The royals are a bit of an enigma to some, especially travellers visiting from countries without royal families like America or China. Even UK residents aren’t always in the know of what is royal and what is just historic when it comes to some of the landmarks in the city. So, here is a royal tour of London, starting and finishing at your hotels in Kensington.
Start: Kensington Palace
There are ten royal parks in London, which include: Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Richmond Park, Bushy Park, St James’s Park, The Green Park, Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill, Greenwich Park, Brompton Cemetery and Victoria Tower Gardens. Originally, they were owned by the monarchy of the UK for recreation and hunting by the Royal Family, and though they remain a possession of The Crown, they are now open for public use.
Start your royal tour in Kensington Gardens, a short walk from most hotels in Kensington, admiring the once private gardens of Kensington Palace, until you get to Kensington Palace itself. Tickets are available to explore the palace, and it is both a fun and fascinating experience. This royal museum is brimful of exhibits about its former young royal residents, including Queen Victoria, William III, Mary II, Queen Anne and Princess Diana. The place where Queen Victoria was born is now host to reimagined childhood rooms, and a remarkable perspective of royal life for the last 300 years.
Walk: Hyde Park
Separating Hyde Park from Kensington Gardens is the Serpentine Lake and W Carnegie Drive, meaning they are essentially one in the same. So, walk back through Kensington Gardens to Hyde Park to take a walk around the grounds, gawking at the sheer size of it, admiring the statues and memorials scattered across it, and appreciating the foresight of those from years gone by who planted the now towering trees and bountiful rose bushes. Great monuments to look out for include: Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, The Statue of Achilles and Hyde Park Bandstand. Walk across Hyde Park, away from Kensington Palace and Gardens, towards Hyde Park Corner, where you can cross into Green Park passing Wellington Arch, an equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington.
Once you are in Green Park, you are on the doorstep of the one and only royal residence: Buckingham Palace. If the Union Flag is waving above Buckingham Palace, that means that the queen is not there – she is probably in either Windsor Castle of Sandringham House, the other royal residences. A Buckingham Palace “must”, other than a tour of The Queen’s Gallery within, can be found outside of the grounds with The Changing of the Guard. In the forecourt of Buckingham Palace at 11am (usually – check the schedule before going) for 45 minutes, you can watch as the royal guard change shifts in a remarkable ceremony which is entirely free. The guards’ uniform is iconic to British culture, with miniaturized figurines of the guards donning their extravagant red uniforms and towering bearskin hats.
The royal residents of Buckingham Palace include: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, Prince WIlliam and Duchess Kate (and George, Charlotte and Louis, their little royal kiddies), the Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank and Prince Harry, superstar Meghan Markle and their son Archie.
Fun fact: As you may have seen in the films, the guards can’t smile, wave, or engage in any way with members of the public. People seem to think this means they could do whatever they want. While you will certainly get away with pulling a few funny faces, don’t take it too far – they are there to protect the queen, so if you seem to be posing a threat, they can act on it.
Walk: St James’s Park
Next up is St James’s Park, home to two royal activities: the swans and St James’s Palace. Though a fun fact that everyone who’s heard it will remember, it is not commonly known: the queen owns every swan in England. To protect swans from being killed and feasted on during the 13th century, every unmarked swan, by default, is royal property. There are plenty of swans to admire in St James’s Park Lake, but it is interesting to keep this in mind if ever you see a swan whilst exploring England.
Then there is St James’s Palace itself. It is closed to the public, as it is used for business: it is the ceremonial meeting place of the Accession Council and the London residence of several minor members of the royal family. But take a good look and maybe a picture from outside, because it is architecturally beautiful and certainly fitting for any royal presence.
Walk: Trafalgar Square
Head up The Mall and towards Charing Cross to find the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square. It was opened in 1856 to display the portraits of royals who commissioned famous artists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds to paint them, and now is home to hundreds of thousands of portraits of historically famous, royal and important British figures from years gone by.
You will have had a very busy walking day by the time you reach the National Portrait Gallery, and while following your footsteps home back through the royal parks is certainly simple enough, you may be a bit worn out by this stage and in need of a seat and a Park Grand Kensington cup of tea. If this is the case, hop on the Piccadilly Line and head back to Kensington. You definitely deserve a champagne-leiden Afternoon Indian Tea by now!
Special Offers London Hotels in Kensington mean you are in for a whirlwind trip of delicious food, classy cocktails, beautiful parkland walks, as well as being within the royal core of London. So, if you are interested in seeing London through the rose-tinted glasses of the British empire and royal family, this is the tour for you.