Ever ponder how the royal half lives? During certain times you can wear your best and walk the very halls walked by royals and the Queen herself.
It’s safe to say that England’s royal family manages to capture the world’s attention in a way no other current monarchy can manage. The marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is just the latest example of how we can’t get enough of how they live their lives. That curiosity leaves many people with the desire to visit the same spaces frequently inhabited by the royals.
While we cannot promise any sightings of Queen Elizabeth, Kate Middleton or Prince William, visiting the following venues can give you a taste of the life of nobility. Enjoy your travels to these royal venues, and feel free to throw on a fascinator to put yourself in a majestic mood.
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Windsor Castle is just one of three official residences of the Queen, and at more than 900 years old, it’s the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world. Queen Elizabeth spends a month here during the Easter holiday and is often in residence on weekends.
Windsor Castle contains around 1,000 rooms and sits on 13 acres. It consists of three wards— upper, middle and lower. The Upper Ward houses the royal apartments and staterooms, the Central Ward is a round tower built in the shape of an amphitheater, and the Lower Ward features St. George’s Chapel.
St. George Chapel at Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is a perennial favorite of travelers, but with the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in St. George’s Chapel, its popularity has skyrocketed. Located an hour train ride from London, it’s an easy day trip. The castle is open year-round with seasonal hours, and is subject to closures for state functions. In summer months, buy tickets in advance online to avoid long queues. The Castle offers audio guides for independent visits and has several guided tours that run on a regular basis.
The State Apartments are a highlight of any visit to Windsor Castle. In summer, there can be a long line to view. A fire destroyed this part of the castle in 1992, and the restoration arguably makes the visitor experience even better. Make sure to take note of the art, what looks like another old oil painting, might just be an original Rubens.
The Crimson Drawing Room ©
St. George’s Chapel, the site of the recent royal wedding, and also the location of Prince Charles’ marriage to Camilla Parker-Bowles, is a must-see. The gothic church dates to the 14th Century and is the final resting place of Henry VII and Charles I. The church is home to the Order of the Garter, the world’s oldest national order of knighthood still in existence. Visitors should be aware St. George’s closes earlier than the rest of the castle and is closed on Sundays.
For some reason, changing of the guard ceremonies continue to capture traveler’s imagination. The Changing of the Guard at Windsor take place at 11 a.m. Monday Through Saturdays from April through July and alternate days the rest of the year, weather permitting. The ceremony is 30 minutes.
Frogmore House at Windsor Castle
Visitors are only allowed to visit on three designated Charity Days each year, with all proceeds collected going to selected charities.
Located in the Home Park of Windsor Castle, just a half-mile from the Castle, Frogmore House is a great addition to a day in the country. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex recently relocated to Frogmore Cottage, which is on the estate grounds.
Frogmore House was purchased by Queen Charlotte in 1790. The house and gardens have attracted the royals and their families for centuries. Visitors are only allowed to visit on three designated Charity Days each year, with all proceeds collected going to selected charities. The dates for 2020 haven’t been announced yet.
Gardens at Frogmore House
The decorations inside the home reflect Queen Charlotte’s passion for botany. She commissioned the painter Mary Moser to decorate one of the principal rooms to resemble an arbor opened to the sky. Another room, the Cross Gallery, contains garlands painted by Queen Elizabeth before she took the throne.
The gardens outside the home contain wooded mounts, glades, winding lakes, and paths and bridges for walking. You will also find an 18th-Century summer house that resembles a Gothic ruin that gets covered in wisteria during the summer.
Since 1066 Westminster Abbey has been the coronation church of England, is the burial site of 17 monarchs and the location of 16 royal weddings. The Abbey is one of the most impressive and important gothic buildings in the country. The age of the building shows in its architecture, which reflects the changes made during its centuries of existence.
Visitors shouldn’t miss seeing the Coronation Chair, The Queen’s Window and the Royal Tombs. More than 3,000 famous Britons are also buried here, including many writers. Poet’s Corner is the final resting place of literary giants like Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy.
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The new Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries contain treasures like The Westminster Retable and the Lytlyngton Missal. You can also view the funeral effigies of King Henry VII and the royal marriage license of Prince William and Kate. Admission to this area requires a timed ticket.
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Westminster Abbey is open Monday through Saturday but can close for special events. Purchase tickets online for fast track entry. Guided tours are offered throughout the day and can be booked onsite. Westminster Abbey is a working church and visitors are invited to attend mass, or one of the musical events held at the Abbey.
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ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the dome of the current version of St. Paul’s Cathedral has been an iconic feature of the London skyline for more than 300 years. The cathedral was destroyed four times before Wren designed what we see today in the 1700s.
Visitors can walk the Cathedral floor, crypt and view three galleries, although the famous Whispering Gallery is closed until at least Dec. 2019.
St. Paul’s Cathedral is home to the Bishop of London. Prince Charles and Lady Di famously got married here, and it was the site of Margaret Thatcher and Sir Winston Churchill’s funerals. The church is the final resting place of Christopher Wren, Admiral Nelson and other famous Britons.
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Climb the 560 steps to view the dome from the inside, or see the Oculus, a 270-degree film experience that brings the chapel’s history to life in a theater in the church’s crypt.
The Cathedral houses several chapels that reflect different periods of England’s history. There is even one, the American Memorial Chapel, dedicated to the 28,000 soldiers killed in Britain during WW2. You will find images in the stained glass, wood, and metalwork that depict different flora and fauna native to North America. The windows also feature symbols of American states.
To avoid long lines, buy tickets ahead of time online.
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Sir Christopher Wren left his mark on this favorite residence of the monarchs when he converted the original house in the 17th Century.
Today, Kensington Palace is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as well as several other royals. The palace was the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria. Her stamp is clearly on the palace with a remodel and a museum opening under her watch.
Today, the big draw for visitors are the King and Queen’s state apartments and the Sunken Garden. Unfortunately for travelers, the Queen’s State Apartments will be closed Sept. 2, 2019 through March 31, 2020.
For the best visitor experience, purchase tickets ahead of time online.
What’s better than visiting the castles and palaces of the royal family? Spending the night in a property owned by a royal. These luxe royal residences can be yours on your next trip to the United Kingdom.
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Balmoral Estate | Scotland
This property is arguably Queen Elizabeth’s favorite retreat. When the Queen and Prince Philip aren’t in residence anyone can rent one of six cottages on the grounds. The cottages vary in luxury appointments and can house anywhere from five to seven people.
Llwynywermod Estate | Wales
Llwynywermod Estate is the Welsh residence of Prince Charles and Camilla. When the royal couple isn’t on property, two barn conversions on the ground are available to rent.
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Sandringham Estate | Norfolk
Sandringham Estate is the site of the royal family’s annual Christmas celebration. When the royals aren’t on property, the Garden Cottage and the Granary are available to rent.