Visit the Most Impressive Royal Palaces in and Around London

Buckingham Palace

The regal Buckingham Palace

The grand royal palaces in and around London, along with Windsor Castle, are a highlight of any UK holiday. Rich in history, some are still royal residences today. Many of London’s royal palaces open to the public, but even if you can’t travel right now, you can discover their exciting and glamorous stories in our round-up. Or for a right-royal getaway, London Perfect has chic apartment rentals nearby to choose from.

Buckingham Palace

One of the most impressive royal palaces in London, monumental Buckingham Palace dominates The Mall overlooking St James’s Park. The official London residence of UK sovereigns since 1837, it’s still the monarch’s administrative HQ. When not used for royal receptions, the antique-packed State Rooms are open to the public every summer (there are also spring guided tours and garden access for picnics). Expect lavish furniture, art and porcelain, with the White Drawing Room especially eye-catching. Originally a large town house built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703, the palace was revamped by architect John Nash in the French Neoclassical style. The central balcony is famous for royal photo opportunities; the Changing of the Guard takes place in the forecourt. SW1

Tower of London

Step back in time at the Tower of London

Tower of London

Get up close to the opulent Crown Jewels, iconic Yeoman Warders (known as Beefeaters) and spooky ravens at the Tower of London. A World Heritage site just a stroll from Tower Bridge beside the Thames, the intimidating castle has served time as a secure fortress, royal palace and infamous prison. Frenchman William the Conqueror, the first Norman monarch of England, built the White Tower here in the 1070s as his stone fortress, with the defensive walls, smaller towers and expanded moat added later by medieval kings. Over the years it became home to the Royal Mint, Royal Armouries and even a zoo of exotic animals! The 1483 disappearance of two young princes in the Tower, believed murdered, remains an enduring mystery. EC3

Hampton Court Palace

Gorgeous gardens at Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace

A short train ride from central London, Hampton Court Palace was King Henry VIII’s magnificent home. Built by Cardinal Wolsey in the early 16th century, the original Tudor pile caught Henry’s eye, and the king took it over. A sophisticated Baroque palace was later added by architect Sir Christopher Wren during the reign of William III and Mary II. Open to the public, Hampton Court features ornate interiors, a Tudor kitchen, chocolate room and real tennis court, with two of Henry’s six wives said to haunt its halls. Wander the glorious formal gardens and parkland by the Thames, admiring the topiary, ancient grape vine and maze. Dotted with daffodils, the grounds are spectacular in Spring. East Molesey, Surrey

Queen's House Greenwich

The elegant Queen’s House in Greenwich (credit)

Queen’s House

English architect Inigo Jones’s masterpiece, the Queen’s House in Greenwich was the UK’s first Classical building. It was designed in 1616 for Anne of Denmark, wife of James I. After her death, Jones completed it around 1635 for Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I. Dubbed ‘The White House’, the elegant former royal palace is home to a renowned art collection. A perfect cube, the Great Hall boasts a black-and-white marble floor and gold-leaf ceiling. The Tulip Stairs – the first geometric self-supporting spiral staircase in Britain – are beloved by Instagrammers. Now a museum, it’s set in the National Maritime Museum Gardens beside Greenwich Park. Romney Road, SE10

Eltham Palace

Lovely Eltham Palace in Greenwich (credit)

Eltham Palace

A medieval palace and then a Tudor royal residence in southeast London, Eltham Palace was saved from decline and restored by eccentric millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld in the 1930s. They incorporated stylish Art Deco design alongside the medieval features, creating a glam heritage-modern mansion set in award-winning gardens. Highlights include the dazzling Scandi-chic circular entrance hall, the Deco dining room, the medieval Great Hall with its complex oak roof, and Virginia’s gold bathroom. Outdoors discover the Rock Garden, pools, cascades, London’s oldest working bridge and a sunken rose garden. The couple famously kept a ring-tailed lemur, Mah-Jongg (‘Jongy’), who had his own quarters at the house and a deckchair on their yacht! Court Yard, SE9

Kensington Palace

Visiting Kensington Palace is a must!

Kensington Palace

Queen Victoria’s birthplace and childhood home, Kensington Palace has long been a favourite of the royals. In 1689 King William III and Queen Mary bought Jacobean mansion Nottingham House and commissioned Christopher Wren to transform it into a palace. It’s still a working royal residence, and is now the official home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate) and their three children, plus other senior royals. The public can visit Victoria’s reimagined childhood rooms and the fabulous King’s and Queen’s State Apartments. The King’s Gallery showcases fine paintings from the Royal Collection. Afterwards stroll Kensington Palace Gardens and nearby Kensington Gardens beside Hyde Park. London Perfect’s inviting 3 bedroom Kensington Court apartment is only a short stroll away. Kensington Gardens, W8

Windsor Palace

The Long Walk leading to Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Prince Philip’s funeral drew all eyes to Windsor Castle, home to the Queen with over 900 years of royal history. The world’s oldest and largest occupied castle, the fortress was founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century and has housed 39 monarchs. The Queen spends weekends here, and it’s a working palace used for official functions, state banquets in St George’s Hall and royal weddings – Prince Harry and Megan Markle tied the knot in the Gothic St George’s Chapel. About half an hour from London by train, it’s open for visits year-round, with access to the chapel, treasure-filled State Apartments and precincts (plus warden-led tours). Don’t miss Queen Mary’s dolls’ house! Nearby Frogmore Cottage, at Frogmore House, was once Harry and Megan’s pad. Windsor, Berkshire

Kew Palace

For a peaceful day out of London, visit Kew Palace and Gardens

Kew Palace

The vast royal palaces in London can be overwhelming. For an intimate experience head to Kew Palace, a hidden royal sanctuary in Kew Gardens and the smallest royal palace. Once home to George III and Queen Charlotte, it was a retreat for the Georgian royals in the 18th century, and now shares the story of the king’s domestic life and mental illness. Originally a fashionable mansion for a London silk merchant built in 1631, its red-brick façade, windows and chimneys are charming. Enjoy self-led external tours of nearby Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, used by the royal family for rest and refreshment during walks. They kept exotic pets in the paddock, including oriental cattle, Tartarian pheasants and kangaroos! Admire panoramic views from Kew’s lofty Great Pagoda. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond

St. James's Palace

St. James’s Palace in central London

St James’s Palace & Clarence House

The UK’s oldest and most senior royal palace, St James’s Palace isn’t open to the public. Tourists can admire this busy working palace’s exterior though and the Changing of the Guard ceremony here. Built between 1531 and 1536 by Henry VIII, the red-brick Tudor palace was a residence for England’s kings and queens for over 300 years prior to Victoria’s reign. The Chapel Royal hosted Prince George’s christening. Adjacent Clarence House, an early 19th-century royal palace flanked by formal gardens, was designed by John Nash. It’s the official London residence of Prince Charles and Camilla; the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Mother and Prince Harry have also lived here. Visitors can tour five ground-floor rooms in summer. Marlborough Road; Clarence House, 8 Cleveland Row; both St. James’s, SW1

Banqueting House with ceiling painted by Rubens (credit)

Banqueting House

The only surviving remnant of the lost royal Palace of Whitehall – residence of English monarchs from 1530 to 1698 – Banqueting House was constructed for elaborate entertaining. Inigo Jones completed it in 1622, inspired by classical Roman and Greek architecture, creating an enormous hall on top of a vaulted undercroft. Its carved, gilded ceilings flaunt fabulous oil paintings by Rubens, installed in 1636, a masterpiece from painting’s golden age and the only extant in-situ ceiling canvases by the Flemish artist. The nine oil paintings were commissioned by King Charles I and were one of his last sights before his execution on a scaffold outside the hall in 1649, after he lost a bloody civil war with Oliver Cromwell. Downing Street and St James’s Park are a skip away. Whitehall, SW1

Westminster Palace

Palace of Westminster and Big Ben in London

Palace of Westminster

Think of the royal palaces of London and the Palace of Westminster doesn’t spring to mind. Politicians have the run of the place these days as it’s home to the Houses of Parliament. It was a royal residence in the Middle Ages, though, with Anglo-Saxon King Cnut occupying the riverside site and St. Edward the Confessor later building his palace here alongside Westminster Abbey. Since 1295, it has hosted successive parliaments, although the original palace burned down in 1834, barring Westminster Hall (which dates from William II’s reign), the Jewel Tower, and a few chapels and cloisters. The dramatic current 19th-century Neo-Gothic building includes the Clock Tower (housing bell ‘Big Ben’). Guided tours cover the central lobby with octagonal ceiling and chambers when available, or enjoy free online tours. SW1

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