Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

The principle London residence of the queen, Buckingham Palace is one of the most visited royal palaces in Europe. The Royal Standard is flown from its roof top flag-pole only when the Queen is in residence. At the rear of the palace are 40 acres of exquisite gardens, originally landscaped by Capability Brown and later enhanced by William Townsend Aiton of Kew Gardens.

A modest house belonging to the Duke of Buckingham originally stood on this site in 1703. It was extensively remodeled by Nash in 1825, for King George, although Queen Victoria was the first monarch to actually live here. The grand porticoed facade and balcony were added in 1913.

The palace contains over 600 rooms, the grandest of which are open to the public during the summer months. The tour starts at the Grand Staircase, lined with royal portraits, and leads up to the spectacular state rooms, with ornate ceilings and sparkling chandeliers. It ends with a glass of champagne in the Grand Entrance.

The Queen's Gallery in the south wing (also open to the public), has paintings, drawings and furniture on display from the Royal Collection - one of the finest collections of artwork in the world.

Changing of the Guard

This famous military ritual can be viewed daily in the palace forecourt in summer (April to mid-August) and every other day in winter. Proceedings start at 11:30, but if you want a good vantage point in the summer you will need to arrive at least one hour before.

Palace opening times: Aug-Sep 9.45am to 6pm. Entry by timed ticket - Admission Charge
Location: Buckingham Palace Rd, London, SE1A lAA - Tel: 020 7766 7300 - Website

Banqueting house

Designed by Inigo Jones in the 17th-c, this neo classical hall is the main surviving portion of the original Palace of Whitehall. Its spectacular grand banqueting hall is spanned by a highly ornate ceiling, inset with canvases by Rubens. The paintings were commissioned by King Charles I, in 1635, depicting the divine right of kings. Ironically, Charles I was executed just outside the building in 1649, as a result of his self-righteous and arrogant behaviour, which had plunged the nation into civil war.

Opening times: Mon to Sun: 10am to 5pm - Admission Charge
Location: Whitehall , London , SW1A 2ER - Tel: 0844 482 7777 - Website

Churchill War Rooms

Visit this secret WWII bunker, located deep below government office buildings in the centre of Whitehall. This vast warren of rooms and passageways, protected under 3 ft (1 meter) of solid concrete, is where the war cabinet met under Winston Churchill. The rooms have been preserved in their original state and include living quarters for ministers and a sound proofed cabinet room, where strategic decisions were taken. The Map Room remains virtually as is did during the war, complete with original maps and a markers for plotting battle strategies. Also on display is Churchill's living quarters, from which he made his famous live radio broadcasts.

Opening times: all year, daily 9.30am to 6pm (closed Xmas) - Admission Charge
Location: Clive Steps, King Charles St, London, SW1A 2AO - Tel: 020 7930 6961 - Website

Clarence House

A white stucco mansion, built by John Nash in the early 19th-c. It was previously the home of the Queen Mother until 2002 and is now the official London residence of The Prince of Wales.

Opening times: Guided tours only in summer (see website for details) - Admission Charge
Location: Little St James's Street, London SW1A 1BA - Tel: 020 7766 7303 - Website

Downing Street

Built by George Downing in 1720. British Prime Ministers have lived in this tiny cul-de-sac since the 18th-c. Up until the mid 70s tourists and reporters could simply wait outside in the hope of catching a glimpse of the PM. The area has since been closed off by iron railings but still attracts crowds of onlookers.

Horse Guards

This grand Palladian-style guardhouse, fronted by a large parade ground, was designed in the 18th-c by William Kent. The spectacular military regalia of Trooping The Colour takes place here annually, on the Queen's Birthday in June.

Houses of Parliament and Westminster Hall

Palace of Westminster

Houses of parliament were originally built as a palace in the 11th-c, and used as a royal residence by English monarchs from Edward the Confessor to Henry VIII. It was destroyed in 1834 and only the great Westminster Hall remains from the original structure. The current Gothic-style buildings were built by Augustus Pugin and Sir Charles Barry, between 1840 and 1860.

The buildings comprise a central hall and corridor with the House of Commons one one site and House of Lords located on the other. The interior of the House of Lords is decorated in scarlet and gold, with a canopied gold throne from which the monarch addresses its lords and commoners. The House of Commons was destroyed in World War II and fully restored by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.

Opening times: various tours are available throughout the year during Parliamentary recess (see website for details)
Admission Charge
Location: Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London, SW1A OM - Tel: 020 7219 3000

Marlborough House

Marlborough House - South Side

18th-c London residence of the Duke Marlborough. Built by Wren to the specifications of the Duchess, in 1711. Murals depict the Duke's victories in the 18th-c and a fine painted ceiling by Gentileschi dates from 1636.

Currently the headquarters of the Commonwealth Foundation.

Opening times: Guided tours by appointment only.
Location: Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5HX - Tel: 020 77476491

Wellington Museum - Apsley House

Aspley House London

The Duke of Wellington's town house, built in the 1770s by Robert Adam. Its rich interiors have been fully restored and now display the Iron Duke's magnificent collection of paintings, silver, porcelain, sculpture and furniture to the public. The house was once referred to as 'No 1, London', because it was located next to a tollgate on the edge of Piccadilly.

Run by English Heritage*.

Opening times: all year, Wed-Sun & BHs from 11am
Admission Charge*
Location: 148 Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner, London, W1J 7NT - Tel: 020 7499 5676 - Website

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

This famous Abbey has witnessed the coronations of more Kings and Queens than any other abbey in the world. Consecrated in 1065, it became the burial place of the King who built it; Edward the Confessor. Henry III rebuilt the abbey church on a much grander scale in the 13th century. The magnificent west end (shown right) was designed by Wren and Hawksmoor in the 18th-c.

The Abbey has been the burial place of Britain's monarchs since the 11th-c and the setting of many coronations and royal weddings ever since. Now part church, part museum, it is packed with an extraordinary collection of Tombs, statues and monuments, honouring many of Britain's greatest public figures, from monarch and explorers to politicians and poets .

The famous coronation chair, located in saint Edward's chapel, is surrounded by tombs and memorials to many medieval Kings and Queens of England. Also tombs in the cloisters include those of several medieval Knights. Poet's corner, in the east cloister, honours a multitude of famous English poets, including Shakespeare, Chaucer and TS Eliot.

The grave of the Unknown Warrior of World War I is located in the western end of the Nave. The Broad Sanctuary, located beside the abbey, is where the right of sanctuary could once be claimed. This right was abolished by James I in 1623.

The Abbey museum displays many of its treasures, including reproductions of coronation regalia and wax effigies of several English monarchs. The 900 year old Abbey Gardens, at the rear of the abbey, were originally a physic garden tended by the Benedictine monks that once lived here.

Opening times: daily from 9:30 - Admission Charge
Location: 20 Deans Yd, London, SW1P 3PA - Tel: 020 7222 5152 - Website

Westminster Cathedral

London's major Catholic Cathedral and seat of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. Constructed in 1903 to a Byzantine style of red brick striped with thin bands of Portland stone. The interior is also of brick and finely decorated with marble and mosaics. It has the widest nave in England at 149 ft (45 m). The 284 ft (86 m) tall tower is open to the public, and provides excellent views over Westminster from its Viewing Gallery. An exhibition of fine drawings and illustrations, covering the Cathedral's history and heritage, can be seen in the Viewing Gallery and Ground Floor Lobby.

Opening times: tower open daily from 9.30; see website for service times
Admission charge for Tower and Viewing Gallery
Location: 42 Francis Street, London, SW1P 1QW - Tel: 020 7798 9055 - Website

Note: Although the City of Westminster also covers the area known as the 'West End', the term Westminster is more synonymous with the area immediately around the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Therefore we have covered London's West End in a separate section of the site.

Next Page >> Theatres, Parks and Open Spaces in Westminster

Please note that the above information was accurate at the time this page was last updated. This information is subject to change at any time (opening times in particular), therefore if you plan on visiting any of the above attractions, please check the owner's website first or phone them for the latest details.


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