From the Tower of London to Buckingham Palace, London’s royal heritage is immense. Scattered about the city, and beyond, and managed by different organisations, choosing what to visit and when takes some planning. We have put together a three- day, self-guided itinerary for those visitors who want to focus their sightseeing on something for which the British are well known – the monarchy and its history.
For many people, London and the British Royal Family are synonymous; the capital city is filled with buildings connected to their lives, whether its the palaces they built and lived in or the churches they were coronated, married and buried in. Visitors often want to focus their attention on these historic sites, but with so many to choose from, it can be hard work to narrow it down to the most significant ones.
This three day itinerary covers the most important royal sights, and includes a couple of VIP experiences as well as a free museum and other sights you can see as you explore the city. There is no need to use public transport such as the underground or buses in this itinerary, but depending on where your accomodation is, you may need public transport or a black cab to get to the starting locations.
If you want all of the research and planning hassle taken out of your trip, follow this itinerary and see the very best that London has to offer the royal history enthusiast.
Day One – Westminster to Buckingham Palace
We start on Westminster Bridge, with its iconic views over the River Thames and the Houses of Parliament. This is a popular spot for tourists and you will need to compete with the throngs to get the best photos or to watch the buskers. Walk towards Big Ben and turn left into Parliament Square. If you’re here in good time, you can walk around Parliament Square, take photos of iconic red telephone boxes and look at the famous statues of the great and the good, which include British leaders such as Winston Churchill, the suffragette Millicent Fawcett and world leaders such as Nelson Mandela.
Westminster Abbey, shown here behind the famous Elizabeth Tower (often called Big Ben) has been the site of countless coronations, marriages and burials of British royalty.
Continue down Abingdon Street for a short distance and you will see Jewel Tower which was built in 1365 to house Edward III’s royal treasures and is one of only two buildings which survive from the medieval Palace of Westminster. The tower is closed for much of the week but is still an impressive sight from the outside. Now go back the way you came, turn left into Parliament Square and head towards Westminster Abbey. Opposite the west entrance is a tall marble and stone column with St. George slaying a dragon on the top. Make sure you are there by 09h15 to meet your guide. Your guide will take you on a skip-the-line tour around the Abbey, the site of coronations for a thousand years, 16 royal weddings and the resting place of 30 kings and queens.
The Changing of the Guard is a fascinating event to watch and usually lasts about 45 minutes.
After exploring the Abbey, your guide will take you on a walk to see the famous ceremony, The Changing of the Guard, which takes place at either Horse Guards Parade or Buckingham Palace, depending on the day. The guide will make sure you have a prime viewing position and talk you through the pomp and pageantry of the ceremony. The tour ends at Buckingham Palace near the famous balcony where the Royal Family stands during major events.
The Gold State Coach has been used for every coronation since George VI and can be seen at the Royal Mews. Photograph © David Crochet
If you’re visiting from the end of July to early October, then the State Rooms in Buckingham Palace are open for visitors and you can take a tour inside the Palace with an audio guide which is available in several different languages. If you are visiting outside the summer season, then you can still visit The Royal Mews where you can see the Royal carriages and horses, including the famous golden carriage used on state occasions.
The Household Cavalry Museum is an excellent museum filled with the pomp and pageantry that goes with guarding the Queen.
After your tour, walk down The Mall, the famous road which leads from Buckingham Palace to Trafalgar Square. Turn right into Horse Guards Road next to St James Park. If you have done the Royal Mews visit instead of the State Rooms, then you will have time to visit The Household Cavalry Museum, a fantastic working museum where you can learn about the lives of the soldiers who protect the Queen, see their horses and the Cavalry themselves, who sit on horseback outside the building every day. Leave the Horseguards Museum through the front entrance onto Whitehall.
The Cenotaph (which means ’empty tomb’) is a memorial built to commemorate all the soldiers who died in World War I.
Walk down Whitehall back towards Westminster Bridge. Across the road you will see Banqueting House where Charles I was executed on a scaffold. Keep walking and you will see the Cenotaph in the centre of the road, a memorial to those who died in World War I. Opposite this is the entrance to Downing Street; you can’t walk down the street as it is fenced off and protected by armed police, but you may be able to peer through the railings and see that famous front door.
Sunset over the Houses of Parliament is a sight not to be missed.
Keep walking a short distance until you are back at Parliament Square, and cross Westminster Bridge again. Once you are across, turn left down the steps and head to the London Eye, where you can skip the queues and enjoy a well-earned glass of champagne in one of the pods as you admire the views of the sun setting over London.
Day Two – The City and its Tower
The Tower of London was Built by William the Conqueror and has been used as a royal residence, an armoury, a treasury and a prison. It also houses the Crown Jewels.
The second day starts with the unique opportunity to witness the Opening Ceremony at the Tower of London with VIP access before the crowds arrive. Meet in front of the Tower of London shop at 08h30 and enjoy an exclusive tour around the Crown Jewels, the execution block where royalty lost their heads, the Bloody Tower, the White Tower, the famous ravens and the dungeons with your own tour guide.
When the tour is finished, you have 30 minutes to buy your Tower souvenirs and walk the few steps to Tower Pier on the Thames. Here you can hop on a River cruise of the Thames and enjoy a 2 course lunch with live commentary, admiring the views through panoramic windows as you glide down the Thames.
St. Paul’s Cathedral was designed by Christopher Wren and is one of the most recognisable sights in London.
Feeling refreshed you will disembark back at Tower Pier, where you can then walk to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Head west and turn right onto St. Dunstan’s Hill. Here you can stop to look at the ruins of St. Dunstan-in-the-East, the shell of a church which was bombed during World War II and now has a small garden growing within its walls. Turn right onto Monument Street and walk past the Monument to the Great Fire of London. Then continue in a straight line down Canon Street until you reach St.Paul’s Cathedral. This Wren masterpiece is where Prince Charles married Princess Diana and is where the royal family regularly attend services. This fast-track access ticket includes a multimedia guide in several languages and you can arrange a free guided tour once you are in the building if you require it.
When you have finished looking around St Paul’s, it is just an eight minute walk to the Museum of London up St. Martins le Grand street. This museum charts the whole history of London and has regular exhibitions. Later in 2020 it will be displaying King Charles I’s bloodied shirt from his execution. The museum is free and open until 18h00, so you have the flexibility to go depending on how much time and energy you have left.
Day Three – Today’s Royal Residences
Windsor Castle is the longest occupied Palace in Europe, being the home of the reigning monarch since Henry I.
Day Three starts gently, giving you the time for a leisurely breakfast and plenty of time to get to Earls Court station, where you will be collected by a luxury coach and taken to Windsor. The trip includes skip-the-line tickets to Windsor Castle and gives you plenty of time to explore the castle, grounds and the town of Windsor or nearby Eton. You will return to Earls Court at 13h30 and can then either walk 30 minutes or catch a black cab to Kensington Palace. Here you can use your Palace sightseeing tickets to gain entry to this palace of sumptuous state rooms and learn more about the Stuart dynasty and Queen Victoria.
Kensington Palace has been a royal home since the 17th century and is currently the official London home of several members of the Royal Family, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
After your visit to the Palace, head into Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, where you can visit the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and enjoy the greenery and tranquility of one of London’s most famous green spaces. If you exit on the south side of the park, you will end up in Knightsbridge and Belgravia, the smart areas of London where you can find an eatery for a civilised dinner and a well deserved rest after your three days of exploring a thousand years of British royal history. If you don’t fancy having to search for somewhere to eat, head to the south east corner of Hyde Park where you can eat at the Hard Rock Cafe in Mayfair with some skip-the-line tickets.
The 3-Day Royal London Itinerary at a Glance
Day 1 – Westminster to Buckingham Palace
- Westminster Abbey
- Buckingham Palace
- Household Cavalry Museum
- London Eye
Day 2 – The City and its Tower
- Tower of London
- Thames Cruise
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Museum of London
Day 3 – Today’s Royal Residences
- Windsor Castle
- Kensington Palace
- Hyde Park
What you need to purchase
Our London for Beginners Royal Itinerary is intended for first time visitors with three days to see the best royal historical sites. As time is short, this combination of skip-the-line tickets, bus and boat tours allows you to get the maximum from your time in London.
Each of these activities can be purchased online, in advance. We recommend using the GetYourGuide platform for these. They not only have some of the best deals, but more importantly in our view, you are able to cancel your activities usually up to 24 hours in advance to get a *full refund* back to your account.
Be sure to buy the right set of tickets for the right day.
For Day One the following tickets are required:
► Westminster Abbey and the Changing of the Guard
A skip-the-line ticket to the Abbey, a guided tour to the Changing of the Guard ending up at Buckingham Palace
► Household Cavalry Museum
You will not have time to do this if you are doing the State Rooms tour of Buckingham Palace
► The London Eye Champagne Experience
A skip-the-line ticket which includes a glass of champagne and access to the 4D Experience
For Day Two the following tickets are required:
► Tower of London Early Access Tour with Opening Ceremony
A VIP experience and a chance to see the Tower without all of the crowds
► London River Thames Lunch Cruise
A two course meal with tea and coffee while cruising down the River Thames
► St. Paul’s Cathedral Fast Track Entrance
Tickets valid for a whole day
For Day Three you will need the following tickets:
► Windsor Half Day Tour from London
Includes entrance to Windsor Castle and travel there and back in a luxury coach
► Kensington Palace Sightseeing Ticket
Includes entrance to the Palace, exhibitions and grounds and is valid all day
► Hard Rock Cafe Skip-the-line
Optional extra with a set menu if you don’t want to hunt for somewhere to eat at the end of a long day
The total cost of this itinerary is £324pp if you are doing the Royal Mews and the Household Cavalry, or £328.50pp if you are doing the Buckingham Palace State Rooms. (Add an extra £25pp if you plan to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe on your final night.)
There are some restrictions on a couple of these tours.
- The Tower of London VIP tour only runs on certain days, so I would start with that one when you are making your bookings. You can always substitute it with this Skip-the-line ticket which is every day but does not include the VIP early morning access.
- Likewise the river cruise is more seasonal and does not run every day in the winter months.
- The Windsor trip is weekdays only.