Things to do in London

Historic royal palaces - explore London’s crown jewels

15:25 31 March 2012

Kensington Palace, which was bought by William and Mary in 1689

Kensington Palace, which was bought by William and Mary in 1689


In so many ways London is a most modern city, but it also a very historic place.

Luckily for Londoners, much of the centuries-old heritage is open and on display.

Among the prized possessions of the capital which can be explored and experienced are its various royal palaces.

These crown jewels one of which actually houses the Crown Jewels are places where splendour and scandal have gone hand in hand down the years.

They make fascinating places to visit, offering historical intrigue which not only puts even Downton Abbey in the shade, but is also fact, not fiction.

The five buildings featured here are all cared for by independent charity Historic Royal Palaces.

Describing them as some of the "greatest palaces" ever built, HRP says: "Each of the five royal palaces in our care has survived for hundreds of years.

"They have witnessed peace and prosperity and splendid periods of building and expansion, but they also share stories of more turbulent times, of war and domestic strife, politics and revolution."

To find out more about the palaces visit

Kensington Palace

The royal residence where Victoria was born and spent her childhood reopened on March 26 after a 12 million revamp. Alongside the 18th century State Apartments, visitors can enjoy a revealing exhibition on Victorias life and a display of some of Princess Diana's dresses.

Station: High St Kensington

Tower of London

The newly refurbished Jewel House has been unveiled with a display exploring the importance of the Crown Jewels and the Towers role in protecting these treasures. Another highlights is Royal Beasts, an exhibition on the many exotic animals which once lived at the Tower.

Station: Tower Hill

Hampton Court Palace

Originally built to feed the Court of Henry VIII, the vast kitchens were a central part of palace life for more than 200 years. This spring visitors have the chance to experience real smells and sounds in the kitchens during live cookery sessions as history chefs prepare feasts fit for a king.

Station: Hampton Court

Kew Palace

This palace located in Kew Gardens opens for its summer season on April 2 with stories of George IIIs family life and eating habits. George III and Queen Charlotte used Kew Palace as a school house for their eldest sons. New exhibitions for 2012 explore food and dining experience in a Georgian royal household.

Station: Kew Gardens

Banqueting House

Once used to provide entertainment for Charles I, and also the scene of his execution, this Whitehall building is now a national monument open to the public. Classical music concerts and splendid architecture combine for a rich cultural experience in central London.

Station: Westminster

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