What to See Near Buckingham Palace | A Tour of Royal London

This post is about things to do and see near Buckingham Palace, including things to do with kids, dining options as well as a sample itinerary.

 

 


TOP 10 THINGS TO SEE AND DO

(1) Take A Tour With Us!

We have a lot of London tours to choose from, including guided tours and downloadable audio tours. Check out our reviews on TripAdvisor.

 

 

Scheduled Tours

We run our classic Royal London Westminster Tour on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

One of our most popular tours, this walk incorporates all the highlights of the Westminster area and also incorporate the Changing of the Guard and the Changing of the Household Cavalry whenever they take place!

Or consider the Harry Potter Tour which includes stops at No. 10 Downing Street, the Ministry of Magic and the Westminster Underground.

Also, check out our Soho, Piccadilly Circus & Chinatown / Rock n’ Roll Tours which start nearby at Piccadilly Circus and our Theatreland Tour that finishes nearby in Covent Garden!

  • Opening Hours: Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 10:00. Book online HERE.
  • Prices: Our tours are always pay-what-you-like!

Audio Tours

If our walking tours aren’t offered during times and dates that are suitable for you, don’t worry – we’ve got a great alternative with our new GPS-enabled audio tours.


(2) Take a Tour of Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is one of the most famous buildings in the world and is home to our Queen, Elizabeth II. A sprawling complex of over 700 rooms, there are only a few parts of the Palace open to the public.

 

 

State Rooms

Whenever Her Majesty is away for her summer holidays, the State Rooms inside Buckingham Palace are opened to the public, giving you a chance to look behind-the-scenes at one of the world’s most famous royal residences.

Royal Mews

The Mews is home to the Royal Family’s carriages and is responsible for all their travel arrangements throughout the year.

A fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into all the work that surrounds the Royal Family, the Mews is open from February to November each year.

Queen’s Gallery

An art gallery attached to Buckingham Palace, the Queen’s Gallery features a rotating collection of works from the Royal Collection and is open all year ‘round.

Changing of the Guard

A trip to London isn’t complete without watching the Changing of the Guard. This world-famous ceremony takes place daily in the summer and around 4 times a week in the off-season.

It’s totally free to do (it’s #1 of 10 top 10 free things to do in London) and we’ve written a helpful guide to show you the best places to watch.

Or, let us do the work, by joining us on our Westminster Tour where we incorporate the Changing of the Guard into the tour whenever it is taking place!


(3) St James’s Palace

Built by Henry VIII in the 1530s, St. James’s is now one of the most important buildings in the country as it is home to Her Majesty’s Royal Court.

 

 

St. James’s Palace is not open to the public. However, it’s magnificent gatehouse and courtyards can be visited and are worth a look.

TOP TIP: This is also a GREAT place to get up close to the Queen’s Guard soldiers and the best place to head to if you want to see the Changing of the Guard! Read our guide


(4) Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery

Named for Britains’ victory in the Battle of Trafalgar, Trafalgar Square is a public piazza in the middle of town.

Decorated with statues of military figures who all played part in the Battle of Trafalgar (and their leader, Admiral Nelson on top of the middle column), the Square also boasts two beautiful fountains and is one of the most popular meeting points in town.

 

 

On the northern side of the square stands the National Gallery – one of the world’s premier art galleries, housings works from artists such as Monet, Van Gough, and Turner.

And not to be forgotten is the National Portrait Gallery just behind it, featuring portraits of some of the biggest names in British history.

It’s also worth noting that both museums offer scheduled tours and both are completely free!

It’s worth noting that we also run a National Gallery Tour seasonally throughout the year so make sure to check our booking calendar to see if it’s available when you’re here!


(5) Number 10 Downing Street

Home to all of our Prime Ministers throughout the centuries, Number 10 is one of the last surviving houses from a row of 25 that were built here over 300 years ago.

 

 

The house is not open to the public and the road is blocked off by security barricades, but it’s still possible to get a glimpse of this famous thoroughfare by standing near the gates on the edge of Whitehall.

Check out a virtual tour here.


(6) Banqueting House

Banqueting House is the last remaining piece of a monumental palace that used to stand here – the Palace of Whitehall.

The playground of kings like Henry VIII, Whitehall burned to the ground in the late 17th century and this building is all that remains. 

 

 

Banqueting House is crowned with a ceiling painted by Rubens, boasts a beautiful undercroft and was the execution site of King Charles I.

For more information, including opening hours and ticket prices check out our blog post.


(7) Westminster Abbey

One of the most famous churches in the world and an icon of London is Westminster Abbey. Contained within the beautiful stone facade is nearly 1,000 years of British history, ready to be uncovered.

From royal weddings, funerals, and coronations, to burial sites of British icons and kings and queens, the Abbey is absolutely full of fascinating history.

 

 

Each ticket purchased gives you a complimentary audio guide that you can take at your leisure. Or you can attend one of the verger tours, led by those who work at the church.

The Abbey is also open for worship, which is free of charge.


(8) The Palace of Westminster, Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben

Located within the Palace of Westminster, sits the Houses of Parliament.

Both the House of Commons and House of Lords are located in this building, which belongs to Queen Elizabeth II. There are a number of ways for guests to visit the Houses of Parliament.

 

 

Guided/Audio Tours

When Parliament is not in session (Saturdays and various holidays throughout the year) the Palace is open for guided and audio tours.

These walks take you through the Queen’s rooms and inside the House of Lords and House of Commons before finishing in the nearly 1,000-year-old Westminster Hall.

Public Galleries

Whenever Parliament is in session, there are no public tours.

However, it is possible for visitors to enter the building and watch Parliamentary debates inside the public galleries both in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.


(9) Big Ben

The Queen Elizabeth II Tower, otherwise known as ‘Big Ben’ is undergoing a major refurbishment that is set to be completed in 2021. This means it is not possible to see the Tower as it is covered in scaffolding. 

 

 

Get more information and plan your visit through our blog post. 


(10) Churchill War Rooms

These underground bunkers where Winston Churchill led the armed forces during the Second World War are preserved in time and open for the public to visit and explore.

 

 

Audio-guided tours will take you back to the days of World War Two and the Blitz and will give you a behind-the-scenes view into how Churchill operated his wartime plans and eventually led the British troops to victory.


Honorable Mentions

  • The London Eye – London’s iconic Ferris wheel, providing great views of the city.
  • The Queen’s Guard Museum – All the behind-the-scenes information you’ve ever wanted to know about the Queens Guard, as well as up-close looks at their uniforms.
  • Wellington Arch – A beautiful Victorian relic and a wonderful backdrop for dramatic photos.
  • St James’s Park (and the bird keepers cottage!) – One of London’s most beautiful parks, and home to a number of birds belonging to Her Majesty, including swans and pelicans.
  • Westminster Cathedral – A lesser-known London landmark, Westminster Cathedral boasts a viewing tower 273 feet tall with incredible views of the city, for only £6.00!

 


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THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS

You’ll never need to worry about anyone in the family getting bored in this part of town. 

From themed tours and dungeons to Changing of the Guard parades, here is our recommended list of family-friendly things to do in Westminster.

 

 

For more family-friendly ideas, read our guide to visiting London with kids


Take A Tour With Us

Most of our tours are family-friendly, but walks like our Harry Potter Tour and Street Art Tour are especially suited for visitors of younger ages. 

Even our Royal London Tour will entertain your kids. Check out our reviews on TripAdvisor.


Changing of the Guard

Get the best view possible and beat the crowds by using our guide to the Changing of the Guard, which will direct you to the Wellington Barracks.

 

 

This is the best way to get your little ones up-close to the soldiers without having to wait around for hours.


Horseguard’s Parade and Changing of the Household Cavalry

Be amazed by the beautiful horses and the Household Cavalry who ride them at Horseguard’s Parade.

Their Changing of the Guard is viewable by the public, too, and is a hit with kids.

(Note: The Household Cavalry Museum also has uniforms for little ones to try on!)


Harry Potter Film Locations Tour

Visit the Ministry of Magic as well as glimpses of Number 10 Downing Street as you walk in the footsteps of the world’s most famous wizards!

Come on our walking tour, take our self-guided tour, or our GPS-Enabled audio tour


Trafalgar Square

The huge lion statues are always a hit with kids, and the northern edge of Trafalgar Square is well known for their street performers – look out for artists, magicians, bubble-blowers and more. 


London Dungeon

The London Dungeons take you through centuries of London’s gruesome history and includes a wild boat ride boat ride through the past.

 

 

This is a good attraction for most kids.


London Aquarium

Featuring thousands of species of aquatic wildlife, the London Aquarium is great for the whole family. Especially look out for the rock pool where guests can touch sea anemone and starfish!

Check out our post for how to get a 2FOR1 entry!


Boat Tours

Boat tours are great for the entire family, and are a good way to travel far without little legs having to do too much walking!

 

 

Zip down the river on a commuter boat, or take a scenic ride with a tour guide as you get a totally different view of some of London’s riverside landmarks.

For more family-friendly ideas, read our guide to visiting London with kids.

 


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ONE-DAY ITINERARY FOR FAMILIES

 

 

Planning your day in London but don’t know where to start? Here’s our suggested itinerary:

 


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PLACES TO EAT AND DRINK

There are so many dining options in London it can be overwhelming to make a choice. Here is our list of the best places to eat and drink in the city.

 

 

Breakfast

Cellarium Cafe 

Part of the Westminster Abbey estate, this charming cafe is open all day and offers morning light-bites or a classic full English breakfast. All without breaking the bank – and best of all, kids eat free!

Iris & June

This artisan cafe produces delicious breakfasts fresh and on-site every day. There are hot meals on offer as well as freshly-baked cakes and pastries which you can enjoy alongside small-batch roasted coffee.

The Wolesley 

Located on the grand boulevard of Piccadilly, the Wolseley is a London institution.

Silver service will greet you as you dine where royals and celebrities have throughout the last decade – but with all dishes under £20.00 and many less than £10.00, it’s a top class experience that’s affordable to all.


Lunch

St James Cafe 

Located in the heart of St. James’s Park sits St. James’s Cafe. A charming rooftop terrace for fine weather sits atop the downstairs cafe. Hot food, snacks, and sandwiches are on offer all day with some of the best views of any cafe in London.

Strutton Ground Market 

Not sure what to eat? Get a bit of everything at Strutton Ground Market. This food market features permanent spots as well as pop-up stalls featuring cuisine from all over the world.

Franco Manca 

Over the last few years, this beloved London secret has expanded and opened numerous outlets throughout town, bringing their signature sourdough pizza base to hungry diners all over London.

Expect wood-fired pizzas with fresh Italian ingredients – and a special menu for kids. 


Dinner

Cinnamon Club 

This one is a bit of a splurge – but worth it. Cinnamon Club is a classic London institution serving up delicious Indian dishes to a fine dining standard.

Set in a former Victorian library the restaurant also boasts a hidden cocktail bar downstairs.

Walkers of Whitehall 

Tucked onto a quiet side street just off bustling Whitehall, Walkers is a hidden gem.

Spread over three different floors (the bar, the dining room, and the basement) the pub boasts numerous beers and wines to choose from, as well as a classic pub menu – including delicious fish and chips!

Machiya 

Simple home-cooked Japanese dishes, cheaply priced and served in a modern setting. Tucked away behind the busy streets near Trafalgar Square, this is a bit of a London secret! 


Pubs

The Admiralty

Owned by Fullers, a London brewery that’s been operating over the last 300 years, this pub sits just opposite the iconic Trafalgar Square.

Expect London-brewed beers, a modern wine list, and traditional pub meals all served up in a charmingly nautical themed environment.

Gordons 

Gordon’s is a London institution. An 18th-century wine bar, located partially in underground caves, Gordon’s is a favourite with locals and visitors alike.

With outdoor seating in the summer, and cosy tables in the caves for winter, this is a year-round location. Expect meat and cheese boards, tapas, and the largest wine list in Westminster.

The Red Lion 

Another Fullers hideaway, the Red Lion is a pub steeped in history and upon entering, it’s as though you are going back in time. Serving Mayfair for over the last two centuries, this hidden boozer is a perfect example of a classic London pub.


Quick Bites

Ravello

A great spot for a fast bite to eat or a hot coffee/chocolate. Ravello is a favourite with locals for a quick place to pick up lunch or a snack – all food is freshly made and cheap!

Fuzzy’s Grub 

Salads, sandwiches, home-made traditional British pies and hot drinks. All at a reasonable price and served in the backstreets of beautiful St James.

 


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PLACES WITH TOURIST ATTRACTION DISCOUNT PASS 

If you’ve purchased yourself the London Pass or the Explorer Pass, then Westminster is a great area to really get your money’s worth.

If you don’t know, tourist discount passes can save you up to 55% off of retail ticket prices as well as save you time by allowing you to skip many ticket lines.

 

 

Below is a list of locations near Buckingham Palace (including the palace) that take this popular tourist pass.

  • Buckingham Palace
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Banqueting House
  • Churchill War Rooms
  • The Jewel Tower
  • Household Cavalry Museum
  • Guards Museum
  • Boat Tours

If you’ve instead chosen the Explorer Pass, there are many locations in Westminster that are included also:

  • London Aquarium
  • London Eye
  • Shrek’s Adventure
  • London Dungeon
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Churchill War Rooms
  • River Cruise

 


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