There are still twelve monarchies in Europe including the Vatican. All of them have today assumed the form of a constitutional monarchy, meaning that they are embedded in a democratic system and have no actual political meaning anymore. Regardless, these monarchs are often revered and so are the palaces they live and work in. Often built centuries ago in magnificent style, rooted deeply in history and carefully maintained over time, these royal palaces are always among the most important attractions of their respective country. Great Britain has a special position in that regard, as from all monarchies still existing today, the country plays arguably the most important role internationally and it is based on a long, colonial history, the remnants of which can be seen to this day. The British royal family currently uses 23 estates in all parts of the country, several others are no longer in use and are being preserved as former royal residences. Not all of them are dubbed palaces. Some are used only temporarily, for example when the Queen visits certain parts of the kingdom, others serve as residences for lesser-known members of the family.
London, Buckingham Palace
Both the name and the image of this palace are well known around the world. Buckingham Palace grew from a single house built in 1733 that was expanded to become a complete royal palace from 1827 on. It serves as the official residence of the royal family and is used for official purposes such as state visit receptions. Its 775 rooms contain the Queen’s private chambers as well as guestrooms and bedrooms for employees. Buckingham Palace also houses the Royal Collection with furniture, artworks and jewelry of astronomical value. The palace, which does not belong to the royal family but to the British state, opens its West Wing for visitors every year in August and September. Throughout the year, the changing of the guards in front of the palace, happening at 11 a.m., is one of London’s best-known tourist attractions.
London, Kensington Palace
Not as impressive as other royal residences, Kensington Palace in London’s Kensington quarter nevertheless assumes an important role among the estates used by the royal family. The property actually consists of several buildings that house multiple members of the extended family. Most prominently, Prince William and his wife Catherine make their home here, in the main building. Visitors have the opportunity to explore the grounds on several default routes and get a look at some of the impressive artworks housed at Kensington Pakace, including paintings and antique furniture.
Windsor, Windsor Castle
Just outside of London, the royal family has an another stately accommodation at its disposal. Windsor Castle is the world’s largest, continuously used royal palace, featuring numerous large and splendidly appointed rooms that have been added by the country’s monarchs over time. The palace sits on grounds that had been used for a wooden castle by William the Conqueror as early as 1078 and it has been expanded and altered by many rulers after him over time. Like Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle is home to an extensive collection of precious items including paintings by renowned artists and other valuable items from the Royal Collection. The palace has played host to several big events in the monarchy’s history, including royal weddings. Windsor Castle offers tours of selected rooms every day throughout the year from Thursday to Monday.
Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh
The stately estate in Edinburgh is among the most impressive pieces of realty the royal family regularly uses. Located at the foot of the town’s most important thoroughfare, the Royal Mile, the Queen usually stays here for a week in early summer to handle a slate of official business matters. When she does, she can choose between almost 300 rooms spread over some 8,000 square meters. Holyrood Palace had initially been built by James IV, the Scottish king and originally contained stables and other facilities to host the monarch’s private zoo. A guided tour will tell you more about the palace’s history. Notably, Holyrood Park has been designed to resemble the Scottish Highlands and is today a major leisure area in Edinburgh, freely accessible to the public.
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