HYDERABAD : For those with a starry-eyed fascination for the British Royalty, here are some tips to make your London visit more fulfilling - I am sure you will come back not just with great memories but also a feeling of sharing the royal life. How? Just by shopping where the royals do… London is home to the finest royal tailors, the Queen’s favourite grocery store, the royal jewellers etc. No Swiss Bank account? No problems, even without splurging, you can still have fun going around “Royal London”.
Kensington Palace Gardens
The tranquil gardens of Kensington Palace are a perfect escape from the bustle of London. With ornamental flowerbeds and graceful fountains, the formal gardens were commissioned by Queen Mary and transformed into the grand park it is today by Queen Caroline. You may ask which Queen Mary, there are so many of them in the British History? Never mind, just enjoy looking at the flowers.
Located around the corner from Buckingham Palace; this luxurious hotel is one of the Queen’s favourite venues for entertaining. Its Royal Suit has walls lined with silk, elegant antique furniture and takes up the hotel’s entire top floor. The Goring is definitely fit for a king or queen! Want to be one, just for a day? It’s certainly worth it!
This ancient religious building has more than 1,000 years of royal tradition. It’s the official coronation church and you can admire the coronation chair in St George’s Chapel. The abbey was the setting for 17 royal weddings including the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.
St James’s Park
This stunning 57-acre royal park is located in the heart of Westminster and is home to The Mall and Horse Guards Parade. Enjoy spectacular views of the park from the Blue Bridge or marvel at monuments like the Queen Victoria Memorial and the Duke of York statue.
Dean Street Townhouse
This Georgian residence was built in 1732 and became home to several aristocratic families as well as King Charles II’s mistress Nell Gwynne. It’s now an upscale boutique hotel (part of the exclusive Soho House Group) and provides traditional British style and comfort to its guests.
Cleave & Co
Situated just around the corner from Buckingham Palace, this prestigious jewellers made Meghan Markle’s enormous diamond engagement ring. Cleave & Co.’s craftsmen also create decorations and medals for palace offices, heads of state and military institutions around the world. If can afford it, you may even go for a precious gold ring encrusted with diamonds, not as huge as Meghan’s but a miniature version, but be sure it’s the same design: who knows, wearing it may even rekindle your fading love life!
Horse Guards Parade
The iconic Queen’s Life Guard and the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment change takes place every day at 11 am (10 am on Sundays).
Visitors are welcome to watch the ceremony and the crowds here are usually smaller than at Buckingham Palace, making it perfect for photos!
Fortnum & Mason
Known as the ‘Queen’s grocer’, this store sells the finest foods and luxury hampers for all occasions. I suggest you buy at least a fruit preserve from the Queen’s favourite grocery store and feel as if you’re sharing a breakfast with her! The establishment boasts an impressive variety of restaurants offering a royal afternoon tea experience at the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon and delectable desserts at the Parlour.
Lock & Co Hatters
Located on St James’s Street, Lock & Co Hatters is the oldest hat shop in the world. Known for its fine craftsmanship and innovative designs, this family-owned business has designed hats for Sir Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Still thinking? Go buy a couple of hats to flaunt in the next horse races… or at a mid-afternoon sports event in your kids’ school. I tell you, you will never ever get such a wonderful opportunity to “show off”.
The largest of the royal palaces, this has been the official London residence of the UK’s sovereigns since 1837. The palace opens its gilt doors to the public every summer so you can enjoy its opulent staterooms.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show
The Royal Horticultural Society hosts its world-famous annual five-day event in May. Horticulturalists from around the globe exhibit their innovative garden designs and compete for various awards. With exotic palms, inspirational gardens and floral delights, you’ll find some great ideas to take home.
The Crown Jewels, Tower of London
Guarded inside the Jewel House the Tower of London, the Crown Jewels is a dazzling collection of 23,578 gemstones. Still used in royal ceremonies today, the collection contains crowns and ceremonial regalia that date back to the 1600s. Hey, that’s where our Kohinoor Diamond is sitting (in the crown). Kindly have a look and sigh if you are patriotic.
Gieves & Hawkes
This luxury brand has provided the Royal Family with the finest garments since 1809. It holds three Royal Warrants and also has a long history of crafting uniforms for the Royal Navy and the British Army. Its flagship store is located in the home of bespoke tailoring, Saville Row. Get a couple of dresses from the finest royal tailors and make your friends go green.
Explore the royal institutions and suppliers in this majestic city, who knows, you may even run into Meghan in her last minute shopping!
(The author is a documentary filmmaker and travel writer; she blogs at vijayaprataptravelandbeyond.com)