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 11 THINGS TO SEE AND DO
(1) Witness the Changing of the Guard
This world-famous event doesn't happen every day and doesn't take place in certain weather conditions.
Where should you stand? When should you get here? Let us show you how to plan your visit.
When the ceremony takes place, we stop here on our pay-what-you-like Royal London Tour, so let us take you here.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
(11) Take A Tour With Us!
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.
- Opening Hours: Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 10:00. Book online HERE.
- Prices: Our tours are always pay-what-you-like!
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.
- 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.
- The Household Cavalry Museum - The Horse Guard’s Museums lifts the lid on the Household Cavalry.
- 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!
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
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!
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.
The London Dungeons take you through centuries of London’s gruesome history and includes a wild boat ride through the past.
This is a good attraction for most kids. Read our full post to see what discounts are available.
Especially look 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 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.
ONE-DAY ITINERARY FOR FAMILIES
Planning your day in London but don't know where to start? Here's our suggested itinerary:
- Eat a delicious breakfast in Westminster (Check out our recommendations below!)
- Walk through beautiful St. James’ Park and see the Queen’s birds
- Catch the Changing of the Guard
- Witness the Changing of the Household Cavalry
- Explore the remains of Whitehall Palace at Banqueting House.
- Have a traditional pub lunch (Check out our recommendations below!)
- Tour the Houses of Parliament OR watch a live debate
- Visit Westminster Abbey and take their great audio guide
- Leave Westminster on a beautiful boat ride down the Thames
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Salads, sandwiches, home-made traditional British pies and hot drinks. All at a reasonable price and served in the backstreets of beautiful St James.
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