Queen Victoria’s London

Happy Birthday Queen Victoria! 200 years ago on May 24 Queen Victoria was born in Kensington Palace. She and I share a birthday (I’m not quite 200 but it sometimes feels like it) so come with me on a birthday tour of Queen Victoria’s London.

Kensington Palace with statue of Queen Victoria in the foreground
Kensington Palace

Queen Victoria’s London

London was a very different place when Queen Victoria was born, many of London’s landmarks like the Houses of Parliament weren’t built until well into her reign. Let us discover the buildings she lived in and loved to visit.

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace was Queen Victoria’s childhood home, it was here that she first laid eyes on Prince Albert and here that she became Queen. In later life she painted her childhood as being lonely, but her diaries indicate a happy time and in reality she had her step-sister Princess Feodora of Leiningen to play with and visits from her step-brother Prince Carl of Leiningen.

On 24 May 1836 Princess Victoria looked down these stairs at the guests gathering for her 17th birthday party. It was here that she first laid eyes on Prince Albert and liked what she saw. Although the two danced together that night it was to be four more years before they married.

Stone Steps at Kensington Palace where Queen Victoria first laid eyes on Prince Albert
Looking out for a handsome Prince

Kensington Palace has two special exhibitions on to mark Victoria’s 200th birthday one looks at her childhood and the other at her life as Queen.

Visiting Kensington Palace
  • Kensington Gardens, W8 4PX
  • Open: Daily 10am – 6pm
  • Admission: Adults £17.50, concessions available, members go free

Royal Opera House

Queen Victoria loved the opera and ballet. When she was a child she made over 300 dolls many of whom represented her favourite characters from shows that she had seen. She would often visit the Royal Opera House, sitting in the Royal Box with the best view in the house. Her favourite singers were Luigi Lablache (who also came to Kensington Palace to five her singing lessons) and Giulia Grisi. Tickets for the Opera can be expensive but the Royal Opera House is open every day from 10am and has an array of activities that will not break the bank.

Westminster Abbey

Queen Victoria was crowned in Westminster Abbey, as have all but two monarchs ever since 1066. Those exceptions, Edward V, who was one of the Princes in the Tower and was presumed murdered before he could be crowned and Edward VIII who abdicated before being crowned. You can see the Coronation chair which she sat in for both her coronation and during the service to celebrate her diamond jubilee. So much more than just a chair, the Coronation Chair, was commissioned by Edward I in 1300 to contain the Stone of Scone and has been used at every coronation since. Whilst you are in the Abbey you can pop in and see the truly spectacular royal tombs, not Victoria and Albert though as they rest in Frogmore.

Westminster Abbey London
Westminster Abbey
Visting Westmister Abbey
  • 20 Dean’s Yard, London, SW1P 3PA
  • Open: Monday – Friday 9.30am – 3.30pm, Wednesday lates 4.30pm – 6.30pm, Saturday 9am – 3pm (1pm in the winter)
  • Admission: Adult £21, family tickets and concessions available
  • Services: Attending a service is free, check website for details
  • There are always long queues for Westminster Abbey, book online to avoid them.

Victoria and Albert’s London

Prince Albert was only a few months younger than his wife, so it is his 200th anniversery this year too. Victoria and Albert lived and loved in London, many of the landmarks that we know and love today were in part their creation.

Chapel Royal, St James Palace

Victoria and Albert got married in the Chapel Royal at St James’ Palace in 1841. This may sound really, really odd but the Chapel Royal is not really a building. It has wall and windows and looks like a building. No the Chapel Royal is an establishment. A collection of priests and singers ready to serve the spiritual needs of the Sovereign. Once upon a time the Chapel Royal used to travel around until permanent chapels were established. Visiting the Chapel Royal is only possible if you attend one of the regular Sunday services at 8.30am or 11.15. Sometimes there are other services for special religious days or just evensong. Check out the Chapel Royal website for details. Do bear in mind that these are religious services and not performances for tourists. For the less religiously minded the Chapel is usually open during Open House weekend in September.

Buckingham Palace

Just as soon as she became Queen, Victoria moved to what was then Buckingham House, the first reigning monarch to do so. It was a grand house but by no means grand enough so she set about transforming it into a Palace. Buckingham Palace was Victoria and Albert’s London home. You can tour the State Rooms every summer, read about our visit to Buckingham Palace here.

Buckingham Palace Facade
Buckingham Palace
Visiting the Buckingham Palace State Rooms
  • Open: Late July – late September, Daily 9.30am – 5,15pm
  • Admission: Adult £25, family and concessions available
  • Have your ticket stamped when you leave and it becomes an annual pass enabling you to visit as often as you want.
  • Booking is essential via the Royal Collection Trust website
  • Combined tickets including the Royal Mews and the Queen’s Gallery are also available.

Royal Mews

The Royal Mews are where the Royal horses and carriages are kept (and nowadays the Royal cars too) round the back of Buckingham Palace. Unlike the Palace you can visit the Mews all year round. Queen Victoria described the mews as being like a small village that belongs to Buckingham Palace, she established a school for children of the people who worked here. Prince Albert had a forge created for shedding the horses and maintaining the carriages. You can see the Gold State Coach that Victoria (and every other monarch since George IV) rode to her coronation in.

Gold State Coach with white horse and rider Royal Mews Buckingham Palace
Gold State Coach
Visiting the Royal Mews
  • Open: Daily 10am – 4.15pm (3.15pm in the winter)
  • Admission: Adult £12, family and concession tickets available
  • Combination tickets with Buckingham Palace available
  • Have your ticket stamped on your way out and it becomes an annual pass enabling you to visit as often as you want for a year.
  • The Royal Mews are part of the working palace and may be shut on certain days for state occasions, check the website for details.

Paddington Station

Queen Victoria took her first train journey from Slough to Paddington on 13 June 1842. The 18 mile journey took a little over half an hour and was two hours quicker than the same journey by horse and carriage. It become her regular way to travel between Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. When Queen Victoria died aged 81, her body was taken by train from Paddington to be buried next to Albert at Frogmore.

Albertopolis

Prince Albert came up with the idea of the Great Exhibition, held in a magnificent Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. His idea was much derided to begin with but was a magnificent success. He used the profits from the exhibition to buy a plot of land to south of the exhibition site to house a series institutions, schools, museums, universities and a concert hall to ensure that the legacy of the Great Exhibition continued. Most were built after his untimely death but you can wander around Albertopolis today and see his dream come true. Wander around and you will see the Royal College of Art, Royal College of Music, Royal Geographical Society, Imperial College, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. All his idea and all still here.

Albert Memorial

Prince Albert died on 14 December 1861, he was only 42. Queen Victoria was devastated, she wore black mourning for the rest of her life. The Albert Memorial within sight of the Great Exhibition site, was paid for by public subscription and took ten years to build. George Gilbert Scott designed the 176 foot tall arched canopy, John Henry Foley created the golden statue of Prince Albert. Around the base of memorial are statues representing Argriculture, Commerce, Engineering, Manufacturing, Africa, America, Asia and Europe.

Albert Memorial London with golden statue of Prince Albert
Albert Memorial

Royal Albert Hall

Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone of the building in 1867 and declared that she wanted the building to be known as the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences. When it was opened in 1871 that was just what it was called. Over the years it has become known simply as the Royal Albert Hall. You can take tours of the building. My favourite way to visit the Royal Albert Hall is during the annual music festival known as the BBC Proms. You can either book concert seat tickets or simply turn up on the day to promenade in the area or (my favourite) in the balcony at the top of the building for £6.

Royal Albert Hall London
Royal Albert Hall

Victoria and Albert Museum

My favourite of all the museums. Grab a map and meander. Here you will find Leonardo’s notebook, vast life-size copies of the world’s wonders and much much more. Take time to visit the jewellery collection, deep within the sparkling jewel box is a tiara that Albert designed for Victoria. Diamonds and sapphires are displayed in flexible mount that can either be a very blingy way to hold your bun in place on the back of your head or worn on top like a crown. The V&A is home to world’s first museum tea-rooms, they are spectacular an attraction in their own right.

Diamond and sapphire tiara designed for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert
Tiara designed by Albert for Victoria
Visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Cromwell Road, SW7 2RL
  • Open: Daily 10am – 5.45pm (until 8pm Friday)
  • Admission: FREE
MORE FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT QUEEN VICTORIA

I discovered lots of gems about Victoria that I had either forgotten or never known, in the spirit of discovery I share the best of them here:

  • Queen Victoria was very short, she was only 5 feet and 1 inch. Experts now look at her clothes and think that maybe the Palace added on an extra inch and that in fact Queen Victoria was only 5 feet tall.
  • Her favourite drink was Claret and Malt Whisky, not a combination I have tried or have any real desire to.
  • Queen Victoria’s full name was Alexandrina Victoria but chose to be known by her second name when she became Queen.
Queen Victoria's London
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37 Comments

  1. May 24, 2019 / 9:11 am

    You definitely have a regal air about you. Many happy returns!

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 24, 2019 / 9:19 am

      Just a teeny bit taller than Queen Victoria though!

  2. pigeonpairandme
    May 24, 2019 / 10:44 am

    Happy birthday! You’ve reminded me that I really must take my two to the Royal Mews. It’s so easy to get to from our house 🙂

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 24, 2019 / 10:56 am

      It really is an excellent day out, real live horses too!

  3. May 24, 2019 / 9:12 pm

    I know I really should be commenting on the clarity of writing and the general usefulness of this well thought-out guide to Victoria’s London but – holy Albert! – £21 to get into Westminster Abbey!! Funnily enough my eldest son became very interested in the story of Victoria and Albert during our recent trip to London, but I am kinda glad that we decided to give that a miss…

    Great article – saving it for our next visit. Thanks, and greetings from Luxembourg! #FarawayFiles #CulturedKids

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 24, 2019 / 10:14 pm

      It is a lot of pennies!

  4. May 25, 2019 / 1:00 pm

    Happy birthday! And I miss London so much :p

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 30, 2019 / 11:02 am

      Thank you, I confess that I love living in London!

      • May 30, 2019 / 2:28 pm

        Haha ! I think me too london are the best!

  5. May 25, 2019 / 1:03 pm

    Well a very happy Birthday to you both. Loads to see to commemorate her life.

  6. May 25, 2019 / 4:24 pm

    I love history and this is such a unique take on a London visit!

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 30, 2019 / 11:02 am

      Makes for a nice stroll around Kensington!

  7. May 25, 2019 / 4:49 pm

    Happy birthday! And great post. Really interesting to hear the history of these iconic buildings. Made me very excited to get back home to London & explore a little bit more.

  8. May 25, 2019 / 4:53 pm

    Great idea for a post – and happy birthday! That gold state coach is ridiculously lavish lol. I’ve never been to quite a few of these places – I do really want to go into Westminster Abbey, but the price puts me off! It’s beautiful even from the outside though.

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 25, 2019 / 5:54 pm

      Westminster Abbey is expensive but it is truly spectacular inside!

  9. Federica Provolenti
    May 26, 2019 / 10:48 am

    Happy belated birthday to you! I loved your post as it gave me some inspiration for my stroll around London with my kids.

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 27, 2019 / 8:07 am

      That makes me so happy, where did you stroll?

  10. May 26, 2019 / 12:06 pm

    I might need to visit the Chapel Royal during Open Day. I loved our tour of the Victoria exhibitions – changed my view on her as a young girl and a widow. #CULTUREDKIDS

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 26, 2019 / 12:19 pm

      Me too, the news that she had a brother was a complete revelation

  11. May 26, 2019 / 10:07 pm

    The 24th is my birthday too! Lovely post!!

  12. May 27, 2019 / 4:58 pm

    I’ve visited some of these places, love royal London:) #culturedkids

  13. May 27, 2019 / 7:28 pm

    What a unique way to present this beautiful city! Love it. Happy birthday to you both.

  14. May 28, 2019 / 11:10 am

    It is so wonderful to see London now and imagine how Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are instrumental in shaping the city as we love it especially the Albertopolis. Arts and science are so important in development and Cultural heritages. Thanks for this lovely post #culturedkids

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 30, 2019 / 11:01 am

      Once I started to look it was amazing how many of the places I love are there because of Victoria and Albert!

  15. May 28, 2019 / 1:48 pm

    Claret ans malt whisky together??Yuck! Apart, yum. Happy birthday Catherine Queen of Culture #culturedkids

  16. May 29, 2019 / 2:32 am

    I enjoyed reading about all the history and hope you had a fun-filled birthday! Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 30, 2019 / 11:00 am

      Culture and fun filled thank you!

  17. May 29, 2019 / 11:02 am

    What a great round up of places to go and visit. There is so much history to see! #CulturedKids

  18. May 30, 2019 / 1:06 pm

    Happy birthday and what a lovely subject for a post. Although i know South Kensington well I’d never actually thought of it as Albertopolis before! Imagine London without him, it would have been very different.

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 30, 2019 / 1:33 pm

      Lots of my favourite places would not be there. Also, not mentioned here, the Crystal Palace train station which is a grand affair made for the many visitors who were expected

  19. wellwornsuitcase
    June 3, 2019 / 1:57 pm

    This is a fantastic guide! I love traveling to dig deep into a certain topic, and this would be a great one. Happy Birthday Queen Victoria!

    • Catherine
      Author
      June 4, 2019 / 12:40 pm

      I certainly enjoyed pulling it all together!

  20. June 6, 2019 / 6:46 pm

    Happy birthday Queen V! We visited Kensington Palace last year and we loved the Queen Victoria bit – fascinating woman. This is such a brilliant idea for a post! #culturedkids

  21. shakil10207
    June 16, 2019 / 6:15 am

    Oh my gosh, so many interesting facts here. wow, such a stunning place & you photograph it so well. Thanks for the creative post!

    • Catherine
      Author
      June 16, 2019 / 9:24 am

      Thank you, I do like meandering with my camera

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