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St James' Palace

The official home of the sovereign of the United Kingdom, built in Tudor red brick.

TravelCurious Tip

The Queen’s Chapel, which adjoins the palace, is one of the few areas of the palace which is open to the public at selected times.

Although the Royal Family has chosen to live in Buckingham Palace since Victoria became queen, nearby St. James’ is actually the official royal residence. As a result, all official correspondence, as well as royal envoys, are still accredited to “The Court of St. James’”, giving a stately dignity to this nearly-500-year-old building.

Lepers to Lords

It was commissioned by Henry VIII in 1530, and the majority of construction work was completed over the following six years. It was built on the site of a former leper’s hospital for women which had been dedicated to St. James, and despite this rather unroyal association, it was considered a snub to the sainthood to change the patron of the location. Upon completion, it was one of the country’s grandest buildings, featuring four courtyards, a chapel, a gatehouse, and a set of state apartments that were later greatly expanded by Sir Christopher Wren after a devastating fire in 1809.

The Royal Guard

These days, the palace is often used by the Royal Family for official receptions, but sadly it is closed to the public. It does still make for impressive viewing from the outside, though, and is only a five minute walk from Buckingham Palace. Unlike its more famous counterpart, though, St. James’ receives considerably fewer visitors, and is a lesser known venue of the famous Changing of the Guard ceremony. Here, with much pomp and ceremony, and blistering military precision, you can watch the Queen’s royal guard, elite regular army soldiers all, enacting the traditional handover of responsibility for her protection.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in London
Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is the home of the Queen. One of London’s most popular attractions, it offers more than meets the eye.
Changing of the Guard
A glimpse of royal tradition, and one of the city's most popular tourist attractions.
The Mall
London's royal avenue leading from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace.
St James' Park
A green oasis in royal London that is host to numerous ceremonies - and has a lake complete with pelicans.
J.J. Fox Cigars
Established in 1787 J.J. Fox is the world's oldest cigar merchant. Its list of clientele includes Winston Churchill, Her Majesty Queen Victoria and numerous other celebrities from around the world.
Pall Mall
Home of several famous gentlemen’s clubs - though several are now gender-integrated, such as the Traveller’s Club, The Oxford & Cambridge Club, and the Atheneum.

Related Tours

Westminster Classic Private Driving Tour (in a traditional London Black Cab)
Explore the hub of British politics in the quintessentially British black cab, with an expert guide to narrate your journey with stories highlighting the significance of this fascinating area. See all of Westminster’s iconic landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street, and Westminster Abbey, as well as 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and 2 Tudor Palaces - among many other sights (full list below). 

  • See iconic sights including Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and the Palace of Westminster.
  • Marvel at the architectural wonders of St James' Palace, Westminster Cathedral, St Margaret's Church, and Westminster School.
  • Visit both iconic and lesser-known places including Downing Street, Central Methodist Hall, Banqueting House, Horse Guards, and the National Gallery
  • Hear stories of how sights earned their claims to fame, including Trafalgar Square, Nelson's Column, Marble Arch, Wellington Memorial, Lambeth Palace, the London Eye, and the River Thames.
  • At the end of your tour, your final set-down point can be any preferred Central London location.

On your black cab tour, discover the real London – from a well-informed cabbie who knows London like the back of his hand, with many hidden secrets for you to discover!  Westminster has been home to many of our fundamental political institutions for hundreds of years, including Parliament, the monarchy, and the judicial system. No other area in the UK is so powerful and influential in the forming and implementation of laws. Amidst the uncertainty of Brexit, as well as the possible collapse of our essentially 2-party system, there is no better time to delve into the world of politics. 

Whether you are interested in the British monarchy's royal palaces or the UK Parliament and Brexit, your expert guide is more than happy to spill all the gossip, alongside the history of any topic which may interest you. If you would prefer to hear more about the Second World War and Churchill's magnificent speeches, or the 2000-year-old architecture and London's modern skyscrapers, then feel free to ask questions along those lines. Your guide is ready to discuss anything you throw his or her way - including filming locations for Harry Potter, James Bond, and Downton Abbey, among many others. In short, for any curiosity, you may have about London today and British history as a whole, you're in great hands for a conversation to leave you reeling for hours after your tour has ended. 


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