If you’re in London and not sure what to do first, think palaces. Historic Royal Palaces is made up of five castles, and whether you want to visit just one or tour all five, you’re bound to walk away with a better understanding and appreciation of British history. The five castles are the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, and Kew Palace.
Tower of London–If you visit, look for the ravens. Legend says that if the ravens leave the fortress, the Tower of London and the entire kingdom will fall. Other must see areas include the White Tower, where many were imprisoned, the Medieval Palace, which provides a glimpse into the surprisingly luxurious lifestyles of Medieval royals, and the Crown Jewels, which boasts 23,578 gems, including almost 3000 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and five rubies.
Hampton Court Palace–Henry VIII had kitchens, but not just any kitchens. Built in 1530, the kitchens were designed to feed the Court of Henry VIII twice a day–all 600 of them. The Chapel Royal, is also a sight to behold with its rich and colorful ceiling. Services have been held in the Chapel Royal for over 450 years; visitors to Hampton Court Palace may also attend services on Sunday or weekdays.
Banqueting House–It’s nigh impossible to miss Ruben’s Ceiling, a massive piece of artwork created by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, depicting the Union of the Crowns, the Apotheosis of James I and The Peaceful Reign of James I. The scaffold where King Charles I was killed is just outside the Banqueting House; according to the Historic Royal Palaces website, Ruben’s Ceiling was one of the last things Charles I would have seen before he was executed.
Kensington Palace–You don’t want to miss Queen Victoria’s Bedroom, although she was still a princess when she went to sleep on the eve of June 20, 1837.The eighteen-year-old was awakened that morning with the news of her uncle’s death, which meant she was now the Queen. You’ll also want to take a gander at the King’s Staircase, Mary of Modena’s Bed, and the Sunken Garden, which was planted in 1908.
Kew Palace–Here you’ll see Queen Charlotte’s Chair, in which she died in 1818. Queen Charlotte had dropsy, a progressive disease, and had contracted pneumonia; during the last days of her illness she was more comfortable sitting than lying in the bed. You’ll also see the bedrooms of Princess Elizabeth, Princess Augusta and Princess Amelia, as well as their dollhouse, complete with fancy wallpaper and embroidered bedpulls. Other must sees are Queen Charlotte’s Cottage and the People’s Library.
There are plenty of exhibits to capture your attention at these five palaces, so take your pick.