Better than Buckingham Palace?

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Hampton Court Palace

We've been asking top guidebook writers for their tips on alternatives to well known tourist attractions. Today's expert is Rob Humphreys, author of The Rough Guide to London.

The principal residence of the British monarchy, London's Buckingham Palace has terrible queues for visitors as it's only open to tours on selected days in the summer. It's expensive. Plus, it is architecturally undistinguished.

Instead, go to Hampton Court Palace, by far the best of the royal palaces. It's got much more going for it: Top-notch Tudor & Georgian architecture (by Christopher Wren himself), much more history (think Henry VIII and his six wives), a vast art collection, beautiful gardens, and a maze.

Tip: Travel there as the royals used to by catching a boat from central London. About £15, or $25.

Note: Neither Rob Humphreys nor his publisher nor Budget Travel is criticizing anyone for visiting Buckingham Palace. Everyone agrees you can have fantastic experiences there. All we're trying to do here is recognize that—under some circumstances and for certain types of travelers—other attractions may have their own appeal and provide comparable experiences.

If you prefer to visit Buckingham Palace, the Changing of the Guard is famous and quite a spectacle (with furry red hats and lots of pomp), but it is also always crowded. So be sure to come early to get a good viewing spot. The event starts at 11:30 in the morning typically, but check the schedule in advance. To visit the gallery and mews or for taking a guided tour, be sure to have cash on hand. Prices here.

A tip: In the shadow of Buckingham Palace is St. James Park, with free concerts and book readings in the summer (tube stop: St James's Park).


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