From the Tower of London to Buckingham Palace, London’s royal heritage is immense. Scattered about the city and beyond, 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 crowned, married and buried. 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 is a mix of guided tours which you need to book in advance, a couple of VIP experiences as well as a free museum and other sights you can see as you explore the city under your own steam. There is no need to use public transport such as the underground or buses in this itinerary, but depending on where your accommodation 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 past 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.
Continue down Abingdon Street for a short distance and you will see the 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, the site of coronations for a thousand years, 16 royal weddings and the resting place of 30 kings and queens.
After exploring the Abbey, it is time to watch The Changing of the Guard, which takes place at either Horse Guards Parade or Buckingham Palace, depending on the day. Get there in good time to make sure you have a prime viewing position for the pomp and pageantry of the ceremony.
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.
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.
Walk down Whitehall back towards Westminster Bridge. Across the road you will see Banqueting House where Charles I was executed. Keep walking and you will see the Cenotaph in the centre of the road, a national war memorial. 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.
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 (for an extra charge) in one of the pods as you admire the views of the sun setting over London.
DAY TWO – THE CITY AND ITS TOWER
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 8:30am 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.
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. A 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. The museum is free and open until 6pm, so you have the flexibility to go depending on how much time and energy you have left. (The museum closes at the end of 2022 until 2025 for refurbishment.)
DAY THREE – TODAY’S ROYAL RESIDENCES
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 1.30pm 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.
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 Café in Mayfair with some skip-the-line tickets.
THE 3-DAY ROYAL LONDON ITINERARY AT A GLANCE
(Click on the links to book tickets)
Day 1 – Westminster to Buckingham Palace
Day 2 – The City and its Tower
Day 3 – Today’s Royal Residences
Hyde Park (free)
Museum of London (free)
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, free sites and boat tours allows you to get the maximum from your time in London.
Each of these activities can be purchased online, in advance. Click on the links above to book tickets - some are book direct with the attraction, others are with Get Your Guide who 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.
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.
If you are staying in London for longer than three days, why not add a day trip to other famous sites such as Stonehenge, the Roman Baths or Oxford?