6 of the most majestic royal residences to visit this summer
Buckingham Palace has served as the official London residence of the UK’s sovereigns since 1837, and recent events have seen it thrust into the spotlight like never before. Along with Buckingham Palace, the capital houses several of the most important royal residences, and many of them also happen to be open to members of the public during certain times of the year, giving you the chance to see what goes on behind the doors of some of the country’s most regal private homes. Here we take a look at the most majestic royal residences in London that you can visit.
While the late Queen may have favoured Windsor Castle over her London home during the later days of her reign, it’s thought that King Charles will be moving into Buckingham Palace as soon as a period of renovations is carried out. Its regal façade formed the back drop for many of the most moving moments following the Queen’s death and her final procession. While the majority of people who get to step behind its famous doors are there for official engagements or have landed a coveted invitation to one of the royal Garden Parties, there is a period of ten weeks each summer where several of the palace’s magnificent State Rooms are open to visitors.
From the end of July to early October, the palace opens its door and offers the opportunity to explore some of the most lavish State Rooms, including the breath-taking ballroom and the Queen’s throne. Keep your eyes peeled for the Vermeers, Titians and Rembrandts that line the walls, as well as the glittering Diamond Diadem the Queen wore for her coronation, which is on display in the Ball Supper Room. Afterwards, take a tour around the glorious gardens, known to be some of the most beautiful in all of London.
Buckingham Palace, Westminster, London SW1A 1AA
Situated in leafy Kensington Gardens, this grand 547-room palace was the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria and still acts as the London home and office to a number of senior royals, including the Prince and Princess of Wales. William and Kate lived in apartment 1A with their three children until their recent move to Adelaide Cottage in Windsor, and still count the palace as their London base. It was also the former home of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, while Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank currently reside in Ivy Cottage, in the grounds of the palace.
While the private residences within the palace are not open to members of the public, there are several historic areas you can explore, including the opulent King’s State Apartments. There you’ll find the Privy Chamber, once one of Queen Caroline’s favourite entertaining spaces, and the Cupola Room, known to be the most splendidly decorated room in the whole palace. In the Queen’s State Apartments, meanwhile, you can see Queen Mary II’s bedroom, which features the same bed where it’s said James Edward Stuart, son of King James II, was born.
Kensington Gardens, Kensington, London W8 4PX
This imposing royal residence on The Mall – one of the last remaining aristocratic townhouses in London – is best known for being the private London home of King Charles III and the Queen Consort, Camilla, before his accession. Built between 1825 and 1827, it also acted as the London residence of the Queen Mother from 1953 until 2002, as well as being the home for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh following their marriage in 1947. The elegant house is open to the public during the summer months, when visitors can explore the five ground floor rooms.
The cosy rooms very much have the feel of a private home, full of personal treasures and antiques collected over the years. The Garden Room, which was created by Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother out of two rooms and is used for welcoming official visitors, features an array of musical instruments (including King Charles’ harp), family photographs and impressive works of art such as a Leandro Bassano painting of Noah’s Ark. Meanwhile, the Morning Room, which was originally designed as the Breakfast Room, was once used as the Duke of Edinburgh’s study.
8 Cleveland Row, St James’s, London SW1A 1BA
St James’s Palace
Having been a residence of Kings and Queens of England for over 300 years, St. James’s Palace has been the setting for some of the most important events in Royal history, including most recently being the place where King Charles III was formally proclaimed during his Accession. The palace also acts as the London residence of the Princess Royal and Princess Beatrice, while numerous family occasions have been held here over the years, including the christening of Prince Louis in 2018.
Although the palace is not officially open to the public, it is the site for many of the key charity receptions associated with members of the Royal Family, hosting as many as 100 events a year, so it’s possible to nab a coveted invitation to catch a glimpse inside. You can also visit palace’s Chapel Royal, which is an active place of worship and holds services every Sunday throughout the year, except in August and September.
Marlborough Road, St James’s, London SW1A 1BQ
Despite the fact that Windsor Castle may not actually be in London, it’s close enough to the capital for a quick day trip if you want to pay a visit to the regal market town. As the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world, any visit here is steeped in history – founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, it has housed a staggering 39 monarchs since. Most recently it was where Queen Elizabeth II called home, after she moved there full-time during the last couple of years of her life.
The castle is open throughout the year, when visitors have the chance to explore several of the exquisite State and Semi-State Rooms – including the Crimson Drawing Room, one of the most extravagantly decorated chambers in England – as well as St George’s Chapel, where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex got married. This summer the castle is hosting a number of special tours where you can learn about the late Queen’s life at the castle, as well as chances to explore the beautiful Savill Garden, first created in 1932 by Queen Mary.
Castle Hill, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 1NJ
Main pic credit: Google Arts & Culture