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We all know Buckingham Palace with it’s famous balcony, but these other fascinating buildings in central London were royal palaces and home to a reigning monarch, once upon a time. A day trip spent visiting castles and grand country houses outside London is popular with visitors to our London apartment rentals –  it’s worth knowing that you don’t have to get on a train to find old royal residences to explore.

St James Palace – King Henry VIII’s hunting lodge and hideaway

Surprisingly, St James Palace is the most senior royal palace in London.  It lies close to the lovely St James Park and was built in the 1500’s.  This solid, red brick castle-like palace was used by King Henry VIII as a hunting lodge and an escape from royal duties. Queen Victoria married her beloved Prince Albert in the Royal Chapel here. These days, this historic royal retreat is home to various members of the royal family.

Magnificent Whitehall, Europe’s grandest palace

The name Whitehall is synonymous with politics.  This famous road runs towards Parliament Square and is the home of government.  It was named for The Palace of Whitehall which was once the most spectacular palace in Europe, rivalling The Vatican and Versailles for royal luxury and splendour. A devastating fire destroyed most of the palace in 1698, leaving only the beautiful Banqueting House to remind us of it’s past glories.

Big Ben in Westminster Palace

In the City of Westminster lies Westminster Palace, also known as the Houses of Parliament. This ancient royal palace was built in the eleventh century, named for Westminster Abbey. Once again, it was fire that destroyed part of the monarch’s home and after restoration, it became home to parliament instead. The Queen still owns this political palace and the iconic clock tower that is home to the famous bell, Big Ben, is named after her.

The Tower of London – palace turned prison

The Tower conjures up visions of damp dungeons and misery – not much palace over that!  This castle was originally built as a medieval palace, however, furnished in royal splendour and comfort for the king. Officially known as Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, it was later used primarily as a fortress and prison. It is home to The Crown Jewels, The Beefeaters (warders of the Tower) and some very important ravens.

Buck House and a pretty palace in Kensington

Buckingham Palace was once a grand country house built by the Duke of Buckingham, known as Buckingham House. It was acquired and expanded by the royal family and Queen Victoria was the first monarch to move into the shiny new palace in 1837. The Changing of the Guard is a famous attraction for visitors to our apartments in London and as you know, if the flat is flying, the queen is home!

Queen Victoria was born in Kensington Palace which was also home to Diana, Princess of Wales. Originally known as Nottingham House, the building was modified by Sir Christopher Wren into one of the prettiest palaces in the capital, with the delightful Kensington Gardens alongside.  We recommend our London apartment rental tenants stroll through these much loved gardens up into Hyde Park, anytime of year.

 

London is a busy, bustling capital city in motion.  Moving around town from your London apartment rentals means joining the merry throng of people on foot, on public transport and on escalators!  Here are a few rules of the road for all you out-of-towners to help keep you alive on those mean streets and enjoying the ride.

LOOK BOTH WAYS

You can’t be too careful when crossing the road, even if you are familiar with London – it is not always clear which side traffic is passing or coming from.  For many visitors, cars drive on the “wrong” side of the road in the UK and London’s streets and one way systems are complex.  On some main crossings you will see large lettering painted on the ground telling you which way to look – the smart pedestrian looks that way first and then the other, several times.  Always find a proper crossing to use, don’t jaywalk and never cross from behind parked cars.

KEEP RIGHT

Avoid looking like a tourist and go with the flow on the escalators underground.  If you want to walk down the moving escalator, you do so on the left.  If you want to stand still and catch your breath as you descend, you do this on the right.  Anyone planting themselves firmly on the left will be told in no uncertain terms to move or be shoved aside by commuters in a hurry behind them.  Don’t come to a dead stop when you step off the escalator, either!

MIND THAT GAP

While we’re underground, here are a few things to keep in mind to help make your tube journey hassle free.  Avoid main stations at peak travel times if you can, especially if you have luggage with you. Tube train doors open automatically and it is customary to allow passengers to get off first, before you get on. The strange sounding “mind the gap” instruction means that there will be a space between the train and the platform when you are getting off, so take care and watch where you step.

BEWARE OF CYCLISTS!

If you have stayed in our apartments in London before, you may have noticed that some cyclists can be a little crazy here; it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for them and be aware of them around you.  When you are crossing the road, getting out of a taxi or getting off a bus, cyclists and motorbikes may come whizzing past close by. Cyclists don’t always obey the rules of the road and sometimes cycle on the pavements (this is not allowed!)

NOW RELAX

Moving around can be a challenge for any visitor to our apartments to rent in London, especially if you are caught up in rush hour.  The delights of this great capital city make it all worthwhile however –  it’s easy to find a place of refuge away from the crowds and traffic roar.   The cultured calm of a museum or gallery can be a life saver.  Amble around at your own pace in one of the Royal parks or garden squares or enjoy an evening stroll down by the river.  Take your pick from the many cafes dotted around town; there’s a quiet corner table and a nice cup of tea waiting for you.