London is a city with a rich history, and its skyline is dotted with historic landmarks that have stood the test of time. One type of these iconic structures that’s always a hit with tourists and history buffs alike is castles. From medieval fortresses to elegant palaces, London’s castles offer a glimpse into the city’s fascinating past. So, if you’re planning a visit to the UK’s capital, be sure to add these spectacular castles to your itinerary!

1. The Tower of London: A Time Capsule of History

First on our list is none other than the iconic Tower of London. Situated on the north bank of the River Thames, this historic fortress is a must-visit for anyone interested in English history. Built by William the Conqueror in 1078, it has served various purposes over the centuries, from a royal palace to a notorious prison.

As you explore the Tower’s halls and dungeons, you’ll encounter the Crown Jewels, the ravens (legend has it that if they ever leave, the Tower will fall), and the eerie tales of past residents, including Anne Boleyn. It’s a fantastic place to immerse yourself in England’s tumultuous history and, if you’re brave enough, perhaps even catch a ghostly glimpse of a historic figure or two!

Over the years the Tower of London increasingly came to be used as a prison for enemies of the state accused of treason. As the Tower sits next to the iconic River Thames, the tower has infamous entrance known as Traitors Gate. Prisoners were brought by barge along the Thames, passing under London Bridge to reach the Tower and pass through the gates to meet their grisly ends.

The entrance is no longer in use, but you can still see it from the Thames, why not before visiting the Tower come on board a sightseeing cruise where you can see the Tower from a great view!

tower of london

2. Windsor Castle: The Queen’s Residence

Just a short trip from London, Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. It’s one of the official residences of the Queen and a truly majestic sight. The castle boasts stunning architecture and beautifully landscaped gardens. Take a tour of the State Apartments, where you can admire the opulent decor, exquisite artwork, and the impressive St. George’s Chapel.

Don’t forget to witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony, a time-honoured tradition that attracts visitors from around the globe. With over 900 years of history and breath-taking surroundings, Windsor Castle is a place of both historical significance and regal splendour.

view of windsor castle from long path in front gardens

3. Hampton Court Palace: A Tudor Gem

Nestled on the banks of the River Thames, Hampton Court Palace is a true gem for history enthusiasts. This palace boasts a fascinating mix of Tudor and Baroque architectural styles. Originally built by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, it later became the favoured residence of King Henry VIII.

Wander through the impressive Tudor kitchens, explore the stunning gardens, and, if you’re feeling brave, get lost in the famous Hampton Court Palace Maze. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the ghost of Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s ill-fated fifth wife, who is said to haunt the gallery.

hampton court palace

4. Kensington Palace: A Royal Abode

Situated in the heart of London, Kensington Palace is a more intimate but equally captivating royal residence. It has been home to various members of the British royal family, including Queen Victoria and Princess Diana.

While touring the palace, you’ll gain insights into the lives of the royals who called it home. Discover the fascinating stories of its past inhabitants and explore the lush Kensington Gardens. The Sunken Garden, which was the site of Princess Diana’s memorial, is a serene and reflective spot in the heart of London.

5. The Medieval Marvel: Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace is a hidden gem within London. This unique attraction combines the charm of a medieval palace with the chic Art Deco style of the 1930s. The result is an intriguing blend of historical and architectural elements.

Roam the medieval Great Hall and the stunning Art Deco interiors that take you back to the glamorous days of the 20th century. The beautiful gardens provide a tranquil escape from the bustle of the city and offer an enchanting experience that’s truly off the beaten path.

art deco interior of the eltham palace

When you plan your visit to London, be sure to include these spectacular castles in your itinerary. They’re not only steeped in history but also offer a glimpse into the lives of the royals and commoners who once called them home. From ghost stories to lavish ceremonies, each castle has its unique charm, making for an unforgettable experience in the heart of one of the world’s most historic and vibrant cities. So, grab your camera, put on your walking shoes, and prepare to be enchanted by London’s captivating castles!