1. Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is probably London’s most iconic landmark and the setting for the ever-popular attraction, the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which takes place at 11:30am every day during the summer. The official London residence of every British monarch since 1837, the palace boasts 775 rooms, including 78 bathrooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 19 state rooms, 188 staff bedrooms and 92 offices. Buckingham also has its own police station, hospital, post office and cinema, as well as a host of temporary exhibitions at the Queen’s Gallery. The Royal Mews is where you’ll find the all-important royal transport, from the Palace horses to the Queen’s collection of state limousines, Bentleys and Rolls Royces. The palace garden was once home to six flamingos; unfortunately, a hungry fox ate the entire flock in one night, so the birds were never replaced. You can still spot herons and abundant other wildlife here however, as well as the slightly hidden helipad.
Opening times: 23 July to 31 August, open daily 9:15am to 7:45pm. 1 September to 2 October, open daily 9:15am to 6:45pm
Admission: (For the State Rooms only) Adults £21.50, Over 60/Student £19.60, Under 17/Disabled £12.30, Under 5 Free (For State Rooms, Queens Gallery and the Royal Mews), Adult £37.00, Over 60/Student (with valid ID) £33.80, Under 17/Disabled £20.80, Under 5s Free
2. Kensington Palace
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (a.k.a. Wills and Kate) still list this as their official address, although these days you’re more likely to find them with Prince George and Princess Charlotte at Anmer House, on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. However, Kensington Palace has quite the distinguished heritage, as a royal residence for over 300 years to the likes of Diana, Princess of Wales and Queen Victoria. Kensington was Victoria’s birthplace and early home, and the Victoria Revealed exhibition is well worth a look, for an insight into a troubled young princess’ diaries, as well as letters and reports from her later life, as she grew into the formidable Queen of the British Empire.
Opening times: 1 March to 31 October, daily 10am to 6pm (open during winter until 4pm, except 24 to 26 December)
Admission: Adults £16.30, Concessions £13.00. Book online to save £1 on the ticket price
3. Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace was the opulent home of King Henry VIII. The palace is (supposedly) haunted, with sightings of several of Henry VIII’s wives (Jane Seymour, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard) roaming the hallways, shutting doors, and running to the chapel. Unlike the other palaces, which are still in use as royal residences, you have the freedom to explore. Highlights include the Tudor kitchens, haunted gallery and the 1350-square metre maze in the garden. See the best of the capital with our full list of unmissable London attractions here.
Opening times: 25 March to 29 October, daily 10am to 6pm. 30 October to 25 March, 10am to 4.30pm
Admission: (Until October 2016) Adult £19.00, Child £9.50, Concessions £15.50. (Nov 2016 to Feb 2017) Adult £15.50, Child £7.75, Concessions £13.00. Book online to save £1 on the ticket price
4. Tower of London
Built in 1066 by William the Conqueror, the Tower of London is guarded by the Beefeaters or Tower Wardens, who will give you a knowledgeable tour, including plenty of intriguing and bloodthirsty stories from the past. The Tower was once an infamous prison and the site of many high-profile executions, including Henry VIII’s wives, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. Over the years, it has also been an observatory, an armoury, a zoo, a treasury and the Royal Mint. Today it is a public museum where you can admire the 23,578 gems that make up the Crown Jewels. Watch out for the famous ravens – legend has it that if the birds ever leave, the White Tower will crumble and there will be a great disaster in England.
Opening times: (1 November to 28 February) Tuesday to Saturday 9am to 4.30pm, Sunday to Monday 10am to 4pm. 1 March to 31 October, Tuesday to Saturday 9am to 5.30pm Sunday to Monday 10am to 5.30pm
Admission: Adults £22.50, Children £10.50, Concessions £17.50. Book online for a discount on the ticket price
5. Hyde Park
Once Henry VIII’s private deer park, 360-acre Hyde Park has been open to the public since 1635. Take a pedalo for a spin on The Serpentine, pay your respects at the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain and, if you come on a Sunday morning, listen to people from all walks of life giving speeches at Speakers’ Corner. It makes for great street theatre, and if you fancy a rant yourself, you can share your views with the world too!
Opening times: 5am until midnight all year round
6. Westminster Abbey
Adorned with stained glass windows and intricate stone engravings, Gothic Westminster Abbey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every monarch since 1066 has been crowned here, while it has hosted sixteen royal weddings, including the Queen’s to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, as well as the marriage of William and Kate in 2011. Seventeen monarchs are buried here along with a list of household names from history like Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Sir Isaac Newton, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Darwin and Geoffrey Chaucer.
Opening times: Monday to Friday 9:30am to 5pm, Saturday 9:30am to 1:30pm, Closed to the public on Sunday (times may change according to events)
Admission: Adults £18.00, Concessions £15.00, Children aged 11-18 £8.00, Under 11s Free. Tip: You can get in free by attending one of the services, usually held daily at 9am and 5pm, though you will not be able to access all of the monuments and Abbey Museum
7. St James’s Park
St James’s Park sits beside Buckingham Palace. Once a Tudor hunting ground, it has also been a royal zoo, a reservoir and even a bowling alley. The park houses an impressive collection of ornamental waterfowl, and pelicans, which have been park residents ever since a Russian ambassador bequeathed them to the Monarchy in 1664. Take a rest on a park bench next to the spring blossoms and you might be joined by a pelican visitor – it’s a surprising habit of these sociable creatures.
Opening times: 5am until midnight all year round
8. Kew Palace
Visiting the glorious Kew Gardens this year? You can tour the historic Kew Palace for free with your ticket. Peep inside the workings of a royal Georgian household in the Royal Kitchens as well as the elegant Princesses’ Bedrooms, frozen in time since they were used by the daughters of King George III and Queen Charlotte. If you’re a fan of curiosities, this palace is a treasure trove, with Madame Tussaud’s original wax bust of George III, the chair in which Queen Charlotte died and plans in the library which show how the grounds of the palace came to be the Royal Botanic Gardens you see today. For more beautiful British gardens to enjoy this spring, see our full guide.
Opening times: Daily from 10am except December 24 and 25. Closing times for the gardens and palace vary according to season/year, so check the website for exact times
Admission: (To Kew Gardens, including Kew Palace) Adults £15, Concessions £14, Children 4 – 16 £3.50. Book online to get a £1 discount on the ticket price
Find more top cultural attractions in the UK with our helpful guides:
Fair maidens and chivalrous knights, it’s time to take a tour of the UK’s prettiest and most impressive castles.
Discover some of the popular TV show’s most memorable film locations – and help plan your pilgrimage to some of them.
Village life: bowls on the green, quaint pubs, red phone boxes and Morris dancing in the village hall. Winkle out the best of these diminutive settlements with our guide to the UK villages worth stopping for.
*Original article written by Alicia Drewnicki for Skyscanner.