Venture inside the homes of British royalty with this guide to the most impressive royal palaces in London
The reigning monarchy is a symbol of British pride and their homes are some of the grandest in the United Kingdom. London is home to a number of world-famous palaces, many of which still function as official royal residences. And while the photogenic exteriors are impressive, getting a glimpse inside isn’t as hard as you might think; during the summer months many royal palaces in London open their doors to the public. From historic Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace to elegant royal abodes like Clarence House and Kensington Palace, discover the residences of the British royals on your next trip to London.
Arguably the most famous of the royal palaces in London, Buckingham Palace has served as the official residence of the UK monarchy since 1837. There are 775 rooms housing the headquarters of the Monarch and over 200 living spaces for royals, guests and staff. Throughout the year, thousands of visitors visit the palace at the head of The Mall to catch a glimpse the grand building and to watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony. Those eager to see inside can tour the State Rooms – frequently used for official events and stately receptions – during the summer. Look out for flags because when the Royal Standard flies it means HM Queen Elizabeth is at home.
Winning the accolade of the largest occupied castle in the world, Windsor Castle holds some serious regal clout. Used as The Queen’s weekend home when she tires of central London life, the castle in the affluent Berkshire County, just outside of the capital, is the ideal country retreat. Visitors can take a guided tour of the precincts, explore the grandiose State Apartments, visit St George’s Chapel, browse The Royal Collection of artworks and watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which takes place on most mornings throughout the summer. The same flag rule applies at Windsor as at Buckingham Palace, so keep your eyes peeled for the Royal Standard.
Clarence House is the official London residence of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. While the impressive Grade I listed 19th century mansion is still used as a family home, the ground floor of the townhouse is open to the public during the summer. Take a tour to gain an insight into the home life of the royal family and discover many original artworks and interesting pieces of furniture with a distinctly regal history.
Next door to Clarence House is Kensington Palace, home to several members of the royal family including William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte. The palace, which was the birthplace of Queen Victoria, was a popular royal residence before Buckingham Palace became the principal monarchic abode. Historic sections, including stately apartments and gardens, are open to the public. Visitors can also discover exhibitions such as Victoria Revealed, a fascinating exploration of the life of one of the UK’s most illustrious monarchs.
Built in the 1530s by King Henry VII, St James’s Palace remains one of the most important royal palaces in London, frequently used for ceremonial events and formal receptions such as meetings with heads of states. While the palace is no longer the principal residence of the monarchy, it is home to a number of royal family members such as Anne, the Princess Royal, and famous royal sisters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie. While the palace itself isn’t open to the public, the two on-site chapels can be visited at certain times.