The Royal Family are one of the most defining symbols of the United Kingdom, recognisable the world over and drawing millions of visitors to British shores every year. As befits people of their status, the royals have enjoyed some pretty eye-catching residences over the centuries, and many of them are available for tourists to visit. Here’s a rundown of royal residences in London.
The most famous and recognisable of the Royal Family’s homes, Buckingham Palace is where the reigning monarch lives and works in London. Despite this, sections of the Palace are open to the public: the State Rooms, where the Queen receives subjects and dignitaries, can be visited as part of a guided tour, and constitute 19 of the Palace’s 775 total rooms. They’re appropriately grand for welcoming royal guests, and are furnished with some of the greatest treasures from the Royal Collection including paintings by Van Dyck and Canaletto and sculptures by Canova. The Picture Gallery, as the name suggests, also contains its share of artwork, with an ever-changing collection of exhibited works including pieces by Titian, Rembrandt and Rubens. With a range of luxurious properties and city suites Montcalm Hotels offer a luxurious base from which to explore this iconic British landmark.
While the Queen is usually at Buckingham Palace in the middle of the week (you’ll know she is when the Royal Standard is flying), it’s thought that she prefers spending time in Windsor Castle, which has been associated with the British royal family since the 11th century. The largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world, no less than 500 people live and work here, and the Queen increasingly uses it to entertain at official functions as well as it being her preferred weekend home. During Elizabeth II’s reign, efforts have also been directed towards making Windsor Castle one of the country’s leading tourist attractions, and it now welcomes around one million visitors per year. A significant proportion of the Royal Collection of art is now housed here, with regular changes in the exhibitions – much of this is also stored in the State Apartments, which are available to tour. The spectacular Semi-State Rooms, built as the private residences of George IV, are open to the public between September and March. Another highlight is Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, the largest, most beautiful and most famous dolls’ house in the world, which was built for Queen Mary in the 1920s.
The Tower of London:
One of London’s most-visited tourist attractions, the Tower has a grisly and fascinating past. It is most famous for having been used as a prison for almost a millennium, from the medieval bishop Ranulf Flambard in 1100 to the notorious gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray in 1952. The Tower has always been more than just a prison, however, and historically has always been one of Britain’s most important royal palaces. Today, it is one of London’s most evocative tourist attractions. The first thing you’re likely to see are the iconic ravens, whose absence according to legend heralds the fall of the Tower and of London. Needless to say, they’re well cared for by the Tower’s Raven Master to make sure they stay around! You can also see the world famous Crown Jewels, the priceless royal regalia which include some of the world’s most prized gems, including the Koh-i-Noor: one of the largest diamonds in the world.