Whether you’re a Monarchist or not, it’s impossible to deny that the identity of London is inextricably linked to the Royal Family. When Diana, Princess of Wales died, it was to Kensington Palace that I flocked, along with thousands of other Brits and the world’s press. And where else but in one of the various Royal Places could I have fawned over Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding gown? I marveled at the Alexander McQueen number with its miniscule ivory satin bodice and felt rather like Henry VIII after a banquet in comparison. As a child growing up in the capital, school field trips meant strolling royal gardens and historic palaces. I loved losing myself in the Maze at Hampton Court almost as much as I enjoyed searching for ghosts at Kew Palace. Escape to one of these regal sites and practice your sovereign curtsy: the splendor of royalty in London is unequivocal.
For a taste of royalty, make for Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of the Monarch. If you’re lucky, you might just catch sight of The Queen passing through the Royal Mews in the Official State Bentley. How to tell if she is at home? The Union Jack flies at full mast above the 770-room behemoth. Otherwise, it’s kept at half-mast.
Hampton Court Palace
Henry VIII spent more time at Hampton Court Palace during the second half of his reign than at any other royal residence. Walk through his apartments and discover the intrigues, triumphs, and tragedies of his Tudor court. Visit the largest kitchens of Tudor England, and then attempt not to get lost in the famous maze.
The Mansion House
The Lord Mayor of the City of London lives and works in the Mansion House. This historic venue is also home to arguably the best collection of 17th century paintings from Holland’s Golden Age in Britain. Take a guided tour and you might bump into a visiting head of state, too.
For an insight into the private lives of Georgian Royalty, make sure to visit Kew Palace. Built in 1631, the intimate residence became a sanctuary for George III, Queen Charlotte, and their 15 children. Enjoy authentically re-created rooms and newly refurbished Royal kitchens. Stroll through the gardens to the Queen’s Cottage, once home to a royal menagerie of kangaroos, Tartarian pheasants, and cattle.
Queen Victoria was born at Kensington Palace, and the funeral cortege of Diana, Princess of Wales departed from here, her former home. Explore majestic State Apartments, the Palace Gardens, or a special exhibition. Don’t miss Fashion Rules: Dress from the Collections of HM The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales, on until summer 2015.