10 quintessentially British things to do in London over the Coronation weekend
London is gearing up for another royal celebration, as the city prepares for the crowning of a new monarch for the first time in 70 years. And, let’s be honest, we do royal celebrations pretty well. As well as the official line-up of events (the King’s Procession between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey for example), there are plenty of other ways to ride the regal wave and embrace everything British.
It doesn’t matter what budget you’re working with, there’s something for every visitor to get involved in: from more expensive themed experiences to seeing free city-wide decorations.
There are also brilliant tours both on foot and by water, plus royal sites you can visit all year round (some are even screening the Coronation). Here are the best ways you can be a part of this incredible event in the capital.
Visit a royal palace
It doesn’t get more postcard-perfect than the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which takes place most days in the Buckingham Palace forecourt – and experiencing this famous royal tradition won’t cost you a penny (visit the official website for up to date information on times).
Museum lovers can head to Diana’s former royal residence Kensington Palace for its Crown to Couture exhibition. The largest exhibition ever staged at the palace will host 200 “fascinating objects” from throughout history, right up until the present day. Or, why not relive the Tudor years at Hampton Court Palace? Helpfully, the venue is also screening the Coronation live; an ideal spot to witness this moment in history.
The Crown to Couture Exhibition at Kensington Palace runs April 5-Oct 29; adult tickets £25. Adult tickets for Hampton Court Palace from £26.
Take a river cruise
City Cruises, the leading river cruise operator on the River Thames, is marking the occasion by giving its popular sightseeing and dining cruises a Coronation spin. This is a really nice (and non-tiring) way to visit key London landmarks associated with King Charles.
Hop off at Westminster Millennium Pier for Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, or stop at Tower Millennium Pier to see the Tower of London and the Crown Jewels. The boats will be decked in patriotic bunting, and expect royal twists to on-board menus, too.
Tickets from £13.
Enjoy afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason
It doesn’t get much more quintessential than afternoon tea at the official royal grocers, served in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, which was opened by the late Queen Elizabeth II herself. Fortnum’s is the epitome of upper-crust British charm so why not partake in a 200-year-old tradition of precisely cut sandwiches, delicate patisserie, unsurpassable scones and glorious tea served off the best china in that famous Fortnum’s blue?
Afternoon tea from £75pp. For more of London’s best restaurants see our guide here.
Visit a historic pub
London is packed with plenty of seriously old establishments (lots from the Victorian era and some even older) in which to grab a pint and soak up the many tales these ancient walls could tell. The Grenadier, located in Belgrave Square, was built in 1720 originally as an officer’s mess for the Foot’s Guard regiment but now serves up lovely, traditional ales and proper pub food – it’s adored by locals and welcomes tourists (the former of which like to tell the latter the story of the money hanging from the ceiling).
Another great option is The George in Southwark; it’s the last surviving galleried inn in the capital and is handily right next door to attractions such as The Shard, London Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe.
Tour the Tower of London with a Beefeater
Experience the Tower of London with a Yeoman Warder tour. Dressed in their famous scarlet and gold pomp, Yeoman Warders, also known as Beefeaters, share key stories from the 1,000 years of entertainingly gruesome history. Learn about the Tower's past as a fortress, palace and prison – and you can also get a full look at the Crown Jewels.
Adult tickets £30, including Yeoman Warder tour.
Soak up the atmosphere in the West End
Fancy your Coronation revelry with a bit of retail therapy thrown in? Then head to Regent Street to snap photos of London’s West End, which will be decked out with Union Jack flags and extravagant window displays in stores such as Harrods, Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason and Liberty’s.
A light installation inspired by the official emblem of the Coronation will also be on display in St James’s Market. Take a wander and see what you find. This one won’t cost you anything – if you stick to window shopping that is.
Experience a street party in London’s newest neighbourhood
Street parties have been a British tradition since 1919, when they were held to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Versailles following the First World War, and royal occasions are certainly cause for them. London’s newest riverside neighbourhood, Battersea Power Station, will be celebrating the King’s Coronation with one, featuring red, white and blue decorations, live performances and family-friendly activities.
This Grade II-listed landmark and surrounding area has been brought back to life with a unique blend of shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and parks all under the watchful eye of that imposing tower. Feels like a pretty cool place to get patriotic.
Celebrations take place on May 6 and 7.
Pretend you’re royalty at Madame Tussauds
The new Royal Palace experience at Madame Tussauds is a fun way to get into the Coronation spirit. You can snap a selfie with various members of the Royal Family and wave at the cheering crowds on the Royal Balcony, before having your audience with the King and Queen Consort in the Throne Room. If you prefer a more historical experience, you can have a word with Queen Elizabeth I while you’re there, too.
Adult tickets from £36.
Visit the ‘home’ of Sherlock Holmes
For more of a literary thrill, pop around the corner to Baker Street to the Sherlock Holmes museum (the four-storey impressive Georgian ‘residence’ of the eponymous character) where you can see pieces from lots of different adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, including recreated sets of the popular TV series featuring Benedict Cumberbatch. Walk-in tickets are always available and the tour itself (which after a brief introduction is self-guided) takes around 30-40 minutes.
Adult tickets from £16.
Take a royal walking tour
Ever wondered which off licence was Queen Elizabeth II's favourite? Find out this and more on a guided walking tour of London’s most regal spots that also takes in the Changing of the Guard ceremony.
The tour covers the big-hitter locations such as St James’s and Buckingham Palace, but also introduces you to lesser-known spots associated with the royals such as said off licence and those well-heeled Jermyn Street shops and outfitters that hold royal warrants.
Adult tickets £15.
For places to stay near the action see our guide to the best hotels near Buckingham Palace, or see our round-up of hotels offering Coronation-themed experiences here.