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Published: Thursday January 2, 2014 MYT 6:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday January 2, 2014 MYT 9:26:23 AM

Top royal attractions in London

You can't get anymore royal than Buckingham Palace in London. - Photo by DAVID ILIFF/Wikimedia Commons

You can't get anymore royal than Buckingham Palace in London. - Photo by DAVID ILIFF/Wikimedia Commons

From grand palaces to green parks and pelicans, take a royal tour of London.

1. Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is probably London’s most iconic landmark. The official London residence of every British monarch since 1837, it boasts 775 rooms, including 78 bathrooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 19 state rooms, 188 staff bedrooms and 92 offices.

The palace has its own police station, hospital, post office and cinema, plus London’s largest private garden and oldest helicopter pad. The palace garden was once home to six flamingos. Unfortunately, a hungry fox ate the entire flock in one night, so the birds were never replaced. Be sure to watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony which takes place at 11.30am every day, or every other day, depending on the season.

2. Kensington Palace

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka Wills and Kate), and Prince George, live at Kensington Palace. Some parts of the palace – the impressive landscaped gardens and the State Rooms – are open to the public. A royal residence for over 300 years, former residents include Queen Victoria and Diana, Princess of Wales. Don’t miss the exhibition of royal clothing, featuring some of Diana’s famous dresses.

3. Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace was the opulent home of King Henry VIII. The palace is (supposedly) haunted, with sightings of several of Henry VIII’s wives (Jane Seymour, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard) roaming the hallways, shutting doors, and running to the chapel. Unlike the other palaces, you have the freedom to explore. Highlights include the Tudor kitchens, haunted gallery and the 1350 sq m maze in the garden.

4. Tower of London

Built in 1066 by William the Conqueror, the Tower of London is guarded by the iconic Beefeaters, who look after the Tower’s ravens. Legend has it that if the birds ever leave, the White Tower will crumble and there will be a great disaster in England. The Tower was once an infamous prison and the site of many high-profile executions, including Henry VIII’s wives. Over the years, it has also been an observatory, an armoury, a zoo, a treasury and the Royal Mint. Today it is a public museum where you can admire the 23,578 gems that make up the Crown Jewels.

5. Hyde Park

Once Henry VIII’s private deer park, 360-acre (145.7ha) Hyde Park has been open to the public since 1635. Take a pedalo for a spin on The Serpentine, pay your respects at the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain and, if you come on a Sunday morning, listen to people from all walks of life giving speeches at Speakers’ Corner. It makes for great street theatre, and if you fancy a rant yourself, you can share your views with the world too!

6. Westminster Abbey

Adorned with stained glass windows and intricate stone engravings, Gothic Westminster Abbey is a Unesco World Heritage Site. Every monarch since 1066 has been crowned here, while it has hosted 16 royal weddings, including the Queen’s, to His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, and Wills and Kate’s in 2011. Seventeen monarchs are buried here along with a list of household names from history like Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Sir Isaac Newton, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Darwin and Geoffrey Chaucer.

7. St James’ Park

St James’ Park sits beside Buckingham Palace. Once King Henry VIII’s hunting ground, it has also been a royal zoo, a reservoir and even a bowling alley. The park houses an impressive collection of ornamental wildfowl, and pelicans, which have been park residents ever since a Russian ambassador bequeathed them to the Monarchy in 1664. They are fed at 2pm every day. Take a rest on a park bench and you might be joined by a pelican – it’s a surprising habit of these somewhat unattractive, but sociable creatures. – Skyscanner (www.skyscanner.net)

Tags / Keywords: Travel, Lifestyle, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, Tower of London, Hyde Park

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