Written by Viator, January 2012
The five Historic Royal Palaces (if you want to visit them all, buying a membership is the cheapest way) are the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace. These magnificent buildings are monuments to the wealth and grandeur of past royalty and filled with incredible paintings, furniture and stories.
The Tower of London also has the Crown Jewels, astounding diamonds and rubies including the actual crown still worn by Queen Elizabeth II on regal occasions. The Tower is guarded by Beefeaters, a special force of soldiers who also act as lively tour guards. Similarly the other royal palaces are filled with specialist guides and guards who know almost everything about these buildings and are happy to share the information.
Kensington Palace is where Princess Diana lived and where her sons Princes William and Harry still have rooms to stay in. Hampton Court was Henry VIII's favourite home and is a wonderful mix of his Tudor era palace and a later Baroque palace with a park filled with deer and swans.
Kew Palace is a lovely small residence in Kew Gardens beloved by Queen Charlotte as her picnic house in the 18th century. The Banqueting Hall is all that remains of the enormous Whitehall Palace which was destroyed by fire.
The other royal palace in London is Buckingham Palace, the current royal residence. This is only open to the public during summer when the Queen is away, during August and September. A visit to the State Apartments and the palace garden during this time is well worth it, but you'll need to book ahead as it's very popular. You can also see the royal art collection at the nearby Queen's Gallery which is open all year.