It’s hard not to think about Royalty when visiting London. It’s everywhere you look and you sometimes can’t walk without tripping over something royal! It’s one thing that defines the UK and there’s certainly something for everyone who might be interested in the Royal Family whether that’s the current lot or the characters from history!
Every time that I travel to London I always find something new to explore. While the monarchy in the UK is as old as time itself (or at least it feels like it) there’s always something new happening especially now with the new King and coronation upcoming.
Whether you’re looking to explore some Royal Palaces in London or looking to learn about some of the history of the British Royals, London is the place to be. Read on for 27 of the best Royal things to do in London and plan your trip!
I’ve separated the list into different areas – around Buckingham Palace, around Kensington, other Central London sights and royal attractions further out in Greater London.
A note from the writer: Hey! I’m Kirsty and I’m a London travel expert – after being so many times over the years I keep returning! Shout (or comment below) if you have any questions about your next trip and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
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Table of Contents
Royal Things to do around Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is the one place that you think of when imagining Royal London attractions but there’s actually quite a lot to do in this area that is more than just the palace. Read on for my ideas:
Visit Buckingham Palace
Okay, let’s get the big one out of the way first. The top Royal thing to do in London is, of course, visiting the home of the Monarch – Buckingham Palace!
It’s fun to just go and gawk at the palace from outside and many people do just that to tick this landmark off their list. You’ll see the guards outside when you go and you might even see cars going in and out – maybe you’ll see the King! Keep an eye out for if the Royal Standard is flying above the castle – if it is then he’s at home! If it’s the Union Jack flying then he’s not.
If you’re interested in getting a little closer to the palace you can also do tours of some of the state rooms and the gardens. This has only been allowed in the past 10 years or so and only at set times of the year.
In 2023 the summer dates are between 14th July and 24th September – get tickets here.
Watch the Changing of the guard
The Changing of the Guard is a must to go and visit if you’re in London and wanting to do ALL of the royal things!
It happens most days and it’s a great show of Britain’s pomp and ceremony. It’s when the King’s guards that look after the palace change over to the next replacement guards.
If you’re in London in the summer it happens daily, but outside of June, July and August you’ll find that it happens on the Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
It’s a free thing to do, but make sure that you arrive in plenty of time – it can get incredibly busy! It starts around 10.45am but you’ll want to be there a little bit before.
A tour like this one is worthwhile as they can get you to the best spots to see and of course can give you loads of information about what’s happening too!
Have afternoon tea overlooking the palace
Afternoon tea is a remarkably British affair and what better place to indulge in the practice than overlooking Buckingham Palace itself?
The Rubens at the Palace hotel is uniquely situated right next to where the King lives and they offer a beautiful experience of afternoon tea looking over where Royalty lives.
You don’t need to worry if you have special dietary requirements as they are flexible, while still adhering to the traditional practice!
You can book the afternoon tea here – it’s always worth booking well in advance!
The Mall & Admiralty Arch
The Mall is the long road that leads you to Buckingham Palace. At the opposite end to the palace you’ll find Admiralty Arch which is a really impressive piece of architecture (and possibly opening up to be a luxury hotel – watch this space!).
Admiralty Arch was commissioned by King Edward VII in honour of his mother, Queen Victoria who had died. So it’s not terribly old, only just over 100 years old. As you walk though, from Trafalgar Square, you’re greeted with the tree lined open space of the Mall.
The Mall is still a road used by cars so be careful walking here!
You’ll find lots of statues and monuments on the way down to the palace – there’s one of King George and Queen Elizabeth (the king in war time) and also the main big Victoria Memorial which sits directly outside Buckingham Palace.
This is where the Royal Stables are and it’s home to some of the most ornate and beautiful carriages around. You know the gold one that you might have seen the late Queen travel around in? That is here!
This is a good place to visit if you have kids as well – sometimes palaces can be a bit stuffy for children to enjoy, but with the addition of horses and some of the activities on offer here, all ages will enjoy it!
It’s normally open from Spring to late October although can close when needed for Royal events. If you want to see some royal objects up close but the palace isn’t open for tours, this could be a good alternative!
The Queen’s Gallery
Situated next to Buckingham Palace is The Queen’s Gallery which is actually in the ruins of an old chapel. Inside your can see a lot of interesting Royal artwork on display as well as other exhibitions that take place through the year often highlighting what is in the royal collection.
The Gallery is open only Thursday – Monday so if it’s in your plans make sure you choose the right day for it.
St James’s Palace
St James’s Palace is a working palace where many receptions and royal duties take place. It’s important for many ceremonial goings on like the accession of the new monarch which happened recently.
It’s the oldest Royal Palace in London and was where Kings and Queens lived until Queen Victoria and the use of Buckingham Palace.
Tours of the inside of the palace don’t happen very frequently but they do happen – check out the official website to see if anything is available.
You can see some of the palace from the outside and it’s also a good alternative place to see the changing of the guards since it also happens here.
This used to be the residence of King Charles III when he was the Prince of Wales – it’s the official residence of the Prince of Wales (so I’m assuming this now means Prince William!)
The townhouse is right next to St James’s Palace in central London.
You can visit in August each year – check out when tours are available here.
The Royal Parks in London are an absolute oasis in amongst the busy city and it’s so nice that there are so many of them!
Green Park is right next to Buckingham Palace and is between it and the Picadilly area. Perfect for taking a picnic and watching everyone go about their daily lives in London!
St James’s Park
Between Buckingham Palace and Whitehall (lots of Government buildings and 10 Downing Street) is St James’s Park – another Royal Park.
With the addition of a lake within the park this one feels a lot different to Green Park. Great for kids visiting London as you’ll also find plenty of ducks, geese, swans and even pelicans! They also get fed there every day.
Horse Guards Parade
This large open space at the eastern end of St James’s Park is where the Trooping of the Colour parade happens to celebrate the monarch’s birthday each year.
You can walk through to the other side of the parade ground, on Whitehall, where you can also see the Horse Guards stood with their steeds and protecting the area.
Over a thousand years old, Westminster Abbey has seen a lot of Royal history! It’s where people get married, coronated, buried and a lot more!
If you decide to visit inside, rather than just marvel at the building from the outside, you can see some amazing artefacts in royal history including the coronation chair.
30 Kings and Queens are buried in the Abbey with many being famous ones like Queen Elizabeth the First.
Royal things to see around Kensington
Although not too far from Buckingham Palace, the area of Kensington has a little collection of Royal things to do and see that are worth keeping separate. I know from experience how easy it is to overdo it in London!
Probably the second most famous palace in London after Buckingham, Kensington Palace is known as the birthplace of Queen Victoria and became much more famous as the home of Princess Diana when she was alive, and more recently home of William and Kate.
You can have guided tours of the palace year round, although sometimes it closes temporarily in the winter months, and explore where Queen Victoria grew up and where the King and Queen stayed.
They often have other exhibitions on as well which highlighting interesting Royal ideas, costumes and artefacts.
As well as the palace, which requires tickets to enter, you can also enjoy the gardens around.
Of course you have the huge Kensington Gardens with the Round Pond, statues to enjoy and discover as well as squirrels to spot
Closer to the palace are the actual Palace Gardens as well, including the sunken garden – it’s all free to go around and enjoy.
The sunken garden was a particular favourite of Princess Diana when she lived at the palace and it’s been renamed as a memorial garden for her.
Go to the Royal Albert Hall
This iconic concert hall was built as part of a memorial to Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s much loved husband. He was instrumental in the organisation and planning of many of the areas Arts and Science buildings after a successful Exhibition in the 1800s.
The actual building work began on this after Albert had died and as such it was a memorial rather than his project. Queen Victoria lay one of the founding stones to the building.
You can watch all sorts of things at the hall now from traditional orchestral concerts to more popular music and even comedy shows.
If you don’t have time for a show you might like to take a guided tour of the hall – it’s incredibly ornate inside and I highly recommend checking it out if you can!
Albert Memorial Statue
This was part of the same memorial project that the Royal Albert Hall was – the music hall was to be practical and this was to be the decorative part.
It’s a beautiful tall memorial situated at the south of Kensington Gardens and just opposite the Royal Albert Hall, although it is separated by a busy road now.
Diana Memorial Fountain
Situated just over into Hyde Park is the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. It’s a lovely place to go with kids or if it’s a hot day – you’re welcome to sit on the edge and dangle your feet in the refreshing water!
Again, like much of the parks in London it’s a real oasis away from the busy roads and buildings.
Princess Diana Memorial Playground
Princess Diana famously loved children and so it’s fitting that out of the many memorials to her in London, a playground for kids is there too.
It’s a free place to go with kids so if you’re looking for somewhere to take yours and let off some steam, you’d do well to give this one a go!
It’s located at the north west corner of Kensington Gardens just before you leave the park.
Other Central London Royal Things to do
See the Crown Jewels
The Tower of London is a completely different building to all that has sprung up around it- it’s still a medieval castle in the center of London!
One thing that’s housed there, and has been since 1661, is the Crown Jewels – they are heavily guarded and you’ll find the imperial state crown among many others (this crown will be back on display after the coronation later in 2023)
The jewels are huge symbols of the monarchy – everyone thinks of them don’t they?
Get a Beefeater tour of the Tower of London
Included in your ticket when you go to the Tower of London is a tour by a Beefeater, otherwise known as a Yeoman Warder.
These aren’t simply people in costume leading your around the Tower of London and telling interesting stories, these are actual soldiers and must have served for at least 22 years!
Beefeaters are thought to be the Royal Bodyguards and they have been protecting the monarchy for hundreds of years.
If you want to definitely see the Royals on your visit to London then you might need to be very lucky, or settle for seeing them in wax form!
Madame Tussaud’s is a world renowned attraction and the London one has loads of models including of the new King, the late Queen Elizabeth and even Harry and Meghan.
It’s a popular thing to do in London with teens as well, so if you have older kids along with you then they might enjoy this!
The Regent’s Park
The Regent’s Park is in the north of Central London, just across from Madame Tussaud’s and is another Royal Park that’s well worth relaxing and exploring around.
This one was named for the Prince Regent who became George the Fourth.
In the park you can explore many formal spaces such as the roses in Queen Mary’s Gardens or you could go to Primrose Hill and get an amazing view over London.
Princess Diana Memorial walk
This is a 7 mile walk that encompasses many of the Royal sites in London and is another of the memorial projects for the late Princess Diana.
It takes you through 4 of the Royal Parks and past many of the places that were important to Diana. Look for the plaques on the ground like the one above.
You can download the walk from the website here.
Other Royal things to do outside of Central London
Here’s a selection of other Royal places in London that are a little outside of the central area.
Queen’s House – Greenwich
Greenwich is one of my favourite spots outside of Central London and there’s a lot to see there including a lot of Royal History. It’s where Henry the VIII and Elizabeth the First were born when there used to be a Royal Palace there.
Although Greenwich Palace is no more – it was demolished after falling into disrepair after the civil war – there’s another interesting palace there – the Queen’s house.
The Queen’s House was built for Queen Anne of Denmark as a gift from her husband King James in 1616 but she never actually got to see it built as she died before it was completed. When James’s son, Charles I, was King he gave it to his wife and it was finally finished.
It is a beautiful place to visit, and free too so good for those visiting London on a budget! Inside you’ll find the gorgeous stair case called the Tulip Stairs and some amazing Royal art.
Queen Elizabeth’s Oak – Greenwich Park
In the heart of Greenwich Park is a tree on its side that’s cordoned off behind railings. It’s now just a husk of a tree with just the bark left.
There’s lots of legends and stories behind the tree but it’s thought to have been planted in the 12th century – it would therefore be a couple of hundred years old when Queen Elizabeth the First was around. Apparently she picnicked under it and there’s stories about Henry 8th and Anne Boleyn dancing around it.
Hampton Court Palace
This was a palace that played a huge role in the life and times of the Tudor Dynasty, especially Henry VIII who made this his ‘pleasure palace’.
The place is huge, ornate and has dozens of stories to tell. You can explore the inside of the palace, the beautiful gardens and even a maze!
It’s located a little way from the centre of London but still within the Greater London area and so makes a good day trip if you want to do something a little different.
Kew Palace and the Royal Botanic Gardens
Finally we have Kew Palace which, like Hampton Court, is a little away from the centre of London but still easily accessible.
The main attraction to most people is the beautiful Botanic Gardens with their ornate glasshouses. It’s a wonderful place to go to get away from the busy city!
There’s also another palace to see here too – Kew Palace was the Stately Home of George III. It’s definitely not as big as some other palaces in London but it’s still quite impressive.
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🇬🇧💂♀️ London Travel FAQ 💂♀️🇬🇧
Do I need insurance for traveling to London?
YES! I always recommend people take travel insurance when exploring the world!
Check Travel Insurance Master for quote comparisons from different providers.
Do I need a car for visiting London?
NO – If you’re just visiting London then a car is not recommended and can be more of a hindrance than a help.
If you plan to explore more of the UK then I recommend DiscoverCars to compare car rental prices
How to book accommodation in London?
For hotels I recommend Booking.com
For apartments and cottages check out VRBO
Will my phone work in London?
Perhaps – it depends if you have roaming enabled and beware this can be an expensive way to use your phone.
If you need a SIM for use in the UK I recommend GiffGaff which you can get and set up before traveling.
What’s the best guidebook for London?
I really like the Lonely Planet Guidebooks
Where to get flights for London
Expedia is my first port of call for finding cheap flights to London.
Do I need a visa for London?
Many countries don’t need a visa for visiting England as tourists (USA, Canada, Aus, NZ and Europe) – it’s always best to check first though.
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