27th April, 2018
If the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has left you curious to know more about the UK’s royals, why not tour the many palaces that have played host to kings and queens through the ages. Here are eight of our favourites palace visits for tourists.
Our own Thames Royal Palaces four-night boat and bike tour starts from central London and heads out to the Queen's home at Windsor, taking in Kew Palace, Hampton Court and Windsor Castle en route.
1.Buckingham Palace is probably the most famous of England’s royal homes. It is in central London and is the focal point for many royal events and the administrative headquarters of the monarchy. There are almost 800 rooms in total, with visitor highlights including the lavish State Rooms where the Queen welcomes dignitaries; the throne room; the Royal Mews, where the family's vehicles, including horse-drawn carriages are housed, and the Queen's Gallery, which hosts exhibitions of artworks from the Royal Collection. Entry: The Queen's Gallery is open for most of the year and an adult ticket costs £11. The Royal Mews is open from February to November and an adult ticket costs £11. The State Rooms are open from 21 July to 30 September and an adult ticket costs £24.
2.Windsor Castle has been popular with royalty for more than 1,000 years and it is still the Queen’s preferred weekend residence. Windsor Castle is the longest-occupied palace in Europe and the largest inhabited palace in the world. This is where the Queen entertains political leaders, and the magnificent and many State Apartments feature incredible artworks and architecture from across the ages. Entry: Open daily, adult tickets costs £21.20, or £11.70 if the State Apartments are closed.
3.Hampton Court Palace is best known as home to King Henry VIII in the 16th century and provides a fascinating window into the medieval monarchy. The incredible Great Hall is one of Britain’s oldest theatres - Shakespeare’s company performed here for King James. The opulent Chapel Royal has been in use for more than 450 years and the famous gardens include the world’s oldest puzzle maze. From 5 May to 2 September there’s a re-creation of Henry VIII’s kitchens and Tudor cooking, showing what it took to feed 800 courtiers and ambassadors at a royal celebration. Entry: open all year round, adult tickets cost £19.20.
4.Clarence House is one of London’s last remaining aristocratic houses and is the official residence of Charles, the Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. The home is opened to members of the public from 1-31 August, with visitors taken on guided tours of five ground-floor reception rooms. Entry: Open from 1-31 August, adult tickets cost £10.30.
5.Tower of London is perhaps the most feared Royal building. the Tower is famous as a fortress, palace and prison. In 2018 there are live performances reliving the final few days of Anne Boleyn, which saw her trial and execution after falling out of favour with her husband King Henry VIII. The Tower is also where the magnificent collection of Crown Jewels is kept – there are more than 23,000 gemstones under armed guard in the Jewel House. Entry: open all year, with adult tickets costing £22.70.
6.Sandringham is the Queen’s country getaway in rural Norfolk and includes a house, museum and stunning gardens. Guests can tour ground-floor rooms that are regularly used by the Royals, with much of the décor dating to when the house was built by Edward, Prince of Wales (later to become King) in 1870. The glorious gardens and museum of vintage cars and big game trophies complete the trip. Entry: open from 31 March to 21 October, adult tickets cost £16.50.
7.Holyroodhouse is more commonly known as Holyrood Palace. The Queen’s official residence in Scotland is found at the opposite end of the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle. Highlights of this 16th century castle include the chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots’, where the tragic royal was witness to murder; the regal Throne Room and the Great Gallery, which is hung with portraits of every Scottish king and the single queen. Entry: open year round, adult tickets cost £14.
8.Balmoral is the Royal’s holiday home in the beautiful Cairngorms National Park in Scotland. Visitors can tour the stunning grounds and working gardens, with Rangers providing guided walks and Land Rover safaris packed full of insider information. Inside Balmoral guests can see the Castle Ballroom, which is still used today for two big dances held when the Queen is in residence. This is also the spot for special exhibitions. Entry: open from 30 March to 31 July, with adult tickets from £11.50