A royal tour of London 


By Jennie Bond, TV presenter and former BBC royal correspondent

Photography by Visit England

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September 2017

From Kate Middleton’s favourite hairdresser, to where Prince Charles shops for his suits, former royal correspondent Jennie Bond gives us the inside track on how to live like a queen (or king) in the capital. 

Live like a royal

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace has been the monarch's official London home since 1837 when Queen Victoria lived there, and today the Queen regards it very much as her office. She spends most of her working week there, although she much prefers to be at Windsor Castle. While it’s not the prettiest of buildings, it is the royal HQ, where the business of monarchy and many great state occasions take place.

Take a peek through the gates and you should see the Queen's Guards in all their finery on duty outside Clarence House, the London home of Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall

When a row broke out in 1992 about who was going to pay for some major fire damage to Windsor Castle, the Queen agreed to open Buckingham Palace to the public to help foot the bill. Since then, summer openings  – from late July to the beginning of October – have become an annual event. Tickets cost around £23 (under fives are free) and for an extra £9.50 you can see the Queen's back garden too.

In the know… to know if you stand a chance of seeing her Majesty, take a look at the flagpole. If the Union flag (the UK's national flag) is flying, the Queen is away. If the Royal Standard (look for lots of gold) is hoisted, she's at home.

Nearest Tube: Green Park

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  • Queen Victoria’s statue at Kensington Palace Gardens © Simon Montgomery/Getty images.

    Fit for a queen

    Kensington Palace is open to visitors seen days a week, from 10:00-18:00, with the last entry at 17:00. Book flights from Edinburgh to London, but a three night hotel stay from:£128 pp

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  • Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during Trooping the Colour © Alamy

    London’s most famous

    The Queen has long been rumoured to support north London’s Arsenal football team.

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  • The Queen’s own perfume is made by Floris © Alamy

    Scent of a monarch

    High-end British perfumer Floris is the favoured brand of Her Majesty; browse the intoxicating range of scents sold by the brand to see if you share her taste.

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St James’s Palace and Clarence House

A short stroll down The Mall will take you to St James’s Palace, built by Henry VIII in the 16th century. Today it's the London base for several members of the royal family including Princess Royal Anne, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, and Princess Alexandra.

Take a peek through the gates and you should see the Queen's Guards in all their finery on duty outside Clarence House, the London home of Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. This is also where the Queen Mother used to live and, before her, the young Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. The house is open to the public during August and tickets are £10.

In the know… if wildlife’s more your thing, walk across the road to St James's Park, where you can see pelicans enjoying a life of leisure. Feeding time is particularly eventful as they compete for fish thrown by the keeper. Pelicans were originally given as a gift from the Russian Ambassador to King Charles II in 1664. And more than 40 of their descendants have survived to make London their home.

Nearest Tube: Charring Cross

Kensington Palace

It's 20 years since Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in a car crash in Paris. But her home, Kensington Palace, still attracts the crowds. It's set in spacious gardens a couple of miles west of Buckingham Palace. You can tour the staterooms, which have been used by the royals since the 17th century. Diana's apartment is now used by her sons for their charitable work, and the palace is still home to both Prince William and his wife, Catherine, and to Prince Harry. The boys are soon to erect a statue to their mother in the gardens to mark the anniversary of her death, and there's also a special playground, with a huge wooden pirate ship, which was created as a memorial to Diana.

Stroll through the gardens towards Hyde Park and the Serpentine, where you can see the Diana Memorial Fountain. A very contemporary structure, it was designed by an American landscape artist, Kathryn Gustafson who said she wanted the fountain to be accessible and to reflect Diana's "inclusive" personality. Feel free to dip your toes in the water that flows down in two directions from the highest point.

In the know… Time your visit so you can pop into The Orangery, just behind the palace. You can relax over breakfast, lunch, or a very British tea – complete with a special Royal Blend brew.

Nearest Tube: High Street Kensington

Shop like a royal

Dress like a Duchess

If you admire the Duchess of Cambridge's luscious locks, you can try to emulate her by visiting the glamorous salon she's frequented for many years. Richard Ward, in trendy Chelsea, has gained a reputation as the go-to hairdresser for royalty and celebrities. It won't be cheap, but you'll feel perfectly pampered.

You can find some of Kate's favourite designers, such as Alexander McQueen and Alice Temperley in London's top department stores like Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges. And you can follow her shoe fashion by heading for any LK Bennett shop.

Royal scent

You'll need some serious perfume to go with your hair and posh clothes. Why not follow the Queen's example and head for Floris, the only perfumer to be awarded a Royal Warrant. The Queen has been a customer for many years and, for her 90th birthday, Floris created a bespoke perfume. Her favourite is said to be the eau de toilette White Rose. A bottle will set you back about £75 at their flagship store on Jermyn Street.

  • St James’s Palace © P Amedzro / Alamy

    Palace living

    St James's Palace was built by Henry VIII on the site of a former hospital, the Hospital of St. James, Westminster.

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Fit for a Prince

Prince Charles has always been a dapper dresser. He's a fan of Anderson & Sheppard – a stone's throw from Savile Row. He likes the softer drape of their suits and he's in good company… Fred Astaire, Noel Coward and Evelyn Waugh wore the same style.

The store has the feel of a private members' club with its open fire and wood panels, and the Prince’s chosen fabrics and orders are noted in the measure book, with the name, address and specification for each client.

In the know… Legend has it the Prince of Wales chose the moniker “Charles Smith”.

Dine like a royal

Putting on the Ritz

Why not head to lunch at The Ritz? The hotel on Piccadilly has hosted many a royal party and is a firm favourite of the Queen. The dining room is light, airy and elegant –just right for a glass of champagne.

Perfect for a princess

Alternatively, you could splash out and stay at The Goring Hotel in Belgravia, where Kate Middleton spent her last night before marrying her Prince. The Goring's royal credentials are unmatched too. Kate aside, it was a favourite of both Queen Mary, the wife of George V, and the late Queen Mother. If you can run to the expense of the Royal Suite, you'll have your own footman - available to iron shirts, deliver hot drinks, or simply pop open the complimentary bottle of Bollinger. All you'll need after this is a royal title. But THAT is rather harder to come by.