London is a luxurious city, with stunning buildings bathed in history everywhere you look. If you’re planning a trip to the capital and would like to soak up some of the city’s best culture, architecture, design and history, there’s no better plan than visiting one of the wonderful stately homes open to the public.
There are a number of fantastic options across the city to see, so we’ve rounded up our ten favourites that are absolute must-sees for history (and lavish lifestyle!) fans. We’ve also tried to ensure they’re spread out across the whole of London, so you’re sure to be near one wherever you’re staying. There are a number of fabulous options near The Park Grand London Paddington Hotel, too!
This one is on Hyde Park Corner, so it’s right in the heart of one of London’s most beautiful spots, just around the corner from the famous Buckingham Palace and a stone’s throw away from the Shaftesbury Hyde Park International. This is a favourite with tourists each year due to its link to the royals – it’s the family home of the Dukes of Wellington. The house is still occupied by them today, though most of the grounds are now open to the public. It also serves as a museum, primarily to the first Duke of Wellington, who famously defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, which earns him the title of being one of the greatest British military commanders in history.
While part of Kensington Palace is the official, modern London residence of William and Kate and their young family, there are many other rooms open to the public for you to roam around in and soak up some royalty. Inside, you can explore four royal histories: Queen Victoria – who lived at Kensington as a child, William and Mary – in the Queen’s State Apartments; and George I and II – in the King’s State Apartments. There is also a ‘fashion’ section, which showcases actual clothes worn by some of the most famous and favoured modern royals, including Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret and Diana, the late Princess of Wales.
Strawberry Hill House
One of the most visually diverse and interesting homes on the list, this charming white building has been popular with tourists for centuries. It was first built back in 1698 as a modest house, and was then transformed by Horace Walpole, the son of England’s first Prime Minister, into what is highly regarded as Britain’s best example of Georgian Gothic Revival architecture and interior design. Between 1747 and 1792 Walpole doubled its size, meaning it’s not quite as modest as it once was, and instead, it looks a little like something straight out of a fairy tale.
Down in the southeast of the city, Eltham Palace is an intriguing mix of old and new in terms of its façade. As well as medieval architecture and antiquated walls, the interior is also show-stopping and stunning. It contains a series of art-deco interiors built by Stephen and Virginia Courtauld back in the days when they lived at Eltham Palace in the thirties. Surrounded by beautiful gardens, with a tea shop to boot, Eltham’s a great choice for those staying in the south of the city, looking for something arty and different.
Syon House and Gardens
Another completely different design, Syon House and Gardens is a great mix of modern and classic architecture, set in stunning green surroundings. Standing on a ‘prehistoric island’ on the River Thames, Syon House was originally The Bridgettine Abbey of Syon, built by Henry V in 1415. After the monastery was dissolved, the abbey was transformed into a private house by Jane Seymour’s brother Edward, and it was then passed through generations. Today it is the home of the Duke of Northumberland, and it’s open to visitors.
Breath-taking and beautiful, this is another one of London’s neo-Palladian mansions. Built by the Earl of Burlington, it was regarded as a chance for him to experiment with architecture and share his love of fine art. Burlington’s intention was to have everything in a Roman style, including the garden, which is one of the best bits to see, especially William Kent’s cascade and the Iconic Temple. The house is closed during the winter but opens again on 31 March, and the gardens remain open all year round.
For those who love art and design from other exotic lands, this may be the one for you. The incredible decoration at Leighton House Museum is the life’s work of 19th-century artist Frederic Leighton, who worked on the house for over 30 years. He built an extension, the Arab Hall, his Winter Studio and finally his Silk Room before his death in 1896. The house is a living testament to his creativity and passion for art. Keep an eye on the website for evening openings, so you can view the house in the setting sun – a truly beautiful spectacle.
One of the most famous stately homes in the capital, this is arguably the city’s greatest surviving 18th-century house. With eight beautiful rooms, which have all undone careful restoration, all open to the public to explore, you’ll easily get lost in the paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds, objects d’art and fabulous furniture.
On a perfect stretch of London between Richmond and Twickenham, Ham House is tucked on the Thames in truly idyllic surroundings. This unique 17th-century treasure trove is the creation of the Duchess of Lauderdale and her husband, who together transformed Ham into one of the most impressive Stuart houses in England. Now administered by the National Trust, and therefore accessible with a pass, you’ll experience a stunning cavalcade of period furniture and paintings.
Not strictly in London, but a short train ride away near Oxford, this one was worthy of a spot on our list due to its interesting heritage. Blenheim is the only property in Britain which carries the title ‘Palace’, without having a royal connection. Instead, it’s the principal residence of the Dukes of Marlborough – the family still live on site today – and it is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as being one of the largest houses in England. It’s also notable as being the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, and the ancestral home of the Churchill family.