nearly 1,000 years ago, in 1097. The original Palace was home to kings and queens until 1512 when King Henry VIII moved out, leaving the building empty. In 1547 his son, King Edward VI, gave the building to Parliament and they have been sitting inside the Palace of Westminster ever since. Although the original palace was lost in a fire in 1834, the rebuilt Palace – designed by architect Charles Barry – is famous the world over and is definitely a must-see for Royal lovers the world over. There is one original part of the palace still standing that guests can also visit: Westminster Hall – which has survived nearly a millennium and has played host to thousands of events over the centuries.

  • Open to the public? Paid guided/audio tours run on Saturdays and holiday periods. When the Houses are in session it is FREE for the public to go inside and listen to the political debates in the House of Lords or House of Commons.
  • Dates: Various
  • Times: Depend on the work of the House. Check the website before you go: www.parliament.uk
  • Cost: Visits to the gallery are FREE. Audio tours are £17.50 for adults, children under 15 are free with a paying adult. Guided tours are £25.00 for adults, children are £10.00.
  • Nearest Tube Station: Westminster

C – Whitehall Palace (remains)

Once the favourite palace of King Henry VIII, Whitehall Palace was considered the grandest and most beautiful of all London’s palaces. With over 1,000 rooms stretching from St. James’s Park to the River Thames, the palace was sprawling and described by some as more like a small village than an actual single building. A terrible fire in 1698 destroyed the majority of this fine building. One room survives: the Banqueting House. The site of King Charles I’s execution and decorated with one of the finest ceilings in the world, Banqueting House gives visitors a glimpse into the splendour and majesty of the original building.

  • Open to the public? Yes, the Banqueting House.
  • Dates: Daily (depending on holidays and planned closures – check the website before you go: www.hrp.org.uk/banquetinghouse)
  • Times: 10:00am to 5:00pm
  • Cost: Adults £6.60 under 16’s are FREE. Discount available when booking online.
  • Nearest Tube Station: Westminster or Charing Cross

D – Lambeth Palace

One of the oldest on the list, Lambeth Palace was put into the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury as far back as the year 1200. Today it is still the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and it also contains the largest collection of records of the Church of England which are stored here in the Lambeth Palace Library. A fine and original Tudor gatehouse dating from the 1490’s can be seen, along with some original walls and red brick facades from the outside. Inside, the Great Hall, Palace Library, Crypt and Chapel can be visited as part of a guided tour.

  • Open to the public? Yes, but infrequently.
  • Dates: Do not come up often, so book ahead on the website: www.archbishopofcanterbury.org
  • Times: Vary
  • Cost: £12.00 per person, under 17’s are FREE.
  • Nearest Tube Station: Westminster, Waterloo, Vauxhall and Lambeth North are all equidistant

E – St. James’ Palace

Built by King Henry VIII in the 1530’s, St. James Palace was a primary home to kings and queens for centuries, until the time of Victoria and Albert, who preferred to live in Buckingham Palace. Although originating as a royal home, today the Palace houses of the Court of Queen Elizabeth II and is used now for official functions as well as home to the household offices of various members of the royal family. It was in the small chapel here, where Victoria and Albert were married in 1840, that Prince George of Cambridge was christened in October 2013.

  • Open to the public? No. Guests can view the original Tudor gatehouse, however.
  • Nearest Tube Station: Green Park

F – Kensington Palace

Built at the request of King William III and Queen Mary II, Kensington Palace sits in the picturesque location of Kensington Gardens, next to Hyde Park. The original Palace still survives today – looking nearly exactly how it would have when it was originally built in the 17th century. Kensington Palace was famously the home of Princess Diana and it was at the golden gates here that thousands of tributes and flowers were laid after her death in 1997. Today, the Palace is home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (otherwise known as Wills and Kate!) as well as Prince George.

  • Open to the public? Yes
  • Dates: Daily
  • Times: 10:00am to 5:00 or 6:00pm depending on time of year
  • Cost: £16.50 for adults, children under 16 FREE – A discount is available when booking online so check the website: www.hrp.org.uk/kensingtonpalace
  • Nearest Tube Station: High Street Kensington

G – Kew Palace

There have been multiple Kew Palaces on this site along the River Thames but the present Palace was built – and partially designed – by King George III in 1802. Although George’s son, King George IV, eventually tore down parts of his father’s palace, a large and very grand building still survives. Although it has not played home to a monarch for over two centuries now, it was here that Prince Phillip hosted Queen Elizabeth II’s 80th birthday party! Situated inside the world famous Kew Gardens, it is only ticket holders to the gardens that can access Kew Palace.

  • Open to the public? Yes – only with a ticket to the Gardens.
  • Dates: March to September only
  • Times: 10:00am to 5:00pm
  • Cost: Tickets to Kew Gardens are £9.50 for adults and under 16’s are FREE
  • Nearest Tube Station: Kew Gardens

H – Hampton Court Palace

Originally built by Cardinal Wolsey, close confidant and employee of King Henry VIII, the Palace eventually came into the hands of Henry himself and today is the finest example of a Tudor palace in existence. Original Tudor buildings that can be viewed include King Henry VIII’s kitchens, as well as the magnificent Great Hall, Chapel, and royal chambers. It was here that King Henry VIII’s much desired son and heir was born, where his third wife Jane Seymour died, and where he last saw his fifth wife, Katherine Howard, mere days before her execution. In the 17th century, King William III took over the Palace and added new buildings in the Baroque style, with much of it designed by master architect Sir Christopher Wren. This means that today, Hampton Court Palace, is almost like two palaces in one, spanning a century of architectural design. Also available to visit is the beautiful gardens – and classic hedge maze!

  • Open to the public? Yes
  • Dates: Daily
  • Times: 10:00am to 4:30pm or 6:00pm depending on time of year.
  • Cost: £18.20 for adults, under 16’s £9.10, under 5’s are FREE. Discounts are available when booking online so check the website: www.hrp.org.uk/hamptoncourtpalace
  • Nearest Tube Station: None. Take trains from London Waterloo.

I – Windsor Castle and Palace

The world’s oldest continually inhabited castle, Windsor Castle is the home where Queen Elizabeth II spends the majority of her time. Originally built in the 11th century, today the Castle complex is vast, holding park lands, the original Norman keep, as well as lodgings and the 15th century St. George’s Chapel (burial place of King Henry VIII, King Charles I and King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother). Windsor is used just as often as Buckingham Palace for state banquets and official entertainments and it is widely known that this is Queen Elizabeth II’s preferred home.

  • Open to the public? Yes (scheduled closures aside – check the website: www.royalcollection.org.uk) Windsor Castle is a series of important buildings, so check the website to see which parts are open on the date you wish to go.
  • Dates: Daily
  • Times: 9:45am to 4:15pm or 5:15pm depending on time of year.
  • Cost: £18.50 for adults, £11.00 for under 17’s, under 5’s are FREE
  • Nearest Tube Station: None. Take trains from London Waterloo.

You might be interested on reading our blog posts of the royal family, e.g. Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles.

+++We’ll pass by some of these palaces on our Westminster Walking tour. Come and join us!+++

Tags: London Things to know

Royal Residences: Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace has served as the official London residence of the UK’s sovereigns since 1837 and today is the administrative headquarters of the Monarch. Although in use for the many official events and receptions held by The Queen, the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are open to visitors every summer.

Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms. These include 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. In measurements, the building is 108 metres long across the front, 120 metres deep (including the central quadrangle) and 24 metres high.

Buckingham Palace today

Today, Buckingham Palace is very much a working building and the centrepiece of the UK’s constitutional monarchy, serving as the venue for many royal events and ceremonies from entertaining foreign Head of States to celebrating achievement at Investitures and receptions.

More than 50,000 people visit the Palace each year as guests to State banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions and Garden Parties. Her Majesty also holds weekly audiences with the Prime Minister and receives newly-appointed foreign Ambassadors at Buckingham Palace.

Receptions are held at the Palace throughout the year to recognise the work of industry, government, charities, sport, the Commonwealth and many more areas of life. For example, in 2013 The Queen hosted a reception to celebrate the Commonwealth, Youth and Education, which was attended by 350 guests from academic institutions around the world and included a performance by the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra and choir and more recently, in 2015, Her Majesty hosted a reception for players, organisers and supporters of the Rugby World Cup.

Buckingham Palace is often a focal point for significant national celebrations and commemorations.

In 2002, a music concert was staged in the garden of Buckingham Palace to mark The Queen’s Golden Jubilee, which included a unforgettable performance of ‘God Save The Queen’ by Brian May from the roof of the Palace and at Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012 members of the public were invited to have a special picnic in the Buckingham Palace garden.

The balcony of Buckingham Palace is one of the most famous in the world. The first recorded Royal balcony appearance took place in 1851, when Queen Victoria stepped onto it during celebrations for the opening of the Great Exhibition. Since then, Royal Balcony appearances have marked many occasions from The Queen’s annual official birthday celebrations to watch the RAF Flypast at the end of Trooping the Colour, Royal Weddings, as well as special events of national significance such as the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Whilst Buckingham Palace is seen as the administrative hub of the Monarchy, it is also very much a family home, in addition to holding The Queen’s Gallery and the Royal Mews. The Queen gave birth to Prince Charles and Prince Andrew at the Palace, and to this day notice of royal births and deaths are still attached to the front railings for members of the public to read. The christenings of The Prince of Wales, The Princess Royal, The Duke of York and Prince William took place in the Music Room and many Royal Weddings have been celebrated at Buckingham Palace, most recently The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s.

The offices of those who support the day-to-day activities and duties of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh and their immediate family, such as the Private Secretary’s Office and the Privy Purse and Treasurer’s Office are located at Buckingham Palace.

History of Buckingham Palace

George III bought Buckingham House in 1761 for his wife Queen Charlotte to use as a comfortable family home close to St James’s Palace, where many court functions were held. Buckingham House became known as the Queen’s House, and 14 of George III’s 15 children were born there.

George IV, on his accession in 1820, decided to reconstruct the house into a pied-à-terre, using it for the same purpose as his father George III.

As work progressed, and as late as the end of 1826, The King had a change of heart. With the assistance of his architect, John Nash, he set about transforming the house into a palace. Parliament agreed to a budget of £150,000, but the King pressed for £450,000 as a more realistic figure.Nash retained the main block but doubled its size by adding a new suite of rooms on the garden side facing west. Faced with mellow Bath stone, the external style reflected the French neo-classical influence favoured by George IV.

The remodelled rooms are the State and semi-State Rooms, which remain virtually unchanged since Nash’s time.

The north and south wings of Buckingham House were demolished and rebuilt on a larger scale with a triumphal arch – the Marble Arch – as the centrepiece of an enlarged courtyard, to commemorate the British victories at Trafalgar and Waterloo.

By 1829 the costs had escalated to nearly half a million pounds. Nash’s extravagance cost him his job, and on the death of George IV in 1830, his younger brother William IV took on Edward Blore to finish the work. The King never moved into the Palace. Indeed, when the Houses of Parliament were destroyed by fire in 1834, the King offered the Palace as a new home for Parliament, but the offer was declined.

Queen Victoria was the first sovereign to take up residence in July 1837 and in June 1838 she was the first British sovereign to leave from Buckingham Palace for a Coronation. Her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840 soon showed up the Palace’s shortcomings.

A serious problem for the newly married couple was the absence of any nurseries and too few bedrooms for visitors. The only solution was to move the Marble Arch – it now stands at the north-east corner of Hyde Park – and build a fourth wing, thereby creating a quadrangle. The cost of the new wing was largely covered by the sale of George IV’s Royal Pavilion at Brighton.

Blore added an attic floor to the main block of the Palace and decorated it externally with marble friezes originally intended for Nash’s Marble Arch. The work was completed in 1847.By the turn of the century the soft French stone used in Blore’s East Front was showing signs of deterioration, largely due to London’s notorious soot, and required replacing.

In 1913 the decision was taken to reface the façade. Sir Aston Webb, with a number of large public buildings to his credit, was commissioned to create a new design. Webb chose Portland Stone, which took 12 months to prepare before building work could begin. When work did start it took 13 weeks to complete the refacing, a process that included removing the old stonework.

The present forecourt of the Palace, where Changing the Guard takes place, was formed in 1911, as part of the Victoria Memorial scheme.

The gates and railings were also completed in 1911; the North-Centre Gate is now the everyday entrance to the Palace, whilst the Central Gate is used for State occasions and the departure of the guard after Changing the Guard. The work was completed just before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

Visiting Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is open to the public during the summer months and for a limited number of tours in December, January and at Easter each year. Find out more about visiting the Palace on the Royal Collection Trust website.