On May 6, the coronation of King Charles III and his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, will take place at London’s Westminster Abbey.
No doubt millions will watch on TV at home, with countless people descending on the United Kingdom capital for the rare event. A coronation hasn’t taken place in the U.K. since Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953.
However, London is no stranger to royal pomp. You can expect to see a whole host of regal celebrations over the coronation weekend, as evidenced by the Platinum Jubilee festivities in June 2022. The late Queen’s 70-year reign was celebrated over a long weekend with street parties, Royal Air Force flyovers, a major concert at Buckingham Palace and an extra day off work for the masses.
If you’re traveling to London for the king’s coronation, you’re probably looking forward to experiencing the tradition, excitement and sense of occasion of it all. But what other royal family-related things can you do or see?
Here are a few suggestions to keep your itinerary packed.
Admire the coronation venue: Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is the epicenter of the coronation tradition. Constructed as a Benedictine monastery more than a thousand years ago, the awe-inspiring church has served as the backdrop for crowning reigning monarchs for hundreds of years.
In 1066, William the Conqueror was the first monarch to be coronated there. King Charles’ coronation ceremony is the 40th to grace its nave, so the abbey has big plans on Saturday, May 6.
There doesn’t appear to be any information out yet about gathering outside the abbey or the surrounding area during the day, so keep your eyes peeled, particularly on the royal family’s website.
The abbey will be closed to visitors and worshippers from April 25 (it will reopen on May 8). However, you can admire its architecture from the outside during your visit. Outside of these dates, the abbey is typically open to the public. So, if you’re keen to visit on a different date, check out the latest visitor information on opening hours, tickets and prices on Westminster Abbey’s website.
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Line The Mall for the procession
The Mall is a wide, tree-lined procession route in St. James’s Park that leads to Buckingham Palace. It was the brainchild of Charles II back in 1660 and will once again be a focal point during King Charles III’s coronation on May 6.
King Charles and queen consort Camilla are expected to travel along The Mall through Admiralty Arch to the abbey, with a larger coronation procession featuring other members of the royal family on the way back. Well-wishers hoping to catch a glimpse of the king — and perhaps the ornate Gold State Coach, too — will likely gather along The Mall.
It’s hard to state just how busy it can be. Royal super fans often camp out for hours, if not a whole night, before a royal event to secure a prime vantage point. Plan ahead and keep an eye out for official signs or guidance if you’re hoping to join the crowds. If that all sounds too hectic, you can enjoy a picturesque stroll down The Mall toward the palace at another time during your London visit.
Attempt to see Buckingham Palace balcony
Another major moment during the coronation will be when King Charles steps out onto the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Royal occasions have been marked here for decades — with the royal family stepping out to celebrate weddings, wartime victories, coronations and annual Trooping the Colour birthday parades.
Again, you must be seriously dedicated to secure a spot close enough to see it in person. However, on a typical day (i.e., not May 6), it’s possible to view Buckingham Palace’s exterior through bars for free, watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony (daily at 11 a.m. in summer) for free and take a guided tour of parts of the palace — featuring the Throne Room, the 19 State Rooms, the Grand Staircase and the Palace Gardens.
For the tour, you must pay and pre-book your tickets, and you’ll receive a timed slot. Check opening times and prices, or book via Buckingham Palace’s website.
Attend the Royal Albert Hall Coronation Prom
If you’re into classical music and Christian worship, the evening of the coronation will be marked at the Royal Albert Hall with a concert by the 100-member All Souls Orchestra and The Coronation Prom Massed Choir, alongside performers from across the Commonwealth.
Expect to hear “royal anthems and overtures by Elgar, Holst, Handel and John Williams,” according to the official description of the event. At the time of writing, tickets were still available. For more details or to purchase tickets, visit the Royal Albert Hall website. The event will also be broadcast online, so you could watch from the comfort of your hotel.
Look out for ‘Lighting up the Nation’
On Sunday, May 7, celebrations are set to shift from London to nearby Windsor, Berkshire, for the Coronation Concert — though there may yet be a role for London.
“The centerpiece of the Coronation Concert, ‘Lighting up the Nation,’ will see the country join together in celebration as iconic locations across the United Kingdom are lit up using projections, lasers, drone displays and illuminations,” the royal family’s website says.
There are plenty of iconic London locations that spring to mind, such as the London Eye, Tower Bridge and Big Ben. However, it’d be a total guess to say where to go to witness any illuminations or when to arrive, as additional details about “Lighting up the Nation” have not been revealed yet. A useful source for checking updates is, naturally, the royal family website.
Meet the king himself … in wax form at Madame Tussauds London
A travel tale for the ages: I went to London for the coronation and wound up meeting the king. Alas, Charles will presumably be pretty busy. So, if you want a guaranteed audience with His Majesty, your best bet is to meet the wax version of him at the iconic tourist attraction Madame Tussauds London.
You’ll meet a slightly younger version of the king, admittedly. Also, the life-size wax figure won’t be able to shake your hand (that would truly be terrifying).
On the plus side, you’ll get to snap a selfie with the wax versions of the queen consort and the Prince and Princess of Wales. Additionally, you can head to the Awards Party section for a look at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who were shuffled out of the regal section in 2021.
Tour the Tower of London
A trip to the Tower of London hundreds of years ago may have meant imprisonment — or a grisly execution. Thankfully, in 2023, a visit is far less grim. You can see inside its buildings, the battlements and grounds outside, watch the famous black ravens in action and, of course, marvel at the priceless crown jewels. The latter have been housed in the tower since the 1660s.
The tower is closed May 6 for the coronation, as the crown jewels play a starring role. The coronation regalia, the sacred objects used during the coronation ceremony, includes the solid gold St. Edward’s Crown (weighing a hefty 4.8 pounds), with which the king will be crowned, plus the bejeweled orb and sceptre. The Imperial State Crown is also worn by the monarch while departing Westminster Abbey.
That said, it does appear the tower is open on dates around the coronation. If you’d like to visit, check out the official Tower of London website for more information.
Go statue-spotting between St. James’s Park and Palace
A visit to St. James’s Park, away from the coronation chaos, should also be on your London to-do list. It’s known for its vibrant flower beds, a lake (usually home to a group of free-roaming pelicans) and the Duck Island nature reserve.
The area is also worth exploring if you’re interested in the British royal family, as there are several statues of note in the vicinity. Bronze depictions of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth — who were Charles’ grandparents — are on the north side of The Mall.
A short walk away on Marlborough Road is a unique memorial in the art nouveau and Gothic styles that pays homage to Queen Alexandra – Charles’ great-great-grandmother. It’s opposite lesser-known St. James’s Palace.
Though the palace is closed to the public, you can have a peek at the exterior and watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony here. Green Park is also nearby.
Visit Kensington Palace’s new exhibit: ‘Crown to Couture’
Love royalty? Celebrity? And crucially: fashion? Consider checking out Kensington Palace’s largest-ever exhibition: “Crown to Couture.”
The exhibit is open from April 5 to Oct. 29, 2023. It will feature a range of iconic outfits, from a Lizzo look worn at the Met Gala in 2022 to the silver tissue gown rocked at court back in the days of Charles II — sometime in the mid- to late 1600s.
Kensington Palace — which has been home to many royals over the years, including the Prince and Princess of Wales — does have other exhibits. They include one devoted to Queen Victoria’s childhood, as well as tours of various state apartments, galleries and gardens. But remember, the palace is closed on May 6 for the coronation. For visitor information, see the official website.
See the Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park
The king and queen consort are the focus of the coronation. However, some royal fans may also want to remember the late Diana, Princess of Wales, while visiting London. The Diana Memorial Fountain in leafy Hyde Park is perhaps one of the best places to do that.
Notably, it’s free, unlike Kensington Palace, where a Diana statue resides in the Sunken Garden and can be viewed from a distance via Cradle Walk.
Hyde Park’s oval-shaped fountain, which is more of a flowing stream, symbolizes the late princess’ openness. It was unveiled in 2004 by the late queen, who called it a “highly original memorial which captures something of the essence of a remarkable human being.”
Visitors are invited to sit on the fountain’s edge and even dip their toes in the water.
Catch a movie at the Prince Charles Cinema
This iconic independent cinema in London’s West End, a stone’s throw away from Leicester Square, has nothing to do with royalty — except for its name. Originally opened as the Prince Charles Theatre in 1962, the name stuck by the time it became a cinema in 1991.
Perhaps it would seem a bit odd to go to the cinema on your holiday, but who doesn’t love a night at the movies? The program at the Prince Charles is always eclectic, featuring old classics, cult favorites and select new releases. The venue even puts on singalong events for musicals such as “Grease.” If nothing else, you might want to snap a quick photo of its marquee to mark your visit.
There aren’t many places in London specifically named after the king. However, there are plenty of pubs named “The Prince of Wales,” his former title, if you like the novelty. You can find them in Highgate, Brixton and Kensington.
Take a daytrip to regal Windsor
Windsor isn’t technically in London. However, it’s easily accessible.
The Berkshire town is roughly 50 minutes away from London Paddington Railway Station by train. It has long been connected to the royal family, as the 900-year-old Windsor Castle is in the town center. It’ll certainly be bouncing on May 7, as 10,000 ticket holders (selected by ballot) will descend on the grounds for the Coronation Concert.
If travel dates allow, a regal daytrip here is a must. Windsor Castle typically allows visitors, and among its highlights are the historic and ceremonial State Rooms, its extensive art collection, the Moat Room (home to a model of the castle as it was in the year 1377) and St George’s Chapel, the burial place of 11 former monarchs, including Queen Elizabeth II and Henry VIII. You can find out opening days and ticket information on its official website.
Travelers can also explore Windsor Great Park, accessing The Long Walk, The Savill Garden (featuring a gorgeous rose garden) and Virginia Water Lake, plus an equestrian statue of the late Queen Elizabeth II on horseback. Want kitschy royal souvenirs to remember the day? Windsor’s numerous gift shops will have you covered.
Learn at the Guards Museum and Household Cavalry Museum
If what draws you to the British royal family is the pageantry, you’ll probably be intrigued by the Guards Museum near Buckingham Palace and the Household Cavalry Museum on the edge of St James’s Park in Whitehall.
The former is a small venue that encapsulates the history of the five regiments of Foot Guards (in other words, those who guard the palace and wear those red tunics and tall bearskin caps).
The latter is a “living museum” that documents the jobs done by the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, who protect the king during ceremonial events. Here, you can see troops tending the horses they ride, as well as an 11 a.m. weekday Changing of the King’s Life Guard outside on Horse Guards Parade.
All of these guards form part of the Household Division of the British Army. For information on opening times and how to visit, check out the Guards Museum and Household Cavalry Museum websites.
Visit St Paul’s Cathedral
At least four different churches have been built on this site. The original church dedicated to St. Paul was constructed in A.D. 604, while the current version was constructed between 1675 and 1711. The cathedral also has historic tethers to royalty — from Elizabeth I’s visit and George III’s Jubilee celebrations to the reigning king, who wed Princess Diana here in 1981.
Services take place at St Paul’s every day and are free to attend. Sightseers can opt for a ticket, which grants access to the cathedral floor, the crypt and the two galleries in the dome. If you tour the dome, prepare yourself for a truly jaw-dropping view of central London.
For more information on the free services, opening times for sightseeing and tickets, visit the St Paul’s Cathedral website.
Step back in time at Kew Palace
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in Richmond is a nature lover’s dream destination. There’s a nice surprise for royal fans, too. The bright orange Kew Palace opens on April 3 (it’s currently closed for winter).
Formerly known as the Dutch House, it became the countryside summer home of George III, who reigned mostly in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Also in the gardens is Queen Charlotte’s cottage, his wife’s idyllic getaway pad. It’s believed that the family kept many exotic animals here in a nearby paddock — including the now-extinct quagga (similar to a zebra) and England’s first kangaroos.
For opening hours and ticket information, visit the Kew Gardens website.
Royal points of interest are plentiful in London, so it’s time to plan.
For the coronation, make sure to keep an eye out for official information on the timings of the coronation and how to gather safely in central London. Be on the lookout for other unofficial events — at local pubs and official street parties — that spring up closer to the time.
As for attractions, visit the abovementioned websites for up-to-date information on opening times and tickets. Keep in mind that Monday, May 8, is a bank holiday all over the U.K., too.