Top 10 Royal Palaces
Take a trip through our Royal history
tyle, grandeur and one-of-a-kind craftsmanship. You’ll encounter all of this in England’s royal residences, which is why they’re sought out by visitors from all over the world. Homes to many of the English Royal Family, many have had a place in English history for generations. Here are some of England’s best royal residences, and places with royal connections, open to visitors today:
Nestled between the tranquil expanses of Green Park and St James’s Park. Buckingham Palace is an iconic royal centrepiece. It’s the headquarters of the royal family during the week, and you’ll frequently see horse-drawn carriages entering and leaving the premises. Star attractions are the ceremony of Changing the Guard and the State Rooms, together with the Queen’s Gallery, where part of the Royal Collection is kept. Make sure you plan your visit around the palace’s schedule: the Queen’s Gallery is open all year round, but the State Rooms are open only from August to September.
For nearly 1,000 years, Windsor Castle’s mighty edifice has wowed visitors. An inspirational sight, the towers and walls of this, the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world, surround a royal residence of spectacular proportions. Visitors particularly love the State Apartments, replete with treasures from the Royal Collection, and the delightful Queen Mary’s Dolls House — a miniature palace which even has running water. As part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, Windsor Castle will host a special photographic exhibition from February 2012 to January 2013.
Now for a classic English country house. Highgrove is home to Prince Charles, and is especially famous for its elegant gardens, designed by the Prince himself. It’s also well-known for the Highgrove shop, which produces top-quality merchandise of all varieties, from handcrafted silver to fine spirits. It’s a great place to pick up gifts and see stylish English country living. Garden tours are available between April and October.
Famous for its traditions and historic buildings, Eton College is one of England’s oldest schools. It’s also considered to be one of the best schools in the country, and The Royal Princes William and Harry were educated here. Incidentally, it was selected partly for its academic reputation, and partly because it was close to their grandmother’s house, otherwise known as Windsor Castle. Guided tours are available and should be arranged in advance.
The official residence of several dukes, duchesses and princes, Kensington Palace has been a royal residence since the 17th century. The palace was formerly home to Diana, Princess of Wales, and is the unofficial residence of Prince Harry. It recently underwent a £12m revamp, and to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, will open a permanent exhibition in March 2012 that looks at the life of Queen Victoria.
Of all the Royal Residences, the Sandringham Estate is said to be the Queen’s favourite. Four generations of English monarchs have called the estate home, and they all shared her enthusiasm for the place. Rare ceramics, photographs, royal vehicles and other remarkable things are on display here and a guided tour is highly recommended to make the most of the house, museum and gardens. You should also explore the 8,000-acre estate, which comprises woodland, meadows, fruit farms and wetland: just the place for a day’s exploring.
7. Carisbrooke Castle , Isle of Wight
This was once a royal residence, but under darker circumstances. The stout island fortress of Carisbrooke Castle was the prison of the ill-fated 17th century monarch, King Charles I, after the English Civil War. Steeped in history, the bowling green where he once played, under guard, can still be used by visitors. Kids can dress up as Civil War soldiers, or meet the castle’s contingent of donkeys, once used to draw up water from the well house. It’s a unique attraction, rich in history, and surrounded by the rolling island countryside
8. Royal Pavilion , Brighton
A spectacular Indian-style palace from the outside, King George IV’s pleasure palace is a spectacular sight. Inside, it’s decorated like a palace from the Far East, complete with a giant silver dragon as a chandelier. The pavilion was a benchmark of Regency style and craftsmanship, not to mention a remarkable architectural feat. A real feast for the eyes: make sure you take a tour if you’re in Brighton.
Reaching right back to the early days of the English monarchy, Warwick Castle has long been the seat of the Earls of Warwick. The first of these was given his title after supporting King William II in the 1088 Rebellion. It was later captured by Henry II, and later still used to imprison Edward IV. So it’s seen its fair share of royals. It is one of England’s best loved castles, magnificently well preserved, and home to all manner of medieval entertainments. Enjoy banquets, see knights battle, or venture into the dungeons.
10. Christ Church College , Oxford
During the English Civil War, King Charles I made Christ Church his wartime home. He even held parliament here, in the Great Hall. After the war, the college was rewarded for its loyalty to the crown. Today, as then, Christ Church is part of Oxford University and is home to fantastic collections of art and literature, all viewable by visitors.