London is full of palaces and other iconic buildings. From the old, like St Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey, to the new, like The Gherkin or the British Museum, there is just so much to see. London palaces, like so many other buildings, range from the ancient to the relatively modern and are often tangled up with the histories of various monarchs.
It can be difficult to narrow down any selection to just six, but here’s our pick of the London palaces you absolutely have to see:
The Tower of London
Once the iconic Tower of London served as both a royal palace and an infamous prison. Originally built by William the Conqueror in 1078, it was later expanded upon. Cells and torture chambers were added. It has also served as the Royal Mint. Today, it’s home to the world-famous Crown Jewels.
Palaces aren’t just for royalty. Lambeth Palace has been used as the residence of The Archbishop of Canterbury for almost 800 years. It has been built up over the centuries, resulting in a surprisingly harmonious mix of styles and architecture that reflects the very history of London.
Hampton Court Palace
This Tudor palace was one of the many homes of King Henry VIII. One of his most extravagant palaces, it once stood amidst rural lands used for hunting. Its massive Great House of Easement (the communal toilet) is famous for being able to sit 28 people at a time! Make sure to check out the maze in its wonderfully landscaped grounds.
St James’s Palace
Another of Henry VIII’s palaces, St. James’s Palace has been an official residence of the British monarchy since the 1500s. The Prince of Wales, Princess Anne, and Princess Alexandra all keep residences here. It is also the site of many royal events and ceremonial occasions, such as the christening of Prince George in 2013.
Adapted as the primary royal residence for King William III and Queen Mary II in the 17th century, Kensington Palace is now home to many members of the Royal Family. It is the current residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It will also be the home of the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Many rooms have also been converted into museums and are open to the public.
You can’t talk about London palaces without mentioning the iconic Buckingham Palace. Home to British monarchs since 1837, it was actually bought from the Duke of Buckingham (hence the name). Today it is the main residence of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. It’s also as the administrative headquarters of the monarchy. Visitors can tour the State Rooms between July and October.