Queen Elizabeth II has at her disposal no less than six palaces and castles where she can live and move around the United Kingdom. These royal residences in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are open to visitors throughout the year for fans of the monarch. See how to get close to the gates, gardens and interiors frequented by the queen, who has been on the throne for 70 of her 96 years.
1. Buckingham Palace
Queen Elizabeth’s main house, the monarchy’s administrative headquarters in London – where receptions, official events, ceremonies and occasional celebrations are held – was built in 1703 and offers an impressive 775 rooms on 77,000 m², including 52 royal and guests and 78 bathrooms.
The State Rooms in the palace can be visited from 22 July to 2 October this year, with access to the throne room, ballroom, grand staircase and music room, in addition to the gardens outside. Depending on the time, you can even witness the changing of the guard.
According to the schedule, it is also possible to go on specific dates in December and January – in addition to the Easter holiday. Tickets cost £30 and can be booked here.
2. Sandringham House
In Norfolk (about 100 miles north of London), the mansion is said to be the Queen’s retreat in the English countryside, where she likes to spend Christmas with her family. It was also there that Kings George VI and George V, the monarch’s father and grandfather, respectively, died.
Tourists can visit the more than 8,000 hectares of gardens, discover the interiors and learn about the lives of the more than 200 people who live on the property, including gardeners, guards and farmers, as there is a working farm on site. Visits can be booked through the website – except on the 1st and 23rd to 31st of July, when it will be closed.
3. Windsor Castle
Still in England, Windsor Castle is in the county of Berkshire, about 40 km from central London and is used by the Queen as a private residence on weekends – but where she also performs formal duties, when she deems it necessary.
Built in the 11th century, the Castle houses interesting places to visit, such as the Queen Mary’s dollhouse and chapels. It’s open year-round, except Tuesdays and Wednesdays – but the ticketing website warns you to check if times have changed, as the venue also hosts official events and authorities.
4. Hillsborough Castle
Elizabeth’s official residence in Northern Ireland, Hillsborough Castle is also the seat of government and the residence of the Secretary of State in the country – as well as housing other members of the British royal family when they are traveling there.
It is possible to walk only through the gardens (which have been around since 1760 and have been divided into more than 40 hectares they occupy, such as the 18th century Walled Garden, the Granville Garden, the Lady Alice Temple and the Lost Garden) or listen to different stories from the Ireland in the State Rooms. Tickets are sold year round.
5. Holyrood Palace
When in Scotland, the Queen’s official residence is Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. Built as a monastery in 1128, but modified over the centuries, it retains period furniture and rugs and an extensive Baroque decoration in its interiors.
One of the main attractions is a gallery with 96 portraits of members of the British dynasty distributed on the walls of the 44-meter-long space. Although in ruins, Holyrood Abbey, built in the 12th century, attracts the curious to the palace grounds. Tickets are also on sale year round.
6. Balmoral Castle
Also in Scotland, Balmoral Castle, 160 km from Edinburgh, is where Elizabeth considers her vacation home and relaxes, getting in touch with the various animals spread across the 20,000 hectares of land.
Visitors can visit the gardens, see the exhibitions installed in the Ballroom, attend open-air theater performances, go to the gift shop and cafe (where afternoon tea is also served), but tickets are only available until August 2.