Great Britain’s royal buildings are some of the world’s most iconic and historically significant structures.
These landmarks have stood for centuries, hosting important royal events and serving as homes and places of marriage and final resting places for British monarchs.
The intricate architecture and lavish interiors, from castles to palaces and cathedrals to country houses, showcase the wealth and power of the monarchy throughout different eras.
This post explores the fascinating history behind some of the most notable British royal buildings, including Windsor Castle, the final resting place of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll and Sandringham House, the Monarch’s winter residence.
The reign of King Charles lll has now begun, and so it seems a fitting time to delve into the stories of his ancestors and the royal buildings that they built and lived in. Visit these British landmark buildings and walk in the footsteps of royalty.
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Royal Buildings to Visit in England
Buckingham Palace – the official royal residence in England
Buckingham Palace is undoubtedly one of the most iconic royal buildings in London. It has served as the official residence of a British monarch since 1837 and is a symbol of power and prestige.
The palace boasts an impressive facade with its iconic balcony overlooking The Mall, which has witnessed many historical events such as royal weddings, state visits and important speeches.
The palace has 775 rooms, including 19 staterooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms.
The State Rooms are open to visitors during the summer, where they can admire some of the finest examples of English craftsmanship, including paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens and Vermeer. The Throne Room also houses two thrones that Queen Victoria and King Edward VII used for coronation ceremonies.
During her long reign, Buckingham Palace was the private residence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and will continue to be so for King Charles lll and Queen Camilla.
During major events such as jubilees or royal weddings, members of the public gather outside Buckingham Palace to catch a glimpse of royalty on their famous balcony waving to crowds below.
In addition to this iconic image, there is the Changing of The Guard ceremony, which takes place daily during certain times throughout the year; this is another popular attraction that draws tourists from all over.
Buckingham Palace stands tall as a testament to British history and culture whilst remaining an active working palace today. Its grandeur continues to inspire awe amongst visitors to the capital.
Address: London SW1A 1AA
Want to visit Buckingham Palace? Book online to enter Buckingham Palace State Rooms from mid-July to late September.
Kensington Palace – the birthplace of Queen Victoria
Kensington Palace, located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, has a rich and fascinating history. Originally built as a mansion in 1605 by Sir George Coppin, it was purchased by King William III and Queen Mary II in 1689 to serve as their residence.
Over the years, Kensington Palace has been home to many royal family members. Perhaps most famously, it was the childhood home of Queen Victoria. She was born at Kensington Palace on May 24th, 1819 and lived there until she became queen in 1837. Today, visitors can tour her childhood rooms, preserved just as they were when she lived there.
Kensington Palace has also been a place of great tragedy. The palace became an impromptu memorial for those mourning the loss of Princess Diana in 1997. Recently, it has been home to Prince William, Princess Katherine and their children.
Kensington Palace has undergone extensive renovations to improve accessibility and amenities for visitors. It is now open to the public year-round, with exhibitions showcasing various aspects of royal life throughout history.
Visitors can explore the State Apartments, where courtiers once gathered around monarchs such as Queen Anne and King George I. They can also admire exquisite examples of porcelain from the royal collection housed within these apartments.
The palace gardens are another highlight for visitors, with over 260 acres of formal gardens, including fountains, statues and ornamental flower beds designed by some of England’s best gardeners.
Address: Kensington Gardens, London W8 4PX
Want to visit Kensington Place? Book online for entry to Kensington Palace to learn about its royal residents, or go one step further and buy a ticket for a guided tour of Kensington Palace, including high tea.
Jewel House – fortress holding the royal crown jewels
The Jewel House, located in the Tower of London, is a magnificent home to some of the world’s most valuable treasures. The Jewel House has held the Crown Jewels since 1303, and they have been on display for public viewing since 1669.
The collection houses an impressive array of jewels, including crowns, sceptres, swords, and other regalia that British monarchs have used throughout history.
Among the highlights are the Imperial State Crown, worn by the reigning monarch during important ceremonies such as coronations and state openings of Parliament, and St Edward’s Crown, which is only used at coronation ceremonies.
Visitors to the Jewel House can explore over 23,000 gems set into various pieces of jewellery – from brooches to necklaces – all crafted from precious metals like gold and silver.
The collection also features unique items such as Queen Victoria’s small diamond crown and Mary II’s pearl drop earrings.
In addition to its historical significance and monetary value (estimated at over three billion pounds), there are many fascinating stories behind each piece in the collection.
For example, one tale recounts how King Henry VIII ordered his jeweller to melt down a necklace belonging to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, when he fell in love with Anne Boleyn.
Another story tells how Charles II hid his crown jewels in an oak tree during a battle against Oliver Cromwell’s army.
Visiting the Jewel House is an immersive experience of England’s rich history and royal heritage.
With knowledgeable guides available to provide insights into each piece’s significance, it will undoubtedly be a popular place to visit in London to see the royal crowns leading to and following the coronation of King Charles lll on the 6th of May, 2023.
Address: Tower of London, Tower Hill, London EC3N 4AB
Want to visit Jewell House? You can buy a combined Jewell House/Tower of London ticket and discover the royal treasures.
Westminster Abbey – Wedding venue for Prince William to Princess Katherine
Westminster Abbey is a historic and iconic building in the heart of London. It is also where King Charles lll was crowned in May 2023.
With over 1,000 years of history, the abbey has played an important role in the British monarchy and religious life.
Founded in 960 AD as a Benedictine monastery, Westminster Abbey was rebuilt in the Gothic style during the 13th century. It has since been expanded and renovated many times over the centuries, with additions such as Henry VII’s Lady Chapel and Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries.
The abbey has been the site of numerous royal coronations, weddings, and funerals throughout its long history. It is also home to many notable tombs and memorials, including those of monarchs such as Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.
Royal weddings include Queen Elizabeth ll to Prince Phillip and Prince William to Princess Katherine.
One particularly famous feature of Westminster Abbey is its Poets’ Corner. This area contains memorials to some of Britain’s most celebrated writers and poets, including William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Geoffrey Chaucer.
Visitors to Westminster Abbey can take guided tours or explore independently with an audio guide. The abbey offers a variety of special events throughout the year as well, including concerts and lectures.
Westminster Abbey will be the site of King Charles lll coronation in May 2023 and is a must-see destination in London for anyone interested in British history or architecture.
Address: 20 Deans Yard, London SW1P 3PA
Want to visit Westminster Abbey? Book your ticket to Westminster Abbey online to guarantee entry on your chosen date.
St Paul’s Cathedral – the iconic royal wedding venue for Prince (King) Charles and Lady Diana
St Paul’s Cathedral is one of London’s most iconic and recognisable landmarks. It is a masterpiece of architectural design and stands as a symbol of the city’s rich history.
The cathedral was built between 1675 and 1710, following the Great Fire of London in 1666. It is a stunning example of Baroque architecture, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, with an impressive dome that dominates the skyline.
Inside St Paul’s, visitors are treated to various beautiful features, including intricate carvings, stained glass windows, and stunning mosaics. The cathedral also houses some incredible works of art, such as paintings by famous artists like Joshua Reynolds and John Singer Sargent.
One particularly notable feature is the Whispering Gallery. If you whisper against one wall, it will be heard on the opposite side. This effect is caused by sound waves being carried around the curved surface of the dome.
St Paul’s Cathedral has played an important role in British history over the years too. It has hosted numerous royal weddings, including Prince (King) Charles and Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding in 1981. It also served as a place for national mourning after significant events such as World War II.
Visitors can climb to the top of St Paul’s Cathedral to enjoy breathtaking views across London from its Golden Gallery. But be warned: there are over 500 steps to reach this point!
St Paul’s Cathedral is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in architecture or British history. Its beauty and significance make it one of London’s top attractions.
Address: St. Paul’s Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD
Want to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral? Book online for ticketed entry to access the cathedral, crypt, and galleries.
Palace of Westminster – the 11th-century residence of William the Conqueror
The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament, is one of the most iconic buildings in London. Situated on the banks of the River Thames, it has been the home to the UK’s government for over 900 years.
The palace was built in 1016 and used as a royal residence for William the Conqueror. In the 16th century, it was later used for parliamentary purposes during the reign of King Henry Vlll.
The building we see today was constructed in 1834. It was rebuilt after a fire destroyed much of its original structure. It is an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture with intricate stonework and pointed arches.
Westminster Hall is the oldest building in the Palace of Westminster and the only part which survives in its original form. It is where our beloved Queen Elizabeth ll lay in state after her death, which was streamed live around the world.
Seat of government
At the heart of Westminster Palace lies two chambers: The House of Commons and The House of Lords. These chambers are where members debate issues affecting their constituents or scrutinize bills introduced by government ministers. Both chambers have unique features that reflect their role in governing the country.
The House of Commons chamber is famous for its green leather benches and speakers’ chair. Members meet in this chamber to discuss legislation, question government ministers on policy decisions, or debate topical issues.
In contrast, The House Of Lords Chamber features red benches upholstered with gold leaf and an ornate throne for King Charles when he attends official state occasions or delivers his annual speech outlining his government’s plans for the year ahead.
Away from these chambers, visitors can explore some fascinating areas such as St. Stephen’s Hall – once used as a waiting room for MPs – now houses statues commemorating notable figures in British history.
Address: London SW1A 0AA
Want to visit? Book a fully guided tour of the Houses of Parliament and nearby Westminster Abbey
Banqueting House – the location of the execution of King Charles l
Banqueting House London is a historic building situated in the heart of Whitehall. It was designed by Inigo Jones and completed in 1622 as part of the Palace of Whitehall complex for King James I.
The Banqueting House is best known for its stunning ceiling painting, created by Rubens in 1635. The painting depicts scenes from the life of King James I and has been described as one of the greatest masterpieces of Baroque art in England.
In addition to its remarkable ceiling, the Banqueting House boasts impressive architecture with its grand entrance hall and spacious banqueting hall. The hall features marble columns, intricate woodwork, and ornate plasterwork that add to its grandeur.
Over the years, the Banqueting House has hosted many significant events, such as royal weddings, state occasions, and even executions.
One particularly notable event was the execution of King Charles I on January 30th, 1649. His sentence was read out on a scaffold erected outside the building before he was led inside to be executed. A bust of the King can be seen above the entrance to the Banqueting House.
Today, visitors can explore this magnificent royal building and learn about its rich history through guided or self-guided audio tours.
Banqueting House London is a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in English history or Baroque art. Its stunning interior design and historical significance make it a true gem among London’s great tourist attractions.
Address: Banqueting House, Whitehall, London, SW1A 2ER
Guided Tours can be booked on selected dates during the year. Check the Banqueting House Website for details.
Kew Palace – private residence of King George lll set in Kew botanical gardens
Kew Palace is located in Kew Gardens and is very unassuming compared to the other royal buildings in London. It was built in 1631 as a mansion for Sir Hugh Portman. Later it was purchased by King George III and his wife, Queen Charlotte, as their private residence.
The palace has been beautifully preserved over the years. It offers visitors a glimpse into the royal family’s lives during the Georgian era. The interior of Kew Palace is decorated with historic furnishings and artwork that showcase the elegance and sophistication of this period.
One of the most impressive features of Kew Palace is its stunning gardens. These meticulously maintained gardens are filled with rare plants, exotic flowers, and winding paths that lead visitors on a journey through time.
Kew Palace also boasts several interesting exhibits that offer an insight into the history of Britain’s monarchy. Visitors can explore rooms such as Queen Charlotte’s bedroom, which has been restored to its original condition with period furniture and décor.
In addition to its historical significance, Kew also serves as an important centre for research on plant life. Kew Garden is home to more than 30,000 different species of plants from around the world.
Overall, Kew Palace is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in British history or horticulture. Its beautiful architecture, elegant interiors, and breathtaking gardens make it one of London’s most beautiful landmarks.
Address: Royal Botanic Gardens, Richmond TW9 3AE
Want to visit Kew Palace: Get free entry when you purchase a ticket to Kew Gardens.
Hampton Court Palace – Henry Vlll’s favourite residence
Hampton Court Palace is a magnificent royal palace located in Richmond upon Thames. It was built for Cardinal Wolsey but later became one of King Henry VIII’s favourite residences.
The palace is known for its stunning architecture and beautiful gardens. The Tudor-style buildings are adorned with intricate carvings and richly decorated interiors, giving visitors an insight into the opulence of the Tudor court.
The 16th-century Great Hall is one of the most popular attractions at Hampton Court Palace. It features a magnificent beamed roof and stained glass windows depicting scenes from King Henry VIII’s life.
Another must-see feature of the palace is the State Apartments. Monarchs used these grand rooms to receive guests and hold important events, such as banquets and balls. Visitors can marvel at the ornate decoration and priceless works of art displayed throughout these lavish rooms.
Hampton Court Palace also boasts over 60 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens. Famous features include the Privy Garden, Rose Garden, Maze, and Great Vine.
The gardens are perfect for strolling or picnicking on a sunny day while taking in views that have remained mainly unchanged since they were first created over 500 years ago.
Hampton Court Palace offers a unique window into England’s past through its stunning architecture, splendid interiors, manicured gardens, and intriguing history. It’s an essential royal stop on any trip to England.
Address: Hampton Court Way, East Molesey KT8 9AU
Purchase an online entry ticket to explore Hampton Court Palace and its beautiful gardens.
Windsor Castle – final resting place of King Henry Vlll and Queen Elizabeth ll
Windsor Castle is a magnificent fortress located in Berkshire. It serves as one of the official residences of the British monarch and has been home to many royal families throughout history.
The castle was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century as a strategic fortification to protect London from invaders. Over time, it has undergone numerous renovations and expansions, resulting in its current grandeur.
It remains the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world.
One of the most notable features of Windsor Castle is St. George’s Chapel. This stunning Gothic-style chapel dates back to the 14th century. It houses numerous tombs of past monarchs, including King Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour.
It is now the final resting place of Queen Elizabeth ll and her beloved husband, Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Another must-see attraction at Windsor Castle is Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. This intricately designed miniature house features working lights, running water, and even flushing toilets! It was created for Queen Mary in the early 20th century by renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens.
Visitors can also explore the State Apartments. These feature an impressive collection of artwork, furniture, and tapestries from various historical periods. The apartments are still used today for ceremonial events such as state banquets.
Windsor Castle offers visitors a unique glimpse into British history while showcasing its grandeur as an official residence for royalty.
Address: Windsor SL4 1NJ
Want to visit Windsor Castle? Book online entry tickets for a self-guided audio tour of the castle and entrance to St. George’s Chapel (except on Sundays).
Sandringham House – winter residence of the Monarch
Sandringham House is a stunning country retreat located in the heart of Norfolk. This beautiful estate has been the private residence of the British royal family since 1862. It is known for its exquisite architecture, lush gardens, and historical significance.
The reigning monarch spends winters at Sandringham, usually from mid-December to February. The royal family gather here at Christmas and attend church service together at St Mary Magdalene Church on Sandringham estate.
The house was built in 1870 by Prince Albert Edward as a gift to his mother, Queen Victoria. Over the years, it has undergone many renovations and additions, resulting in an impressive blend of styles that showcase various architectural eras.
One of Sandringham’s most notable features is its extensive gardens. The grounds are home to over 60 acres of landscaped gardens and parkland, including formal gardens, woodland walks, lakes and streams, and even a walled kitchen garden where produce is grown for on-site use.
The interior of Sandringham House also boasts an impressive collection of art and antiques. Visitors can explore the grand state rooms filled with priceless works from around the world or peek at more intimate spaces like the Queen Mother’s sitting room.
In addition to its historical significance and stunning beauty, Sandringham House also serves as a working estate. It includes farms, forestry operations, and holiday cottages for rent by visitors to Norfolk.
Sandringham House offers visitors an unforgettable glimpse into the royal family’s lives while showcasing some of England’s finest architecture and natural beauty.
Address: Sandringham PE35 6EN
Want to visit Sandringham? Find details of opening times and ticket prices on the Sandringham website.
Royal Buildings to Visit in Scotland
Balmoral Castle – the summer holiday home of the Monarch
Balmoral Castle, located in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, is one of the most iconic and historic castles in the United Kingdom.
Built by Prince Albert in 1856 as a gift to his wife, Queen Victoria, the castle has been a beloved retreat for British monarchs ever since. In 2022, it was the place where our beloved Queen Elizabeth ll passed away.
The castle is on grounds covering over 50,000 acres of beautiful Scottish countryside. Visitors can explore the many gardens and walking trails that wind through the estate, taking in breathtaking views of mountains and rivers.
Inside Balmoral Castle, visitors can experience firsthand what life was like for British royalty during their visits to this magnificent residence. The castle’s interior boasts ornate furnishings and decorations befitting its regal history.
One of the most interesting features of Balmoral Castle is its collection of art and historical artefacts from across Scotland. From antique weaponry to traditional tartans and kilts worn by Scottish clansmen, there are countless fascinating historical pieces to discover here.
Balmoral Castle is an absolute must-visit destination for those interested in learning more about royal history or simply enjoying a stroll through some of Scotland’s most beautiful landscapes.
With so much to see and explore inside and outside this impressive structure, it’s no wonder it remains one of Scotland’s top attractions year after year.
Address: Balmoral Estate, Ballater AB35 5TB
Want to visit Balmoral Castle? Find details of opening times and ticket prices on the Balmoral website.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse – the official royal residence in Scotland
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is an iconic landmark located in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland and has been so for over 500 years.
The palace was founded as a monastery in the 12th century. Later it was converted into a royal residence by King James IV.
The palace is steeped in history and boasts stunning architecture that reflects its rich heritage. Visitors to the palace can explore various rooms, including the State Apartments. These rooms are adorned with intricate tapestries, beautiful artworks, and ornate furnishings.
The Great Gallery features portraits of Scottish monarchs, from Mary Queen of Scots to Queen Victoria.
One must-see attraction at the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the royal dining room. Here, state banquets are held during official visits by foreign heads of state.
The room features a grand table complete with silverware and fine china. Additionally, visitors can glimpse the private chambers of Mary Queen of Scots. She resided here between 1561 and 1567 before she fled to England.
Another highlight of visiting this magnificent palace is witnessing the Changing of the Guard ceremony. It occurs every day except Sundays from April until July each year.
This spectacular display sees soldiers marching through Edinburgh’s streets before entering the palace grounds in full regalia.
Address: Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX
Want to visit? Book tickets online for entry to the Palace of Holyroodhouse to see inside the King’s Scottish residence.
A Royal Building to Visit in Northern Ireland
Hillsborough Castle – the official royal residence in Northern Ireland
Hillsborough Castle is a historic royal residence in Hillsborough, County Down, Northern Ireland. Built as a private country house for the first Marquess of Downshire in the 18th century, the British government later acquired it. It has since served as an official residence for various high-ranking officials.
The castle boasts stunning architecture and design features that have been preserved over time. It comprises several buildings, including a Georgian mansion, a state dining room with seating for up to 100 guests, and beautiful gardens covering over 100 acres.
One of the interesting aspects of this castle is its role in history. It was used as headquarters for US General Dwight D. Eisenhower during World War II while he planned Operation Overlord – better known as the D-Day landings – from here.
Hillsborough Castle has also hosted many important political figures, such as Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher. Today it serves as an official residence for members of the British royal family, such as King Charles and Queen Camilla, when they visit Northern Ireland.
Visitors can explore parts of this magnificent building on guided tours, including access to select rooms such as The Throne Room, where many important ceremonies are conducted.
Additionally, visitors can stroll through picturesque gardens featuring formal lawns adorned with statues or relax by one of several tranquil water features scattered around the grounds.
Overall Hillsborough Castle is steeped in history and offers visitors an insight into what life might be like living in a grand castle setting fit for King!
Address: The Square, Hillsborough BT26 6GT
Want to visit Hillsborough Castle? Find details of opening times and ticket prices on the Hillsborough Castle website.
These fourteen British royal buildings are not only grand and imposing, but they also hold an important place in the history of the United Kingdom.
They have stood the test of time and are an integral part of British culture, each with a unique story.
Today, these buildings are not just tourist attractions but also serve as important venues for official state functions and ceremonies.
Overall, the British royal buildings remain a symbol of heritage, tradition, and pride for the people of Britain, of which I am one. A visit to them should be on any UK travel itinerary.
Please Pin for Future Travel to the UK
Are you looking for further UK travel inspiration? Please check out the following posts:
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2-week Great British Road Trip Itinerary: From England to Scotland
Best and Most Beautiful Bucketlist Scottish Islands You Have To See
Saturday 8th of April 2023
It's a pity we missed seeing inside Kew Palace and all the others when we were in Britain but enjoyed walking through Hampton Court Palace. It gives a small insight into what life was like so long ago.
Saturday 1st of April 2023
My husband and I visited London for the first time last fall, coincidentally the week of the Queen’s funeral. I was so sad we couldn’t visit Windsor Castle during our visit, but we were able to see some of the places from afar—like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abby. Hoping to go back again when we’re able to tour some of these palaces and castles.
Saturday 1st of April 2023
I hope you can make a return visit to see some of the beautiful royal buildings in London. They are truly magnificent both inside and out.
Linda (LD Holland)
Saturday 1st of April 2023
So many amazing buildings to visit in England. This post made me realize we have only seen a few. A great way to learn more about history. And when we finally get to Scotland I now have a list of places to visit.
Saturday 1st of April 2023
What a very informative, helpful list. I hope to visit at least a couple in the future, they look beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
Friday 31st of March 2023
Wow, the architecture in Great Britain really is a sight to see! So different than what you experience in the US
Friday 31st of March 2023
Yes literally a thousand years worth of historic buildings