Up close with: London's royal hotspots

By Mike Yardley

If the Monarchy was to fall, Britain's tourism industry would be the biggest casualty, and for Kiwis on holiday, a trip to London would be much the poorer.

And what better year is there to soak up the plethora of royal sights, than the 60th Jubilee?

Buckingham Palace is not the prettiest of royal residences, but it remains the headquarters of "the firm", and Her Majesty's official residence.

In the summer months, seize the opportunity to tour the State Rooms of the palace. Nineteen lavishly furnished rooms with richly gilded ceilings are open to commoners, including the velvet and gilt trappings of the throne room.

The Changing of the Guard is a quintessential royal experience. Pomp and pageantry is the name of the game as the palace guards perform their daily marching ceremony and hand over the palace keys to the incoming sentry guards.

Performed daily at 11.30am until September, and every second day through autumn and winter, arrive early to score the best view.

Pre-purchase tickets for most royal sites, including Buckingham Palace, at www.royalcollection.org.uk

Adjacent to Buck house is the Royal Mews - a working stable and coach house that's home to several dozen royal horses and a staggering fleet of state coaches and royal vehicles.

The show-stopper is the ornate gold state coach which has carried every incoming monarch to their coronation since 1762. Lovers of horses and royal pomp must not miss a visit to this vital cog in the royal machine.

Next door, the Queen's Gallery showcases the monarch's most treasured art works. The collection is one of the most valuable in the world, boasting sublime works from old masters including Rembrandt and Leonardo Da Vinci.

This year's Jubilee exhibition showcases some of the eclectic gifts presented to the Queens over the years, which adds a very human touch to the trappings of royalty.

Other popular royal sights to tick off your list include The Mall, the grand processional route running the length of St. James' Park from Buck House.

Horse Guards Parade, at the top end of The Mall, is a popular photo stop and is the setting of the annual Trooping of the Colour.

Flanking The Mall, Clarence House and St James' Palace can be easily admired. Clarence House is now the residence of Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, who shifted in shortly after the death of the Queen Mother. Prince William is based next door at St James' Palace. Both properties are now open for public tours.

Royal monuments are all over London. My favourite would have to be the Albert Memorial, across the road from the Royal Albert Hall. Queen Victoria commissioned the memorial to express her enduring love for Albert.

- Hamilton News

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