Widely considered the finest and most beautiful residences in the United Kingdom, London's royal palaces attract admirers from around the world. Here are the top spots to see how the British royal family lives on your next trip to this capital city.
The Queen's quarters
One of the best-known royal palaces in the world, Buckingham Palace is the primary residence of the British monarch. The palace features 19 state rooms, which are open to the public for three months each summer when the queen goes to Scotland. During the rest of the year, visitors can admire the palace and its famous balcony from behind gilded gates. The Changing of the Guard ceremony is a real treat, but make sure to arrive well before the scheduled procession to beat the crowds.
Timeless royal apartments, whimsical gardens, and a historic birthplace
Set in the heart of central London, Kensington Palace is the birthplace of Queen Victoria and was once home to Princess Diana. In recent years the palace has played host to members of the lesser royalty, and remains a popular royal residence.
How to Visit: With a Royal Palaces Pass, combine your visit to the King's and Queen's State Apartments, as well as the Palace Gardens, with a trip to Hampton Court Palace and the Tower of London.
Located on the banks of the Thames River to the southwest of central London, 16th-century Hampton Court Palace is a masterpiece of baroque and Tudor architecture. Once King Henry VIII's private residence, it was built to rival the Palace of Versailles in Paris.
How to Visit: Prebook admission tickets to skip the ticket lines and head straight inside the palace compound, where you'll find the famous Great Hall and Haunted Gallery.
The 17th-century Banqueting House sits on Whitehall in central London, and is widely considered the finest example of neoclassical architecture in the city. The national monument welcomes visitors keen to admire its grand hallways and suites, and offers a look at the site of King Charles I's beheading in 1649.
How to Visit: Book admission tickets to stroll through at your leisure and admire features such as the bronze bust of James I and ceiling paintings by Flemish master Sir Peter Paul Rubens.
The Tower of London is a UNESCO–listed landmark dating back to the 11th-century Norman Conquest of England. One of the city's most popular attractions, the tower is protected by the famous Beefeater guards and has housed the monarch’s Crown Jewels since the 14th century. Following alterations made by notorious ruler Henry VII, many visitors have claimed to have seen ghosts in the towers and corridors.
How to Visit: Follow a Yeoman Warder (Beefeater) guide on a tour of the Royal Armories collection, Tower Green, Traitors’ Gate, and the White Tower, and marvel at the Crown Jewels. Or, opt for a VIP experience with exclusive early access.