For centuries, London has been the home of ruling powers. From the native leaders to the Romans and finally the long list of Britain’s monarchs, the city has not only been a seat of power, but it has been home as well.
Many palaces and former Royal residences can be found in London, though many of them currently remain unused except as museums to their previous owners. However, there are five that are still occupied by various members of the Royal Family. While some will be familiar and well-known, others are less so to the general public.
The Royal Palaces in London are some of the most incredible places a person can see. When you visit one of these palaces, you’ll be going back to a time when kings and queens ruled the land.
These are some of the world’s most significant works of architecture, and they contain some of the most famous works of art as well. Here are a few of the incredible palaces that London has to offer.
Banqueting House, Whitehall
The Banqueting House is the last surviving remnant of the Whitehall Palace, which was the residence of King Henry VIII. After a fire destroyed most of the palace, the Banqueting House still remained. It is considered to be an important work of architecture, as it is the first English building to be built in the neoclassical style.
Today, there is still much to see and do at this magnificent palace. You can take a walk through its grand hall, the ceiling of which contains nine paintings by Peter Paul Rubens. You can also visit the execution site of King Charles I., And there are paintings and sculptures of King James I and King Charles I to be seen.
Buckingham Palace is a must-see when it comes to Royal Palaces in London. With rooms along with the most extensive private garden in London, it is the Queen’s official London residence and a working royal palace. Rooms along with the most extensive private garden in London, it is the Queen’s official London residence and a working royal palace.
Of the 775 rooms, 188 are staff bedrooms, 92 offices, 78 bathrooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, and 19 state rooms.
Perhaps the most recognisable portion of Buckingham Palace is the famous balcony where the royal family stands to greet the crowds after significant events like the annual Trooping the Colour, the annual parade to celebrate the Queen’s birthday. You can tour the magnificent State Rooms at Buckingham Palace which are open to visitors for ten weeks each summer and on selected dates during spring and winter.
Attached to St. James’s Palace, Clarence House is presently the home of Charles, Prince of Wales and his wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall. John Nash designed the home, which was built between 1825 and 1827. It had been commissioned by King William IV when he was only the Duke of Clarence, and after him, it became the home for other members of the Royal Family. Before the Prince of Wales, it had housed the Queen Mother, and his parents before Queen Elizabeth ascension to Queen. While St. James may not be open to the public, Clarence House is available for tours during the summer, though the tour is limited to rooms on the ground floor.
Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace features both Tudor and Baroque architectural styles which makes it one of the unique Royal palaces in London. It was once the home of King Henry VIII and the site where he finally had his son. Later, it was expanded by King William III to rival the Palace of Versailles in France.
A favourite thing to do when visiting Hampton Court Palace is to explore its famous hedge maze. You can also check out the Abraham Tapestries in its magnificent Grand Hall or let the kids play in its Magic Garden. There are also many famous works of art and even a historic tennis court.
Kensington Palace has been a Royal residence since the 17th Century. It was built by Sir George Coppin and became the home of King William III and Queen Mary II after becoming joint monarchs in 1689.
After their deaths, it became the residence of Queen Anne and was later the birthplace of Queen Victoria, though Victoria would come to prefer another home on this list. King George II would become the last monarch to live in the palace, and from the time of King George III-onward, it would be a home for other members of the Royal Family. It is famous for being the former residence of Princess Diana. Presently, it is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, their children, as well as the Gloucesters. Kensington palace is a Historic Royal Palace, a notable tourist attraction, though the residences aren’t typically open to tour.
Along with being a place of residence for some members of the royal family, it also acts as a museum containing many royal paintings and artefacts. Thus, sections of Kensington Palace are open to the public throughout the year. Fans of Princess Diana will also be thrilled to see an exhibit dedicated to her fashion choices over the years. You can even take a tour of the Kensington Palace gardens while learning more about its history.
While part of the Kensington Estate, Wren House (also known as Wren Cottage) is currently the abode of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. This part of the palace was named for Sir Christopher Wren, who expanded upon and made several improvements to the palace for William and Mary. While they may be royalty, the Kents don’t get to live there for free and pay rent to Her Majesty, the Queen. This has been a source of some controversy as Prince, and Princess Michael has to perform Royal duties for which they are not paid, leading to them receiving some help to make rent payments and getting some bad press.
Of all the Royal Palaces in London, Kew Palace is the smallest. It was initially part of a more massive structure, but much of it has been torn down over the years. What remains is a beautiful mansion full of majesty and wonder. It is also well-known for being the place of residence for King George III during his bouts with mental illness.
One of Kew Palace’s most celebrated attractions is its royal kitchens. Remarkably, these kitchens have remained relatively unchanged for the last 200 years. You can also explore the royal princesses’ bedrooms or take the kids to the Here Be Dragons exhibit. Of course, don’t forget to check out the incredible Kew Gardens while you’re there.
Lambeth Palace is the official place of residence for the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is almost 800 years old, making it one of the oldest Royal Palaces in London. Its beautiful gardens are often used to host a variety of different events during the summertime.
The Lambeth Palace Library is one of its most significant claims to fame as it contains over 120,000 books and religious records, some of which date all the way back to the 12th Century. It’s also known for its Tudor gatehouse which was built in the 1490s. You’ll want to check out its Great Hall, Chapel, and Crypt while you’re there. Not to mention the beautiful St. Mary-at-Lambeth church.
St. James’ Palace was initially built by King Henry VIII on the site of a former leper hospital and was dedicated to St. James the Lesser. It was the home for British monarchs for several centuries. Today, it is used for a variety of official functions along with being the home of several members of the royal family.
Of all the Royal Palaces in London, St. James’ Palace is considered one of the best examples of Tudor architecture. Although the building itself is not open to the public, there are many things to do in its vicinity. You can attend services at the Royal Chapel and Queen’s Chapel. You can also visit the bronze memorial to Queen Alexandra.
Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster, more commonly known as the House of Parliament, is almost a thousand years old. It was the home of the kings until 1547 when it was destroyed in a fire. Since then, it has become the Parliament’s home, making it one of the most famous buildings in London.
This palace is known for being the location of Big Ben, one of London’s most celebrated attractions. Tourists can also visit Westminster Hall. This is the oldest part of the palace and has been the site of many important historical events. It is also possible to take guided tours of the palace or watch debates as they’re taking place. Nearby is also Westminster Abbey where many royal wedding, coronations and funerals have taken place.
Tower of London
The Tower of London is a complex of several different buildings and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. It was first established by William the Conqueror almost a thousand years ago. In that time, it has played many different roles and has been the site of many important historical events.
One of the Tower of London’s popular attraction is the Crown Jewels which have been on public display for several centuries. Visitors can also see the Royal Menagerie while they’re there. Or you can go to the Church of St. Peter, which is said to be haunted by the ghost of Anne Boleyn. And of course, don’t forget to see the tower’s famous prisons.
The Whitehall Palace served as the official residence of the English kings for many years. It used to be the largest palace in Europe with over 1500 rooms. This made it even more extensive than the Palace of Versailles. This was before it was destroyed in a fire in 1698.
The only significant part of the complex that remains is the Banqueting Hall mentioned above. Although most of the palace has been destroyed, you can still see some of its remains. In particular, it’s still possible to visit King Henry VIII’s wine cellar. The east side of the site was also redeveloped into the MOD Main Building, which houses the country’s Ministry of Defence.
Windsor Castle has been occupied longer than any of the other palaces on this list. It was initially built for William the Conqueror in the 11th Century. Today, Windsor Castle is well-known for being the preferred home of Queen Elizabeth II. It is used for official banquets and ceremonies almost as often as Buckingham Palace.
Windsor Castle is a major tourist attraction, and there’s plenty of things to do when you visit. In particular, you’ll want to see St. George’s Chapel, which is the burial site for many English kings. The castle also contains much of the Royal Collection of art. And of course, you can also spend quite a bit of time exploring the castle gardens.