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London’s Royal Palaces

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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 (click for map)!

 

A – Buckingham Palace

London BuckinghamPalace james bondBeginning 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

Palace of WestminsterBetter 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

London st. James PalaceBuilt 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

Kensington PalaceBuilt 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

London Kew_Palace_Queen's_GardenThere 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

London windsor castleThe 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!+++

About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo, Washington.org, and more.
Updated: January 11th, 2015
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