Of all the UK’s cities, London’s definitely the one most associated with the British Royal family. Why? Because of the plethora of historical sites it contains with Royal ties – but which of them must you visit…?
(SW1A 1AA/ Open: 9.30am-7.30pm daily, 22nd July-31st August; 9.30am-6.30pm daily, 1st September-1st October)
You may not know it, but this glorious, grey-brick masterpiece wasn’t built as a royal residence. It was actually built for the Duke of Buckingham in the early 18th Century, before being acquired by King George III in 1761. Despite its origins, though, it’s the building most identified with the current Royal family, especially the UK’s reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. That said, it’s highly unlikely visitors will actually see Her Majesty on the grounds (unless it’s a special occasion), but there is a big upside. For there’s a roster of reasons to step inside this iconic palace and take a look around when its open to the public each summer (especially if you’ve made your stay’s base the likes of the nearby Park Grand London Hyde Park hotel). Particularly unmissable are the State Rooms, where are held state dinners for The Queen and visiting foreign dignitaries; each of them comprising magnificent English and French furniture, exquisite examples of Sèvres porcelain and fine art masterpieces by Van Dyck, Canaletto and more.
The Tower of London
(Tower Hill EC3N 4AB/ Open: 9am-6pm Tuesday-Saturday; 10am-6pm Sunday-Monday)
Older than any other building in the capital, the Tower dates back all the way to the year William the Conqueror invaded and took control of England – the iconic 1066. Originally built as a fortification to safeguard the conquering king’s interests in the young city, it’s since been used as everything from a castle to a royal palace, a prison and execution site to an armoury and a jewel depository to an exotic zoo. Today, it’s a world-class tourist attraction that’s home to the Crown Jewels; nearly 24,000 precious stones acquired by subsequent monarchs that are set in the likes of crowns, necklaces, rings and so on. Plus, of course, there are the tours held by the colourfully-tunicked Yeomen of the Guard (or ‘beefeaters’) and the exhibition in the White Tower, where you can discover King Henry VIII’s suit of armour and – bizarrely – the samurai armour made for King James I.
(Windsor, Berkshire SL4 1NJ/ Open: 9.30am-5.30pm daily)
Finally, perfect for a day trip just outside of the capital, the elegant, historic town of Windsor is a destination that attracts millions of people from all over the world every year thanks to its significant Royal connections. For, yes, it’s here that you’ll find The Queen’s favourite residence, Windsor Castle. Extremely easy to get to – either by coach or train, should you be staying at one of the hotels near Hyde Park London – it’s also one of the finest examples of extant medieval castle architecture in the British Isles. And inside, its fine chapel (St. George’s Chapel) has hosted 14 Royal weddings so far – and will, this year, be the site for the weddings of both Prince Harry and Princess Eugenie. A terrific treasure trove then for those fascinated with the Royals, past and present.