We all have that favourite destination we visit time and time again—and for Queen Elizabeth II, that’s Canada! The 91-year-old monarch has visited the “True North Strong and Free” a whopping 22 times. Sadly, she’s unable to make the trip across the pond to take part in any of this year’s anniversary celebrations, but don’t worry, Canadians can expect plenty of royal sightings this year. Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, recently confirmed that they will be visiting Ottawa and Nunavut from June 29 to July 1 to celebrate the country’s 150th birthday. Prince Harry will also be in Toronto for the Invictus Games from Sept. 23-30.
And, if you’re looking for a little royal inspiration for your next vacation to Britain, here are the top 10 royal landmarks you definitely won’t want to miss.
1. Buckingham Palace
One of Britain’s most recognisable landmarks, Buckingham Palace is the office and official residence of the Queen. Every August and September, the palace opens its doors to visitors and offers a tour of the grand State Rooms, where the monarch and Royal Family do all their entertaining. If possible, arrive in the mid-morning to catch the iconic Changing of the Guard ceremony—it’s free to watch—which takes place daily from April to July, and on alternate days during the rest of the year.
2. Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace has served as home to many members of the Royal Family, including Queen Victoria, Diana, Princess of Wales, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Be sure to check out the new dress exhibition, Diana: Her Fashion Story, which celebrates the life and impeccable style of the Princess of Wales (currently on display through 2018).
3. Tower of London
One of the globe’s most famous fortresses, the Tower of London has functioned as a royal palace, prison, armoury, and even a zoo! Today, it’s a World Heritage Site, where guests can be dazzled by the Crown Jewels, hear tales of the Tower on a Yeoman Warder tour, and see where Henry VIII’s wives Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard are thought to have been executed.
4. Windsor Castle
Not only is Windsor Castle the Queen’s favourite residence, but it’s also the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world. Don’t miss the magnificent State Apartments, St George’s Chapel (the burial ground of 10 sovereigns) and Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House—filled with thousands of tiny figurines handcrafted by leading artists, designers, and craftsmen.
5. Westminster Abbey
Steeped in over 1,000 years of history, Westminster Abbey has functioned as the setting for the coronation of every English monarch since 1066. It has also seen 16 royal weddings, including the Queen’s marriage to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, and most recently, the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
6. Hampton Court Palace
Touted as Henry VIII’s favourite royal residence, the magnificent Hampton Court Palace is the epitome of Renaissance luxury. Step back in time for a taste of Tudor life in the regal kitchen, wander around the famous Hampton Court Maze, attend a service at the opulent Chapel Royal, and explore the lush gardens—widely considered some of the most beautiful in the world.
7. Sandringham House & Estate
Located in Norfolk, the Sandringham House is considered one of the Queen’s most-prized residences—it’s even where she chooses to spend Christmas with her family. Since 1862, the property has also served as the private home of four generations of monarchs and was once described as “The most comfortable house in England.” Want a glimpse inside? Tours of the home, gardens, and museum are open to the public from March to October.
8. Edinburgh Castle
Perched on an extinct volcano at the top of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle is the city’s most popular tourist attraction. It became Scotland's chief royal castle in the Middle Ages and is now home to the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Stone of Destiny, the famous 15th-century gun Mons Meg, the One O' Clock Gun, and the National War Museum of Scotland.
9. Balmoral Castle & Estate
Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire has remained a private Scottish home belonging to the Royal Family ever since it was purchased by Queen Victoria in 1848. Today, Queen Elizabeth II and her family spend their summers on the estate, which also opens its grounds, gardens, and Castle Ballroom to the public from April to July.
10. Palace of Holyroodhouse
No trip to Edinburgh would be complete without a visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. The property has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, including the ill-fated Mary, Queen of Scots, following her return from France in 1561. It was here where Mary married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, in 1565 and then witnessed the brutal murder of her Italian secretary the following year.