Ever wondered where the Queen spends her Christmas holiday? Or what Henry VIII's home looked like? Then you'll be pleased to know our royal family aren't as secretive as you might think. Have a snoop around our top 10 royal attractions and make yourself at home.
One of Britain’s most recognisable landmarks, Buckingham Palace is the office and official residence of the Queen. Every August and September the Queen opens her home to visitors, giving you the chance to tour the lavish State Rooms and Garden, and see some great treasures from the Royal Collection along the way. And don’t forget to catch the spectacular Changing the Guard ceremony - daily from May to July, and on alternative days for the rest of the year.
Kensington Palace has been home to many members of the Royal Family, including Queen Victoria, Diana, Princess of Wales, and now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Pay the Palace a visit and discover stories from Queen Victoria's life told in her own words in the Victoria Revealed exhibition; master the games of royal court in the magnificent King's State Apartments; get a glimpse of a modern Princess in a special exhibition of some of Diana's dresses and uncover the secrets of a fragile dynasty in the beautiful Queen's State Apartments.
Not only is Windsor Castle the Queen’s favourite residence, 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 monarchs), the Drawings Gallery with its changing exhibitions, and Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House - the most famous dolls’ house in the world.
Westminster Abbey is steeped in over 1000 years of history, and has been the setting for the Coronation of every English monarch from 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.
Balmoral Castle & Estate
Purchased by Queen Victoria in 1848, Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire has been a private Scottish home of the British Royal Family ever since. The Queen and her family usually spend their summer on the estate, which opens its grounds, gardens and Castle Ballroom to the public from April to July each year.
Sandringham House & Estate
Sandringham House in Norfolk is one of the Queen’s favourite houses, and where she chooses to spend Christmas with her family. Since 1862, Sandringham has been the private home of four generations of monarchs and was once described as ‘The most comfortable house in England’. You can see for yourself as the house, gardens and museum are open to the public from April to November.
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 Palace is best known as the home of Mary, Queen of Scots – she was married here, and witnessed the brutal killing of her secretary in her private apartments. A tour of the Palace will take you to the State Apartments, the gardens and the Queen’s Gallery, where you’ll find changing exhibitions from the Royal Collection.
Hampton Court Palace
The magnificent Hampton Court Palace in Richmond, London, was Henry VIII’s favourite royal residence. Step back in time for a taste of Tudor life in Henry VIII’s kitchens; lose yourself in the famous Hampton Court Maze; attend a service at the beautiful Chapel Royal and explore the Hampton Court gardens – internationally renowned for being amongst the most beautiful gardens in the world.
Perched on top of 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.
Tower of London
One of the world’s most famous fortresses, the Tower of London has seen service as a royal palace, prison, armoury and even a zoo. Today, it’s a World Heritage Site, where you’ll be dazzled by the Crown Jewels; hear tales from the Tower on a Yeoman Warder tour; stand in the spot where Henry VIII’s wives Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were executed and discover 500 years of spectacular royal armour in the Fit for a King exhibition. A version of this piece was first published on www.visitbritain.com