How England’s capital city is going wild for The Crown
Since The Crown turned the golden age of British monarchy into a silver screen sensation, Claire Foy and co have shone the spotlight on Britain’s best-known family. Following the culture-shifting, era-defining reign of Queen Elizabeth II, with all its rituals and responsibilities, trials and tantrums, this award-winning series has fans across the globe. So it’s little wonder that many of us are considering London as a winter-time city break. As palaces open their doors to visitors and calendars fill up with royal events, all eyes are on the capital.
Many ceremonial events have happened here for centuries. But there are also lots of one-off exhibitions that those in the know can be first in line for. Here’s a run-down of all the not-to-be-missed royal experiences – and London’s best boutique hotels to use as your luxury base:
Everyone stops outside the world-famous gates. But time your visit to London perfectly and you can see inside Buckingham Palace. There’s nowhere quite like the State Rooms. In the White Drawing Room, glittering chandeliers and golden accents from floor to ceiling catch the light – and catch your breath. However, nothing quite compares to the pageantry and theatre that echoes throughout The Throne Room, where centuries of British monarchs have held court. Outside, don’t pass up the chance to watch the Changing of the Guards ceremony – the quintessential London experience.
Many visitors don’t realise that even if you miss the State Room openings, you can still pay a visit to parts of the Palace, including the working stables at the Royal Mews. An especially fun and fascinating place for younger royal fans, it offers a princely view of the cherub-crowned golden state coach, the chance to sit inside a royal carriage and dress up in coachmen livery.
It’s only open to the public periodically, making Lambeth Palace an extra-special tick on your sightseeing list if you manage to time things right. To see inside this working palace, book a guided tour for an interesting insight into its grand rooms and chapels, and the stories behind the seat of the Archbishops of Canterbury. There are also garden open days and very British fetes year-round.
FOR HISTORY BUFFS AND ART AFICIONADOS
Those glued to The Crown may recognise the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich: it doubled as the entrances and courtyards of Buckingham Palace. The hallmark of Sir Christopher Wren’s inimitable talents, inside you can fast forward through 500 years of history in the hands-on visitor centre and pause in the 18th-century Chapel.
Or, if this isn’t your first London trip and Buckingham Palace feels a bit ‘been there, done that’, try nearby Lancaster House. Before it was a Hollywood hotspot – and featured in The Crown – the Duke of York’s 18th-century masterpiece played host to everyone from politicians to poets. Although rarely open to the public, the exterior alone is worth getting your camera out for.
Then again, if you’re more of an art enthusiast, opt for Russia: Royalty & The Romanovs. Not only does this exhibition give a fascinating insight into British and Russian royal relationships, it also allows you a glimpse inside Buckingham Palace. Hosted in The Queen’s Gallery, the collection tells the interwoven stories of these two nation’s monarchs. Look out for tiny treasures by Fabergé, personal letters and photographs, and portraits commissioned by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
FOR FOLLOWERS OF FASHION
Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams profiles not only the couturier’s world-famous designs, but the popular culture he helped to shape. As well as examples of his ‘New Look’, spot photography of Princess Margaret who famously favoured Dior.
Honouring another woman who became an icon, Diana: Her Fashion Story lets you get up close and personal with many of the princess’s most beautiful – and headline-grabbing – gowns. Every outfit has a tale to tell, from Emanuel-designed pieces to the all-in-one landmines suit many will remember from her trip to Angola in 1997.
Where to stay – the best boutique hotels in London
You can live like a king (and queen) at any one of these 11 luxury London hotels. For skyline views, climb to the rooftop at Vintry and Mercer. Or stay closer to the ground and have the people at Flemings Mayfair pack a picnic, don some Princess Margaret-style sunglasses and saunter along to one of the nearby royal parks. If you’re planning to do some palace- and park-hopping, St. James’s Hotel and Club is perfectly positioned.