Following the passing of beloved Queen Elizabeth II, there is likely to be renewed interest in Britain’s royal family and royal residences. There are a large number of palaces, castles and homes occupied by the royal family in the UK and many of them are open to the public.
Queen Elizabeth II was the longest-reigning British monarch in history and was the first to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee earlier this year. She was perhaps the most beloved and respected monarch of modern times and she will be sorely missed. Later, King Charles will be officially crowned as King Charles III and Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many more will proclaim “Long Live The King, God Save The King”.
What to know about the royal residences of the United Kingdom
Prospective visitors should note that following the death of Queen Elizabeth II and with the upcoming coronation of King Charles III, many of these residences are closed to the public until further notice.
Anyone planning to visit any of the Royal Residences should check their websites or the Royal Collection Trust for current opening information.
Perhaps the most famous royal residences are Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland. They are also the three official residences of the reigning monarch (formerly the Queen and now King Charles III).
- Official residences: Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Palace of Holyroodhouse
Although they are the official residences, they are far from the only royal residences. For example, Balmoral Castle is not an official royal residence, but it was where the Queen resided and died in September 2022.
It is not possible to list all the royal residences open to the public in this article – there are 12 residences open to the public in London alone (some of which are former royal residences).
This article will only deal with the three official residences. Other notable residences include Balmoral Castle, Sandringham House, Palace of Westminster and Hillsborough Castle.
Buckingham Palace – The official royal residence in London
Buckingham Palace is perhaps the most famous and most visited of all British palaces. This is where everyone flocks to watch the iconic Changing of the Guard.
Buckingham Palace has been the official residence of the monarch in London since 1837. It is used for many official events and receptions. The State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are open to the public each summer.
- Rooms: 775 rooms (19 state rooms, 52 royal and guest rooms)
- Famous for: The Changing of the King’s Guard (formerly Queen’s Guard)
Although Buckingham Palace may be closed to the public due to the Sovereign’s death, it can be viewed from the outside for free.
Windsor Castle – The official royal country residence
Windsor Castle is located just outside of London and is easy to visit on a day trip from London and can be reached by train.
Windsor Castle is the longest-occupied royal palace to have had a castle there since William the Conqueror around 1,000 years ago. It has been continuously used by the English (later British) monarchy since King Henry I in the 1100s.
- The biggest: It is the largest occupied castle in the world
- The longest : Occupied Royal Palace
Usually it is also open to the public and visitors are welcome to tour a large part of the complex. It is normally open Thursday to Monday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday).
Admission is £23.50 ($32) per person.
As it is an official residence, the iconic King’s (Queen’s) Guard is also stationed there with their signature red tunics and large bearskin fur caps.
Palace of Holyroodhouse – The official Scottish royal residence
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is located in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, opposite Edinburgh Castle. It has been Scotland’s main royal residence since the 16th century.
The 16th century dates back to the time of Scottish kings and queens (preceding the union of the Scottish and English crowns in 1603).
Usually, visitors can tour the Palace of Holyroodhouse and explore the 14 magnificent historic and state apartments, the ancient ruins of the 12th-century Holyrood Abbey, and the Royal Gardens. The palace is famous for Mary, Queen of Scots and her short reign.
The palace is normally closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays but is open on other days. Admission is £18.50 ($21.50) per adult.