Lords and ladies! We’re not short of a magnificent building in London. In fact, in a city as old as ours, you won’t go far before you stumble upon some historic gem, age-old boozer or towering skyscraper which practically defies feats of engineering. But when it comes to Royal Palaces? Now that’s where we really come into our own. So, if you’re looking to channel your inner Royal, look no further than this roundup of some of the best palaces in London which are just calling out to be visited:
1. Buckingham Palace
Now, we couldn’t include a roundup of the best palaces in London without mentioning this one. Plastered all over travel sites and ‘guides to London’ across the globe, Buckingham Palace is arguably one of the most famous – and photographed – buildings on Earth. And no, we’re not just talking about the famous Changing of the Guard. His Majesty The King’s official London residence and a working Royal Palace, it’s often at right at the heart of state occasions and has been the centre of the Monarchy since 1837.
An absolute corker of a building, there are 775 different rooms here as well as portrait galleries, a working stable, landscaped gardens and more. Though not always open to the public, you can join one of their guided tours which will give you the chance to view trinkets from the Royal Collection, which are all based within the 19 State Rooms right at the heart of the palace. There are even some paintings here by Rembrandt! Fancy schmancy.
📍You’ll find Buckingham Palace at Buckingham Gate, London, SW1A 1AA.
🚇 Nearest station is St. James’s Park.
2. Kensington Palace
Another Royal residence – this time situated within the pristine Kensington Gardens near Hyde Park – Kensington Palace is the official home of TRH The Prince and Princess of Wales and their children. It’s another of London’s greatest palaces and was originally a two-storey Jacobean mansion built by Sir George Coppin back in 1605, when Kensington itself was just a village outside of the capital.
The subsequent birthplace of Queen Victoria, it was then expanded into the magnificent building that it is today. One of London’s most palpable tourist attractions, your entrance fee gives you access to numerous exhibitions – such as ‘The Jewel Room’ and ‘Victoria: A Royal Childhood’ – as well as the State Apartments found here. They’ve also got some manicured gardens – one of which features a memorial statue of Princess Diana – which are well worth a visit.
📍You’ll find Kensington Palace at Kensington Gardens, London, W8 4PX.
🚇 Nearest stations are Queensway and Notting Hill Gate.
3. Kew Palace
It’s not as if Kew Gardens doesn’t have enough going for it – after all, this is the spot that was officially voted the World’s most Instagrammable botanical garden back in 2022. But when you add a palace to the mix, then you’ve got something even more special.
The ‘Dutch House’ is the only surviving part of a larger palace, where George III once spent his Summers back in the late 1700s. As well as the replicas of the opulent bedrooms, you can also explore the ice house and the kitchens, where the servants of the day were once tasked with knocking out some OTT feasts literally fit for a King. If you’re wanting to visit the botanical gardens and see the palace for free, you can get a hold of your tickets here. You can thank us later!
📍You’ll find Kew Palace at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Richmond, TW9 3AE.
🚇 Nearest station is Kew Bridge.
4. Lambeth Palace
Set right by the River Thames and just across the way from the Victoria Tower Gardens, the majestic, Grade I-listed Lambeth Palace is the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and it is ‘the centre of his ministry, worship and hospitality’.
Closed for refurbishment until Spring 2024, guided tours are unfortunately off limits for the time being, though they will likely be hosting their famous ‘Garden Open Days’ again this year, so keep your eyes peeled for open days via their website here. There’s a 467-year-old fig tree found here, which was planted during the days when Queen Mary I was on the throne. It’s the oldest fig tree in the entire UK, so it’s well worth seeing if you can!
📍You’ll find Lambeth Palace at Lambeth Palace Road, London, SE1 7JU.
🚇 Nearest station is Lambeth North.
5. Eltham Palace
Perhaps one of London’s biggest hidden gems and tucked away in the borough of Greenwich, this extravagant spot was once a Medieval palace before it became a Royal Tudor residence. Then, in the 1930’s, it was transformed by the eccentric millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld into a kooky, Art Deco-style mansion.
As well as the mighty (and still standing) Medieval hall, you’ll be able to try on a whole host of period costumes, take a wander around the beautiful Rock Garden with its waterfalls and rose beds, see the purpose-built home of Mah-Jong, the Courtaulds’ beloved pet lemur and even catch the breathtaking candlelit concerts by Candlelight. Sign us up!
📍You’ll find Eltham Palace at Court Yard, London, SE9 5QE.
🚇 Nearest stations are Eltham and Mottingham.
6. Tower of London
Like we could possibly overlook this one… One of the city’s oldest and most recognisable tourist attractions, the imposing Tower of London has stood since William the Conqueror decided the capital needed a fortress to remind Londoners of his conquest. Nearly 1000 years later, it’s still standing, famously housing the Crown Jewels and a flock of ravens, who are billed as the ‘Guardians of the Tower’.
The infamous prison where many lost their lives (and their heads), the Tower also doubles as a Historic Royal Palace and you can join numerous guided tours here throughout the year – including by the famous Yeoman Warders. There’s also an immersive theatre tour here each year for LGBTQ+ Month, and they’re currently running ‘Trailblazers: Woman at the Tower of London’.
A fantastic new show, it runs until September 3 and is designed to celebrate five women who have fascinating connections to the iconic fortress, and it includes processions through the grounds, staged performances on the South Lawn, and the opportunity to meet, interact and have a picture with the historical women and learn more about their intriguing stories. Even better yet – it’s included within the price of admission.
📍You’ll find the Tower of London at Tower Hill, London, EC3N 4AB.
🚇 Nearest station is Tower Hill.
7. St. James’s Palace
The beautiful St. James’s Palace has been the setting for some of the most important events in Royal history, having been a residence of the various Kings and Queens of England for well over 300 years.
Though you can’t actually enter the palace itself, you can visit the neighbouring Clarence House, which is one of the last remaining aristocratic townhouses in the whole of London. Run by the Royal Collection Trust, there are many different art exhibitions on show here throughout the year, and you can also see various artefacts owned by none other than The Queen Mother herself, who was once a resident here.
📍You’ll find St. James’s Palace at Marlborough Road, St. James’s, London, SW1A 1BQ.
🚇 Nearest station is Green Park.
Another one of the most impressive palaces in London here. The Grade I-listed Hampton Court Palace itself was created back in the early 1500’s and was home to Britain’s monarchs for over 200 years, until it was opened to the public in the early 19th century. As such, a guided tour of the property is simply bursting with history.
Notably, the palace was home to all-round bad egg Henry VIII, who quite liked playing tennis here, in-between executing or divorcing his wives etc. There’s a whole host of things to do here – from ghost tours to skating on ice rinks to getting lost in the garden maze – and there’s even a festival here too! Rock on.
📍You’ll find Hampton Court Palace at Hampton Court Way, Molesey, East Molesey, KT8 9AU.
🚇 Nearest station is Hampton Court.
9. Banqueting House
The only real surviving component of the Palace of Whitehall – the residence of English Kings and Queens from 1530 to 1698 – the Banqueting House is a magnificent spot near Trafalgar Square which turned 400-years-old back in 2022.
A real slice of history, guided tours here will give you the chance to discover The Rubens Ceiling – a spectacular oil painting commissioned by Charles I adorning the Banqueting House – as well as the site where poor Charles lost his noggin. Tours only run on certain days of the year – you can find out more here.
📍You’ll find the Banqueting House at Whitehall, London, SW1A 2ER.
🚇 Nearest station is Embankment.
10. Palace of Westminster
Otherwise known as the Houses of Parliament, this is London’s oldest palace and has been in continuous use since it was founded back in the 11th century. The landmark clock tower – AKA the recently-restored Big Ben – is undoubtedly one of the most photographed spots in the whole of the capital, and the palace itself serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
The Parliamentary Archives are open once again after being shut-off during the pandemic. It’s a great way to see the palace and to learn all about its intriguing history. Tours of the palace cost £29, but if you’d like to join a guided (and free!) tour inside the actual UK Parliament, you’ll need to book an appointment via your local MP.
📍You’ll find the Palace of Westminster at Parliament Square, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA.
🚇 Nearest station is Westminster.
11. Winchester Palace
Rounding off this list of the best palaces in London for you to explore is Winchester Palace, which was once one of the largest and most important buildings in all of Medieval London. Constructed during the early 18th century for the Bishops of Winchester, it was sadly destroyed during a fire in 1814.
Now all that remains are the crumbling ruins of the Great Hall – and the resplendent remains of the stained glass window within its west gable wall. There’s a lovely little garden planted here, and you’re also just a stone’s throw away from the Clink Museum and the replica of the Golden Hind, which was captained by none other than Sir Francis Drake.
📍You’ll find Winchester Palace at Pickfords Wharf, London, SE1 9DN.
🚇 Nearest station is London Bridge.
So there you have it – a roundup of the best palaces in London. From the actual home of the Royals to the site where a King lost his head, there’s plenty of London palaces for you to explore. Happy hunting!